What they don’t tell you about before you go… US to Europe Edition

  1. The stairways for castle and churches are very narrow, the stairs are uneven, tall, and steep. I have size 10 shoes and my foot is twice as wide as the step, and when I say narrow I mean dizzying claustrophobia-inducing narrow. I’m not saying don’t go up but know your limits, pick the less crowded time, and bring a hiking/walking stick.
  2. The roads in the city are barely two lanes and the sidewalks are half taken up with parked cars. If they are like city people in the US then they have been parked for years if it’s a good spot. Because so many buildings are of historical nature they can’t change the face of the building, which means more uneven steps with narrow doorways. Also, historical buildings were built before elevators, electricity, indoor plumbing, and were inhabited by short people. Put it all together and it becomes a bit handicap inaccessible. Again doesn’t mean don’t go just plan ahead.
  3. Most of the US tourists are young college kids or people near or at retirement. By young college kids, I mean 18-19-year-old kids who can drink legally and get wasted and speak English to people slowly and loudly. So a polite young American will throw them for a loop. After talking to someone they said Oh you must be from Canada, the unspoken sentence was because you are too nice to be an American.
  4. You can be in the EU and not use the Euro, currently, 9 countries in the EU don’t use the Euro. However, if Briext does happen it will be 8.
  5. VAT, value-added tax that all EU countries have (around 20%), and it can make dining out and other goods expensive. If you want to cut down the cost go to supermarket and buy lunch, premade sandwiches, and salads. They usually don’t have the VAT. Most places if you buy over a certain number they will subtract the VAT for you, and maybe free shipping.
  6. Toilets cost money and they are called toilets, not bathrooms. Usually, if you buy something in the rest stop you get a ticket/token for the toilets. Just make sure you have some coins on hand.
  7. Maybe it because of the paid toilet situation but those scenic pedestrian bridges in Paris smells like urine (pardon my french•).
  8. Stores aren’t open 24/7, it’s like Europeans actually have a life-work balance, so weird! Joking aside places do shut down at 5:00 or 17:00 (Europe runs on 24 hour time, like the military in the US) and restaurants close between lunch and dinner.
  9. Stuff is closed during the week, check before you go. I was let down when I arrived at the Orsay museum in Paris on Monday morning and it was closed.

Pardon my french is a phrase to say sorry for using foul/rude langue but urine is one of the old French words that became an English word after William the Conqueror (French Duke) became King of England. So it’s a pun of a joke.

Crazy prediction of 2020

This year has been so surreal that I’ve decided to make some predictions for what will happen during the rest of the year. These are wild so if it doesn’t happen we can all laugh, if it does happen I look like a genius.

#1Biden will pick Viola Davis for VP.

#2. Superbowl will be Pats vs Buccaneers. Coach Belichick will then sing baby come back to Tom.

#3. North and South Caroline will forgive and forge and then rejoin to form the State of Caroline.

#4. Coach Dean Smith will come back as a Force Ghost and lead the Tarheels to victory. Disney has enough money to make this happen.

#5. Nov 5 2020 (Guy Fawkes Day) The US will rejoin with the UK to form USK

#6. Someone will invent a time machine in order to really see what the founding father would think. When they arrive in the future the founding father’s will freak out at the sight of the future and die of shock. We all agree as a united country to never speak of it again.

#7. The city of New Orleans will change it’s name to Old Orleans in order to lure hipsters to the city.

#8. The state of Mississippi tried of people misspelling it’s name will remove the I’s and S’s to become the state of Mpp.

#9. The Scone vs Scon debate will kick off this year and result in spilled tea and severe tutting.

#10. U.K will be shocked when the Queen is traded to the EU in order to keep fishing rights.

#11. Last U.K. prediction. Southern Rail trains will run on time.

#12. WW3 will kick off when Switzerland picks a fight with the Dalai Lama.

#13. The US will start calling soccer football.

#14. Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook will merge to form Skynet, no one will notice.

#15. Aliens are real and we find out Earth is listed as a rest stop in galactic maps.

Which one is your favorite?

How do you come up with ideas?

I get this question a lot and sometimes it’s about my photography! I do have a creative brain, I think in quotes and songs, I can remember odd details about historical people/time, and I routinely drift off on a tangent in my mind long after the conversation has ended. It is hard to teach creativity and in some cases, it’s forced out of us (school, work, home), but when it comes to photography I mostly steal it. I mean I’m inspired by others. Below are some ways to get the creative juices flowing.

