Joseph Cyr’s Photo Tips

Joseph Cyr’s Photo Tips

Joseph Cyr is the inspiring high school teacher we wish we had; a world traveling, multilingual photographer. You may recognize Tucson-based Cyr from the numerous Highlights we’ve featured on AFAR’s home page, or the Brussels graffiti image that appeared in the November/December 2011 issue. This week, we’re featuring one of his images in a Facebook challenge, a Highlight Hunt for the location of a massive Gorilla. (Check out our Facebook page on Tuesday!)

Joseph takes many of his travel photos on his iPhone and we asked him a little about how he does it.

Why do you create AFAR highlights?
I have really enjoyed the challenge presented by the afar highlight format—it makes you think ‘WHY should this post interest someone? Will it be useful? Inspiring? Make someone curious? Make someone laugh or think? Is it ‘just a postcard scene,’ however beautiful it may be, or is it infused with a speck of useful or provocative information? Am I unduly ‘airbrushing’ a place, or will the sense of place—warts and all—be honest?

Do you use your smart phone or DSLR when traveling?
I’ve been surprised by how often I’ve used my iPhone—so easy to get the spontaneous shot! As many have said, the best camera is the one you have with you. For images that I want to enlarge beyond 8×10, a “real” camera is still essential. But it really seems that, unless things change, the higher-end smart phones are making point-and-shoot cameras obsolete.

How do you get great travel photos with your smart phone?
Without tools like optical zoom and shutter speed control, composition and timing are everything with smart phone photography. When out and about, always carry your phone—whether trekking in the mountains or on an urban hike, the world is waiting to be seen. (And make sure you don’t have one of those silly cases or ‘bumpers’ that cover the camera lens!)

What are the best times to take these photos?
Whenever something catches your eye, seriously—day or night. Evenings in Seoul opened my eyes to what you can photograph with just your phone. Markets and pedestrian-only streets are a dream for smartphone photography. Whereas you might be conspicuous with a large camera around your neck (especially in some crowded market areas in developing countries, for example, where you could even be targeted), a phone in the palm of your hand is discreetly liberating.

What are your favorite subjects?
I’ve always loved architecture and landscape. Recently, though, local experiences—especially food and drink—have been creeping into my iPhone’s camera roll. And people in markets. I would love to return to Central and South America with my iPhone.

What smart phone apps do you use and why?
Autostitch by Cloudburst research—you can get surprisingly smooth panoramas, and Snapseed by Nik software—you have an intuitive darkroom in the palm of your hand! Those are the camera-apps I use. As far as practical traveling aid, most cities now have a interactive subway map-app that can make getting around so easy … but it does take some of the fun away from being ‘lost’ and having to use your nascent language skills to get around.

Do you have any advice for AFAR travelers?
AFAR readers already seem like such an experienced tribe of outgoing travelers. I would say that you should try any food (hygienically and religiously permitting) that’s offered to you at least once. And while ‘touristy’ can justifiably be off-putting, don’t be too stand-offish with popular sights. For example, when I lived in Paris, I put off going to the Eiffel Tower for months, thinking, I live here, so what’s the rush? When I finally got to the base of the gargantuan structure, I thought why did I wait all this time?

If at all possible, get to know local residents and spend at least a day engaged in their daily routine—bathe how they bathe, cook what they cook, run their errands, (plan to run out of toothpaste while traveling so you’re ‘forced’ to get a local brand), see their workplaces, and then relax with them.

For more travel inspiration checkout the rest of Joseph’s Wanderlists.

I’m an adventurer and homebody. When I’m tempted to nap instead of experience an event I ask myself, “Would you rather do something you’ll never remember or never forget?”