Next Level Smart Phone Pics

With the explosion of social media and the continuing improvement of smart phones, everyone is becoming better and fussier at taking good pictures.  You don’t have to be a professional photographer to get a hero shot anymore. As a result, I am continually getting messages from people about the equipment I use and asking questions about how to improve their own photography.  And it’s great.  I love that we are able to capture memorable moments and treasure them forever through a frozen moment in time and I’m especially all for getting the best image you are able to create.

Unfortunately, we can’t all afford expensive camera equipment. My camera bag currently has over $25,000 worth of equipment that has taken me years to build up.  I earn money from my photography, so I can easily justify the expense.  But I’m finding there are times where I don’t want to drag around a heavy bag full of equipment, particularly when I’m not working, but I still have high expectations from the images I create, even if they are just happy snaps that I am keeping for myself.

The latest smart phones have pretty decent cameras these days and their images fine for social media and happy snaps, however if you want to go one step further, without forking out for a camera, I have recently been testing out the range of lenses from Black Eye that attach to your camera. Don’t mistake these for the cheap $10 clip ons you see at discount stores.  The first thing I noticed when I opened the box, actually even from the packaging itself, was the quality.  Made from high quality optic lenses, these attachments will take your images to the next level.  They are light and small and fit into a small carry bag that comes with the lenses and pops into my handbag.  Just quietly, I’m obsessed with them at the moment.  I find myself going out and leaving my camera at home to test out and play with these, particularly as you can see by the results, the images I am getting are pretty impressive for a phone pic.

 Black Eye HD Macro

This is my favourite lens. Probably because to achieve the results this lens gives, you pretty much either need a professional Macro lens attachment for your camera, or one of these.  The macro options are endless and lots of fun.

Here’s some things you need to know about Black Eye lenses and pretty much my first impressions:

  • When I first started using them, to be honest, they can be a bit fiddly. You need to line up the small lens at the back of the attachment with the camera on your phone.  But I have definitely found that the more I use the lens, the easier it gets to place accurately.   One trick is to look down on your camera from above when lining up the lens, it makes it easier to use.
  • Fits any phone, I-pad, even lap top, any case – very versatile. There are other options on the market that are specific to certain phone models but these will fit anything.
  • It is easier to use without the case at first until you get used to it. This can also help reduce the vignetting.
  • Doesn’t even compare to cheap $10 lens attachments.High quality optics with hand polished glass to give clear natural colours and minimise lens flaring and reflections.
  • I have an I-phone 8 and I-phone X – both with duel cameras which I do find a bit tricky to line up.However, I have been advised there is a Duel lens option coming September 2018.  If you have a duel lens phone, I would suggest waiting for the update.
  • There is also a tripod that you can purchase for long exposures, time lapse, selfies etc. It even comes with a detachable blue tooth shutter remote

Black Eye 3 x Telephoto

I love the way this lens pulls the image in and creates a shallow depth.  I have been using this quite a lot for flat lays and product shots.

Finally, can I say that this is not a paid or sponsored blog.  I feel like they are something that could really revolutionise phone photography as you are achieving a much better result at a fraction of the price of a camera. So far, I have found them really fun and useful and want to pass this information on to the people who ask my advice about cameras and photography.  The lenses are not “cheap” but when you consider you are spending upwards of $1000 on a phone, you can get a 3 lens kit including hard case for $200 which I thought was pretty good value, especially considering the results I have been able to achieve.  This is the “Pro Kit” which comes with a full frame fish eye lens, 3 x telephoto and a HD macro.  The other lens that I have been using is the Cinema Wide.

Black Eye Cinema Wide

Great to widen a shot without the distortion of a fish eye

Note that with all images shown, initially the mentioned lens was attached to a smartphone, a shot was taken (shown on the left of screen) and immediately after, the lens removed and another shot taken with the phone in exactly the same position (shown right of screen) to demonstrate what effect the lens attachment achieves.  No images were edited or altered in any way.

Black Eye Fish Eye

Always great for a selfie and capturing a really wide perspective.  As with all fish eye lenses, you do get the distortion and I found getting the focus right was tricky.

Luxury Noosa Escape

I’ve been visiting Noosa since I was a Melbourne schoolgirl escaping the cold in the September holidays with my family. I’ve lost count of how many times I have been here, but one thing is for sure, I never tire of coming back. I have been so lucky to have travelled a lot in my life, all around the world and the more I travel, the more I want to explore new places. There are many places I have been where I consider it a tick off the bucket list, “been there, done that”, never to return. Noosa is most definitely NOT one of those places. Noosa is somewhere I am constantly drawn back to. But why? I hear you asking. What is it about Noosa specifically?

