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    Cuba Street Photography

    One of my personal photo goals of 2014 is to try to find more opportunities for street photography. I have always focused on taking the perfect “stock” photos, usually with no people in them at all. Because of this, I know I have certainly missed many opportunities for photos far more interesting with people at historical locations. Street photography is one of the most difficult forms of photography to me. Trying to see the moments and be quick enough to capture the frame with the camera. I travel often by myself and people watch on a regular basis imagining stories in their lives.

    This photo of a young couple in love was taken while walking the back streets of Havana in 2011. They stopped for a kiss right by the Che Guevara sign providing the perfect background to capture a moment in time. It is one of my few successful attempts at street photography. The Cuban people are some of the most warm and friendly people I have met in the world and I was able to look for of these unique opportunities last week as I walked the streets of Havana for the second time.

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    As we head to Cuba for New Year’s 2014 I wanted to look back at our first trip there from December 2012. There is something surreal and alluring about being in a country that is forbidden to visit. You have a feeling like you are constantly being watched and that you are starring in a strange movie when you are on an island with no boats and no modern luxuries. The people don’t have internet access and are in many ways cut off from the outside world except for what they hear from foreign visitors.

    With the US embargo starting in 1960, most US citizens have only seen Havana in magazine photos and the first thought that comes to mind is old 1950’s cars. The cars were there but I was surprised to see many progressive changes taking place in the country since Raul Castro took over for his brother Fidel in 2008. People are starting to be entrepreneurial with new businesses popping up on every corner and just this week the traditional communist government lifted their ban on private citizens being able to buy new cars which in the past had just been for a select few appointed by the government. This will surely spell the end for many of these relics that line the streets of Havana.

    The photo above is of a 1950’s style Chevy sedan in pristine condition driving past the National Capital Building in Havana. It took many hours practicing pan and blur to get images of these classic cars. Until walking in Havana, I had no idea they built their El Capitolio building in the likeness of the US Capital building in Washington DC.

    Cuba is changing fast and so I find it very important to visit and document a place with photos that seems stuck in an era gone by. It feels like you can step back in time and imagine the glamour of the past when Havana was the true playground of the rich and famous in the 1950’s. While sipping a mojito at Hotel Nacional de Cuba you know that Frank Sinatra, Eva Gardner and Hollywood elite sat in the same place basking in the romantic Caribbean air sipping the world famous Havana Club Rum. Many people love Cuban cigars but it is Havana Club that I find to be the true coveted item of choice.

    I cannot wait to celebrate on the top of a building in the Plaza de la Catedral and ring in 2014 with canons that rock the city and feel like I have truly taken a step into the past to move to the future.

  • GayMardisGras ANH_8280

    Sydney Mardi Gras

    I was really sad to hear this week that Australia’s highest court struck down a landmark law on Thursday that had begun allowing the country’s first gay marriages, shattering the dreams of more than two dozen same-sex newlyweds whose marriages will now be annulled less than a week after their weddings.

    Every year almost a million people converge in Sydney to celebrate Mardi Gras and attend the annual LGBT pride parade in the city. The parade still provides a platform for gay rights activists to voice their message and I am sure the new regulations will further motivate the equality in marriage theme for the 2014 parade coming up Saturday, March 1.

    The parade is world-famous and had always been one of the experiences that I wanted to attend.  In 2009, my time to attend finally arrived. I left my hotel very early and got a great spot on the parade route in the front row partying with people I met along the way. It truly seemed like one of the happiest places on earth.  My only mistake was not knowing exactly how long the parade lasted. All the parades I had attended in the past in Tennessee and Ohio had lasted about 30 minutes while this one was set to run 3-4 hours of non-stop fabulousness with over 130 floats each year.

    It was difficult to shoot the parade without light as most of it happens after sunset. My favorite shot was this pan and blur image of the Dykes on Bikes that lead off the parade each year. The parade was truly unforgettable and I encourage anyone to make this one of their Mardi Gras World stops for one of the largest parties on the planet.

    For more information on the 2014 Sydney Mardi Gras check out their website:


  • Monument Valley - Artist's Point

    Monument Valley

    In September 2008, Bryan and I rented an Excursion and took a road trip out west starting in Colorado National Monument driving through Utah and Arizona ending up in Vegas. We spent many nights in various Holiday Inn hotels watching as the world was first introduced to Sarah Palin at the RNC convention happening in Minnesota and we felt worlds away in the western states.

