Friday 10: Things to do with your photos

When I was a kid, half of the fun after a trip was getting a giant stack of photos back from the store. Digital cameras mean near-instant gratification now, but I find that sometimes our photos end up languishing in iPhoto.

So today's Friday 10 is all about ideas for what to do with your travel photos. I didn't include a lot of DIY projects this time around. I just wanted to show some simple ideas for making the most of your photos and memories. 

A before and after of one of my Ottawa photos using Pixelmator. Some croping and color correction goes a long way, even for a beginner. 

A before and after of one of my Ottawa photos using Pixelmator. Some croping and color correction goes a long way, even for a beginner. 

#1 Fix 

Take some time to go through your photos and treat them with the love and respect they deserve. Crop out any odd stuff and do some editing. Get creative. This is a chance to relive your trip a little, too.

If you're not comfortable with editing, take a look at Skillshare for online classes. I've been taking Tyler Brown's "Photo Editing Basics:  Make Good Images Great without Expensive Software." I haven't finished the course yet, but I've already learned a lot. What's great is that you don't need expensive software, and he shows you how to do everything on multiple programs. 

What can you use to edit? Your computer probably has a basic photo management application already (like iPhoto on Mac), but it's nice to have more features. Photoshop is the gold standard, but it's expensive, even with the new $29.99/month Creative Cloud option. I highly recommend Pixelmator ($29.99) for Mac as an alternative. GIMP is a free option, but I found the learning curve was steeper and, therefore, more frustrating than Pixelmator. 

Some other options:

#2 Backup

Even though I back up my computer regularly, I always feel like I need to have a separate, safe space for photos. External storage is pretty cheap these days, whether it's an external hard drive or a USB key. But it's also worth check out some cloud options like DropBox, iCloud (for Apple users), Box, and Onedrive (from Microsoft). These can be great for sharing with family and friends, too. 

#3 Print

Whether it's from your local photo shop, big box store, or online, it's so easy to print photos now and it seems like we do it less and less. You can even have Instagram photos printed by companies like Impressed and Printstagram these days. I don't do this nearly enough and I really miss flipping through physical photos. Theres nothing quite like having a hard copy to frame or put in a scrapbook or display (like on this wood block from Artifact Uprising) to me. 

DIYed photo canvases from our Villefranche trip

DIYed photo canvases from our Villefranche trip

#4 Transfer

I love a simple DIY project, so after I saw this tutorial from A Beautiful Mess, I decided I needed to make three canvases for my dad's birthday one year. It was a nice way to put some photos to use in a unique, personal way. I find that a lot of professionally printed canvases are expensive and look a little too perfect. The ones I made have little imperfections and scratches that give them character. 

The middle of the transfer process takes lots of rubbing to get the paper off, but it's fun to see the final product being revealed. 

The middle of the transfer process takes lots of rubbing to get the paper off, but it's fun to see the final product being revealed. 

I've seen other tutorials for glass and ceramic transfers as well. It would be neat to take some simple vases and put an interesting landscape like these on them using Lazertran paper

Or, if you're not a crafty person, you can have it done for you by a professional. A lot of online and box stores like Walmart, Shutterfly, and Costco all do canvases. But I really love, for example, this custom wooden box from Artifact Uprising for holding photo prints or other precious items.


#5 Business or Calling Cards

I know it might seem outdated, but I still like the idea of calling cards. I used some of my favorite photos to make my Histoire Travel business cards through Moo. They are beautiful, professional quality, and whenever I give one out, I let the person choose their favorite from a selection. It gives me an idea of what they like and acts as a conversation starter.  

One of our photo books from  MyPublisher

One of our photo books from MyPublisher

#6 Make a book

There are so many options out there now for beautiful, custom photo books. My dad is actually the one who got me interested in photo books. He always spends a ton of time editing photos and creating a lovely book after trips. He almost always uses MyPublisher and often gets a great buy one get one deal. 

I've been falling for everything at Artifact Uprising lately (as you might have noticed throughout the post) and their books are no different. They have lots of super stylish choices, so I think I will try them out soon. 

I also stumbled across Albums Remembered while looking for high-quality photo books for our wedding and engagement photos that will stand the test of time but don't cost thousand(s) of dollars. Their books are a bit different because they flush mount and use photographic paper on thick pages. I think they would make a great luxe option for those extra-special trips and travel photos.

#7 Stationary

How about sending notes and thank-yous with your favorite photos instead of generic ones from the store?

One options is custom postcards like these from Artifact Uprising and these from Moo. Not only are they great to send, but I love the idea of displaying them, too. I've been planning on putting the postcards I've collected on some twine with mini clothes pins near my desk after being inspired by Young House Love's postcard shelves. Theirs is a little more polished looking, but the twine great for apartment dwellers!  

Another option is getting folded cards from an online printer like Catprint or Vistaprint. I recently used Catprint for stationary and loved their customer service and products. I find the quality of their paper is higher than Vistaprint (you can order a free sample from each to compare choices) and they offer a free hard copy proof if you need one.

#8 Calendar

Artifact Uprising's custom wood calendar is my favorite option. It's simple, beautiful, a nice size, and really showcases the photos. 

