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OUT OF OFFICE PODCAST
Man up: Talking male mental health and body positivity + the ultimate Europe 2019 bucketlist.
David C:Travel creates stories, unforgettable stories that can make you smile, laugh or even cry. I’m David Calderon and you’re listening to Out of Office, powered by Contiki. On today’s episode, I’ll be getting tips on what to see and do in Europe and how to take that perfect picture while travelling. But first, it’s time for real talk. Many of us have personal struggles and often our mental health can be affected. With social media and pressures to look a certain way, young people have started hitting back with body positivity and other women-led social movements. It’s a topic that’s being talked about more and more, but is it the same when it comes to men’s mental health? And how can travel help us improve mental wellbeing? Joining me to discuss this further are my guest, the model, actor and activist, Mina Gerges and rugby player and creator of the online magazine, Mantality, Stevie Ward. Welcome to the podcast, gentlemen.
Stevie W:Nice to be here, thanks for inviting me on.
David C:So, Mina, when you were growing up, what sort of messages were you exposed to?
Mina G:Yes, for me, growing up in the Middle East, it was a completely different culture where there’s a huge just [fixiation] [sic] on masculinity, you know, not only just acting masculine, but looking masculine, and the way that you look masculine is, you look athletic and you’re going to the gym. I never fit into that, like I remember, as young as I was eight years old, my mum put me on a diet because I was chubby.
David C:No, at eight?
Mina G:Yes, and it was this weird grapefruit diet where you only ate grapefruits, because my mum read some article that that burns fat. So, yes, as young as eight years old, I was on this diet and it really shaped the way that I think of my body, as though I really needed to change it and make it look different so that I could fit in. Let alone, you know, being gay in the Middle East, we’re told that you can’t be Arab and gay at the same time, you just shouldn’t exist. So, there were a lot of these really conflicting messages that made me feel like whether it was because of being gay or whether it was because of my body, that I needed to change or that I shouldn’t love who I am.
David C: What sort of impact did all that have on your mental health? Because now, you’re coming from two angles of it, around your body and your sexual orientation.
Mina G:The very first time that I struggled with my mental health was around the time that I was 16 and it was because I was coming to terms with the fact that I’m gay and that that may mean that I’m going to lose my family and that I may be disowned, and that really shook me a lot. I was depressed, I just lost my appetite and then I started losing weight because of that, and I was also coming to terms with the fact that I’m gay. The very first thing that I did when I was trying to get to know, ‘what does it mean to be gay?’ again, because of my culture and we don’t talk about it, was to Google ‘gay men’. And the very first thing that pops up on Google Images is very thin, muscular men. I look in the mirror and I’m like, ‘okay, well I don’t look like that, so clearly, if all the Google searches show this, then this is how my body needs to look’. So yes, it was kind of this feeling depressed and feeling isolated and feeling lonely.
David C:How did you get out of this way of thinking?
Mina G:To be honest, finding people online, finding other gay Arabs out there online, which was very hard. I started making these videos on YouTube where I was talking about feeling lonely and not knowing who I am and struggling with my identity. People, who are also Arabs, started finding me that way and then, when it comes to my body image, I found all these incredible women who are talking about body positive online that made me feel like, okay, maybe I shouldn’t feel like I need to hate my body or maybe I’m not alone in all of this. So, definitely seeing other people talk about it really helped me feel less isolated, and then worked from there to feel better.
David C:Definitely, it’s a topic that most people don’t want to talk about or open up about, but you decided to use your platform to speak more about body positivity. How important is body positivity to you?
