About Sherry Ott
Sherry Ott is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of http://www.briefcasetobackpack.com, a website offering career break travel inspiration and advice. She posts over on https://plus.google.com/103115118174711820529/posts as well.
Additionally, she runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and expat adventures at http://www.ottsworld.com.com.
Latest Posts by Sherry Ott
In less than two weeks I was in Turkey, NYC, Denver, and Minneapolis – which explains why I haven’t been able to sleep very well lately. I went from the sunny Mediterranean in Turkey to rainy NYC, then to brisk Denver, and finally to freezing cold Minneapolis!
This may be my favorite outdoor art display ever. Antalya, Turkey had a street with colorful umbrellas creating shade for pedestrians. Loved this outdoor art!
Thank you Lycian Way for serving up the perfect beach sunrise on my last hiking day!
Catching an early morning flight and catching some amazing early morning light. at Denver airport
I arrived in Minneapolis and so has winter. I was so lazy I couldn’t bring myself to go outside in the cold and snow to get this pic. So shot from the window!
My frosty window this morning in Minneapolis
“Oh Lord, please, please, please don’t let me meet another car on this road.” I thought to myself as I drove like a 90 year old man. I had scooted up on the edge of my seat, hands at 2 and 10, knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel intensely, and my nose was practically on the front window trying to peer over the car’s hood. Now this was the real deal – a road worthy of being called one of the best drives in the world. Yet this drive was on no ‘best of’ lists and very few people knew about it – which is probably what made me love it even more.
The Kahekili Highway (Hawaii state highway 340 – photo above) lives in the shadow of it’s big well-known brother – the Road to Hana. However, this highway along Maui’s North shore was no Road to Hana, because it was 10 times better than the Road to Hana.
When I had expressed interest in driving the Road to Hana, my friend in Maui furrowed her brow and said “Everyone does the Road to Hana when in Maui. I have a better suggestion.”
This was all I needed to hear to kick my craving for unique experiences into high gear. I grabbed my DSLR and my Insure My Trip Lytro camera and was ready for a little Maui road trip. As I set off on Highway 340 past Kaanapali, I started seeing them – Narrow Road, One Lane Bridge, Yield to Oncoming Traffic, Falling Rocks, Winding Road next 17 miles – these were the standard signs peppered along highway 340. I was excited and scared at the same time. My adrenaline was pumping from a combination of the picture perfect views and the possibility of meeting another oncoming car on the narrow cliff.
The road was initially paved in the late 90′s and as I started the drive, it was really pleasant driving. The road had a fresh coat of asphalt and brightly colored lines. It didn’t seem too bad at all – in fact it was relaxing. However, all of a sudden the newly paved road ended leaving me with a bit dodgier pavement full of undulations, crumbling asphalt, no shoulder, and faded lines. I seemed to be winding deeper and deeper along the cliffs and back into the valleys. And of a sudden I let out a gasp – I wasn’t sure when it exactly happened – but I was on a one lane road going around hairpin turns. I panicked for a moment as I wondered if it was even possible to back up if I did meet a car.
A single lane road climbing up the cliffside. No guard rails and hoping that I didn’t meet another car!
One lane bridge on the paved section of the road.
Road leading back into the lush green valley.
The road begins to flatten out around the ranches.
It’s not just about the driving, it’s also about what you can stop and see along the way that is virtually tourist-free. I pulled over and ate my picnic poke lunch at a lookout with absolutely no one around. I was on top of a rocky cliff and could see for miles as little clouds that looked like cotton balls dotted the sky. The waves crash against the rocks below me in a rhythmic fashion and enjoyed my perfect moment of Maui Zen.
I had also heard about the Nakalele Blowhole (near mile marker 38), but I wasn’t too sure where it was. I knew you had to hike to it, and luckily at one of my roadside stops for a picture, I met a guy from Wisconsin who knew where it was. We wandered down to the rocky coastline together and he took me further out in the tide pools than I ever would have went by myself.
The waves were tumultuous as they rolled in sets crashing into the rocks sending sea spray everywhere – it was here where you felt the wrath of Mother Nature. The spray felt refreshing, but of course I had stupidly left my raingear for my camera back in the car since it certainly wasn’t rainy weather, but down by the blowhole it was pretty easy to get drenched. The blowhole occurs in the lava shelf which can reach over 100 feet when air and water are forced upwards through the hole causing a geyser-like effect. We waded through the water to get a bit closer and that’s when it really hit. This is what happens when you get too close to a blow hole.