Cocograph  | Prices vary depending on size and volume.  One 2 oz piece is $14,  3 bite sized (0.5 oz) pieces are $12 , and  25 bite sized  (0.5 oz) pieces are $87.50

Cocograph | Prices vary depending on size and volume. One 2 oz piece is $14,  3 bite sized (0.5 oz) pieces are $12, and 25 bite sized (0.5 oz) pieces are $87.50

#9 Chocolate

Put your photos on chocolate with Cocagraph. 'Nuff said. 

Pottery Barn  |  Gallery in a Box  | $126-$299 USD

Pottery Barn | Gallery in a Box | $126-$299 USD

#10 Gallery

I love a good gallery wall. Depending on how much you like to search, it can be fun to buy up single frames at stores and antique markets. We went the easy route and bought a Gallery in a Box from Pottery Barn for our trip photos. It came with different layout suggestions and paper templates of each frame. We taped the templates on the wall to see how they looked, poked a hole in the paper with a pencil to mark where the hanger needed be hammered in, and had the frames up in no time. It took all of the guesswork out of the process. 

Bonus: Take better photos

Skillshare just launched a School of Photography where you can take classes and learn from pros about how to take better photos whether its landscapes, cityscapes, or food photography. The classes are affordable ($9.95/month or free for your first 30 days) and you can go through them on your own time. I've been loving their offerings so far. 

What do you do with your photos? Let me know in the comments! 

Have a happy weekend!

One Day in Normandy, Part 2: Omaha Beach

Note: This post is heavy on the pictures. Back in Henri’s car, we moved swiftly down narrow country roads away from Bayeux and toward the D-Day beaches.

We were lucky to have a guide who knew where to go and exactly how to get there. Usually the person driving, almost always my dad, misses out on most of the great scenery. And this part of Normandy certainly has beautiful scenery.

I watched through the back passenger window as we passed by wide, green pastures with hedgerow fences and through towns with tall, grey stone walls. It was easy to drift off into daydreams about what these places were like throughout history and before I knew it, we had a glimpse of the coast. Soon the monument to Omaha beach was in sight.

But just as we got close, we started drive right past it.

I think we all let out a collective “Wait? What are you . . .where are you going?”

Henri told us we would be back.

A few minutes later, we parked in a small lot on a hill overlooking the beach near Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer.

Henri walked us up a dirt path the led to a small monument to the Second Infantry Division and a ruined German casemate.

There’s something about seeing these things in person that really drives home some of the realities war. You can read about it, watch videos, and look at pictures for ages but being able to touch old bunkers and see the beaches just adds a different sense of gravity.

Just as that thought really hit me, Henri showed us the other reason he brought us up to this spot.

A thick covering of greenery, including grasses, different bushes, and wild blackberry brambles, surrounded the area.

Henri plucked a dark, juicy blackberry from one of the many bushes and popped it into his mouth. As he munched, he bent down and pointed to what looked like a small hole in one of the blackberry bushes. Big enough for a fox to get through.

I got this strange tingle of excitement and horror as he pulled back the branches back to reveal something incredible. An old German foxhole. Big enough for a man to get through.

Since Henri was completely prepared and wearing tough, fatigue-like clothing that could resist the brambles, he hopped into the hole and took our camera. My dad stood on the edge of the hole and peered down like a schoolboy, trying to see whatever he could in the darkness.

While Henri was in the hole, my mom and I found our own perfect blackberries to taste (Yes, I know. Take only pictures, leave only footprints. But we were having a moment.). They were deliciously plump and sweet. I savored the flavor and looked out over the sea. The beauty of this place and the pleasure of standing on that hill washed over me.

A breeze blew through and the grasses swayed and whispered. I wondered how much this place had changed and what secrets these hills knew. I tried to imagine what daily life had been like in this spot under German occupation and, then, during and after D-Day.

Henri appeared from of the hole with his pictures and we marveled at how something that seemed so tiny led to such a large area. He told us there were many more foxholes like this all around here and that he would show us a couple.

We drove back down to Omaha beach and parked near the old mulberry that now serves as a foundation for a dock.

After a few minutes, my dad and Henri went off in search of more bunkers and holes while my mom and I walked the beach.

It was a surreal experience because it was so peaceful that day. It felt, for at least awhile, like my mom and I were the only people walking on the beach. I had my bare feet in the sand and I tried to comprehend how horrific D-Day must have been. This quiet, serene place turned into a hell on earth. Looking back toward land, knowing how well-covered it was by the Germans, I found myself overwhelmed, astonished, and emotional.

We both walked around a bit aimlessly for some time, lost in thought. We finally met up and walked up the dock together, visited the monument, and talked about what an incredible experience it was to be here.

After awhile, we started getting worried about the menfolk. They had disappeared up one of the hills and we had no idea when they were planning on coming down.

When they finally did come down, they brought some great photos with them of other hidden holes and bunkers.

And some stunning photos of the beach.

I was feeling almost reluctant to leave, but we still had so much left to see. Our next destination was Point du Hoc.

