Tips for Taking Better Photos on Your Smartphone by JD Andrews

You know who takes great photos? EVERYONE!

Today it's so easy to take, edit and share beautiful smartphone photos but like anything, there's always room for improvement.

So when the Microsoft Store reached out to me to conduct a smartphone workshop, I was more than happy to share some tips and experiences with the Nokia 1020 - The Windows phone with the 41 Mega Pixel Camera. 

Here's a test I conducted in the Arizona desert last year when I first received the Nokia 1020 - HERE

Your phone is always with you (unless your my Mom) and the best thing about having a smartphone is they have a pretty good camera built right in.

And as the saying goes "The best camera is the one you have with you"

1. Clean your Lens

Yep, it sure sounds obvious but if you know someone who has glasses or a computer screen that’s always filthy, I bet their smartphone camera is equally crusted over with pocket lint and other indescribable guck. Before you take that once in a lifetime pic, clean that lens!


2. Learn the Manual Settings

As some pros say, if you use auto that means your photo will automatically be bad. You don't have to read the entire manual but brush up on how to control the ISO, White Balance and Shutter Speed. Your photos will improve and you'll be the envy of all your friends! (The envy thing is not guaranteed)


3. Move

Move up, down and all around. What if that photo you are taking would be way cooler if you crouched down or stood on soothing for a better angle, do it! Look around; is there a better place to capture the moment? A cool angle could be the difference between a good pic and an amazing one, get creative! Plus you look more professional when your body contorts into weird positions. (or so I’m told)


4. Don't ZOOM

Never.

'but what if'

NOPE, don't do it!

'but I have a great zoom'

No, no you don't.

When you zoom with your smartphone all it does is make your photos very pixelated. So crop! Crop your photos. Crop is your friend. (not to be confused with crap, crap is just crap)


5. Just Say NO to Flash

Have you used your flash and the whole photo looks like a, well…big ol…flash! If you can, use natural light or if you're indoors, try turning a lamp toward your subject. If you have to use a flash (we've all been there) do some tests first to see how far away you can be to capture a better looking photo and plus you'll spare your subjects eyes from that bright light! (red dots <blink> red dots)

 

6. Video

If you're shooting video, make sure your smartphone is horizontal. Please, please, please never, ever, ever shoot video vertically (this tip was provided by everyone in the world)

 

7. EDIT

Editing can only make your photo better (unless you go crazy with the HDR or Saturation filters) there are so many photo-editing apps out there so use them! If you find photos that look amazing, ask the photographer what apps they use.

(Not that you asked but…) On Windows I use Photoshop and Photo Editor. On iOS and Android I use Snapseed. And if your photo looks terrible, try it in black and white, you never know.


8. Play by the Rules

When you use your smartphone as a camera, go with the basic photography rules: Composition, Contrast, Frame, Rule of Thirds and so on.

9. Break the Rules

All of them! Rules? What rules? I make my own rules! Get creative and have fun!

 

10. Click More

If you want to get better, there's only one-way…practice, practice, practice…then practice some more. As my Mother tells me, 'don't complain, work harder.'

Now get out there and take some great photos!

 

Please share your smartphone tips, tricks and Apps in the comments. Thanks!

 

Gear, Gadgets & Gizmos - Quick Pod Explorer II Review by JD Andrews


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The QuikPod Explorer II is a nice little camera extender that seems to cover all the bases.

It's small and lightweight which makes it easy to travel with. It definitely helps in getting those cool shots when no one is around to help.

What I like about the QuikPod Explorer II;

  • To make sure you're always in the shot, it has a built in mirror!
  • It's waterproof!
  • Quick Release mounts (this is a big one) I hate trying to 'screw' my camera on a tripod or monopod.
  • It also comes with 3 adapters, standard, mobile phone and another biggie, one made for the Go Pro!
  • A rubberized handle makes it easy to hang on to.
  • And a padded carry bag.
  • The only drawback that I encountered was the mount, it's made out of easily breakable plastic.
  • Around $50

Check out all their monopods and accessories at http://www.quikpod.com

Gear, Gadgets & Gizmos - Think Tank Product Reviews by JD Andrews

A Video Review of Think Tank Photo's Digital Holster 40 & the Pee Wee Pixel Pocket Rocket.