I later read this warning about the blowhole – so do be careful if you go visit it:
“While it may seen tempting to approach the blowhole for a great photo opportunity, don’t do it. People have been killed as they get sucked back into the hole by the retreating water at this and other blowholes in Hawaii.”
Hiking out to Nakalele Blow Hole via the tidal pools
Nakalele Blow Hole
Just when I didn’t think the road could get any more questionable, Highway 340 narrows considerably for about 1 mile as it descends the mountain and enters Kahakuloa Village (near mile marker 14 and 15). This community is one of the most isolated spots on Maui and most of the residents work in and around the village. The village is home to about 100 people, a couple of churches, and several roadside stands. After the nail biter one mile of narrow road where I luckily didn’t meet an oncoming car, I stopped for a smoothie at Kahakuloa Village, and sat and just took in the view.
The road climbed out of Kahakuloa Village and went into ranch land with sweeping vistas of green pastures. You can also get a great close up view of Kahakuloa Head which is 636 feet high.
Memorial along Kahekili Highway
Finally – before coming down the road into Waihee I passed a number of little fruit and artist stands. I stopped to buy some jam and chatted with the woman who lived there. I asked her about what it was like to live so remotely out here. She of course said she loved it!
And what’s not to love – this part of Maui was certainly unique and it felt untouched. It had a completely different vibe than the rest of the island. Highway 340 represents exactly what I love most about Hawaii – it’s not hard to find peace and solitude on the islands which are one of the most popular tourist destinations around. If you are looking for something a bit different on Maui, then spend a day driving highway 340. Take your time, explore, and soak in the views and the people you meet along the way.
Tip – drive from Lahaina to Waihee so that you are on the inside when/if you pass another car on the narrow bits.
I stood on the street corner early one morning in Saigon with my camera. As the next wave of motorbike traffic sped by I was ready – the camera viewfinder was up to my eye and I was ready to get in sync with the traffic whizzing by me. I’d catch a motorbike through my viewfinder and move with it essentially twisting until I could no longer keep up. Then I would twist back around and find another one to follow. Many of the riders looked at me perplexed trying to figure out what I was doing swiveling back and forth (maybe a new dance?), but there was a good reason for doing this twist – I was practicing my panning.
In photography it’s great when you can connect with your subject, but when it comes to panning, you must be in complete sync with your subject.
Panning is when you move your camera in synchronicity with your subject creating a beautiful blurred motion background and a clear, crisp, in-focus subject. Now it’s not just about movement and keeping up with your subject, it’s the settings on your camera that make this possible. And in my case – lots of practice.
This is your chance to shoot at slow shutter speeds, When I’m shooting motorbike traffic I normally stick to 1/20 – a setting where I can normally get a lot of blur from moving the camera – but still be able to get a clear subject. However my image stabilized lens does help quite a bit. You may want to start at 1/60 and try to get the hang of it. The slower the shutter speed though, the more blur you get in the background – it’s addicting I’m warning you.
The picture above with the girl in the yellow raincoat is panning and moving with the subject, However the picture below is simply a picture shot with a low shutter speed and creates the opposite effect.
Blurred motion shot – not moving with your subject.
I love panning photography in Vietnam because the motorbikes seems to go at a pace that I can keep up with and get some great shots. Plus – when capturing Vietnam motorbike traffic you never know what you are going to get – they carry all kinds of crazy stuff on the back of those bikes! In a Saigon – a city of millions of motorbikes, you don’t have to wait long for one to come by – you can get a lot of practice in.
So go to your favorite corner, set a focus point in the middle of the frame, bring down your shutter speed (use shutter priority mode normally represented by either an “S” or the letters “TV” on the mode dial on the top of your DSLR camera), losen your twisting hips up, and start to follow some subjects. As you are following the subject through your viewfinder, when they get to the your focal point you chose, then you snap the picture. I normally continue to follow them after the shot just to keep in the flow of things.
Here are some of my best panning shots in Saigon. I hope you go out and try some for yourself!
The HCMC opera house in the background.
