TRAVEL

SEDONA: RED ROCKS, L'AUBERGE, AND TIBETAN MONKS

The secret is out! Sedona boasts one of the top getaways, not just in Arizona, but in the nation. Visitors to this red rocked paradise will not be disappointed with the large array of outdoor adventure, fine dining, and resorts that this small but lively city has to offer. Just this last week I had the privilege of staying an evening with some very talented photographers and filmmakers at one of Sedona's top resorts, L'auberge. 

L'auberge is one of Sedona's finest resorts. Nestled just above Oak Creek and hidden by the surrounding oak, L'auberge boasts some of the finest dining to be had in all of Sedona. Guests will be delighted by a fantastic staff, beatiful hidden cottages, spa, outdoor activites, and the overall aura of tranquility.

L'auberge is one of Sedona's finest resorts. Nestled just above Oak Creek and hidden by the surrounding oak, L'auberge boasts some of the finest dining to be had in all of Sedona. Guests will be delighted by a fantastic staff, beatiful hidden cottages, spa, outdoor activites, and the overall aura of tranquility.

While at L'auberge guests can sneak away to enjoy the red rocked landscapes and trail systems by horse, bike, ATV, or hike. There's no shortage of things to do!

While at L'auberge guests can sneak away to enjoy the red rocked landscapes and trail systems by horse, bike, ATV, or hike. There's no shortage of things to do!

At L'auberge I was able to witness the extraordinary talent and concentration of five Tibetan Monks who are on a two year tour of America. The monks were working on what is called a ''mandala," an incredibly detailed and elaborate sand painting that is created over a week. With intense concentration the monks worked six to eight hours a day creating their masterpiece. At the end of the week, the mandala was finished - and with such lively and exuberant color! 

Tibetan Monks hard at work on their mandala as they reach their completion.

Tibetan Monks hard at work on their mandala as they reach their completion.

 

At the closing ceremony the monks took the time to celebrate those that had hosted them, and spoke more about the meaning and purpose of the mandala that they had created. To keep in line with the discipline of non-permanence, the mandala was swept away. Some of the remaining sand was given to all that were present, and some was sprinkled into Oak Creek to promote blessing and healing for the land.

The remaining sand is sprinkled into the creek to promote blessing and healing.

The remaining sand is sprinkled into the creek to promote blessing and healing.

iphone Photography Tips: What I've Learned

MY BACKGROUND

If you've stumbled upon this, I'm glad you're here. But first, a quick disclaimer: I have no formal photography training. I shoot only iPhone. Everything I am about to share here is either self-taught or tips I've picked up from other iPhone photographers I admire. If you're like me, you don't have the funds to buy an expensive camera and editing software. However, my experience has taught me that you don't have to have a professional camera and spend lots of money to take quality photos (no offense to the professionals). 

CONS 

Let's be honest. The iPhone camera is not a professional camera. But it's not bad either. It shoots at 12 megapixels, light years below what you would get with a professional camera but enough to take a decent shot. Although the iPhone 7 is the best camera yet for the iPhone (I'm writing this May 2017), it still struggles to capture certain types of depth, detail, and lighting.

PROS

Lightweight. Easy to carry. Point and click. Easy to navigate photo album. Easy to upload photos.

TIPS PART 1

Let's start from the beginning.

Select a subject matter: I love to travel and go hiking, so a lot of what I'm taking pictures of is landscapes. But do what works for you! If you love portraits, then you'll take lots of photos of people.

My next objective is to capture as many photos as I can (I mean ALOT) and then go back to see what my favorites are. Remember: More is better. I give myself lots of options by taking lots of pictures. As I get better at selecting what photos I'm going for, the less pictures I will take. 

TIPS PART 2

When it comes to detail, depth, and lighting iPhone can be a challenge. But there are ways to make up for this.

Lighting is your best friend and worst enemy. I rely heavily on lighting - time of day and direction I'm shooting my shot - to get a favorable shot. I generally shoot away from the sun. The only exception with this is when I want I silhouette an object. 

I also take lots of time on composition - setting up my shot by what and who is in the photo. By having a subject matter (person or thing) at certain places in the shot I can fill the photo frame and make the photo interesting for the viewer. Sometimes adding a foreground can add a dimension of depth. Capturing certain colors or textures can also add variety in my shot.

Change your perspective. Hold the phones different ways to capture different depths. Play with the settings to adjust the light. The more you familiarize yourself with the settings the more you will find what works for you.

And finally, a good edit can make worlds of difference. Editing will be what makes a good photo a great photo. 

EDITING PROCESS

I always recommend using no filter when shooting just because you can always change how the photo looks later. It is much harder to do that in reverse. Get yourself a good editing app. I currently edit within Instagram which gives me all I need to feel comfortable with my shots. It's easy, free, quick (I don't want to spend lots of time editing when I want to upload and share a photo) and I believe the quality is not far off other apps you"ll have to pay for.

If you're looking for something besides Instagram for a quick edit try Snapseed or VSCO. I have used both of these in the past with success but I know far less about them.

Photo editing presets are becoming more popular too. These are available for purchase through different photographers on Instagram.

YOU TELL ME

I know this is a quick run-down. But I wanted to share how simple it can be to take quality shots with an iPhone. And, of course, knowing a good editing software will help take your photos from good to great.

Now I'd love to hear from you. What has/hasn't worked for you? And as always, if you've found this article helpful please share with others.

White Pocket

A hiker in White Pocket

A hiker in White Pocket

One of the most surreal landscapes in Arizona remains largely unknown to many native explorers. Perhaps it's because of the six hour round trip over a difficult 4 wheel drive, high clearance road filled with deep sand and jutting rock that makes this surreal location very difficult to get to. While The Wave gets most of the notoriety for the area, White Pocket stands as a diamond on its own. Filled with brilliant swirls of colors and textures, White Pocket is easily navigated within a half day. Camping is also offered at the trailhead - a short quarter mile hike to White Pocket. 

Colorful swirls and textures grace the landscape at White Pocket

Colorful swirls and textures grace the landscape at White Pocket

Give yourself at least a half day to explore 

Give yourself at least a half day to explore 

To get here take the 89A to House Rock Valley Road. Road maps are provided by the BLM Ranger Station in Kanab, Utah. Stop in at Jacob Lake on your way out for a bite to eat.

Death Valley

With a name like Death Valley I thought I might be stumbling upon a place of depravity and desolation, on my hands and knees crawling to find a drop of water. Boy was I wrong. Hills and hills colored with tans, browns, and golds, a basin full of salt that covers the ground like a blanket, and miles of silky smooth sand dunes proved my thesis wrong. The views were other-worldly; the kinds of places where you have to blink twice to remind yourself you're actually there. Here a few pics to prove my point.

Now, don't get me wrong...your experience of Death Valley will much depend on the time of year that you go. May I recommend winter?! Highs were in the 60's instead of summer highs of the not so hot 120's. Yikes! I definitely recommend going to the visitor center which lies in the middle of the National Park. From there you can head in many directions to enjoy the park. I think that you will find your time there surprisingly wonderful!

Want to hear more? Make sure to write me or comment below!