Photography Tips for Beginners

Photography Tips for Beginners

This post is sponsored by KEH, Inc. As always, all opinions expressed here are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links, purchases through these links will support essentiallyerika.com.

Photography has always been a passion of mine – I will never forget my very first camera! It’s a passion I likely inherited from my father. When I was ten years-old, he got his hands on an old manual Pentax camera. A fire ignited and suddenly he was capturing photos of my younger brother and framing them in the back office of his storefront. I watched as he would learn how to get the right exposure, then have the film developed to see his handy work. It inspired me to photograph the parts of life that spoke to me, the details that perhaps were overlooked. A set of hands, feet, cars aligned perfectly.

Tip #1: When photographing kids be sure to have your fastest shooting speed available. For a DSLR, this may be a sports mode or the “CH” setting on a Nikon. There is magic in child photography, but they are quick and you need to be ready!

Travel Photos

Today, one of my favorite subjects to photograph are my children. Motherhood is perhaps the greatest inspiration and can spark all kinds of creativity from every day moments. I also have an affinity for lifestyle photography. Travel, architecture, are all interesting to me and beg for a little camera time. In 2008 we booked a two-week trip to Hawaii. We spent a week in Waikiki and a week in Maui. I knew we needed a decent camera to photograph the beautiful sunsets we were promised, and boy was I right. I hit a local electronics store and bought my first DSLR. I went with Canon because I’d heard they were very user-friendly, and would be a simple start. I got some great shots in Auto mode, and I still treasure these photos.

Tip #2: Shooting in manual or aperture mode takes some practice, but the payoff is sweet. There is nothing wrong with shooting in Auto, it’s a great way to focus on other things, like composition.

Travel Photos

However, when I first started my blog, I knew I would need to step up my game and learn to shoot manually. I spent a good amount of time discovering which brand I wanted to put my trust in, as well as the best way to purchase. I landed on a trusty Nikon, and bought the body separately. Selecting a lens was a bit trickier than I’d expected. Like the camera shop told me on my first visit, “photography is not a cheap hobby.” So I quickly learned that buying used / refurbished gear was a smart investment. With a trusted name like KEH, who has been helping photographers buy and sell used photo gear since 1979, you can rest assured that what you are purchasing is a wise investment. The savings comparison between KEH vs purchasing at the store is considerable. This is perfect for novice photographers looking to save as well as expert photographers looking to branch out.

Tip #3: Kit lenses are generally very limited. When purchasing a lens, make sure to factor in all types of pictures you want to take. An all-around good lens that is great for photographing lifestyle, food, and portraits is ideal.

KEH

Photography

Apart from my children, travel photography is one of my favorites. You can use up to three to four different lenses on one trip, this can be pretty expensive. I rely on the folks at KEH to help me sell a lens I may have outgrown, and search for high quality lenses that I like to think of as “pre-loved.” I’m a thrifter through and through and often enjoy the character that comes with pre-used items. I believe it adds character, and I can’t help but wonder what amazing photographs this lens has capture previously.

Bonus Tip: IF you don’t feel it, don’t photograph it. Love can be felt through a lens, don’t force the photo.

Nikon

KEH’s online ordering system is simple and easy, making the time between you click the button on your laptop to the moment you can snap a photo minimal. I rest assured knowing I am just a click away from some incredible images coming my way. Cutting down on the worry and stress help to keep momentum going and ensure the inspiration keeps flowing.

You can appraise your camera gear or browse items for sale on the KEH website.

Happy Snapping!

Essentially yours,

Erika

Amara Cay Resort – Islamorada

Amara Cay Resort – Islamorada

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I received complimentary accommodations and meals in order to facilitate my review. As always all opinions and obsession with travel and food are 100% my own.

Sand between your toes, salty air, or the sound of the palm leaves rustling in the breeze. Whatever it is that brings you to Islamorada, Amara Cay will make sure you ‘ll want to stay.

Our first Islamorada experience started a few years ago. A family trip with the kids, we enjoyed (what we thought at the time) all the island had to offer. Fishing, sailing, snorkeling, you name it. It wasn’t until our recent trip to the Amara Cay Resort that I realized it’s a wonderful location for a romantic getaway. We left the kids behind this time and discovered a different kind of island vibe, one we won’t soon forget.

Florida Keys

Accommodations

If you follow me on Facebook or Insta-Stories, no doubt you’ve likely seen a live video or pictures of the beautiful wooden details that adorn this seaside resort. The lobby is filled with hanging wicker chairs, gorgeous green vases housing local palms, and even a selfie wall! The pristine beach-side property is perfect for reconnecting with each other.

Florida Keys
Greeted by refreshing citrus water as you check in.

We stood in on of the ocean view suites on the top floor. This guarantees gorgeous views of the sunrise each morning and a bright blue sky competing with a spectacular ocean view.

FL Keys

FL Keys

The decor is inviting and spa-like, we spent two mornings nestled in a sea of cozy white comforters taking in the view.

Amara Cay

The ocean view suites invite you to indulge, explore, and restore. So we did..

Amara Cay Resort

Amenities

A quiet pool-side welcomed us with a view of the ocean from both the lounge area and the rum bar. It’s just what we needed to unwind and relax. These views are endless!

The beach-side cabanas house plenty of seats to soak up the sun,or take a dip in the salt water and swim out to the massive float. We spent some time here and on the private “adults only” beach area during the day, then enjoyed the sea breeze at night after dinner by the fire with a glass of wine.

Amara Cay

During the day you can hang in the courtyard with yet another incredible view. There is ping-pong and corn hole for fun, and a sitting area to catch some shade in between naps and pina colada’s.

Florida Keys
Maybe just one more nap..