Digital Holster 40

Digital Holster 40

Pee Wee Pixel Pocket Rocket

Pee Wee Pixel Pocket Rocket

Stay Connected while Traveling with Xcom Global by JD Andrews

Besides locating a good cup coffee on the road finding internet access is essential during my travels.

Being able to share my adventures through tweets, updates and new Instagram photos, makes me one happy eXplorer!

I'm always grateful when hotels provide free wi-fi but with so many new warnings about hackers using the free connection to target guests (Here is one from CNN), I'm looking for a better way to get online. 

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My rule of thumb or traveling aboard with your mobile phone: Turn your phone to airplane mode and leave it there!

You can still turn on Wi-Fi and this will guarantee no costly international roaming or data charges on your phone bill when you get home.

Two years ago in South East Asia I went through the hassle of getting an unlocked iPhone so I could simply buy a cheap Sim card for whatever country I found myself in.

Sure the sim cards were cheap in this area of the world BUT keep in mind:

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  • The iPhone 4, 4s and iPad use a Micro Sim card which is much harder to find (at least when I was there) and the new iPhone 5 requires a Nano Sim, which is even smaller and harder to locate. The only cards I could find were much larger and needed to be cut down to fit. You have to very careful while cutting a Sim card, don't slice through the 'important parts' the copper area which are usually surrounded by simple 'form fitting' plastic.
  • If you successfully trimmed your Sim (almost sounds dirty) and got your phone turned on, it now needs to be 'set up' and to do that you need someone who speaks the local language.
  • You will also have to make sure all the setting are correct for that Sim and country.

So as you can see this can be a real hassle plus even if you are successful getting it to work, you only have service on your phone. This can be a bummer if you need to access the internet on your tablet or computer.

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I finally found a better way to stay connected by using Xcom Global's Mi-Fi. What I like about the Mi-Fi solution:

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  • Connect up to FIVE devices at the same time, yep 5! Now you can use it on your phone, tablet, laptop and even share with friends.
  • 3G mobile Internet, fast enough for all your needs including VOIP calls.
  • A Flat Rate, no surprise charges or big bills. The plans start at $14.95 a day.
  • No searching for unfamiliar Sim cards, no cutting necessary and no need to set anything up. As soon as you arrive, turn it on and you're ready to get connected.
  • It's small, easy to carry and comes with two batteries.
  • Shipped to you with a return envelop so when you get home from your trip, place it in the prepaid envelope and send it back.
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I brought the Xcom Mi-Fi with me on my recent trips to Fiji and Scotland.

In Fiji service was very limited but that was more due to being on an island.

In Scotland it worked pretty good, sometimes I'd have to wait awhile for it to connect but when it did, it worked great.

I sure was happy to have it every time I got lost! Which was a lot :)

Xcom Global provided me with free service and Mi-Fi rental on the above mentioned trips but as always, all views and opinions are my own.

Some Cool Travel Gear, Gadgets & Gizmos by JD Andrews

Cool Travel Gear, Gadgets & Gizmos!

From screaming babies to talkative seat mates, when you're on that cramped tube jetting off to your next destination you need to escape your surroundings with a pair of good headphones. 

The nice people at Phillips sent me pair of CitiScape Uptown Headphones to try out.

I've been using in-ear headphones for a long time and they always start to hurt after a few hours.

The CitiScape has Memory foam cushions that completely surround your ear which makes them very comfortable and helps block out that screaming baby.

The cable is flat and makes it less likely to tangle up and has built-in controls with a mic for taking and making phone calls when you're back on land.

