While visiting San Diego last month, we were lucky to celebrate Milli’s birthday at the San Diego Zoo.  This zoo is known as one of the largest and most progressive zoos in the world.  It was so large (and so hilly) they have escalators in the park to get you from one section to another.  You could also catch the bus!

While walking around, I remembered an article I had read about how many wildlife photographers actually take their images in a zoo.  And many times, they take it from outside the cages.  Naturally, I was determined to figure out a few tricks for taking great “wildlife” pictures.

Gear

My first mistake was taking my entire camera bag.  I had to watch my stuff more, and lens changes became a nuassance.  An hour into the day, I’d settle on using my telephoto lens for two reasons.First, I had a better chance snapping close-ups of animals.  Second, I could capture my family’s natural reactions without being in their face.

Sunny Day

Before you are shattered with too bright photos, remember that between 11-3 is the worst time of day to take pictures.  And what time do you usually visit the zoo?  We already have the sun working against us.  The first step to combat this is to change your ISO to 200.  I would go above 400 unless you are in a shaded area.  The second thing you can do is learn about spot metering (but that’s a whole other can of worms)!

Avoiding the Fence

My next obstacle was avoiding the dang caging.  I tried to get creative by moving to the outskirts or kneeling between bars.  When I couldn’t avoid a fence, I made sure to take my picture with a shallow depth of field.  I was able to focus on the background image (the lion above) and blur everything else (the fence).  Remember to use a wide aperture and zoom in to create depth of field.

Eye Contact

You could wait hours for an animal to look directly at you, but be prepared for the chance they do.  These are the most emotional images you can take of an animal.

Animal Behavior

We aren’t attracted to zoos because we get to see the animals in real life.  We also enjoy it, because we can see how animals behave differently.  Avoid taking full shot images of the animals sitting or standing.  Zoom in to highlight a day in the life of *insert your animal*.

Catch the Excitement

Remember that this visit to the zoo is about your family and the excitement ringing through the air.  Instead of approaching an exhibit to photograph the animal, position yourself to take a picture of your child approaching and reacting to the animal.

Friendships

A trip to the zoo is a great activity for families to hang out.  We were blessed to meet this family at our RV park.  Capture the special interactions between friends or siblings.

People Will Interfere

I have to share.  I have to share.  People will get in the way of your photo.  I could not for the life of me get a picture of this hippo teaching her baby how to swim.  Too many heads, too much excitement.  I tried anyways.

Save the Blurry Ones

Everything moves at the zoo.  Don’t worry if a few of your shots end up blurry.  Keep them if it’s only image you managed to snap of that moment.

With a little practice, you’ll stop wishing for a national geographic photographer to accompany your trip.  Instead, you’ll be your best photographer. Gear up for spring, pull out your cameras, and head to the zoo!

 

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Living in an RV gives me a special opportunity to live in a million different communities and landscapes.  The view out our RV windows changes all the time- and sometimes drastically.

We recently rolled into the Los Angeles area and more specifically, Hollywood.  LA is not known for its large acreage properties, so we were lucky to strike a deal with a non-profit organization called DOOR.  A friend of ours is current working with the organization which basically places six volunteer workers in a house in an impoverished neighborhood.  The six volunteers spend the year creating a community hub for basketball, homework help, gardening, and more.

DOOR has invested in a basketball court and were generous to let us park on the back half.

RV Tagging

It”s pretty rare to see an RV the streets of LA, and it”s a “no-no” to park your RV on the street especially overnight.  LA is notoriously ran by gangs, and RV sides are a huge target of spray-paint vandalism.  There are several RVs parked on the streets that are adorned with grafitti.

It”s rare that these RV are occupied by income earning citizens.  They are typically the home of handfuls of homeless people.  In fact, there are several of these postcards floating around Hollywood that say, “Living in Your RV?  Contact PATH for homeless assisatnce”.

Does this mean I”m homeless?

I”m happy to announce that online casino we avoided any tagging.  While we did park the RV overnight on the street one time, we were in a decent enough area to avoid any trouble.  The rest of the time DOOR welcomed us to park in their fenced in court.