If you have never been (honestly, why on earth not), Noosa Heads is a little seaside cove, only accessible by one road in with the Noosa National park at the end of the main street. It has the feel of being on the French Riviera or Italian coast. There is a poise and class about this location that makes you feel special when you visit.

Hastings Street and Noosa Heads has an elegant little village feel with everything you need. Once you arrive and park the car, you can forget driving for the rest of your stay. I think that’s one of the things I love. Sure there are plenty of things to see and do in the surrounding area (and that is another complete story), but with life so busy, when I’m on holidays, sometimes its nice to just park the car and park yourself.

Where to stay for me is anywhere on Hasting Street or between Hastings Street and the National Park. This is the prime location and worth treating yourself. It also means that everywhere you want to go is within walking distance. You can really splash out and go for 5 star luxury on the beachfront. I’ve stayed in quite a few and they are all good, but my absolute favorite is Seahaven located on one side of Hastings Street and backing on to Noosa Main Beach. It’s up one end of the street so a little out of the hustle and bustle (which can get crazy in peak season) and the same for the beach, you are a little removed from the “day trippers” and the crowds. It’s a bit more exclusive although only a short walk down towards the Surf Club if you have young ones and want to swim between the Flags.

Seahaven is modern, large style apartments with plenty of space and 3 swimming pools ideal for an afternoon dip after a day at the gorgeous Noosa beach or a lazy day under one of the umbrellas with a book.   Yes it is pricey, but well worth treating yourself and if you aren’t restricted to peak times (like the school holidays with children), there are great deals available. If your budget wont stretch to the beachfront the other side of the street is still prime location wise, just without the beach view, and often half the price. A great family location is the Mantra French Quarter, which is on the corner of Hastings Street and Noosa Drive with a newly refurbished pool area it’s great value.

Eating while in Noosa is another delightful treat. You can go full budget cheap eats and have takeaway pizza or fish & chips sitting on the beach or enjoy your balcony views from your hotel. Lots of people seem to do this and hey, why not when the beach is so gorgeous, particularly at sunset. It is also a great idea when you are in Noosa for a period of time and don’t want to sit down for a restaurant meal every night. Some of my favorite places to eat in Noosa are Nosh, about half way down Hastings Street tucked in next to the Supermarket. Really great fish and chips but also a huge selection of really delicious and fresh salads – kinda like a bit of naughty and nice together. The Bakery in this same location does great bread, cakes and pies etc. so perfect for a quick snack. Blended a little further up on the other side of the street makes the most amazing Acai Bowls. What sets them apart from a standard Acai is their huge selection of “Blended bowls”. Anything from dragon fruit (my star pick), Green, Choc dream and heaps more. Also great for coffee and smoothies, protein balls etc. Staying on the healthy theme, Coconut Head down near the National Park next to Café Le Monde looks like a pop up store but having opened in December 2016 this place is most definitely here to stay. The most delicious vegan food and specializing in smoothies, wraps and an in-house made fermented drink ideal for cleansing called “Juno”.

Once you have all this clean healthy food in your system, head across the road to Providore, a modern style café with excellent coffee, snacks and great gourmet groceries such as olives and even meats for the barbeque (every hotel I have stayed in either had a barbeque on my balcony or within the hotel grounds). Providore is perfect for an early morning “Made in Noosa” coffee blend or they are also licensed so you can enjoy an afternoon wine with some of their delicious cheeses and snacks.

If you are looking for something a bit more special, my number one favorite restaurant in Noosa Heads is Seasons (under the Tingerana Hotel on the beach). It boast modern, local seafood and it certainly delivers. Located right on the beach, it is the perfect place to enjoy a 5 star meal with a 5 star view. My particular favorite is the seafood antipasto. This is a selection for two (although I did eat it on my own as a main) with a selection of warmed seafood of tempura oysters, crisp skinned salmon, prawns and salt and pepper squid, all with the most amazing sauces to accompany. I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it. I have tried many other things on the menu, but as a seafood LOVER, this really is to die for. You must drive to Noosa just to taste this dish!

The food on offer in Hastings Street offers so many places to eat of varying budgets from great pizza at El Capitano pizza above Café Le Monde, casual café style food at Providore (and my favorite place for coffee) and European style eating at Aromas, a French inspired café with all the chairs facing the street so diners can watch the passers by. There are so many other places to eat and I am still finding new ones every time I visit, so I urge you to try as many as you can as there are the institutions that have been around for years, but also new eateries popping up all the time. One thing is for certain though, there are plenty of very expensive, trendy hard to get into restaurants, but these are not necessarily the best. You can find some great value meals without always paying top shelf prices.