Price: Around $117 

I don't like to shave when I'm traveling but my wife hates that, so if you have to shave on the road (or even at home) try out the Philips Norelco BG2040BodyGroom Pro.

Yep, 'body groom', that means you can shave everything! As they say, an all-in-one grooming solution.

I'll leave what you trim up to you. :) It's water-resistant and can be used in the shower.

Price: Around $49

For some reason mosquitoes LOVE me (since I'm so sweet, LOL) and no matter where I go they make a feast of me. itch, itch....

And when I use insect repellent it stains my clothes and melts the rubber in my flip flops. (true story)

So I'm really digging the idea of 'built-in' insect repellent. The ExOfficio Men's BugsAway Halo Shirt has an Insect Shield that repels many varieties of insects (like mosquitoes) and lasts 70 washings.

It also has sun protection with a UPF 30+ rating, dries quickly and keeps me looking and feeling cool. :)

Price: Around $99

I've taken photos with my iPhone4 in around 20 different countries in some amazing places under some questionable conditions and (knock on wood) I've never dropped it, lost it or had it stolen......yet.

Well those days of worry are over thanks to the Kenu Highline. It's an iPhone bungee leash with a super strong Kevlar loop with stainless-steel anchors that plugs right into the bottom of your iPhone (not iPhone5, yet).

Connect that leash to your belt loop, zipper, backpack, watch, d-ring, carabineer or *trained monkey and all is safe and sound. *trained monkey not included.

Price: Around $20

A great read while traveling or while you are planning your next trip is: The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down by award-winning travel writer and actor Andrew McCarthy. Yep, that guy from all your favorite 80's movies and Weekend at Bernie's! He's on Twitter, Follow him HERE

Andrew writes about the emotional struggle of wanting to be home with his Fiance while trying to deal with the irresistible urge for that next adventure.

An over used cliche comes to mind, 'I know what you mean.' I too feel a bit guilty traveling and seeing amazing places, meeting incredible people all the while my family waits for me at home. But I have no choice, that is who I am.

Andrew is a fellow traveler, seeker and most of all a true story teller which makes this a fun and easy read for anyone who wants to escape the everyday and have a life altering adventure! 

In the true art of internet plagiarism, here is part of the book description stolen from Amazon:

*On his soul-searching voyages, Andrew traces the path from his New Jersey roots, where acting saved his life—and early fame almost took it away—to his transformation into a leading travel writer. He faces the real costs of his early success and lays bare the evolving nature of his relationships with women. He explores a strained bond with his father, and how this complex dynamic shapes his own identity as a parent. Andrew charts his journey from ambivalence to confidence, from infidelity and recklessness to acceptance and a deeper understanding of the internal conflicts of his life.  Price: Around $18

What's your favorite Gear, Gadgets or Gizmos?

Handy Travel Accessories from Tom Bihn by JD Andrews

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Tom Bihn is known for wonderful travel bags, with his 30+ years of design experience but he also has tons of amazing accessories!

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The RFID Blocking Passport Pouch is designed to carry and protect your passport or other sensitive documents while traveling. It can be worn under or outside your clothing, around your neck or waist.

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The Travel tray is also perfect for going through Airport security, just place your keys, cell phone, change etc in the tray and everything is in one secure place.

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The 3D Clear Organizer Cube is a one-compartment organizer cube with clear front and back panels. The 3D Clear Organizer Cube was designed specifically to meet the TSA 3-1-1 liquids-program requirements. It works great for that purpose and, unlike a ziplock bag, is reusable and guaranteed to last through years.

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The Horizontal Freudian Slip (cool accessory with the best name!) is an insert that adds eleven extra pockets to your bag to help organize your files and other stuff.

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All Made in the USA in the TOM BIHN Seattle factory

A Great Little Carry-On from Tom Bihn - The Co-Pilot by JD Andrews


The Co-Pilot by Tom Bihn - Personal Carry-On

The perfect bag to organize all your travel essential items in. Passport, documents, camera, phone, water, food, extra clothes, pens, iPad, e-reader, magazine, travel guides and all your other bits and bobs.