A slower bike caught in the traffic with a little baby on board. Typical Vietnam.
A couple commuting to work. The shutter was so slow it caught her brushing her hair back.
A colorful panning shot!
Panning in Saigon
This was one of the first I ever attempted and it’s one of my favorites. It’s not super crisp – but I love the wave and the green background of the grass.
Since all of these motorbikes were in a line going the same speed starting from a red light – I was able to get all of them in pretty good focus!
Rounding the corner
Carrying a heavy load!
Taking cover from the rain!
I watched the sun go down past the island of Lanai as I laid on the Ali’i Nui sailboat. The warm salty breezes tickled me as the skies turned pink and yellow and we slowly rocked across the Pacific.
Ten hours later I found myself putting on every layer of clothing I had in the dark, driving for an hour, and pushing my way through a crowd of people to the railing. The cold air made me shiver as I looked out over the sea of clouds. In my lack of sleep state if I squinted I could imagine that those clouds were the ocean. They appeared to be moving as if I was still on the sailboat Ali’i Nui again, yet my feet were firmly on the ground of Haleakala – Maui’s 10,000 foot shield volcano. Dormant for years – it is the highest spot on Maui and the perfect spot to watch and photograph the sun rise.
Haleakala Sunrise Photography Tips:
- Get there early to get a spot. I recommend hiking up the short little trail to higher ground (to the right of the visitor center) and getting away from the mass of people at the railing (I got there late!)
- Stay somewhere nearby (this will help you achieve tip #1). I stayed at the condos at Mama’s Fish House near Paia – a great location for getting up the mountain early.
- Get coffee on the way up…it’s a necessity at that time of morning. Mike at Crater Coffee stand will great you with a big smile and cup of Joe. You can’t miss him – he’s the only thing open at 3:30AM. His coffee cart is located in the Kula Lodge parking lot. Hours are 2:30 to 7:30 am daily.
- Take a soft lens cloth to wipe off the foggy lens. Odds are when you get out of your warm car and step out into the cold Haleakala air – you’re lenses are going to need time to adjust to the climate change (which is another good reason to get there early). A soft wipe is good for trying to speed up the process.
- Bring a tripod. However know that it’s possible to get the shot without one. I brought mine but didn’t use it. There was enough light for a clear shot when you are shooting into the sun.
- Remember the rule of thirds – please don’t put the sun in the middle of your shot!
- Bring your big zoom lens. I did most of my most dramatic shooting this morning with my 300 mm lens – you will get amazing shots of the cloud details and the light bouncing off the clouds.
- Shoot before the sun comes up – get the whole progression. Just remember to always be adjusting your settings – ISO and metering is changing constantly as the lighting is changing every minute.
- Turn around. Yes – turn around and get the softly lit landscape behind you – we often forget what’s around us when we are mesmerized by the sunrise
- Stay after the sunrise. The sun continues to rise and light up the crater floor – it’s worth it to stay and get these shots with amazing lighting. This is the time to use your wide angle lens! Plus – all of the crowds leave and you can really soak in the environment. I even got a bonus by staying late – I came across a Brazilian guy who was testing his balance and strength doing some amazing poses among this stunning backdrop. Bonus – he was really good looking too – it’s always good to stay late!
- Use filters – I used my polarizing filter as well as my graduated neutral density filter so that hopefully I would have to do less post processing after the fact. When shooting into the sun the light is harsh so the filters really help to soften it and assist with the metering.
- Finally – make sure that you take a few moments away from the viewfinder and just enjoy nature’s beauty. There’s nothing like seeing the sun pop out of the clouds – it looks like a big ball of fire and makes you appreciate the way our planet and world functions. It truly is miraculous.
By following these tips – here’s my results:
Make a coffee stop and see Mike at Crater Coffee on the way up the mountain!
Take shots before the sun rises.
Bring a zoom lens and use it for great cloud closeups
Turn around and capture the soft glow of the sunrise on the mountains behind you
Go wide angle when the sun comes up and lights up the crater.
Stay after sunrise and you never know what you’ll find!
Disclosure: I was a guest of Maui Visitor Bureau for this trip. However all of the opinions expressed here are my own. I was able to choose my own activities that were of interest to me and my style of travel.