I started added the rubber ducky to photos because I know people in my life that love rubber duckies and only some of them are kids. I added the ducks for them but I’m so in love with the effect I add them for myself now. They’re bright, cheerful, and add whimsy to any photo. So pick a physical object that represents someone or something in your life. I’ve seen people add sock monkey and my little pony dolls to photos but it can be a model plane (for a parent that use to fly), or a photo of a loved one. It can be as simple as a bright ball that’s your favorite color or have a deeper meaning maybe a book that changed your life.

A duck in need of water

Search Instagram, Pinterest, or whatever the new trending social media app that only cool people know about (which is why I don’t know about it) and find something you would like to try. The crystal/lens ball in my photos, I saw that on Instagram and started using it (and I love it), just search for creative/wacky/fun photos ideas in a search engine. Don’t limit yourself to just photo or landscape ideas, look at home decor or travel websites. The photos of the LED Lights in a Mason Jar, that was from a brighten up your backyard/balcony on a budget article. A travel ad with a heart outline with blue stones over a distressed wood gave me the seashells in a heart shape idea.

I found a sting ray tail and added it in another photo, for shot through the heart.
See how LED Lights in a jar and be creative.

Try something crazy when editing a photo, what happens if you turn the saturation all the way up? Play around with tint, contrast, darken, lighten shadows, or use filter settings in whatever program you use to edit. The great thing about digital photos, you can revert back to original or just not save the edits. If all the features seem overwhelming (it was to me), then just try the extreme low and high end for one setting. Or you can search on youtube and someone will be able to explain the settings in a way you understand. We don’t learn or understand the same way so if the first video doesn’t help, try another with a different host. It took about 5 different photographers to explain the F-Stop to me (insert shameless plug for another post. https://jmptraveler.com/2020/06/12/what-the-f-stop/) to be fair the first four just said the same thing but in different accents.

I was switching out lens and saw my journal on the map and then added someone’s glasses, viola still life.

Take your photos from a different angle. Tilt the camera so the leaning tower of Pisa is straight and everyone else is at an angle. Take upshots of a forest canopy or building facade. Lay down on the ground and take photos of mountains, really make them massive. If everyone is taking landscape horizontal photos, take some vertical shots, it’s surprising how little it takes to make our mind see something differently. Last, don’t just take photos of holiday views, take photos of everyday items in our house, or what you are eating and drinking. I don’t drink so I literally stopped them so I could get this shot. I’m going to sound super nerdy/snobby but see how the smooth glass contrast with the rough textured salt rim? I did a color splash effect (selected one color to highlight) with the green lime wedge and now it’s art, I wish I had one with the whole glass in focus but it’s rude to make people wait for there food or drinks. Also, it looked in focus on my camera screen.

To recap: Include an item that means something to you or someone you care about in your life, check social media and search engines for creative photo ideas or home decor ideas, try using the advance features on your editing program, play around with angles, take photos of everyday objects, but most of all have fun.

Photography is not a science it’s an art and we all have different taste when it comes to art. You photos don’t have to look like the covers of National Geographic.

P.S. National Geographic I do love your photos.

How to clean your Airplane seat.

This is going to sound very hipster but I was cleaning my seat and wearing a mask before COVID-19. To be fair I have asthma which is why I took these measures before COVID-19, or B.C. as I think of it.

Here’s the thing about all mass transit, it’s messy, dirty, and icky when you think about it and I think about it a lot. Cruise ships, Airplanes, Trains, Buses, Metros all have one thing in common, time is money if they aren’t moving they are losing money. This means the turn around time for cleaning is quick and therefore not thorough: picking up easy to see trash, replacing soap and toilet paper in bathrooms, and quick vacuum.

What COVID-19 has shown people is how long germs can stay on surfaces and how often we touch our faces. You have hundreds of people in a small area coughing and sneezing for 8 hours, then you have another hundred board for the next trip. It’s an endless stream of people adding germs to that plane. If you usually get a cold or a bug after flying this might be why.

Now that I’ve scared the crap out of you we can talk about what actions you can take, to lower the odds of catching something. For this, to work you need a mask, liquid alcohol-based hand soap, and disinfecting wipes. In an ideal world, you could spray the whole area with rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle but I don’t think the airlines and security would like people to carry that onto the plane or spray it everywhere. Or we call get hazmat suits or maybe that’s just me?