Made in the USA with durable, lightweight material and water-repellent zippers with metal pulls. A great little travel and destination bag!

The best cloud photo service for travelers (or anyone) by JD Andrews

After a few weeks now and over twenty two thousand, yes thousand, uploaded photos and videos, I’m really enjoying this new photo cloud service called ThisLife!

I’ve been searching for an EASY, fast, reliable photo storage solution for years. While travelling, I'm always worried about my photos - getting acidentally erased, my camera stolen or lost. With ThisLife I can upload them form anywhere in the world (that has an internet connection) and know that they are safe and sound in the cloud - I can even upload my 1080p HD videos! 

I've really been putting it to the test. Uploading thousands of photos form my computer, old forgotten photos from Shutterfly and Flickr and (in my opinion) the coolest thing that ThisLife does - It finds and uploads all my Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, SmugMug, Picasa, and even Instagram pics. So now they are all in one place. Plus the software weeds out any duplicates and automatically tagged all my photos that had already been tagged in other services.

Frankly I was trying to break it! I had to make sure it could handle my workload and perform well on all the platforms I use while traveling e.g. mobile app, iPhone, iPad and computer. I have to say, I'm extremely impressed and excited that I can now upload and access any and all of my photos and videos from anywhere in the world.

Now when I'm on an adventure and I mention my trips to Iceland, Spain or Antarctica, I can access and share those photos and videos right then and there....I love that!

You might be saying, "JD, big deal, there are cheaper or even free versions of cloud storage out there." and you're right but there is nothing (that I've found) that puts all your photos in a searchable, visually stunning, smooth page scrolling timeline. 

I can view all my photos by date, place, activity or even by people – it has the best face recognition I've ever seen!

And where would I be without my social media? I can share all my photos and videos to Facebook, Twiiter and Flickr!

Another cool feature - You can invite others to share, upload and use your account, which is perfect for businesses and families.

Since I couldn’t break it I decided to contact ThisLife and let them know how much I liked it. After many conversations I decided to work with them and help get the word out about my new favorite photo service.

ThisLife was created by two loving parents that wanted an easier way to share the "special moments" of their children’s lives.

Let me introduce you to one of the creators, Andrea.

Q1: Andrea, you know I love ThisLife and I could tell people all the reasons it's perfect for me while traveling but what would you say to someone that is uneasy about storing their memories in the cloud?

A1: JD, I think it’s awesome that you tried to break ThisLife and found that we stood up to your real life 'stress test'! We built an uber-durable system to keep users’ photos & videos protected and organized so they can enjoy them without having to worry. The cloud is a big part of that system.

The cloud protects your photos & videos. If your phone, camera, computer, or hard drive are lost or damaged. That’s a lot of security- without all the hassle of having to back everything up on an external drive.

The cloud offers accessibility, so you can enjoy your Moments (photos or videos) wherever you are. Our iPhone and iPad apps put your entire organized collection in your pocket or bag.

ThisLife is totally private- you decide what to share and whom to share it with. But, if you do want to share, the cloud lets you do some pretty cool stuff like share your account, which allows multiple people to contribute Moments to one account. 

Finally, our cloud is specifically designed for photos & videos. (Generic clouds store photos, documents, or music and treat them the same way.) Because our cloud is custom designed for photos & videos, it performs relevant tasks such as duplicate identification, non-destructive photo enhancement, intelligent facial recognition, and visual search. 

So for those of you wary of the cloud, hopefully these benefits will help you change your mind!

Try us free, and let us know how we can help.  You can reach us any time at help@thislife.com.

Q2: What makes ThisLife different than other services?

A2: As I just mentioned, one of the biggest advantages to ThisLife is that our cloud was specifically designed for photos & videos.  