Mina G:When I was looking at body positivity, the conversation is dominated by women and, although that was really helpful for me, it still also made me feel really isolated because I was, like, ‘well, why aren’t men talking about this? Is there something wrong with me for feeling this way?’ and really ashamed to be a man. I remember, when I first told my mum that I was struggling with my eating disorder, she laughed and she said, “Men don’t have eating disorders, that’s a women thing.” Eating disorders and body image issues don’t discriminate against you based on your gender, they affect anyone. So yes, it became a very important thing for me to use my platform to break that stigma or those stereotypes that man aren’t affected by this. To kind of create a space where, okay, you and I can talk about this, we can talk about how it impacts our mental health and how it makes us feel alone and the pressures that society puts on us every single day to look athletic and be muscular and the impacts that that has on us.
David C:Yes, so going into that, what kind of pressures do you think men are under and how do you think this is affecting men’s mental health?
Mina G:I still think about it now, if you open any magazine, even if you still Google ‘men on billboards’, it’s still, every single image that we see of men out there in mainstream media is a very muscular, chiselled man. We don’t see the very real things that all of us have like stretch marks or bellies or love handles. These are all things that we have, but we don’t see them reflected in mainstream media. So, I think that that sends, again, this really harmful message that in order for you to love yourself, in order for you to find value in your body, that’s how you should look.
David C:Now Stevie, you’re a rugby player and, obviously, you have certain pressures as playing in a sport. How has this affected your mental health, being a rugby player, and what are the specific sort of pressures men like you face in the sport?
Stevie W:Yes, sure. I think, being a sportsman, it’s pressures from lots of different areas. Obviously, there’s the physical pressure to be in that kind of fitness zone and what ticks the boxes to perform out there on the field each week, week in, week out. But also, there’s the mental performance side of things as well, which I think is only starting to be tailored for, or people to really start to zone in and look at it. There was a time when I was out with a 12-month injury and this is where I started looking into it, because I’ve had various long-term injuries and I realised that I’d not done much work into managing the pressures. And you ask about specific pressures, one week, you could be at an absolute peak, you could have won a game, you could have scored the winning try in a game. But the next week, something might have gone wrong in the week or you might have got injured the week after, so it’s peaks and troughs and it’s a constant rollercoaster. It’s almost a condensed rollercoaster. I’ve had real, real opposite end of the spectrum kinds of experiences, so what I’ve looked at is, mental health, just as people would look at physical health. For me, we’re not going to stop the pressures, we’re not going to stop those sorts of challenges that we have, mentally, just like we have physically, but we can look for different perspectives, we can look at different practices. We can look at different ways to actually deal with it.
David C:So, you’ve said you had real opposite ends of the spectrum experiences, I know you’ve had a really bad experience with injury, can you tell me about that?
Stevie W:I’ve had quite a few. When I was 19 years old, 2014, I dislocated my shoulder and damaged all the nerves down left arm, that put me out for nine months and I struggled with that, I really struggled with that. So, 2017 came round and it was another shot to get into this final, this specific grand final, and the week before, I dislocated my shoulder, I had to come off the field and go to A&E and sit on an A&E bed for … I sat in A&E for a good five hours, trying to get my shoulder back in. They couldn’t get it back in because of the previous operations and I had to sit up all night and wait to go to theatre the next morning at 9:00am. And this puts me, a week before the final, and my shoulder has only just got put back in, and I remember, just before I went down into theatre, before I got put to sleep, there was a male nurse there and I was, obviously, devastated. The emotional pain that I went through that night and the physical pain was almost like it had got to another level. I said to the male nurse, “What do you reckon about next week?” and he says, “Well, get your shoulder put back in, see what damage there is, and you never know.” And then it was, like, lights out, boom. I was back, awake, after I’d had my shoulder put back in, still in a lot of pain with it, and I struggled a little bit with the fact that I wouldn’t be playing, but almost went into a bit of a period where I could kind of see things really clearly and have a bit of perspective.
David C:With your injury, this is where you started to very much focus on how it was impacting your mental health.
Stevie W:Yes, that was a time where I think all the stuff that I’d learnt of mental health the past two and a half years, up to that point, came in. I had the opportunity to respond to the stimulus and pick what I wanted to do. So, long story, short, I set that everything in that week that would happen after this injury would entail and help me to play in that final and would win that final. And that, of course, happened, we were champions at the end of the year, and I played in the final for 80 minutes, I made 40 tackles with a dislocated shoulder.