I have been traveling for 7 years, thanks to a little luck, I have had relatively few bad luck experiences. Sure, I’ve experienced some issues – luggage delayed a number of times, flights canceled, items stolen, faulty gear, and illnesses. But none of these things were ever really serious or horrible.
So where do I get my good luck from? I’m convinced it’s from my ‘travel charms’. No, I’m not talking about my charming disposition. I’m referring to the actual physical objects I carry with me everywhere I go. All travelers have them – little good luck pieces they accumulate and travel with hoping that it will ward off the travel demons and bad luck. The above evil eye is found throughout Turkey is supposed to ward off evil spirits.
The strange thing is that I’m a super logical person – too logical most of the time. I’m not the type of person who gets my fortune read or plays the lottery – but there’s this little side of me that wants to believe in something out of my control. Kharma, luck, faith, rainbows – whatever you want to call it – I carry my travel charms around with me just in case.
These items though have very special meaning to me – they aren’t just your average four-leaf clover. They have a story to tell.
Buddhist Prayer Beads from Shangri-La China
While in Shangri-La China I visited a monastery early one morning. Inside the temple there was a monk selling prayer beads on a little table. The sandalwood beads caught my eye, but it was mainly the smell of them that made me fork out the money to buy them. Ever since then I feel like these beads are my protector – especially while driving in foreign countries. Shortly after I bought the beads my sister and I got stuck in a snow storm in the Mountains in Deqin – it was a harrowing ride down the mountain and all I remember is smelling those sandalwood beads to calm me down in the situation. Ever since they have been my protector on the foreign roads. They are so old and worn now that they recently broke. I carried around the beads in a baggie for months until I could find someone who could restring them – my sister-in-law came to the rescue!
Khata Scarf from Nepal
When I left the remote village of Puma Nepal after volunteering there for 2 weeks they gave me an amazing sendoff. And one of the things they gave me in addition to many flower leis was a khata scarf. The khata is a cream colored silk scarf given to people when they are arriving or departing.
My time volunteering in Nepal changed me. The conditions were challenging and it taught me that I can tolerate anything. It built up my patience and understanding that nothing is permanent. I have been back to Puma and Nepal since then and have received a number of khatas. I’ve kept every one of them and bury them deep in my backpacks for good luck and protection.
St. James Pendant from Spain
In 2012 I walked 441 miles across Spain on the Way of St. James better known as the Camino de Santiago trail. It was 5 weeks of memories and meditation time that I’ll never forget. I started alone and finished with friends for life. The long distance hiking was challenging at times, but the beautiful simplicity of life and thoughts are what I become addicted to. It was the first time that I had time to really take everything in, deep breaths of life and thoughts fueled my way across Spain. After I finished I was in Barcelona and came across this pendant in a jewelry store.
The pendant is of St. James and represented Santiago as a region. I knew right away that this was a charm that I had to have. I worked so hard to finish that walk and I wanted something to remind me that no matter how hectic and uncertain life became again – that I would always remember the simple act of walking.
Prayer for Travelers from Argentina
While in Buenos Aires last year I was able to meet Evelyn Hannon, the founder of Journeywoman, a site especially for women. Evelyn who is over 70 years old describes herself as a pioneer, “the grandmother of the women’s travel movement.” – she was the first female out there ‘blogging’ and deserves all of the accolades that she gets. Evelyn and I spent the afternoon together walking around Buenos Aires drinking coffee, catching up, and doing a little shopping. I went to the synagogue with her as she wanted to stop in the gift shop to get some gifts for friends.
While there she bought me this little travel charm that I carry in my wallet every day. It is a Jewish Prayer for Travelers. The card is laminated and is written in Spanish and Hebrew. I’m not a very religious person but I was absolutely touched by her kindness. She said that someone who travels as much as I do needed this. For a moment I felt like I had my mother there on the road with me – yet unlike my mother, Evelyn fully understood what my travel life was like and the ups and downs that come with being in constant motion as she herself had done it.
Here is the English version of the Prayer for Travelers:
May it be Your will, Lord our and God of our fathers, to lead us in peace and direct our steps in peace; to guide us in peace, to support us in peace and to bring us to our destination in life, joy, and peace. Deliver us from the hands of every enemy and lurking foe, from robbers and wild beasts on the journey, and from all kinds of calamities that may come and afflict the world; and bestow blessing upon all our actions. Grant me grace kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who behold us, and bestow bountiful kindness upon us Hear the voice of our prayer, for You hear everyone’s prayer. Blessed are You Lord, who hears prayers.