We write unique algorithms for de-duplication. (This is a big deal!) When you import your photos to ThisLife from your hard drive and social services you end up with tons of duplicates - but the file sizes, names, and dates have been altered. Traditional de-duplication engines can’t handle this problem because they don’t recognize a photo as being a duplicate if any info has been altered. We solved this problem using a proprietary approach to eliminating duplicates that is based on the actual image instead of the file name.  And it gets better - ThisLife only saves the highest resolution image (regardless of the order in which they were imported to ThisLife), the accurate date, and the Facebook “likes” and comments. We do that automatically and rapidly for every single photo you import.

I’m glad you like our advanced facial recognition, JD.  We put a ton of work into it, and we believe it’s the best in the market. This is a big issue and we built a serious solution - including an innovative way to quickly tag lots of faces.

Because we’ve made tagging so easy, you can search your entire collection of 20,000+ images to instantly find just the image you’re looking for.  Personally, this is my favorite feature. ‘Search’ is an integral part of our lives today: You can search your mail.  You can search the web. You can even search Zappos for the perfect pair of size 9, green running shoes.  You should be able to search your photos to find “Katie and Tom hiking in Montana” or “Jane on the beach in South of France.”

We also have non-destructive image enhancement that uses a set of self-adjusting formulae to automatically correct your photos for you. Since it’s non-destructive, your original is preserved and is always just a click away. And it’s no problem if you don't want your photos to be automatically enhanced. Either turn it off for a single image or for your entire collection. So far, the customer feedback on image enhancement has been fantastic.  

Other exciting things about us: We store RAW files and most original formats. We don't own or control your photos - you do! We are private by default. You decide what to share and whom to share it with. And, most importantly, we are totally committed to great customer service. 

We offer free trials to everyone, so hopefully people will check us out to see all this great stuff for themselves.

Q3: Are there other photo and social media services that you will be working with in the future?

A3: Yes we have more partnerships in the works. Most of our product development is driven by customer feedback, so if you want us to partner with your favorite site or service, let us know. We listen to everything you say, and we are always looking to explore new ideas.

Q4: Many photo services let you print photos, photo books, cards, etc., will ThisLife be providing similar services?

A4: Yes. Many of our customers have asked that same question, and that is currently in the works.

Q5: Tell me how and why it's good to share your photos on Facebook through ThisLife.

A5: That’s an interesting and important question. ThisLife never owns or controls your photos. If you share to Facebook from ThisLife, you retain control of your images. Just delete your original post from Facebook, and Facebook will no longer have access to it.

Q6: How many photos can be stored to one account, I'm pushing twenty three thousand.

A6: Right now our largest account is 50,000 images, but our customers have asked us to go even bigger.  We’re working on that now, and will be offering larger accounts soon.

Q7: What was the hardest part of creating a photo service from scratch?

A7: The hardest part was keeping it simple. It’s easy to make things complicated, but surprisingly difficult to keep things simple. Many services in our category (and in other categories) disappoint customers by being overly complex and counterintuitive.

We are focused on offering broad and sophisticated functionality with a beautifully simple interface.  

Q8:. What's next for ThisLife?

A8: I won't tell!  You'll have to stay tuned… ;-)

LOL, I will...thanks so much Andrea!

I had my photos spread out all over the web, now they are all in one place and having the ability to download ALL my pics from Facebook and Instagram made this an easy decision.

And if you need help, want to suggest features or just say hi, there is somone there actually listenng and responding, what other photo service does that?

Try ThisLife out - in my opinion, it's the best cloud photo service out there and great for travelers. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Safe Travels!

~jd

Largest Carry-On Allowed by Airlines - Aeronaut by Tom Bihn by JD Andrews


The Aeronaut by Tom Bihn is the largest sized carry-on allowed by the airlines.

You can pack a lot into this  22" x 14" x 9" travel Duffel. With a large middle section and two side compartments (with pockets) You'll be able to bring everything you need for a weekend trip or even longer.

Combine the Aeronaut with Tom Bihn's Packing Cubes and when you reach your destination, take out the cubes and with a Zip and two clicks the Aeronaut transforms into the perfect backpack for everyday adventures.

