Explore New York in 3 Days

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From time to time I put down my hiking backpack and head to the big city! I took a trip several months ago to New York solo due to exceptionally cheap flights from Calgary, Alberta to New York! I couldn’t say no to New York in autumn!

My first suggestion on getting around New York and seeing popular sites in an efficient manner is being prepared to travel light and move hotels nightly, or be willing to pay the fee to commute back and forth to your hotel. Check out my blog post about travelling in a carry on for more information and tips!

Secondly, I suggest not renting a vehicle and instead using public transit or UBER/Lyft. New York is notoriously congested and hectic to drive in – I could NOT imagine driving here as a first time visitor. Save yourself the stress and just take the train or take an UBER.

Lastly, travelling alone as a woman has some obvious risks. Be smart about where you are going – keep a friend or family member updated on where you are staying and where you are going and stay in well lit and populated areas. Be mindful of who you are talking to and do not disclose too much of your own personal information – including where you are staying.


Day 1

I landed in JFK late and got over to Manhattan in the evening – around 7:00PM. My hotel  (Night Hotel Times Square) was directly around the corner from Times Square! I knew I wanted to utilize the night time to see the city lights and experience the chaos of Times Square. I spent a while photographing the bizarre phenomenon of Times Square, tried some vendor food, went in and out of a few stores and decided to make my way to the Rockefeller Plaza and make my way to the top! It is a bit pricey but I promise you the view at night is well worth it.

Rockefeller Plaza at night is lit up and absolutely gorgeous! You get to see New York lit up as far as the eye can see – it is a remarkable sight to see for those who aren’t used to big cities.

Day 2 

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I woke up early and spent the morning walking from Times Square (Top of the map) to Grand Central Terminal to see the bustling morning commute for New Yorkers heading to work! Grab a bagel from the many street vendors and make your way down to the Empire State Building to head to the top and see New York during the daytime. It is well worth going! I highly recommend it.

Next I went to the famous Flatiron Building and sat at Madison Square Park to people watch for a while. By a suggestion of a friend I walked to the High Line (an abandoned train track turned garden) and walked above the New York Streets! Well worth doing – at the end of the high line path is a popular pizza place called Artichoke Pizza   it is a must if you are in the area – It is virtually the best pizza I have ever had!

Afterwards, I took an Uber down to the World Trade Centre and walked around Ground Zero before checking into my hotel in the financial district for the night.

I had planned to take a ferry over to the Statue of Liberty but was unable to with time constraints – Remember to book ahead if you want to see the Statue of Liberty up close – MONTHS in advance if you want to go to the top.

Day 3

Time flies in New York! The weather was forecasted for heavy rain and I had so much left I wanted to see! I spent the morning rushing around the financial district including the New York Stock Exchange enjoying being part of the busy morning commute through New York. New Yorkers walk FAST! be ready to walk fast or get yelled at! Be careful not to stop in the middle of a sidewalk, many people are in a rush to get where they are going and nobody appreciates walking around you as you check your phone.

I took the train from the financial district to Central Park and made my way through half of the park (It is a HUGE park!) stopping at Bethesda Fountain and Bow Bridge before the forecasted rain set in! There went my day at Central Park!

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The remainder of the day called for rain so I spent the day at the New York Museum of Natural History (Hint: If you want to skip the long lines, buy a ticket online and show them the code on your phone! I skipped a two hour long line doing this AND saved money!)

I checked into Park West Hotel directly across from Central Park and nearby the museum and headed over to Whole Foods to grab myself a cheap dinner before turning in for the night – I had an early flight to catch the following morning!


What I Use and Recommend for Photography

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By popular demand, I have created a post detailing the equipment I use often and not so often and why. My equipment has changed multiple times over the years and continues to change as I continue to grow. This list does not include studio equipment I use.