David C:And you won.
Stevie W:Yes, and we won there, it was magical, it was absolutely magical, yes.
David C:Now, off the tail end of that, why did you decide to create Mantality?
Stevie W:I was doing rehab in the morning, I was finishing for about 11:00am and I was staring at the ceiling in the physio after getting treatment and I finished my 11:00am and doing what you want, it sounds like a dream, but for someone who has always strived and I’ve always tried to achieve and get to the next thing, I was living away from my values. So, I realised that I didn’t want to go back to that place and go back to that place of depression really. So, I decided to do something different and launch myself into this bit of discovery on mental health and, at the same time, put Mantality out there, which started as an online magazine, but now it’s got an online club for people to learn more about mental health and to add to the community.
David C:Yes, so what does Mantality aspire to do for men?
Stevie W:We want people to look at mental health, to change their mind on mental health and to actually address that, we’re not going to eradicate mental health and we’re not going to eradicate the problems that come with mental health, should I say, but we can definitely look at managing it and dealing with the different perspectives as well.
David C:Yes, and it’s one of the things that people have realise it’s never going to go away, and it can’t go away, but it’s all about just how you combat it and how you handle it yourself.
Stevie W:Definitely, brilliantly put.
David C:Now Mina, there was a point where all the pressure really took a toll on your mental health and you developed an eating disorder. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Mina G:I think, because of my eating disorder, I didn’t really know that there was anything wrong with what I was doing, and it only took until I had a mental breakdown. Because I remember I had a picture of this really muscular guy from a magazine as the wallpaper on my phone and every single time, if I was going to go eat something unhealthy, I would look at this picture on my wallpaper and be, like, ‘well, if you want to look like this, you probably shouldn’t eat that’. Or, I would use this picture to justify spending five hours at the gym, for example. I remember one day I was just really exhausted and the impacts of starving yourself are really … I was feeling it, and I remember looking at my phone and then looking in the mirror and I was, like, ‘after everything that I’m doing, I still don’t look like that’. And it prompted this mental breakdown for me where I remember feeling upset that I just wasn’t good enough, despite all of this effort that I was putting in.
David C:And especially with social media, because you see everyone going to all these nice summery holidays, so especially, when you travel, there’s a lot of pressure to look a certain way, a pressure to look good on holiday. How have you come out the other end and combat that when you go travelling?
Mina G:I think that it’s a great conversation to have now because it’s kind of the same of like, ‘it’s the summer, so you have to have a summer body’.
Mina G:Yes, beach-body and, for me, Pride is in a couple of months, so you have to get your Pride body. We’ve put so much emphasis on preparing our bodies for these trips, when the reality is, it shouldn’t affect the way that you enjoy being on vacation. So, I have worked really hard on preventing myself from going on diets, purposely, before I go on trips. I force myself to not diet, I force myself to not go on these crazy workout routines, because I think it’s so important to just learn to be comfortable in your own skin. And be able to learn that you can enjoy your time on vacation without feeling like your body needs to look a certain way as a criteria for you to feel confident.
David C:Stevie, for you, how can travel have a positive impact on your mental health?
Stevie W:Yes, I think what Mina mentioned there has got some really good points about being comfortable with where you’re going and knowing where you’re going. I really, really like to enjoy going to somewhere I have no idea about, so putting myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself, learning something about a different place. I think you get away from the gravity of everyday life.
Mina G:Yes, I was going to say, I think what I love about travelling and the impact of it on mental health is, when I was going through my eating disorder, I felt a tremendous pressure to live up to a certain way that my body should look because people knew who I was. And so, what I love about vacationing is, you go to a place where you don’t really know anyone, and no one really knows you. So, you don’t feel self-conscious about needing to uplift or uphold this image of yourself because I keep reminding myself, when I go travelling, I’m, like, ‘so what if they see my belly, I don’t know these people, I’m never going to see them again’.