Made in USA in the TOM BIHN Seattle factory.

The Intel-Inspired Asus UX31 Ultrabook - Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos Review by JD Andrews

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I was excited when my friends at Intel asked if I would be interested in testing out their new Ultrabook on my travels. Even though I consider myself a 'Mac guy' after seeing how compact and cool this Ultrabook looked, I had to try it out!

It's hard not to compare it to the Macbook Air as it looks like it's the Windows cousin. I have to admit it is packed with some really cool technology (Get ready for some Nerk talk): SATA Hard Drive, USB 3.0, Bluetooth 4.0, Bang & Olufsen speakers and a 7 hour battery - just to name a few.

If you're a windows user and want a very sleek looking, lightweight computer that's easy to travel with and packed with all the best goodies, you need to check out the Intel-Inspired Asus UX31 Ultrabook™

It comes with the 2nd generation Intel® Core™ i5 processor and is “Ultra responsive. Ultra Sleek. Ultrabook”

Z-height - 3mm at the front; 9mm at the rear

Main Memory - DDR3 1333MHz 4GB (on board)

Screen - 13.3 (16:9)

Backlight/ Resolution - 450 nits HD+ 1600X900

Instant on - Always resume in 2 seconds

I/O port - 7 (USB2.0 / USB3.0 / audio jack / DC jack / microHDMI / miniVGA / SD card reader)

USB3.0 - 1 Port

SSD Generation - SATAIII SSD (128G/256G)

BT - Bluetooth 4.0

Battery - 50W (7+hrs)

Mic - MEMS MIC (Digital MIC)

Keyboard - 268 Chiclet KB

Camera - 0.3M

Audio - Bang & Olufsen ICEpower® SonicMaster

Many Thanks to Intel!

~jd

The Camps Bay Camera Backpack from ONA - Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos Review by JD Andrews

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I was very excited to receive The Camps Bay Camera Backpack from ONA for a gear review.

The first thing you notice, it doesn't look like an ordinary Camera backpack, which I really liked.

Made from waxed canvas and leather with a nice attention to detail, it's a very cool looking bag!

Things I Dig:

Perfect size, not too big, not too small....just right!

Roomy - Lots of space for Cameras, lenses and accessories. Including lots of padded dividers to configure the best fit for all your gear. Two side pockets, perfect for a small tripod or a bottle of water.

An adjustable top section that can get bigger or smaller depending on what you're hauling.

Cool Color (Smoke - greyish)

Things I didn't Dig:

Front pocket is hard to access (that could be by design to ward off pickpockets)

Would like to be able to lock the zippers.

Pricey - $429

Verdict: The coolest Camera Bag I've seen, you'll definitely want one! (Makes the perfect gift- tell your friends and family)

More info from www.onabags.com

Handsomely crafted with waxed canvas and detailed with dark truffle leather, the Camps Bay camera backpack is designed to hold an SLR with a 70-200 2.8mm lens attached, up to 7 additional lenses, most 17” laptops, and small personal items.

All interior dividers are completely removable and adjustable to accommodate your gear. A special divider at the top of the bag creates a space of 4" - 7" to hold your personal items. A layer of air mesh along the back panel and thick padded shoulder straps equip the Camps Bay camera backpack to deliver on both comfort and style.

Handcrafted with waxed canvas and leather

Room for an SLR and up to 7 lenses

Adjustable height personal items area

Laptop compartment for up to 17" laptop

Slim front organizer pocket

Padded air mesh back panel

Thick air mesh padding on shoulder straps

Fully padded leather base

Dimensions: 17"L X 12"W X 6"D 

Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos - Vanguard Tripod Review by JD Andrews

I have been looking for a good ‘travel’ tripod for a long time. Finally I found one from  VANGUARD!

I choose the The Alta Pro 254CT tripod with the PH-32 pan head.

Why do I like it?