Once you have found a comfortable lounge by the pool, eaten your way through the cute little cafes and eateries, its time to work off some of that indulgence. You cannot visit Noosa without a trip to the National Park. Take the time to walk as far around the headland as you can because it is truly one of the most picturesque views. The National Park walk starts just past Little Cove, (a perfect place for a dip while your there) and takes you along a cliff walk around the coast line to the headlands all the way to sunshine beach which is around 7 km round trip. The first few kilometers are wheelchair and pram friendly but after that you need to take care, particularly close to the edges if you have children as there can be quite steep drops.

A bit tricky to find, but well worth the effort, as well as a very popular tourist spot, is the Fairy Pools in the National Park. They are down past Granite Bay and before Alexandria Bay roughly a 20 minute walk from the entry to the park. There is no sign, however you often see people from the path sitting on the rocks up high. You pretty much will find a bench seat on the outside of the path on a bend between the two bays and from here, you can see a path way down. You have to climb down around the rocks as you can’t actually see the pools from the path. I warn you now, the fairy pools can be a bit tricky to find (or maybe that was just me) but once you know where they are, you will return time and again. If you go to Noosa, it is pretty much a given that you get a selfie from the fairy pools. I remember the first time I even heard of them was from a local and I was texting and calling at regular intervals navigating my way through the park trying to find them, but I guess half the fun of an adventure is in the journey, right?

After a visit to the National Park, a quick dip at Little Cove on the way back and maybe some relaxing time in the sun, it’s time to hit the shops. The great thing about shopping in Noosa is that there are many boutiques that are unique to this place. You can wander up and down Hastings Street, stopping for the obligatory coffee or smoothie along the way, and weave in and out of the various shops. Of course there are your regular staples like Gazman, Tigerlilly, Peter Alexander, Witchery and more, but my favorites are some of the long standing boutiques. For home wears, Signature has been in business for 26 years and holds a treasure trove of magnificent items for your home, anything from candles and knick knacks, to throws, towels and blankets. Owned by Gail Hinkley she is renowned for her unique coastal style. Every visit I manage to pick up a something new for home.

For other home wears you will enjoy Hearts and Minds gallery, even just for a wander. Original jewelry and home wears mostly locally handcrafted so its great to find a little gem you can take home with you.

Being on the beach, of course there is Longboards and Sea Element for casual beachwear. I found some gorgeous clothes in Bow and Arrow with brands such as Alice McCall, Nobody Denim and Karen Walker. Finally, one “must stop” shop is most certainly Eliza’s boutique. The first time I saw this shop I passed it by as its tucked away and tiny little store, but make sure you stop in, and allow plenty of time because Eliza herself is likely to greet you and each time I go in, I usually let the time pass as I chat for ages letting Eliza and her wonderful staff of stylists help me find treasures that will become favorites in my wardrobe. Many of their labels are the latest fashions from Europe, only available in this quaint store in a corner of Queensland.   Ladies come from all over Australia to shop here so I promise you, a visit to this store and you will not walk out empty handed.

I know by now you must feel exhausted from all the eating, shopping, walking and talking, and this is without even getting in the car! This however was all stretched out over a leisurely few days. The thing that keeps me coming back to Noosa is that I can completely stop, relax and take things at my own pace. Whether you choose to just lay on a lounge chair by the pool and not move for the day, or venture out on a unhurried walk in the lazy Queensland sunshine, you leave Noosa feeling like you have travelled to Europe and back without the jetlag. Yes, it does get busy in the peak holiday months, but Noosa is perfect all year round and somewhere that even as I am driving out of Hastings Street and up the hill, I am already planning when I am going to visit next. It’s my little pocket of pampering and recharging my batteries that just seems to send me into relax mode from the minute I drive over that hill and see the beach in front of me.

The Great Instagram Scam

Instagram. It’s the pocket app that we all know and love. With over 600 million active users it’s growing faster than Facebook and Twitter combined. People are making careers out of it as “Social Media Influencers” and just about every teenager on the planet has a dream of being “Insta Famous”

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2016 Top Eight Travels

At the start of 2016, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to put everything into my photography for one year and see where it led me.  Up until this point, I had been playing around, having fun but was at the stage where I pretty much had all the camera equipment I really required, so wanted to get out and travel and shoot as much as I could – around our own business and family commitments.

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How to Get Started in Photography

More and more often, I am getting people contact me and ask me about my photography, advice on how to get started, what camera or lens to buy, any tips etc.  I feel like I’ve worked really hard the last 3 years learning everything I can and growing and improving my photography skills so here are a few of my tips:

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From WAG to Photographer

Since I was 17, I have lived in this crazy world as WAG to race-car driver, Russell Ingall. It’s a fast paced lifestyle, full of fast cars, glitzy parties and glamorous people. We have travelled Australia and the world. Done some crazy fun things and met some incredible people. Sure there have been downsides as well, but when I look back over the last 25 years, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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