    I have to admit that I am not a landscape photographer and I was pretty happy to get to Vegas but one of my favorite stops was Monument Valley to photograph the desert scenery. We stayed at the world-famous Goulding’s Lodge at Monument Valley where John Wayne stayed while filming his westerns. The lodge is not fancy but it is one of my favorite hotels because of its private cabin rooms and Hollywood history.

    This photo shows a gorgeous day at Artist’s Point where you can see shadows moving across the butte structures. It is important when traveling to Monument Valley to research the time of day you should travel to the various monument locations to ensure that you have the proper light. Lighting can be too harsh to photograph if you show up at the wrong time of day.

  • Airport Traffic Jam

    Airport Q&A

    We are right in the middle of the holiday travel season so I would like to take the time to answer a few questions that came through Facebook messages this week.

    Tim: What percentage of the time have you been delayed or bumped to a later flight or had plane troubles?

    Travel Addict: I would say that it comes in waves. For example, I had a terrible period from January to March where I don’t think I had one trip where I arrived on time with my bags to my destination. It actually took me almost four days to get home from India in March. Travel issues can also be seasonal and airline dependant. Winter is always a difficult time to travel due to weather conditions.

    For the most part I think travel gets more complicated all the time as airlines cut flights and have more maintenance issues as plane fleets age. I usually plan extra time when traveling and do not schedule meetings or appointments close to travel times. I have had to learn patience and focus on the opportunities that are on the other side of the flight. I tell everyone that I love to travel but hate the process of getting from place to place.

    I also recommend that you join frequent flier programs on any airline that you fly. I have status on many airlines so that prevents me from being bumped and helps persuade them to get me on flights that are running. I feel that United has one of the best frequent flier programs in the industry. Their miles go the furthest toward free flights and upgrades.

    TSA Pre-Check is also now open for any passenger to apply and sign up. Pre-check greatly saves time when you arrive at airport security and you no longer have to take laptops out or remove shoes. (www.tsa.gov)

    Tim: Which airlines are the worst to travel both in and outside the country?

    Travel Addict: I live in Cincinnati so I am really locked in to flying Delta and Delta partners most of the time. Because of this, I tend to have most of my personal flying issues with Delta. I have also had my share of issues with Air France as well. One of my worst travel experiences recently was at Heathrow with Air France. They only permit one carry on at Heathrow, which is almost impossible if you are a photographer with expensive camera gear and any other bag. My biggest issues almost always lie when they don’t enforce the rules equally and allow some passengers to have extra bags and others are shutdown. Make sure to check airline and airport policies when traveling overseas.

    Overall Asia Pacific airlines are my favorites. Korean Air, Singapore Air, Cathay Pacific, and Virgin Australia all rank as my top picks. They have a huge commitment to customer service and making your experience happy on the flights. They also have friendly flight attendants who have not tired of their jobs or dealing with customers. As a passenger I don’t like to hear flight attendants in the aisles constantly complaining about their jobs and benefits, which is what tends to happen in the US.

    If you have any travel questions, feel free to contact the Travel Addict on the contact page or via Facebook message.

  • Geisha Girl

    Geisha- The Japanese Rockstar

    The Geisha has always fascinated me. Maybe it is their extreme discipline to strive to be the perfect woman or their unwavering dedication to their chosen art form of dance or music.  It is truly amazing to see these women who dedicate their entire lives to this ideal image. There are great misconceptions that geishas are prostitutes but this is not the case. Geishas are some of the strongest and most financially successful women in Japan.

    After several years of traveling to Japan I was finally been able to make the short trip to Kyoto in 2009 to search for the elusive geisha.  Every night between 6-8 pm in the Gion district of Kyoto, Japan most of the last remaining authentic geishas leave their homes to go to work. I was able to witness this phenomenon first hand one evening as they raced from their apartments into cars and through the streets to the local teahouses and restaurant parties where they entertain Japan’s most elite clientele.

    It was crazy to see how people chase them down the street with cameras like paparazzi chasing celebrities in LA. I have to admit that I got caught up in the madness taking photos and met people from France, Brazil, UK, and many other parts of the world hoping for their own special geisha citing. As soon as you see one in person you need to find another one just to get a glimpse.


  • Machu Picchu

    Machu Picchu

    Peru changed everything. In 2006, I decided to take my first vacation focused on photography with the Mentor Series sponsored by Popular Photography Magazine. Before this time I had traveled a lot of miles but not really focused on more than casual snapshot photos during my trips. My husband Bryan had taken an interest in photography so I thought it would be good to learn from professionals like Dave Black who acted as mentors on the trip. As we traveled throughout Peru, I learned a lesson to conduct a little research before I set off on these journeys across the globe. I didn’t realize that it would take planes, trains and buses to get to the jungle to see Machu Picchu reaching altitudes of 12000 feet above sea level along the way. I still have no idea how Hiram Bingham found the place.