What I Currently Use

  • Camera Body: Sony A7RIII

    I first changed from Nikon to Sony several years ago after discovering the joy of mirrorless cameras – They are wonderful to travel with due to their lighter weight and smaller sizes. I just upgraded to the Sony A7RIII (Sonys newest mirrorless camera) early in 2018 and have loved the images the camera produces. The A7RIII boasts many new upgrades and is worth considering if you are in the market for a new camera or are considering transitioning from DSLR.

  • Sony/Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 lens

    I use this lens primarily as my wide landscape and night photography lens. Although the aperture could be lower for an astrophotography lens I find it works very well paired with my A7RIII

  • Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 lens

    This lens is my primary lens and also my powerhouse! This lens can do it all – from street, landscape, wildlife, portraiture and anything in between this lens performs exceptionally well. If I was to only own one lens, this would be the one.

  • Sony/Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8 lens 

    This lens is my prime lens for portraiture work. It produces sharp, beautiful images consistently in any lighting situation. I use this lens both for studio work and outdoor locations.

  • Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM lens

    This lens is my largest and it typically used in portraiture but primarily in landscapes I want to compress and wildlife photography.

  • Vanguard Pro Tripod 236AB 

    My primary tripod I use for photos. It can reach over 6 foot 5 inches and is extremely sturdy with a wonderful ballhead. If theres one piece of advice I can give you: Don’t cheap out on a tripod!

  • Lens Filters: Hoya PRO filters 

    Including Polarizers and Neutral Density in multiple stops. I do not use variable density filters as I find they depreciate the photo immensely. Instead I purchase each stop of neutral density filters I need individually. Again, do not skimp on filters – they can make or break a photo as well.

  • Travel Backpack: LowePro 250AW

    This backpack has been all over the place with me! It is small and sturdy enough to be considered a personal item on an airplane, can carry small essential items such as keys, travel documents, small laptop and your phone as well as the majority of your essential camera gear.

  • Main Backpack: ThinkTank Street Walker

    This backpack is a dream come true! Although it is a bit bulky looking when it is on your back it carries all of my equipment! There are tons of compartments for laptops, water bottles, tripods, cleaning supplies and extras including pens, cloths and memory cards.

  • Drone: DJI Spark 

    Although I am still in the process of learning aerial photography it has been an exceptional learning experience using DJIs intro line of drones. The spark fits in the palm of your hand and can be operated via remote or cellphone for ease of use. Plus it comes in amazing colours – Love it!

  • Flash: Godox V860II

    My off camera flash is an off brand but performs just as well as Sony flash systems – what I love about this flash is it uses a rechargeable battery instead of AA batteries, and the battery lasts far longer than other battery dependent flashes I have used.

  • GoPro: Hero Session 4

    I have had this GoPro for years and have only used it a handful of times – I blame it on forgetting this tiny little camera when I head out skiing or on a hike! I vow to take it with me more often this year. The video quality on these cameras are extremely impressive, same with the price point.

  • Editing Software: Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop

    I have used Lightroom since the beginning of my career and have loved the ease of use and organizing scheme. I highly recommend Lightroom and Photoshop for editing – there are many online classes to teach you how to use these programs easily.


What I Recommend for Starting

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I exclusively work with mirrorless cameras for all of my work and love Sony! The camera that made me fall in love with Sony was the Sony a6000 with thousands of 5 star reviews and the under $1,000 price point this camera is extremely appealing to any photographer. This camera can be purchased as a kit that includes a 16-55mm lens as well as a 55-210mm lens! This can cover a wide variety of photography including landscape, wildlife, portraiture and more. Work with this camera or any camera you may have available to you and your equipment until you feel like you have “grown out” of your equipment and upgrade!


 

 

Minimalistic Travel: 4 Tips for Simple Airline Carry On

Tired of hauling around massive suitcases? Waiting for your bag after a long flight? Airlines keep losing your checked baggage? Just want to learn more about minimalistic travelling?

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Heres my 4 tips to minimize what you pack – even on multi-climate trips!

Recently, I had taken a solo trip in October travelling to both New York and Los Angeles for 7 days. I knew the weather would be dramatically different in both cities and I would have to pack items to work for both New York and Los Angeles plus my camera, two lenses, a laptop and charging cables:  A tall order!