Each of these items travel with me on every trip I make, so in a way I’m never alone. I wonder what new things I will pick up along the way over my next travels?
What travel charms do you travel with?
Oh how I love the ‘high’ that hiking gives me. For me it’s not only a chance to challenge myself and keep me in shape, but it normally provides me the chance to get back to basics – simplify my thoughts and day. Breath fresh air, clear my mind, see beautiful views. I love the chance to enjoy the big wide open views and simply ponder my current life questions or challenges.
Since I’m hiking in Turkey during the month of November – I thought I’d share some of my photography from my past hikes around the world. These were all wonderful hikes I have done around the globe – some long, some steep, some short – and some failed. Click on the title link to get more info on them. If you get a chance – check them out when you are visiting that country!
Mt. Kinabalu in Borneo Hike
Mt. Kinabalu Borneo 2 day hike
Camino De Santiago – 5 week hike across Northern Spain
Hiking/Walking in Northern Spain
Tiger Leaping Gorge - 2 day hike China
Tiger Leaping Gorgeous!
Oman Mountain Hiking – 1 to 3 Days
Annapurna Circuit – 18-23 days Hiked with my 73 yr old father!
Hiking the Annapurna Circuit heading up Thorung La Pass
Hiking Mount Sinai in Egypt – 1/2 Day
Hiking to Mt. Sinai for Sunset
Hiking the Famous W Circuit – 3 to 4 days in Chile Patagonia
Hiking the W Trek in Chile Patagonia – Moody weather but gorgeous views!
The Great Wall China Jinshaling and Simatai- 1 to 2 days
Hiking in Feynan Jordan from Feynan Ecolodge – 1/2 day
Hiking in Feynan Jordan from the Ecolodge
Hiking the Milford Trek – 3 days in New Zealand
HIking the Milford Trek New Zealand
A Failed Attempt at Kilimanjaro – 7 days Tanzania
Hiking Kilimanjaro – close – but no cigar. The one trek I didn’t finish!
Hiking FitzRoy near El Chalten – 1 day Argentina Patagonia
Hiking to Fitz Roy in the distance
Hiking in Hawaii – Variable Days
Hiking the Old Pali Highway – so many great day hikes around Hawaii!
Hiking the Viedma Glacier in Argentina Patagonia – 1/2 day
Hiking Viedma Glacier was fun and adventurous!
Hiking the Atlas Mountains – 1 day Morocco
Hiking the Atlas Mountain in Morocco
I have so many more places that remain on my hiking wish list – but first – I have to make it through my current trek on the Lycian Way!
Where are some of your favorite hiking destinations?
“I’m a farmer,” Ancil said.
I looked over this young man with his sleek sunglasses, and curly hair pulled back in a pony tail – he didn’t look like any farmer I had ever met before. But then again I was used to my grandfather smoking a cigarette, wearing overalls, and driving a tractor in Nebraska. Apparently the farmers in Maui have a different style – a Hawaiian style.
Ancil was the resident farmer at O’o Farm – an organic farm in Upcountry Maui that was created to specifically serve a handful of restaurants on the island. We started in the little parking lot with a beautiful view and followed Ancil the farmer up the hill as he explained various compost techniques, the growing of coffee beans, and other facts about the growing seasons in Maui. The farm is located at 3500 feet up the side of Haleakala Mountain. The mountain is typically covered in clouds and mist by mid morning which creates a cool wet growing environment year round. You could tell that Ancil was part farmer and part mad scientist – he loved experimenting with different varieties to see what would grow in this unique volcanic island environment.
The view from the farm.
The farm not only supplies their restaurants and chefs with organic fresh produce in true farm-to-table fashion, but they also do a luncheon food tour that requires you to get a little dirty. Ancil leads you through Gardening 101 talking about composting, tilling cover crops, and crop rotation. He points out varieties that I haven’t seen before and talks about the ups and downs of trying to adequately supply the chefs with what they need and when. I can imagine that with the unpredictability of Mother Nature that it’s a supply chain and logistics conundrum most months.