There are free non-motorized water sports available at The Sea Monkey located right on the beach. There is kayaking and paddle boarding, but all we could think of this trip was rest and relaxation. Quiet strolls along the beach, taking a dip in the pool, and napping every chance we could. We also ate from time to time. Boy did we eat..

Food

The tiki bar by the pool offers plenty of delicious options to choose from. I highly recommend the burger and our favorite, the Tostachos. These were incredible and could easily serve as a lunch for two. Roast pork on top of large friend plantains called Tostones, topped with a heavenly guacamole mix. The burger was served with a pickled cole slaw that added both crunch and flavor. We paired this with a couple of frozen drinks by the pool and of course took another nap.

Oltremare, the in-house restaurant located in the lobby and dining area is currently undergoing some renovations in order to become “Reel Burger”, which sounds incredible from all of the updates they were making behind the scenes.

Amara Cay

We enjoyed dinner and breakfast at Oltremare, both were delicious.

We sat at the bar and polished off all of this food with a glass of wine, took a walk on the beach to enjoy to cool ocean breeze, and sat by the nightly bonfire. It was just what the doctor ordered! Each morning we got up, had breakfast downstairs, and hit the ocean immediately.

Amara Cay

The pace in Islamorada was perfect for us. We took each day as it came and did exactly what we wanted, WHEN we wanted. There is no greater gift as a parent. From sunrise to sunset, it was all about us. The Amara Cay Resort made us feel as though were a world away, when in actuality we were only three hours South of home.

Islamorada

On our second night we were treated to dinner and drinks. We started the evening at the Tiki Bar at Amara Cay’s sister-property, The Post Card Inn. This hotel is fantastic and right up our alley. The vintage vibe made we want to snap all day long. It’s a family friendly hotel with suites on the sand, and plenty for the kids to do on the beach all day and by the pool.

The Post Card Inn

After drinks, we walked across to The Ciao Hound. An adorable dog-friendly restaurant with a sweet setup for the pups. We scored a great window seat and sat and had real conversations that had nothing to do with parenting, it was glorious!

The food was excellent, and the staff was incredible! We spent some time enjoying a glass of wine on their front porch as the sun lit up the ski with its dewy amber glow. A big sunset was brewing and we knew we had to get seaside to see it unfold. But first, dessert..

Ciao Hound
Heavenly Tiramisu

The shuttle from Amara Cay runs on demand and dropped us at our dinner location. On the way back we asked for the spot in town to catch the sunset and boy did he deliver a sunset.

Islamorada

We sat on a pier admiring the way the sun kisses the sky with a final goodbye as the night sky emerges. There were families with children, but all was silent. Just the sound of the water dancing against the pier. You can’t help but stand in awe and take it all in. As a parent these moments are fleeting, so we sat there until it was completely dark, ready to enjoy our nightly ritual at Amara Cay Resort. A glass of wine, a walk along the beach listening to the water, and sitting my the bonfire.

Islamorada

It isn’t a trip to the keys without stopping along the colorful local businesses for a piece of some good ol’ key lime pie!

Islamorada

All in all, our trip to Amara Cay was a complete restoration for us and our marriage. We came. We saw. We Amara Cay’d.

Amara Cay

Until next time..

Essentially yours,

Erika

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Amara Cay Resort is located at 80001 Overseas Highway in Islamorada. You can make reservations online, or call (305) 664-0073. Follow Amara Cay Resort on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter!

 

Planning a Family Trip to Cuba

Planning a Family Trip to Cuba

Cuba has long been on my list of must-see destinations. What’s not to love? The architecture, the people, the culture, my obsession with all things “Hemingway”. All so entirely fascinating on an enchanted little island just ninety-miles from where I call home. With its recent turn of events, the tourism Gods have once again put Cuba on the map so to speak, and the doors to the largest Caribbean island have opened to its American neighbors.

Cuba Travel

Now is the best time to jump on board and make your way to Cuba. You know, before all of the construction is updated and hotels start popping up faster than cigars. Aside from the obvious curiosity you quench when visiting this island of dreams, Cuba has a lot to offer as far as exploring the world around you.

People

Cuban

The people of Cuba have a resilient spirit and it shows in all aspects of their life. From the food they cook, to their religious practices. They are mesmerizing and each of them tells a story with their eyes. While some would argue that they are behind the times, they live a much simpler life than their American friends. The core to their being is pure happiness, and finding the joy in all of the simple ways life offers it up to each of us every day. Their spirit is contagious!

Nature

Cuba

Cuba has some of the most incredible architecture, it’s a photographer’s dream! However, it’s also home to some of the most lush landscape you can fathom. The pristine beaches, and wondrous waterfalls play second to no other island. Experiencing these for yourself is a one of a kind experience.

Cuba

Family Friendly

Cuba has become a desired family vacation destination. This island if chock full of history, there is plenty to learn for all kinds of families. Their cultural dance lessons, and fun classical car rides are enough to create a ton of memories with the kids. The Caribbean is a fantastic family destination full of fun in the sun!

Caribbean FAmily Vacation from Summer 2016

Convenience

While this exotic island is full of wonder, it’s just a hp, skip, & jump away from Miami. This puts it on one of the most affordable island destinations available. Flights are rumored to be as low as $99 roundtrip!

Cuba

Tour groups are affordable, and the food is excellent. What more could you ask of a travel destination? Booking your trip through Anywhere.com allows you the ease and affordability of planning your trip all in one stop shop online.

You can select your destination interests, what sort of attractions you would like to see, and even what kind of budget you would like to stick to, all from your computer! It’s the perfect way to start enjoying the destination of your dreams. You’ll be in paradise faster than you can say Cuba Libre!

Cuba

Essentially yours,

Erika

 

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