‘I’m never going to see them again’, yes.
Mina G:So, it’s a very liberating feeling to be on vacation where you can let go of your insecurities, especially if you feel them around if you know that you’re going to be seeing people that may know and that that may be difficult for you. It’s, like, ‘no, I’m not going to see these people again and I can just enjoy my time’.
David C:Yes. Now, Stevie, out of all of this, you ended up travelling to India with Contiki for a travel project, can you tell me about that?
Stevie W:Yes, so I really wanted to learn more about how different people lived, learn more about a different culture, learn about how they held themselves over in India, the different people you could meet and how they operated and what their beliefs were, I was really, really interested in that.
David C:So, what were the biggest mental health lessons you learned while you were in India?
Stevie W:I think there were quite a few lessons, [mate], that I learnt and I think you learn about kindness and community, how important that is over in India and how you can prove your inner psyche wrong. As a sportsman, I know that very well, about going into the arena every week, but also learning to believe too.
David C:Can you explain to me what you meant by your inner psyche being wrong?
Stevie W:As a sportsman, you have to combat that a lot of the time, you have to combat your inner psyche, which is, you don’t want to do stuff, you’re frightened of doing stuff, you’re nervous about doing stuff. Every time that you delve into those situations or you put yourself out of your comfort zone, you prove that wrong. And I remember going to a Bollywood dancing lesson and I remember thinking …
David C:Your first one, ever?
Stevie W:Yes, first one ever. Mate, I’m a rugby league player from up north in England, and I’m going to a Bollywood class. I was the most uncoordinated guy doing it and the room was full of mirrors, everyone can see what you’re doing. I had a little nerves and tiredness in there, our plan is ready to show off an impossibility that it was going to be positive, but I was really wrong, I really was wrong there. It was awesome, I absolutely loved it and I think going outside of your comfort zone and doing those things that your mind is telling you to do wrong, stretching that comfort zone and coming back with some confidence and belief. People need to understand that to keep pushing themselves and to keep doing stuff that they originally think they might not want to do, because you come back a lot happier and you grow a lot from it too.
David C:More and more, people are talking more about mental health, but why do you think men still struggle to talk about mental health, even now?
Stevie W:I think it’s good, I think we’ve had a really, really good chat on here and it’s people actually starting to talk about it and starting to open up to the fact that you’ve got to look after your mindset as well as your physical health, but I think there are still pressures. In my situation as a sportsman, you have the pressures to perform and that, obviously, does affect you mentally because you’ve got to keep striving and you’ve got to keep competing. I think, generally, for men, it’s they don’t want to be seen to be weak, but are vulnerable, and I always say the message, ‘you’ve got to be vulnerable to improve’. It’s counterintuitive, but we’ve talked about reflecting there if you have space on vacation when you’re away, but you’ve got to have that space where you reflect and do a bit of looking inwards, just to see if you can be vulnerable and the way to improve and to kind of assess your mental state. Because it’s scary and it’s something that people aren’t taught to do and it’s not really in everyday media or everyday society, but it’s definitely something that people need to learn to do and become stronger. Without a doubt, you can become stronger from opening up to mental health, whether it’s a problem or whether it’s you want to get better to operate mentally too.
David C:And you, Mina?
Mina G:Yes, I totally agree with what you’re saying, Stevie. It feels like, for us to talk about human things makes us weak and the thing is, so many of us end up struggling by ourselves and it becomes like a really terrible circle where you’re depressed and you feel alone. But then, if you talk about it, then you aren’t manly enough or you’re weak and then that prevents us from talking and then that, in itself, makes us feel even more lonely. That’s why, yes, we have to talk about it, we almost have to make it cool to talk about your emotions, we have to change that narrative, we have to be, like, ‘yes, what’s wrong with talking about these things that so many of us experience?’ and to let people know that we’re not alone.