A Few of My Rome Rituals

I was planning on doing a review of The Borgias today, since it premiered on tv yesterday. I’ve been excited about it for over a year, so last night I hunkered down in my bed and prepared for 15th century decadence, lasciviousness, crime, and fashion. Just as my tv automatically switched over, something strange happened to my satellite and I couldn’t get the channel. Strangely, I could get Keeping up with the Kardashians and just about every other show I didn’t want to watch. Ah, such is life.

So, tonight instead of The Borgias, I decided to do a little list.

You’ve probably heard someone say that the definition of insanity is doing “the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Well, you can throw most of that out the window when you travel.

One of the best parts of traveling is not just going to the same location over and over but sometimes visiting the same sites over and over.

Since I had the Borgias on my brian, I was thinking about Rome today. I suddenly realized I have a few must see/do things that are starting to become like rituals. I’ll keep going back to do the same thing again and again because every single visit offers something new, different, special, and, now, a little nostalgic.

Here are 5 of my (non-history related) rituals in Rome

1.  Stop for gas in the taxi from the airport to Rome

This one is beyond my control, but it has happened twice now with two different drivers. Both of them stopped at the same gas station and both left the meter running (naturally!). I think I would almost feel a little sad if my next taxi driver actually drove me straight to Rome.

It also says something about how magical Rome is to me because I know I would be enraged if someone did this to me on the way to any other city. Sure, I was mad the first time, but the second time was just comical. I think the third time would be. . .wait for it. . .charming.

That being said, the taxi ride into Rome is always a favorite of mine. The drivers I’ve had so far have been so proud of their city and seemed to genuinely enjoy pointing things out. There’s nothing like that first glimpse of an ancient ruin amidst all the chaotic traffic to make you realize that you’re somewhere very special.

2.  Take this picture:

It’s through the Arch of Septimus Severus at the Forum. The scene never fails to make my heart flutter.

I can't put my finger on exactly why it does that to me or why I feel compelled to take this picture. Something about it makes me feel like I'm peeking through a really big keyhole onto something undiscovered.

It's the way the light is always a little different, making the ruins glow. It's knowing how many stories and secrets those ancient ruins have seen and now hold deep within them.

I know the view probably won't change much in my lifetime, but I'll keep taking the picture as long as it makes my heart flutter.

3.  Eat at Vineria Il Chianti

The second and third time I went to Rome, my family and I stayed near the Palazzo del Quirinale, the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic. I really like this area and will continue to stay there if I can.

It’s a short walk from the piazza where the palazzo is to the Trevi. On our first night, we were tired and we had nowhere to eat.  We stumbled down to the Trevi and then, luckily, onto Vineria Il Chianti.

We sat on the patio, packed into tables under umbrellas, nearly bumping elbows with fellow tourists and locals alike. We had great wine and delicious pizzas as we watched tours march down the side street toward the Trevi, following silly, brightly colored flags or wearing matching bandanas. We were in Rome and life was good.

Since then, we've ended up there at some point on our trip, either intentionally  or unintentionally, and it has always been a really pleasant experience.

4.  Eat gelato at the Trevi

What do you do after dinner at all hours of the day while vacationing in Italy? Eat gelato, of course.

I know most people would say you have to go try San Crispino gelato if you’re near the Trevi. And you should. I’ve seen it on a lot of lists for the best gelato in Rome. There’s a reason it is on those lists, it is actually very, very good.

But my favorite gelato spot is right next to the Trevi. If you’re looking at the fountain, it’s to your right, on the corner. That should be all the direction you need, it’s pretty hard to miss.

The shop is small and full of tourists. The gelato probably isn’t made on premises using organic/local/rare ingredients, but I don’t really care.

Almost every night, my dad and I got coconut gelato to help give us the strength to walk up the hill toward the Palazzo Quirinale. You know what? It worked.

Why coconut gelato? Because theirs just plain rocks. I've done lots of research on this and it's the best I've had so far. It's very creamy, full of coconut, and makes me oh so very, very happy.

Yeah, I'm definitely biased.

They also might be trying to win me over, though. I once got a huge piece of dark chocolate in my stracciatella. It is really easy to win me over with hunks of dark chocolate.

And then there was that time one of the guys working there started hitting on me in front of my dad. He switched to French when he learned that I studied it in school and that my dad didn’t know any French. Too bad mine was so rusty because I have no idea what that guy said to me. Looking back, it had to have been pretty saucy if he couldn’t say it in front of my dad in English. It's a shame, really. Think of all the free coconut gelato I might have had access to. . .

5. Throw a coin in the Trevi

What can I say? I’m superstitious. I don't care if it's touristy or cheesy. If there’s any chance it will keep me coming back to Rome, then I’m doing it.

Honorable Mention goes to Antica Enoteca, near the Spanish Steps.

We have a way of stumbling onto it in the afternoon, after lots of window shopping, just when we need it the most. I've never eaten a meal there, but it's perfect for taking a little time to relax and have a glass of wine. They have a good selection of wines and the atmosphere is great. It's dimly lit with wide arches and a long, wooden bar.

So there are a few of my Rome rituals. I have some history-related ones and will post them later.

I'm curious, do you have any rituals in any of your favorite cities? What are they? Any for Rome?