Here’s a video from my recent weekend trip to Prague. Post about recommendations and photos from the trip coming soon.
I spent a few hours at BSR Cable Park in Waco, Texas over the weekend to celebrate a friend’s birthday and last weekend in Austin. The 90 mile trip from Austin was well worth the drive and I’d recommend visiting BSR Cable Park at least once. Experience below.
Until SpaceX can work out a few small kinks in their ambitious plan to offer space travel, like building non-exploding rockets, walking on a new planet will have to remain with the imagination. However, after visiting Svinafellsjokull glacier in Iceland, it’s a little easier for me to imagine what it would be like to gracefully walk on a foreign planet.
The glacier was one of my favorite locations while traveling through Iceland so make sure to make a stop if you visit the country. Below is a short video during my visit to the glacier followed by a few photos. If you want to watch a big budget film instead, check out Interstellar since the producers used Svinafellsjokull Glacier as one of the film’s locations. You can read about my experience in Iceland if you plan on visiting the country and want a few recommendations.
Everything I do is about the experience. I started ulio&jack based around the experience seeker and Motivo Media focuses on the experience for my client’s customers. That’s why I’m highly recommending WP Engine for your WordPress hosting. Hosting isn’t something most people enjoy talking about so I’m going to make this post very short. If you want a longer explanation you can visit my post on Motivo Media.
Most people think all website hosting is created equal. I’ve been developing websites since I was 13 and worked with more hosting companies than I can remember. They’re not created equal and most of them have horrible customer service, crowded servers and lack of innovation. WP Engine provides an entirely different experience. It’s also nice that their headquarters is a few blocks from my office so I took advantage of that and met up with my account rep, Ryan.
The company only hosts WordPress websites and they do a phenomenal job at it. Let’s start with the increased site speed that you’ll experience. This reason alone is enough to switch to WP Engine. Do you like waiting for websites to load? I definitely don’t and your customers or blog followers feel the same way. Your website is an experience so make sure it’s the best one you can provide. This includes fast page loads and reliability.
Another reason to switch to WP Engine is because of their security. Dealing with a hack is super annoying and is a horrible way to spend money that could go towards improving your website or marketing. WP Engine offers great security and if your site is hacked they’ll fix it for free. On top of that, their customer support team is one of the best that I’ve ever seen. Not just for hosting companies, but any company. If you have an issue, their team of WordPress experts will help you out and respond to you almost immediately. I’ve never waited more than a minute before chatting with someone.
I understand that small businesses and bloggers need to keep costs down so you’re probably going to debate if optimized hosting is worth the extra money. If you go with a really basic hosting plan with a company like GoDaddy or HostGator you can expect to pay about $100 a year. WP Engine has a personal plan that starts at $30 a month so you can expect to pay $360 for the year. So, you’re paying an additional $260 a year ($200 if you host with my marketing company) for optimized hosting that provides a better experience to your customers and a support team that will help you in case something goes wrong. If something does go wrong on basic hosting you could be stuck with a pretty high bill for an emergency fix. I’ve done plenty of those and never feel good sending the bill because the issue is usually avoidable.
I have an account with WP Engine for my marketing company so I can host your site on a Professional plan for $25 a month, which offers additional features like CDN. You can sign up on your own at WP Engine or contact me if you want to be hosted on the Professional plan through my company, Motivo Media.
Besides looking really cool on Instagram, taking better photos allows you to capture moments that you’ll be able to remember for the rest of your life. Your camera phone can take pretty good pictures, but a “real” camera opens the doors to more possibilities. Trust me, I’ve been a huge camera phone user since the first one went on sale in 2002. I thought I’d never go back to an “old school” camera, but fast forward 14 years and I’m recommending that you pick one up. I also had to take a 10 minute break to meditate after realizing this was 14 years ago.
Between my DSLR and drone I’m out taking pictures or videos almost every day. I don’t consider myself an expert, but I’m going to share some basics that will help you take better photos.
Buy an entry level camera like the Nikon D3300 and pick up a better lens or two. I purchased this one and this one. I also picked up Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book to help learn the lingo. The book helped a little, but getting out and taking pictures of EVERYTHING is what really made a difference. YouTube is another great source for learning and I’ll share some of the videos I found useful.
If you happen to pick up the Nikon D3300 this video will be perfect for you. If you happen to buy a different Nikon, most of what he says is still relevant and worth the watch, but changing your settings might be a little different. You’ll also notice his shirt says I shoot in RAW. Besides distracting you from his hair, the shirt provides a reminder throughout the entire video to change your camera to shoot in RAW. This is really important if you plan on editing your photos so make sure you change your camera to shoot in RAW + JPEG. This is explained in the video below and at the end of the article, but I wanted to mention it a few times because I think this is the most important setting you can change.
The only way you’re going to become a better photographer is by practicing. I know that sounds absolutely crazy, but it’s true. Finding inspiration is also important and I turn to Instagram for that. Follow people who are better than you and have a style that you eventually want. Then, go out and practice. Here are some quick tips that I learned early on with the assistance of videos and a lot of trial and error.
You’ll take good shots in auto, but they’re going to look like the pictures from your phone. You can become really creative by shooting manually (M) or semi-manually in modes like aperture (A) or shutter (S). You’re going to mess up, but stick with it and in a few months everything will come together.