David C:Yes, admitting weakness is actually a strength.
Mina G:Yes, exactly.
David C:What other tips would you guys give to people in terms of helping them with their mental health?
Stevie W:I would just say that the first point is to become conscious of it. I always remember, one of the tour guides, he was an Indian fella, he was a Hindu, he didn’t have much, but what he did do is what he loved doing, showing people around India and the culture. And I always remember something he said, he said, “Wherever we are, reality is coloured by the dye of our own interpretation.” I feel like people, they never sit down to really look at their reality and how they’re viewing things and what their perspective is. We spoke about people travelling and really changing that perspective and kind of taking new things in, but you’ve got to look at how you’re thinking about things, whether you’re questioning things too much. And also, just about how you can operate better, can you meditate more? Are you getting stressed too much? There are so many different things, but I think it’s looking specifically for who you are and to know yourself and your values, individually, to be go out and be the best version of you.
Mina G:For me, I think something that has always been really helpful is to disconnect from anything that makes you feel not good about yourself. I think of how negatively impacted I was by unrealistic images of men all over my Instagram feed. One of the first things I did was to unfollow a lot of these accounts that make me not feel good about my body and just the tremendous impact that that had on my mental health and my self-worth was huge. So, I definitely recommend people disconnect when they have to, and I think travel also kind of really helps with that because you’re force to be off your phone. There was a certain point when my mental health was really bad and I took eight months off of Instagram, and at the time, I remember people went, “My God, what if you lose all of your followers?” I was, like, “I just want to be happy, I don’t care if I lose the followers.” Comparing yourself makes you feel like you’re not good enough and that feeds into insecurities and bad mental health issues, so definitely, my biggest advice to people would be, disconnect when you have to.
Yes, because it can easily just snowball from like a little insecurity to something much larger. Alright guys, thank you so much for taking part in our podcast, a really big thank you to, Mina, and Stevie, once again.
Mina G:Thank you for having us.
Stevie W:Cool, thank you mate, I really enjoyed it.
David C:Thanks so much to Stevie Ward and Mina Gerges for opening up to me about mental health. Now, it’s time for the part of the podcast we’re calling ‘Travel Porn’. If you’re ready to find that next destination to post from on the gram, then you’ll love what’s next. This is all about the epic, unique and often undiscovered experiences you’ll want to check out for yourself. In today’s edition of Travel Porn, we’re going to find out about 2019’s hottest European destinations with author and travel photographer, Aubrey Daquinag, aka, The Love Assembly. How are you, Aubrey?
Aubrey D:Hi, I’m really, really good, thank you.
David C:Thank you for coming in. So, Aubrey, where are you from, originally?
Aubrey D:I’m originally from Sydney, Australia.
David C:Okay, so how long have you been in London now?
Aubrey D:I have been here for, officially, I would say since January this year, which is about three months, but I’ve been travelling back and forth for about six months.
David C:So, you’re here to tell us about the top destinations for 2019. Where would you start off as your number one place that you want to go right now?
Aubrey D:Okay, so number one, I’m really fascinated by the Nordic countries and they contain so many natural wonders, so number one is definitely Norway.
David C:Okay, so that’s like the Northern Lights and all that stuff.
David C:I haven’t been but a goal, too, yes.
Aubrey D:Yes, definitely, I love the combination of nature and city life, I want to see it all, the incredible mountains, he unreal rock formations of Trolltunga, to everything from like Oslo’s architecture and museums.
David C:I agree, it would totally, 100%, go to Norway. So, after Norway then, what would be your number two?
Aubrey D:Number two is another Nordic country, which is Iceland. I feel like it’s just another world. If you want to experience a country that’s completely opposite from how you grew up, I think Iceland is definitely that, and seeing the Northern Lights is definitely a given in a country like Iceland. I also went to see the Blue Lagoon, which is in Iceland –
David C:What’s that?