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Since I was changing hotels nightly in New York and LA to ensure I was seeing the most I could for the short amount of time I was there, I did not want to carry around a hard shelled carry on suitcase with me. Instead I fit everything I owned into a large tote bag and carried it with me around the city – every day!

The tote was actually was able to fit under the seat of the plane – therefore being considered a secondary carry on item!

*However, these methods and suggestions may not work for everyone. I am not a fashion first person and focus more on what is necessary, practical and will have multiple uses throughout my trip. If you like to have options, are travelling for longer than a two weeks or do not like the idea of minimalism these suggestions may not work for you.*

Continue reading “Minimalistic Travel: 4 Tips for Simple Airline Carry On”

Travelling to Iceland? A Ring Road Guide to the Best Destinations

After returning back from a 10 day camper van trip around (most) of Iceland I have compiled a list for you to get the most out of your Iceland trip.

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Don’t have ten days?  Thats okay! This guide will break down how long you need in each area to get the most out of a shorter excursion.

*West Fjords, The Highlands and a portion of Eastern Iceland are not covered in this guide.

If you haven’t already checked out 7 Must Read Tips for Travelling to Iceland I highly suggest to read that post as well for more specific tips on travel, food and tips in Iceland

Continue reading “Travelling to Iceland? A Ring Road Guide to the Best Destinations”

7 Must Read Tips for Travelling to Iceland

After getting back from a 10 Day Road Trip in Iceland around (most) of the ring road I have been asked dozens of questions about the ring road, what Iceland is like and suggestions for travelling in Iceland.

Here are my answers.

DSC03806I will start by saying that the rumours are true – Iceland IS expensive. However, with proper planning many of the traditional costs of travel can be cut in half with a bit of sacrifice and planning.

If you wait, often times off season deals for flights will come up during the summer months and you can score cheap flights (sometimes half the cost of summer flights) to Iceland in September – November.

I highly suggest September and early October as autumn in Iceland (seen above) is not only strikingly beautiful but also far cheaper than summer months. You still enjoy many days of sunshine, mixed in with the wind and the rain and a small chance of snow, a small price to pay for wonderful seasonal colours, cheaper prices and less tourists!

1. Transportation 

DSC03831We were able to cut costs by renting a camper van which doubles as accommodation as well as transportation. We rented with Campervan Iceland and found them relatively affordable. The vehicle was equipped with a fold down double sized bed, a built in heater for the back of the vehicle, free unlimited WiFi, a battery ran cooler for groceries, kitchen table and chairs (which we never used), two sleeping bags and curtains for all windows.

Prices vary by different size of camper you need as well as transmission type. If you can drive standard and want to save a couple (hundred) dollars I highly suggest this route.

DSC03844Lastly, in regards to camper vans and extra insurance coverage – many companies will try and scare you into purchasing the “premium” coverage for insurance which is tacked onto the price of your vehicle per day. We asked how much extra premium insurance would be and it was over $150.00 CAD a day – Yikes! –  I do not suggest this route. Especially theft insurance – there is little to no police in Iceland and hardly any crime, we seen two police cars the entire 11 days we were in Iceland!  Not only that but most travel insurance you purchase protects you from theft abroad.

We purchased no additional insurance other than the standard CDW insurance that is mandatory by Icelandic law and had no issues with returning the vehicle just be sure to use common sense when driving, do not drive fast on gravel roads (or avoid them if you can), obey the speed limits and keep the vehicle clean and I ensure you you will have a stress free time upon returning the vehicle with no surprise costs.

Iceland uses the metric system which means celsius instead of Fahrenheit and kilometres instead of miles, which makes it extremely easy for two Canadians to get used to! Icelands roads are right hand traffic which is extremely convenient making Iceland very, very easy to get around.