  • The quick shoe is easy to attach, no tools needed. (quick shoe: A little plate that attaches to the bottom of your camera for easy connection and disconnecting from tripod)
  • Easy to set up & take down
  • Case included
  • Perfect for photography or videography
  • Last but not least, it's award-winning!
  • All for around $400
  • Durable & affordable
  • Lightweight (Carbon fiber legs)
  • Small enough to travel with (fits in my back pack side pocket) but sturdy when you need it
  • Fluid head with two handles
  • Bubble level in the legs and THREE in the head (yes 3) 

If you find some great gear, let me know! :)

Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos - P^cubed - Pick-Pocket Proof - Adventure Traveler Shorts by JD Andrews

The P^cubed - Pick-Pocket Proof Pants - Adventure Traveler Shorts Review

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I've had a pair of these cargo shorts for quite awhile now and they've become my favorite travel shorts! Why?

Pockets, lots of pockets and hidden pockets inside zipper and buttoned outer pockets making them "Pick-Pocket Proof." A place for your phone, passport, money etc. all safe and secure plus a big back pocket making it easy to carry a large travel guide with you.

If that wasn't enough (do I sound like a late night infomercial yet?) it comes with a cool water bottle holding pocket. (Wahoo, more pockets!)

The material is durable and the buttons are very secure. (I've lost so many badly sewn buttons around the world)

My favorite thing about these shorts is the Teflon fabric protector, it Repels Oil/Water and Stains as I seem to get messy when I'm on an adventure!

They are a little more expensive but for the quality, security and multitudes of pockets, they are definitely worth the extra few bucks!

The point & shoot camera is Dead! (to me anyway) by JD Andrews

Click. Crap! Click. Crap, crap!!!

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Today I returned the last point & shoot camera I'll ever buy!

A back-up, for spontaneous craziness, to hand to strangers to snap a pic of me at a cool spot...this is what my point & shoot camera was for.

I started with a Sony and was never happy about the clarity and color ( I would always take 2-3 shots of the same thing, just to make sure it was in focus) but after you buy a few expensive 'Sony' memory cards, you're stuck. 

But after seeing my friends vacation photos, that were clear and very colorful (the guy was no photographer, it was all camera) I made the move to Canon and never looked back....well for a few years anyway.

I was always happy with the Canon point & shoot cameras, so much that I probably went through five different models. I would still be using my latest Canon, the PowerShot Elph but it was stolen on a trip to Mexico.

What was next? Another Canon?

Since I've been using my iPhone with great results, I wanted more out of the ol' point & shoot.

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How about one with a GPS and waterproof? Since Canon doesn't make one, I choose the Nikon Coolpix AW100.

It looked very cool and I was thrilled that I could take photos and video underwater.

So I took with me on my trip to Universal Studios last weekend to test it out.

The two pics above (of the Christmas trees) were taken the first day. I could not get it to focus.

To be fair, it took some ok photos and I never had the chance to test the clarity underwater.

But after too many out of focus shots...

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I grabbed my iPhone4 (not 4S) and used it for the whole trip.

Not only did it take great photos, you have so many cool apps to manipulate and share them immediately with your friends, family and social networks.

Just don't take it underwater!

To show how good the iPhone4 is, I took it to Butterfly world and

(In my opinion) got some really amazing photos.

So that's it, no more point & shoot cameras for me.

What about you? Do you have a favorite point & shoot camera? Do you just use your smartphone?

Please let me know in the comments.

Holiday Gift ideas for Travelers, Photographers & other Humans by JD Andrews

I Travel with a lot of gear, gadgets and gizmos. After years of trail and error, here are a few I really like.

Bags

When traveling across the world or across the street, we all need a good bag to keep our ‘stuff’ (in my case Geek Stuff) safe and sound. That’s where Tom Bihn comes in. What? You’ve never heard to Tom and his bags, well schedule about 10 to 20 minutes of ‘me time’ and check out all their cool Stuff.