Aubrey D:- and it’s like just this incredible lagoon that’s filled with geothermal sea water and it’s also beneficial for your skin, and there’s a lot of photos, haven’t you seen …
David C:So, you can go in there?
Aubrey D:Yes, you can definitely dip in.
David C:Photo opp, Instagram, Instagram Moments.
Aubrey D:Yes, and it’s definitely really good for your skin. So, there are a lot of minerals and it’s rich in so many of those things that are good for premature ageing -
David C:Okay, going now.
Aubrey D: - and making you look good, so yes.
Alright, okay, so number three, what would be your number three?
Aubrey D:Number three is Turkey. So, there is Pamukkale, which is also a mineral hot-springs and it’s just off limestone deposits that are left behind by running water. It’s just mineral springs that look like clouds.
David C:Where is this in Turkey?
David C:Pamukkale, okay, that’s where it’s at.
Aubrey D:Yes, so it actually means ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish and the photos just look incredible, so that’s number one.
David C:That’s your number one of your number three in Turkey.
Aubrey D:Yes, because there’s also Cappadocia, which is awesome as well. There are the hot-air balloon rides that I’ve seen photos of.
David C:I know exactly what you’re talking about.
Aubrey D:Yes, I feel like that would be incredible, not only to see through the hot-air balloon, but also just to photograph it when all of the hot-air balloons are in the sky.
David C:Definitely do it. I’ve been to Istanbul, that’s the only place I’ve been to in Turkey, so I had a good time, I was there for a weekend, but I saw the Blue Mosque, so that definitely was worth seeing. And then I ate way more baklava than I needed to.
Aubrey D:God, I’m a sucker for markets too, and in my latest book, Wander Love, I wrote a whole chapter of markets, so I feel like the markets in Istanbul were just …
David C:The Grand Bazaar?
David C:It’s massive.
Aubrey D:I need to go, yes.
David C:You will get lost, but I guess that’s half the fun.
Aubrey D:Yes, and find some treasures, I think.
David C:Alright, so what would be your number four?
Aubrey D:So, number four is Scotland. There’s no doubt that Scotland is beautiful, but particularly Isle of Skye. So, I remember my first impression of Scotland was when I first got to Edinburgh, I looked up and, literally, my jaw dropped from the architecture, because it was just incredible.
David C:I’ve heard like all the castles are just like great [unintelligible 00:26:46].
Aubrey D:Yes, so I guess Isle of Skye is next level though, it’s an island in Scotland and every highway is lined with waterfalls, around every bend there are medieval castles, landscapes and just the mountains. Just so beautiful.
David C:There we go, I’m going to add this to my 2019 list.
David C:So, what would be your number five?
Aubrey D:Number five is the Dolomites in Italy. It’s in north-eastern Italy and I generally like to gift myself with an outdoor activity for my birthday every year, and the beauty of the Dolomite landscape, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, would be unreal.
David C:What would be your sixth place to travel in Europe for 2019?
Aubrey D:The Netherlands. I visited Amsterdam on a weekend escape for Valentine’s Day just a couple of weeks’ ago and I loved it. It was a short trip, but it makes me want to see more of the Netherlands, just because it was such a beautiful city. And it’s a walking city and biking city, which is really nice because I love to explore in a way like that.
David C:Alright, so what is your last place, your seventh place, that you would want to go to in Europe for 2019?
Aubrey D:Okay, so amongst all of the mountain ranges and that winter kind of vibe, I’ve got Portugal on the cards for the beaches and the sunshine and delicious food. Exploring Portugal through my stomach is a must, I think, I’m a Taurus and they say a way to a Taurean’s heart is through their stomach. So, I feel like I would just eat everything, because the cuisine, I’ve heard, is heavenly and it’s influenced highly by the Atlantic, so some restaurants serve seafood practically straight to the table from the sea, and I love seafood.