Before you board the plan put your mask on, and get the wipes and soap in your hand not caring your ticket and ID. Find your seat and put your bags away, then wipe down your seat, the armrest, seatbelt, the screen, and the tray table (remember to lower it and get both sides). Then place the wipes in the seat pocket with the barf bag and in-flight magazine (don’t read the magazine). The last step is to use liquid soap to clean your hands.

During the flight, only remove the mask when eating or drinking, and use the liquid soap after using the bathroom on the plane. Even if you wash your hands after using the bathroom you still have to touch the door handle to open it, along with water taps. I also wear long pants (trousers for those in the U.K) and long shirt so my skin doesn’t touch the seats. For extra credit you can buy some thin cotton washable gloves, it will not stop germs but for some, it helps with not touching your face. For me it makes my hands feel different with the weight or texture, and that’s enough to make me aware of my hands. Last, I like to keep a small spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol, which I use to clean my electronics (spray all over and wait 30 seconds) when I get off the plane. I also spray my feet after using the hotel shower, no more foot/nail fungus.

And that is how I fly, I’m sure it looked like weird and crazy to my fellow passengers but now I’m a trendsetter. Be safe, be careful, and try to sleep through the flight.

What the F-Stop!

What is this f-stop that camera nerds talk about, and why does it come up when explaining why my phone camera isn’t as good as their very expensive camera?

Focal-STOP AKA f-stop is the “aperture” opening of a camera lens, which allows light to come in. Clear as mud right? For years people told me the F-stop or Aperture (why does it have two names just pick one) is about how much light the camera lets in. They said it like it means something and keep repeating it over and over again because the first 99 times you said it didn’t sink in but the 100th time… I’m not still mad about it…..

Part of the confusion must be because it has two different names and then talking about the numbers being fractions even though the camera shows whole numbers. I don’t know why it’s in whole numbers vs the factions I can only assume it’s because most people hate fractions or because on the analog camera it was easier/clearer to show whole numbers.

Finally, on my second photo trip, it was explained to me and the clouds parted to illuminate my teacher with angels singing a heavenly song. The f-stop/aperture is about focus, the lower f-stop number for example 3 means the camera is only focusing on 3 points. A low f-stop creates photos with great detail on one item, like a person or flower, but the background is blurry. A high f-stop, like 20, creates 20 focal points in the photo, so the whole picture is in focus.

The f-stop is 5.6 on this photo, see how the background of grass is just a green blur.
The f-stop is 22 on this photo, see how the whole photo seems to be in focus.

You now know what the f-stop is, which is half the battle, but how do you use it? On most cameras there are preset or automatic modes labeled A, S, P, and M. The A is the aperture which is the f-stop, again I don’t know why it’s f-stop everywhere else but aperture to select the mode. The aperture mode lets you change the f-stop number and the camera adjusts all the other elements around the f-stop number you select. So go forth and use your F-stop…it just sounds like a dirty word doesn’t it??

Random Thoughts: Practical Parental Advice

Let’s be honest most Parental Advice is philosophical in nature: If people don’t like the real you then they are a fool, well I’m not Insert Name’s parents, and everyone’s favorite you will understand when you are older. So below is usable practical knowledge for everyday life from Parents.

  1. Always go (bathroom) before you leave. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been stuck in traffic and thought, it’s a good thing I went, I would be bursting otherwise.
  2. If the 18 wheelers are hauling (going fast) then no speed traps ahead. This one is starting to become outdated with the rise of waze.
  3. Put newspaper in the kitchen trash can, then put the trash bag in the can. The newspaper will absorb bad smells.
  4. When buying/renting a home make sure it has a covered place to park your car. It might cost more money, but it’s worth it to never have to scrape ice off your car windows. This advice doesn’t apply to places that never get below freezing
  5. Never get black floor tiles, it will show every speck of dirt and water droplets. You can’t just wipe it up with a paper towel you have to get down and clean it, it takes effort.
  6. Very rarely does your college major apply to your job. This doesn’t apply to people that want to work in Medicine, Law, Engineering, etc.
  7. Upgrade or fix issues with your new home before you move in. You will think/say I’ll fix it later or if we DIY we will save money. Wrong! You will not upgrade itself and when you hire someone you end up with handwashing dishes in your bathroom sink. Save up the money to renovate along with a downpayment and other moving costs.
  8. Wash your hands before you eat, use your foot to flush public toilets, and grasp door handles using your shirt as a buffer. You might have laughed at this one before COVID-19 but you aren’t laughing now.

Travel Story: I was Home Alone on a Mountain!

It’s not as bad as it sounds.