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What I love about them:

Tom Bihn (yes, a real guy) works directly with the sewing crew to make sure each bag is made the same (or better than) its first prototype, which Tom sews himself. Yes, he sews, hikes and plays the accordion. (not all at the same time)

All Tom Bihn bags are manufactured in their Seattle, Washington factory. (almost 6000 miles from China)

There are so many sizes, shapes, patterns, colors and accessories to choose from.

And the biggie, are you ready? Lifetime Guarantee!

I’ve had mine for over a year and I love it!

Clothing

Pockets, pockets and more pockets, keep your gadgets close, accessible and secure in a SCOTTEVEST. (Scott, also a real guy)

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Choose from a variety of styles and colors of men and women’s jackets, vests, shirts, hoodies and more. (even boxers)

I have a SCOTTEVEST jacket that I wear traveling; it’s like having another carry on!

For Business and Adventure travelers - The P^cubed Pick-Pocket Proof Pants (that’s a lot of P’s) & Shorts from Clothing Arts.

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Can you tell I like pockets? Zip the zipper to seal the pocket; secure the button flap for twice the protection; for even more security, lock whats most valuable in the triple secure hidden passport pocket.

Made from extremely durable fabrics that are wrinkle, rain and stain Resistant. (You had me at wrinkle free!) When you put them on, you can feel the quality (That’s my line, they can use it if they want) but don’t let the price scare you (around $80 - $100), as any traveler will tell you, it’s worth it!

Video/Photography

I have been looking for the best ‘travel’ tripod for a long time. At TBEX, we had a room full of videobloggers and I asked if anyone knew of a tripod that was:

  • Lightweight & small enough to travel with but sturdy
  • Fluid head with handle
  • Bubble level and quick shoe (quick shoe: A little plate that attaches to the bottom of your camera for easy connection and disconnecting from tripod)
  • Easy to set up & take down with case
  • Durable & affordable
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Well, after a long search, I’m happy to say I found it from VANGUARD!

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 The Alta Pro 254CT tripod with the PH-32 pan head.

This award-winning tripod is lightweight (but sturdy) with carbon fiber legs (3.5 lbs)

Easy to set up and take down, case included.

The PH-32 pan head is lightweight, has three (yes 3) bubble levels, 3-way fluid pan head with two handles and (my favorite) a quick shoe. All for around $400

For your point and shoot camera

The XSXShot 2.0

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This is a fun and easy way to get the whole family or group in a photo or use it to get some cool angels on your more ‘artsy’ shots. The XShot extends to over 3 feet and closes to 9 inches, made of durable metal and weighs only 5 ounces for round $30

Misc.

When it comes to shaving on the road, my pick is the Philips Norelco SensoTouch.

I'm not a big fan of shaving at all but it beats looking like a bum (or so I'm told)

I choose the electric razors for two reasons: 

1. Hard to find clean water and shaving cream

2. You can shave anywhere, on a bus next to a goat or in a tent in the middle of nowhere.

This year I had the chance to travel to Egypt, Jordan, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Places that are not known for having ‘good’ water.

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 This makes the simple task of brushing your teeth, a little tougher.

So I had the choice of not brushing (which my travel group frowned upon) or trying these cool new Toothpaste tablets from Archtek.

Just pop a tablet in your mouth, chew, brush, rinse (sounds better than ‘Spit’) No water needed. (15 for around $2.50)

So that’s my list, what’s on yours?

Happy Holidays!!!

Gear, Gadgets & Gizmos - the Eye-Fi Card by JD Andrews

Gear, Gadgets & Gizmos on @GoingSocialTV - Explaining the cool EYE-Fi SD card for your camera from that send your pictures through Wi-Fi, never loose another picture again!

Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos - Griffin PowerBlock Review by JD Andrews

The Griffin Power Block Reserve, Very cool little gadget for travel, you can always use extra power on the road!

If you know of any great travel gear, gadgets or gizmos, please contact me :)