The golden hours will always be the ideal time to shoot photos, but you’re going to learn a lot about aperture, shutter speed, ISO and other important photography inputs. If you learn just a little bit about these areas of photography your photos are going to be so much better than a lot of people on Instagram. And, isn’t that why you want to be a pro?
It’s a basic rule, but an important one. Angles are important and I think you probably already know that from the college photo years and Snapchat. This simple rule will instantly make your photos more appealing. See this rule in action below.
Aperture mode allows you to choose how focused you want the background to be while letting the camera decide other settings automatically. Aperture sizes range from 1.4 (most blurry background) to 22 (most focused background). If you want to learn more about aperture watch the video below.
If you’re taking action shots you’ll want to use shutter mode (S). If you don’t, you’ll most likely end up with blurry subjects. You’ll also use shutter mode to take long exposure shots. This is how people make water seem smoothed over and night shots that look sharp (when things are not moving). When things are moving during a long exposure shot they’ll either be eliminated from the photo like magic, or you’ll see those popular light trails. More on shutter speed below.
Once you understand aperture and shutter mode you’ll most likely understand other important variables in photography, like ISO, flash, lighting and more. That’s when I suggest moving on to manual mode because you’re able to fully control your shot.
Shooting in RAW allows you to edit photos much better than JPEG. This means editing exposure, brightening shadows, reducing the brightness or highlights and much more. This also means that you can make a few small errors and correct them in post edit. That’s why I almost always shoot with an ISO of 100. Even if that means the image looks a little dark after taking it because I know I can brighten the shadows later. Shooting with an ISO of 100 keeps the image as crisp as it can. I also really dislike any type of grain/noise in a photo so shooting at ISO 100 will prevent this from happening. Video on ISO below.
When you buy your first DSLR the first thing you need to do is change your Instagram profile to indicate that you’re a photographer, or photog for short. Now you’re officially cool.
There’s also much more to learn than what I provided in this article, but the tips should be a good start. After a few months of practicing you’ll start to find your individual style of shooting and post edit habits. Once that happens, you’ll be that one person with your camera while your friends make fun of you, but later in the day they’ll text you asking for any good pictures so they can post them online to collect that hard earned social currency.
Traveling and reading are two of the biggest experiences that helped define who I am today. They both provide a healthy dose of mental activity that leads to new ideas, content to talk about with friends and an overall increase in personal growth. That’s why I’m constantly thinking about new places to travel and making it a point to always have a book to read. Below are some of the books that helped me through the business owner rollercoaster and continue to do so.
This was one of the first books I picked up after my 4 Hour Workweek high, which seems to be the first book everyone reads before starting a business, including myself. Think and Grow Rich was written in 1937, but the book’s main message will never become outdated. The book helped me through some of the inevitable mental rollercoasters while starting my first business and still reminds me to remain healthy mentally just as much as physically. This makes the book a great place to start if you’re looking to start a business or new experience because a clear vision and healthy mind will definitely help.
Once you have a strong vision of where you want to be and a system for keeping your mind on track, it’s important to break down what you’re doing into a series of questions by asking why, what if and how? My favorite question is why and I would encourage any child to be that annoying kid in class asking why after each question. A More Beautiful Question brought back my confidence in asking why and I no longer feel embarrassed or dumb if I have to ask why. Every business decision and a lot of personal decisions start with me asking why and breaking the answer down into more questions. The book provides many examples of how to do this on your own, which is why I highly recommend it. If you’re a Simon Sinek fan he has a similar book called Start With Why, but I preferred A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger more. However, Simon’s TED Talk Start With Why is still one of my favorite videos. If you haven’t see it you can watch it here.
Contagious and Hooked have similar messages so if you’re looking for help regarding viral content pick up both to get different perspectives. You’ve seen viral content online or have heard friends talk about certain products. What makes that content go viral and why do your friends talk about certain products over others? The books cover these topics and more.
I’m a fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s books (with a few exceptions) even though there are plenty of haters out there. His books receive criticism because they don’t really tell you exactly how to solve a problem. I suppose some people need their hand held through life, but I’d rather read his books and think about how I can apply his opinions into my life. They’re more thought provoking and helped me to ask the right questions (reference A More Beautiful Question above). The three books I would pick up by Malcolm would be Blink, Outliers and The Tipping Point.
Who loves click-bait headlines? I sure don’t. I tend to stop visiting sites that choose this style of writing, but I’m seeing it more and more. This is partially because journalism has changed over the years, but my opinion on this can be an entirely different blog post. Instead, you should focus on not writing like the click-baiters, which is my preferred style of writing. Writing was never a strong point for me so I turned to books and practicing to help improve my skills. I haven’t found a book I completely love, but Everybody Writes is a good start and I did pick up a few good habits from it. The book helps you develop a style of writing that you can use for blog posts, web content, social media posts and more.
Monocle is the only magazine I read each month. I also receive The Monocle Minute in my inbox each day and is typically the first thing I read in the morning. Why am I such a fan? I like to know what’s going on in the world and your typical mainstream media doesn’t cut it for me. I think Monocle does a great job covering world events, culture and visions of the future. I encourage you to sign up for The Monocle Minute for free and if you find it valuable pick up a subscription for the magazine.
I’m always looking for a new book to pick up so if you have a recommendation feel free to reach out.