Picture it Machu Picchu just 30 feet shy of 8,000 feet or 2,430M, and intact and Inca Citadel. So perfect the design its stone buildings need no mortar and had built-in plumbing. I was sitting under a shade-giving umbrella in the cafe near the entrance, which is where bus stop to bring in new travelers and take the weary ones back down the mountain. Which is perfect because I don’t climb/hike/walk up any mountains. I saw our guide for the entire Peru trip was at the stop and pointed to the cafe where I was going to wait until it was time for our group to leave. I was early so it was just 2 or 3 people from our group, out of 30.

I would look up every couple of mins and saw some other people on the tour waiting around (in direct sunlight like people who don’t burn in 3 mins) so I keep on reading. I was thinking the group would wave me over when it was time to depart. The group was thinking I’m a grown a** adult (not really I’m still not an adult) and I would join them myself (like an adult would).

The next time I looked up, darn you book for being so entertaining, I didn’t see anyone from the group. I waited for the next bus thinking our guide would take the next one up to collect everyone else. It wasn’t just my group boarding it’s everyone on the mountain that doesn’t want to walk down. I waited around two bus trips and realized I just needed to go down myself, it’s two US dollars to get down so no issue.

At the bottom of Machu Picchu is a town called Machupicchu, Machupicchu Pueblo, or Aguas Calientes. It is literally a one-road town, the road goes from the train station through the restaurants, hotels, B&B, shops to the Bus station. This is where you queue up for the ride up the mountain. So even I with no sense of direction could make my way back to the train station. Our guide told us before we left the train station this is where we all meet up if you break off to explore, we just had to be at the station before the last train left.

I walked to our restaurant, saw the group, and regaled them with my tale of woe. The tour guide was the most upset thinking she had lost one, to prevent any repeat performance she had me set in the front of the bus for the rest of the trip. The moral of the story is if you want a front seat on a tour bus get a little lost.

The real point is don’t panic and communicate better, I should have asked my guide can you come and get me when we leave. Or just worn a bigger hat to keep me in the shade while I waited for everyone else.

Below is a beautifully rendered map to help orientate everyone.

Memorial Day

This gravesite is one out of nine thousand three hundred and eighty-five in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, one of the resting places for American Troops that died in Europe during WWII. It’s a sobering number. Instead of mourning their death, lets us rejoice that they lived.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”- Gen. George S. Patton

Deborah Sampson. I take the word men and take it to mean all men as in mankind. She cut off her hair, bound her breast, and enlisted as a man in the American Revolutionary War. She was born on December 17, 1760 in Plympton, Massachusetts (Go SOXs!), and at the age of ten was sent away to be an indentured servant to a family within Massachusetts. For those new to the term it means you are a slave (work but no pay) but for a set time limit (usually 7 to 10 years). In April of 1781 she puts on her disguised and enlisted in Captain Webb’s company in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment, under the alias Robert Shurtliff. She was wounded twice during her Army career, the first was a shot in the thigh and she removed the bullet herself. She dug the bullet out of her own thigh without medical help because she fear of discovery by seeing a doctor. The second wound was a bullet to the shoulder that result in a fever (I’m guessing due to infection), resulting in hospitalization and discovery. Rather than disgrace or jail time she was honorable discharge in October of 1783 and went home.

The Red Coats are back.

Jimmie W. Monteith. Born July 1, 1917 (so close to July 4th) and raised in the state of Virginia, and like so many of us when to high school (played sports), college, and then an average 9-5 job. He was there in France on D-Day, stormed the beaches, like a Bass Ass, and he walked into a mind-field and guide US Tanks into firing positions. He just keeps going out in the open to secure the lines, I don’t know what his last words were but the phrase You and What Army come to mind. Lt. Monteith was awarded the Medal of Honor and rest with his brothers in arms at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

View from inside Bunker on Normandy Coast.

John Steele. Born in the City of Metropolis (are we sure this guy isn’t superman?) in the state of Illinois, is the unstoppable paratrooper. He enlisted and joined 82nd Airborne Division where he broke his leg during the Sicily drop, he fixes it with duck tape (not really please don’t try to “fix” a broken leg with tap) and hopped back into Italy campaign taking names from Salerno to Naples. Then it off to England to prepare for D-Day, he and thousands more parachuted into Sainte-Mere-Eglise behind enemy lines before the ships land on the beaches. On his way down he was hit in his foot and his parachute was caught on the steeple of the Church. He hangs there for hours trying to get loose before some Germans came to investigate, to see if he was really died. He was captured and three days later busted out and made it back to the Allies side and another trip to the hospital. His tale doesn’t end there, he parachutes into Holland and was in the Battle of the Bulge. He made it to the age of 57 before cancer took him, but you can still see him on the Church roof in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, on the ready line.