2. Camping

There are hundreds of campgrounds around Iceland, they are in almost every small town you come across as you drive. Look for the tent symbol and follow the arrows to the campsite! Gas station attendants are also very helpful at directing you to any local campgrounds you may not know about.
All campsites offer washroom facilities and wash stations for dishes. Some offer showers for free but most offer showers (and laundry) at a price (Typically 500-700 ISK)

DSC03636All designated campsites cost money, typically per person. Expect to pay around 1000 up to 1800 ISK per person, perhaps more in high season from June-August)

You do not need to take out their money in Iceland, everything can be done on a credit card – but cash works as well. I used both with no issues at campsites, grocery stores and gas stations.

Conversion rates can be very confusing to figure out to an exact tee but a general conversion Canadian I found is $500 ISK is approximately $5.00 CAD, $1000 ISK = $10.000 CAD, So on and so forth.

3. Weather in Iceland

Iceland is not a tropical location, in fact it has some of the most volatile, unpredictable weather so when you are planning on travelling to Iceland, do not expect warm temperatures and clear sunny days – although these days do happen it seems few and far between. Rain, fog, strong winds and snow are all very common any time of the year, any time.

DSC04130“If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes” is a common phrase heard and joked about in Iceland and it could not be more true. The weather changes so often that it is hard to predict – Do not be discouraged if you look up what the weather is supposed to be during your stay in Iceland and it says rain – everyday. It is likely to change over and over and over again so I wouldn’t bother stressing about the weather. Just prepare as much as possible for the conditions and you will have a wonderful, comfortable and dry time in Iceland!

4. What to Pack

When you are deciding what to pack for Iceland be sure to double check baggage restrictions to ensure your luggage will not be overweight or oversized!

I suggest wearing your biggest, bulkiest items onto the plane to give you more space in your carry on – meaning your hiking boots, winter (waterproof) jacket and anything else bulky you may want to bring. Be sure to bring plenty of socks, undergarments as well as thermal wear. It gets cold in Iceland and the wind shows no mercy!

I chose not to bring any short sleeve t shirts or any thin pants as I knew we were heading into colder temperatures and knew I would not end up wearing them. Long sleeves, thermal / waterproof pants are the way to go.

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Be sure to bring waterproof boots, preferably wear them on the plane and you wont have to worry about another pair taking up space in your suitcase! Depends on your personal preference and style as well. I am a minimalist when it comes to packing and think more about space and usability than I do about fashion sense.

I highly suggest buying some freeze dried packaged backpacking meals such as Mountain House or Backpackers Pantry before leaving for Iceland – we brought around 10 different packages; some breakfasts and dinner meals with us. We were so grateful for bringing these with us as it likely saved us hundreds of dollars in meal costs.  Customs has no issue with sealed, freeze dried packages of food so bring as many as you can!

Bring your camera equipment (for me as a photographer – this is a vital piece) but be sure to bring it as a carry on, they are very rough with checked baggage. This goes for any important travel documents or equipment that may be sensitive to being thrown around.

Bring your typical toiletries with you and be sure to bring at least one or two towels from home with you! This is so important for keeping clean on the go, drying off and everything in between.

I had brought my own sleeping bag stuffed down into a stuff sack I use for backpacking trips as I wasn’t entirely sure if they had sleeping bags for us or not and did not want to risk it, be sure to double check with your company you are renting from before packing!

I had packed a plug in travel converter but used it once – what is more vital especially spending your entire time on the road is a cigarette lighter with multiple USB ports for charging phones and cameras. Bring one from home if you have it – cigarette lighters in Iceland are the same type as they are in North America.

Continue reading “7 Must Read Tips for Travelling to Iceland”

4 Places You Need See on Vancouver Island

Planning a road trip to Vancouver Island? I spent a week travelling around a portion of Vancouver Island, British Columbia from Vancouver to Victoria, Tofino, Ucluelet, back through to Courtenay and on the ferry from Nanaimo to the main land.

*This is by no means an extensive list of all that there is to do on Vancouver Island but are instead the highlights of my personal time spent on the southern and central portion of Vancouver Island 

Continue reading “4 Places You Need See on Vancouver Island”