After walking through the orchard, we met JJ, the chef at O’o Farm. Are double letters a requirement at this farm? JJ has a pretty cool job – but he might have the coolest kitchen ever. The cooking and dining environment is all open air. No walls or no tile – just a few chickens running around, a big stove, a countertop/island and it’s all outside. JJ called it “Chef’s heaven” – and considering our elevation and location in the clouds – I couldn’t agree more. JJ met us holding cornucopia of fresh leafy greens and root vegetables. He played the role of game show host holding up various vegetables and asking us if we knew what it was.
This takes rustic kitchen to a whole new level! JJ working on our lunch in his outdoor kitchen
Next it was our chance to get our hands dirty in the gardens and get back to our hunter/gatherer roots. Ancil took us to various gardens and had us pick fresh vegetables and greens. I felt 13 again as I picked the spinach in the neat little row. I spent my summers as a kid doing chores in my dad’s garden that supplied us with an abundance of fresh organic food before we even knew what organic was. However my view in Peoria, Illinois wasn’t quite this nice. Ancil took the basket of veggies and greens and delivered them to JJ to quickly utilize for our pending lunch. We continued to walk around and see the coffee roasting operation as well as learn about the trials and tribulations of raising chickens.
Harvesting our lunch.
Finally it was time for lunch – a true farm-to-table experience considering not more than 30 minutes ago we had picked many of these items on our plate. It was a great chance to sit community style and meet other travelers – this community seating makes it a super solo travel experience – so don’t be shy if you are traveling on your own like me. The chickens (named pot pie and chick fillet) hovered around our little tables as they know they get the scraps after all of these visitors leave. They were just like a dog waiting for someone to throw them morsel – however instead of barking they were crowing – the perfect ambiance for an outdoor farm restaurant.
We finished the meal with dark chocolate truffles rolled in sea salt and freshly roasted coffee from the farm. The only thing left to do now was drive back down the mountain and take a nap on the beach.
Fresh salad picked a few minutes ago.
The beginnings of the dark chocolate truffles…ridiculously tasty!
Times: Every Monday – Thursday from 10:30 to 2
Bring your own wine/drinks to enjoy and comfortable close toed shoes
O’o Farm Tours and Lunch – www.oofarm.com
Disclosure: I was a guest of Maui Visitor Bureau for this trip. However all of the opinions expressed here are my own. I was able to choose my own activities that were of interest to me and my style of travel.
Calgary was surprisingly flat and barren. As we drove away from the airport it felt like a modern Ulaanbaatar – the steppe – no trees and rolling hills with tons of subdivisions. This wasn’t at all what I was expecting when I thought of traveling to the Canadian Rockies. But Peter assured me that the landscape would shortly change.
And it did.
We drove into the Rockies first through Banff, past Lake Louise and then once we were in the heart of the Rockies we crossed over from Alberta to BC and entered Yoho National Park. “Yoho” is a Cree expression of awe and wonder – and it seemed pretty accurate to me. The mountain ranges were incredible. We stayed in Golden, a perfectly placed little town in the valley surrounded by mountains, adventure, and access to everything you’d want to do in and around Yoho.
And I wanted to hike!
With only a short time available, we decided to hike the 7km Paget Lookout trail. This is an out and back trail where you climb 1700 ft. to 7000 ft. via switchbacks. At the end of the trail there is an old fire lookout building from which the trail gets it’s name. Paget Lookout was used up until the late 1970′s as a fire lookout area for Yoho park staff. There was a guest book in the lookout building – a fun way to see who’s been on the trail before you. I caught my breath, signed the book and then took some pictures of the gorgeous views. The hike was lovely but the best part after you climbed up from the valley were the vast views of the peaks around you.
Trees in the valley
Wild flowers on the trail perimeter
After the hike we also went to Emerald Lake, one of the popular scenic spots in the park.
Emerald Lake in Yoho
Of course that just left me wanting more. But I had a very short time in Yoho on this trip – but you can bet I’ll be back for more exploring in those mountains!
Disclosure: I was a guest of Tourism Golden and Destination BC for this trip. However all of the opinions expressed here are my own. I had been wanting to see the Canadian Rockies for a long time and getting to the lesser known town of Golden was the perfect destination for my style of travel.