Okay, so like, ‘I just caught this this morning, here you go’.
David C:Thank you, again, Aubrey, for coming in and letting us know your top destinations.
Aubrey D:Thank you for having me.
David C:Got a burning travel question you need an answer to? That’s what the next part of the podcast ‘how do I?’ is here to help with. We’re going to let you know how to bring your A-game when it comes to your next adventure. We all want to get that perfect picture for the gram while we’re away, so to tell us how to make that picture perfect is travel filmmaker and content creator, Jake Rich. So, you’re a travel filmmaker, how long have you been doing that now?
Jake R:A while, I mean specifically travelling the world, probably the last five years.
David C:That’s awesome, okay, so when you’re travelling, when it comes to phone photography, do you think it matters what kind of phone you have? Do you notice a difference between phone types or the generations of phones?
Jake R:I’m sure there are certain cell-phones which will offer more features and capabilities within their camera functionality, but I think if you were to just break it down to the gist of it, like each cell-phone will be capable of capturing a great image.
David C:Yes, now which one do you personally use?
Jake R:I’ve been a bit of an Apple fan boy for a while, I’ve kind of just continued to use Apple as they’ve brought out new devices. I’m continuing to learn new things about my iPhone, like over the weekend, I was shooting some stuff just around here and on the iPhone, specifically, if you swipe up, like in the photo’s app, you swipe up in an image, you have this ability to edit the photo in four different ways. And one of the features provides like a long exposure-style framing, it’s really, really cool.
David C:What? I’m going to have to get this done real fast.
Jake R:Yes, so if you were to go into your camera roll now and just click on an image, I think provided that you’ve shot the image in live photo mode, if you’ve used live photo mode and you swipe up on a live photo, you can edit it to this incredible degree. So yes, even things like that, I’m learning all the time.
David C:It makes you kind of wish they made a manual.
Jake R:100%, I guess that’s what YouTube is for.
David C:Right. So, what do you do, Jake, to make a picture perfect?
Jake R:I think top of the list is to frame up the shot and to put yourself in it. So, often when I’m shooting, I’ll find a really nice, picturesque landscape and then I’ll frame up a shot with my eyes and go, ‘okay, there’s a really nice frame, like those mountains are in the background and there’s a rock that I can go and stand on’. And I’ll either use a tripod or I’ll had the cell-phone to a friend and say, “Hey, can you see this frame? I’m going to put myself right in there, can you take the photo?”
David C:“Can you take this exact picture? Do not move.”
Jake R:Yes, direction definitely helps, but often I just will pop it on a tripod and use like an interval-style shot or even just like a countdown timer and take a couple of shots. It’s kind of like the advanced selfie.
David C:So, what would be your second tip?
Jake R:Tip number two is to experiment with perspective, like the one thing that I hate or the one thing that I really look for in an image is something that kind of keeps me curious about the photo. I really don’t like seeing flat images, so whether there’s some depth or there’s something dynamic about it that keeps me curious and intrigued. A lot of the time, because I’m always out capturing content by myself, I’ll play around with shooting in both first-person as well as getting a metre-long selfie stick and having different crops and different lengths to the image. So, I shoot a lot of GoPro content, but back to the smartphone, if you put the smartphone on a selfie-stick, maybe try and extend it to its fullest and see if you can put yourself in the frame that way. Or, maybe … and this is a bit of a cliché image, but if you’re sitting on the top of a mountain and you’re looking out, you can put a hand or your feet, like something that will immerse the viewer to feel like they’re there. I really like that, I’m like a huge sucker for perspective.
David C:Alright, so what is your third tip then?
Jake R:Tip number three is lighting. Lighting, I think, is like one of the most crucial parts of a good photo and I think’s really the difference between an average photographer and a really good photographer, is those that know how to use light. And yes, you can instantly level out your photos by capturing images at the right time. I think, often, when we’re travelling, we just take photos because it’s convenient, but if you push yourself just like a little bit more and you set that alarm just to get up for one sunrise, you’ll be amazed by the colours of the sky.