    I showed up on the trip with my trusty $200 Fuji E-900 point and shoot camera that I carried around my wrist while almost everyone else hiked around the ruins with thousands of dollars in professional gear strapped to their backs. I only took 300 pictures on the ten day trip which is a slight regret since now when I travel I would have taken 10,000 images for almost any trip. A few of the photos ended up becoming very important in my photo career.

    This is one of the images that I presented at the final slide show of the trip. After feedback, I realized that my images could actually turn out ok even with a small camera and that I really enjoyed taking travel images to try to capture the essence of a place. I have to thank Mirjam Evers (www.mirjamevers.com), our fearless tour leader and wonderful photographer, for providing encouragement throughout the trip when I was intimidated by all the large cameras around me. Mirjam has become a great friend who I still travel and shoot with on a regular basis.

    This photo was taken just after sunrise on the last morning at the ruins. When we returned home, we decided to upload and sell a few of my images from the trip through a stock agency and this image became very popular appearing in magazines, websites and travel guides.  Finding the photo when traveling still provides a thrill and shows me there is interest in my images and point of view. I was hooked and an addiction began in those mountains of Peru.

  • Shanghai

    Sunshine in Shanghai

    Over the past decade, I have traveled to China close to forty times staying for weeks at a time. While in China, I have only seen sunshine and bright blue sky on five different days. Industry pollution has risen as the massive growth has taken place and between the preparation of the 2008 Olympic Games the 2010 Shanghai World Expo the country has seemed to be constantly “under construction.”

    I have also seen the Shanghai skyline completely change with the addition of hundreds of new buildings in just a few years. The Chinese engineers and architects beautifully execute building projects with lightning speed that dwarfs the pace of most parts of the world.

    This is one of my favorite photos of China taken from the Bund showcasing what I consider the most beautiful skyline in the world. The photo shows one of my rare blue sky days and showcases the Pearl Tower among the buildings in the constantly evolving skyline.

    As I sit in China this week now barely able to see through the winter’s coal burning pollution, it makes me thankful to live in a place where I can breathe clean air and see the blue sky on a regular basis. Shanghai still remains one of the most alive and vibrant cities in the world. It will also always be one of my favorite places to visit because of the pace of growth in the ever changing city and the friendships that I have made with some of the kindest people on earth.

  • Huli Wigmen in Tari

    The Huli Tribe of Papua New Guinea

    In October, I traveled to photograph the tribes of Papua New Guinea. Toward the end of our trip and we spent the day photographing the men of the Huli tribe in Tari. The Huli tribe is probably the most photographed of all the tribes in PNG and they were very happy to have their photo taken.

    The photo opportunities with the Huli were amazing but I couldn’t really get past some of the stories that the men proudly told us about how the women lived in the village. This is one of the tribes in PNG where men and women live separately. Polygamy is very prevalent and most men in the tribe have multiple wives. Women are bought for a “bride price” and live with the children in the same house as the pigs -the most valued village commodity. Women are also often punished for breaking rules of the village.

    I left Papua New Guinea with very mixed feelings about the importance of preserving the native tribes of the world and the need to eliminate these terrible human rights violations towards women who are sold into marriage as soon as they have their first period sometimes at the age of 12 or 13 years old. Obviously, these issues are complex and hard to understand during a short visit to a country but many of these stories will stay with me for years to come as I look at the faces of the Huli tribesmen.

  • Masai Mara Cheetah

    Welcome to The Travel Addict!

    Welcome to The Travel Addict blog. My name is Amy and I am The Travel Addict. I have been traveling for years all over the world taking photographs trying to capture the time and spirit of places along the way. I really can’t imagine not traveling on a regular basis. There were several signs when I realized I might have a problem. You may be an addict too if you experience the following symptoms:

    • You continuously try to go further away and to more remote locations.
    • You live out of a suitcase even when you are home.
    • You tell all your friends that you are convinced you can win the Amazing Race.
    • You have at least four different currencies in your wallet at all times.
    • You can fall asleep anywhere including cars, buses, planes.
    • You have learned to function in a constant state of jetlag.

    Digging through the archives and travel journals has begun to help tell many of the stories behind the photos. Hopefully these short stories and photographs will inspire others to get out of their comfort zones to go and see something new whether it is across town or around the globe.