John Steele keeping watch.

Havildar Lachhiman Gurung. Four feet of fury. He was born in Nepal but at 4 feet and 11 inches (1.5M) was too short to be a stormtrooper and to enlisted in the British Indian Army during peacetime. Which seems odd because when it really matters you let him in but when nothing is going on it’s a no? He enlisted in December of 1940 and was in the 4th Battalion, 8th Gurkha Rifles on the 13th of May 1945 when shit went down. He was manning the forward post (person in most danger) when an estimated 200 Japanese soldiers attacked, spoiler alert it didn’t end well for them. Three grenades landed in his trench he returned two, but the third went off in his hand. He shrugs grabs is riffle in the left hand and holds off the enemy for four hours. That’s not a typo, his hand is gone and the right side of his body, to include his eye, is badly injured but he stands tall and holds them off while yelling “Come and fight a Gurkha!”. After the War he returned home to his farm and fought like a Gurkha until the age of 92. I didn’t see any mention of it but I’m pretty sure he and Daniel Inouye are brothers from another mother.

Most battle sites are like this, unremarkable until you know.

Whose life will you celebrate today? How about the all those in the medical field thought out history that have fought to keep us alive. Mary Seacole, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Percy Lavon Julian, Desmond Doss, or Mary Edwards Walker.

Given the COVID-19 era, we are living in it might be worth looking up Ignaz Semmeiweis. This a sad tale, Ignaz figured out that washing your hand would decrease the mortality rate in the 1840’s. He couldn’t explain in detail why because germ theory wasn’t widely studied, understood, or accepted until decades later. Ignaz died young at the age of 47 in an Insane Asylum. It’s unknown what illness he had, given medical records and knowledge of the time, but the knowledge that washing hands and equipment could save lives but was ignored must have factored into his health. He was a real-life Cassandra, cursed to know the truth but never be believed.

Travel Tips: What to Pack Edition!

  1. Make a list of everything you want to pack and when you pack the item in your bag, cross it off the list. Keeps you from repacking if you want to double-check.
  2. Pack twice the amount of medication you will need for your trip, if you are going for one week then take enough for two.  You don’t want to get caught short on Medicine if you have a delay.
  3. You will forget something, but as long as you have a wallet and medicine you have all you need.  You can buy anything else. 
  4. If you always bring back gifts from trips then double pack the suitcase.  Pack all your stuff in the smaller suitcase and Russia Doll it into a bigger suitcase.  No extra bag fee on the way out, and when you return home you have double the space for gifts and other stuff you purchased.  
  5. Put your wallet, ID/Passport, and tickets in a small bag you can hold otherwise you spend a lot of time searching for these needed items.
  6. Collapsable bottle for carry-on luggage, most airports have water bottle fill-up stations so you don’t have to worry about water fountain germs. We have all seen a kid put their mouth over the entire spigot, yuck.
  7. Get four-wheel luggage, sometimes more is more and four-wheel luggage is better than two. 
  8. Get some luggage organizer bags, I use to scoff at them but they do stop the consistent need to unpack and repack when looking for clean shocks.
  9. For general packing: Walking shoes, hat for shade, multiple slot USB charger, extra underwear, and socks (For a 7-day trip pack 9 pairs of both), pocket umbrella, small spray bottle with rubbing alcohol. The spray bottle is for your feet after using the shower/bath to keep from getting foot/toe fungus.

You travel a lot where should I go on my vacation or holiday?

I’ve been to a lot of places so I do get asked this question, I usually reply with a few more questions to help them narrow it down. I now pass the checklist to you all, hold for applause, and as the Rock said in Moana, You’re Welcome.

Question 1: How much time do you have? I feel I need to clarify for any European readers, in the US you don’t get a lot of vacation or holiday time, which is why college kids and almost retirees are the two groups that visit Europe. That’s because they are the two groups with a lot of time and money, well the college kids don’t have money their parents do. This means in the US the question of time is an important one. If you only have one week off then don’t go to Australia, it’s wonderful but depending on where you live that 2-4 days of travel. It’s not worth it mate. Wait until you have 2 or 3 weeks and then another week to recover because the jet lag is brutal on that trip (but worth it).