David C:So, it’s like a [unintelligible 00:33:37] golden hour, right?
Jake R:Totally, yes, so you have an hour before the sun is up and just before the sun sets when the light is at its most beautiful of the day, and I think that’s a really important … a lot of photographers, you’ll see them run around with tripods at that time, it’s the best time to be shooting. So, that would be tip number three.
David C:So, tip number four?
Jake R:In tip number four, it’s about editing, and sometimes if you haven’t captured the perspective or the depth of field, you can sometimes do it in post-production in your edits. I use an app called Lightroom Mobile to often change a lot of the colours, but it also adds some dynamic range to my images. Like, often if I’m shooting a photo on my phone, I might get something which looks a little flat, but if I pop it into Lightroom and I increase some of the contrast and I pull down some of the saturation, it instantly will give the image a lot more dynamic range. And you don’t need to have Lightroom, you can do that simply in Instagram, but there are some really great apps which can help you to take an image that is good and turn it into something that’s awesome.
David C:I think a lot of people forget, when they’re looking at their favourite Instagrammers and then they look at their pictures, especially when you look at the feed as a whole, aesthetically, they’re like, ‘how are they making all those colours match so perfectly?’ That doesn’t exist, it’s literally like Lightroom.
Jake R:Totally, and that’s all it really is, but yes, some people can analyse an image and be, like, “No, look at this histogram, the whites are absolutely peaking,” but at the end of the day, the beauty of the image is in the eye of the beholder, so whoever is actually looking at it is going to judge it. So yes, it’s fun, it’s super fun.
David C:Alright, so what is your fifth and final tip to make the perfect picture?
Jake R:The perfect picture.
David C:The perfect one.
Jake R:Okay, my fifth and final tip is to try and make a connection with or use a subject. When I look at an image and I see an incredible landscape, but I’m able to scale it to perspective because there’s a person there, it allows me to feel like I’m in that image. I think that’s what we humans are always seeking, we’re seeking that connection and when it’s just a place, sometimes it’s hard to really draw any emotion from it.
David C:Yes, try to [unintelligible 00:36:32], yes, I agree with that.
Jake R:So, those would be my five simple tips on taking better photos with your cell-phone, I haven’t really spoken a lot about technicalities, like touching your phone to bring highlights up, because a lot of smartphones, if you touch different parts of the screen, you know that it focuses on different areas.
David C:Yes, and you can raise it up, swipe up or swipe down to change the exposure or the lighting.
Jake R:Yes, like those kinds of things which we could spend another half hour talking about, but -
David C:Writing a manual for Apple.
Jake R: - yes, so I think these five broad tips, I think, are really great places to start, mostly to get your head around thinking about, ‘alright, I’m going to try some of those things’, so I hope they do help. And just another note on that, especially for travellers that are going to popular landmarks or popular tourist destinations, if you really want to get a good shot, you have to beat the crowds, that’s imperative. I think one of my most recognisable shots is, it’s a first-person shot of the Great Wall of China and there’s not a single person on the wall. And that’s such a rarity to have no one walking the Great Wall of China, and the other reason why I was able to do that was because I went out by myself, just with a guide. We got there before the gates opened and they actually let us go in, just a little bit before they opened the gates and even then, there wasn’t anyone.
David C:And thank you so much for giving us your top tips for helping us to make a picture perfect, we know that’s really helpful and I am definitely going to check that one little tip about editing on the iPhone that you mentioned. But, thank you again, Jake.
Jake R:No worries, thanks for having me.
David C:That’s it from Out of Office, powered by Contiki. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode. Next up is the very last episode in this season. I’ll be getting to the heart of India’s female revolution with travel blogger, Nadine Sykora, and speaking to some incredible women in India who are leading movements for gender equality. See you then.
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