Question 2: How long are you willing to travel? If you don’t like planes or driving then it narrows down to large Coach Bus travel or Train. Are you okay with flying but want a direct flight, because you have been burned with layovers before (I feel you)? See how we are narrowing down to places you are willing to travel too, next it’s what do you want to see?.

Question 3: What are you looking for? Do you love the nightlife and want to boogie, then start looking for cities in your travel area. Looking to go back to nature and stay in a yurt for a week (I mean why but okay), then start looking for National and State Parks. Don’t forget State Parks they can be hidden Jems. Want to go someplace with culture and nature then start with a city you like and see what kind of day trips are nearby. For example, Miami is next to a couple of national parks so you have the nightlight, fine dining, and then the next day allegators. I’ve never had any issues with any day trips I book using https://www.viator.com (They don’t pay me), Viator is the middle man and deals with the booking. You don’t have to use them you can book direct, but it gives you an idea of the type of day trips that are available in the area you pick.

Question 4: I just want to go on a Spa Trip. Sorry I can’t help you there, if I want the Spa I’ll save the hassle of travel and just stay at home for a week.

The first two questions narrow down the area you can or will travel too, the third question helps you to really think about what you want and leads you to one or a few places. Then you just do a comparison on the places; which is cheaper, which is closer, which place has the most actives you want to do? Or write the places on paper, put it in a hat, and pick one.

For future travel plans, it also helps if you start a list of places or actives you want to do someday. When you have a 30 mins break on train/metro/waiting for a plane, look around on Pinterest or Instagram and see what catches your eye. If you already have a pre-made travel list, it makes it easier to decide when you have a long weekend and are itchy to go somewhere. It is also useful to find some travel websites and sign up for last-minute deal notifications. If you already have a list of things to see/do in multiple places then you can jump on the deal.

P.S. If you have never ever traveled before, please travel in-country before going international. It’s like training wheels, this way you know know what’s going on even if you don’t speak the language. I only speak English but I’ve seen the airline safety video so many times I don’t need it in English anymore. At this point, they could mime it to me.

How do you solve a problem like dull overcast?

You are on vacation and you want some fabulous photos of your trip (to make everyone at work jealous….oh and precious family memories) but the sky is a dull, dreary, weary, overcast meh. It’s not a moody mystical fog or darkly lit storm clouds it’s just blah.

Dull white/light grey overcast sky on winter day.

You can’t come back to this same place every day to get the perfect sky, you are far from home and have to go back to work in a week. Maybe you will come back one day but you don’t know that all you have is this day and it’s been cursed by Seth/Loki/Adad/Perun/insert your local mythical deity. What do you do???

There are a couple of options when this happens but first, go ahead and take the photo you might be able to do something with it later. Or get a friend who is great at photoshop to replaces that sky.

Step one, get close. If you are visiting gardens get in close on those flowers. In a zoo, get up close and in that cage…oh no wait don’t get in there with the animals just zoom. Are you looking at a city skyline, zoom in on one of the buildings. By zooming in you are removing some or all of that lackluster sky.

Step two, move your feet. Walk around don’t stay in the same spot, go left then go right, crouch down, or if you can get to a higher location. It sounds cheesy but a slight change can greatly impact your viewpoint. The first photo was my starting point of view, I moved to the left and zoomed in on some trees.

Close up on trees with overcast sky.

Step 3, edit. I took my tree shot, cropped out the horizon and buildings, and then made it black and white. This is how you can go from the first photo to something that is more interesting to look at (below) but wait there’s more.

You can also do a Gradient Fill or Gradient Map on your photo to give it bright light and colors. For either option I use PhotoScape X (please note I’m not paid by them I just love the app) it’s an App you can buy on Apple’s App Store for $39.99 but there are other programs/apps that can do the same thing.

gradient fill is a graphical effect that produces a three dimensional color look by blending one color into another. Multiple colors can be used, where one color gradually fades and changes to the other color, such as the one below.

A Blue, Purple, and Red Gradient Filter added to my tree close up.

Gradient maps are a tool that creates a new adjustment layer that chooses a new color for each pixel of a certain value. The darkest areas of your gradient replace the shadows and below of your image, the middle replaces your general exposure, and the end replaces your highlights. In other words, it replaces the colors in your photo with the colors of your choosing.

Yellow, Brown, and Orange Gradient Map effect added to tree close up photo.
Yellow, Red, and Hot Pink Gradient Map effect added to tree close up photo.

And now you know what to do with overcast skies and knowing is half the battle.

Does anyone know what the other half is, asking for a friend.