PATH

During the day, the six volunteers in the DOOR house commit to 30 hrs/week of work for another organization.  Our friend works specifically with PATH (People Assisting the Homeless).  I was surprised to learn that there are over 80,000 homeless people in LA.  Adam joined Josh (Adventurer Friend) for a day on the road to learn about what kind of assistance is available for the homeless, and also what kind of assistance the homeless even want.

Homelessness is a tricky subject, because some people don”t want to change.  They don”t want to not be homeless, and that”s an impossible thought for most of us.  Many don”t believe they deserve another life.  On the flip-side, there are tons of homeless people that are looking for a way out.  How do you know who”s who?

 

 

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Weight, debt, and stuff held me down for a long time. I felt too tired, immobile, and unmotivated to get outdoors and play. I felt too worrisome about owing people money, remembering my monthly payments, and the amount of money I was loosing to interest rates. I felt cluttered by a bunch of small things that I was constantly cleaning up.

Then I started shedding. I started shedding, because it wasn’t enjoyable.  I wasn’t enjoyable.  Sure I had nice things, but my nice things weren’t enough to make the weight, debt, and extra crap worth it.

I wanted freedom.  I love that I can say all these things in the past tense. I’m no longer immobile, debt-loaded, or cluttered, and it’s the most revitalizing feeling. I feel so maleable. So open to opportunity. So un-conflicted. So joyful.

You can do it too. Chances are you have already been masterminding how to get started.

Create a Vision

Don’t get too carried away. I’m not a big fan of the “five-year plan”, because we become blind to new options. But what do you need to shed? How much? What would take you from a groan to a sigh of relief?

Want to shed weight?

I don’t have a miracle story of how I lost fifty pounds, and it changed my life. It only took ten, but I instead challenged myself to accomplish physically difficult tasks. For me that was running a half-marathon and hiking more, but for you it’s probably different. I highly recommend SparkPeople as a free, simple way to huge food tracking database and great group accountability. They also have a million recipes that I live by.

Want to shed debt?

Debt creeps me out. I find it more exhausting and limited than anything else. There are a million great personal finances websites to get you going like GetRichSlowlyWisebread, Budgets Are Sexy. For more information on our personal struggle with getting out of debt, visit our site ManvsDebt.

Want to shed stuff?

I love a great bargain. Unfortunately, great bargains lead to buying lots of stuff we don’t need. Which then becomes our crap. Or we don’t replace the old stuff with the new stuff we bought, and it then becomes our crap. Sell Your Crap is a guide that builds your motivation to declutter and then tells you how. Sell on Ebay, Amazon, or Craigslist? Yard Sale? How much is my junk even worth?

Want to design your own life?

In the end, remember that you can design your life. By shedding the access, I have the ability to pursue staying at home, traveling full time, and learning photography from scratch. I’ve learned to pay with cash and budget. I’ve learned to buy more produce and play new sports. For ideas on lifestyle design, visit ChrisGuillebeau and TammyStrobel.

60 Days of Shedding

It’s your time to break free. I’m challenging you to make a pledge to yourself. Start with one areas above. Set a goal for how much you want to shed in the next sixty days. Perhaps, you want to slim down your spending by $200, start budgeting. Maybe you want to donate three boxes of crap. You choose. But most importantly, do it.  Break the shackles and start saying YES.

What is your pledge?  What do you want to shed in the next sixty days?  Are there any resources I could help you with?  Why is this important to you?

 

 

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SOC: Spinster for Life? Nah.

April 17, 2011

Even as a child, I use to think about what my future family was going to look like.  When I met new families, I would reflect on which of their traits I wanted my family to have.  Later in high school and college, I thought in more depth about the kind of life I”d like [...]

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Simple Living Isn’t About Depriving

April 12, 2011

“Simple living isn’t about depriving; it’s about getting rid of what doesn’t belong to make room for what does.” – Erin Doland Nearly three years ago when we evaluated our life, our stuff, and our debt, I wish I had these words of wisdom ringing in my ears.  During those times, I felt an energy. [...]

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Backyard View: Usery Mountain Regional Park

March 30, 2011

We are currently visiting Phoenix, Arizona parked at the Usery Mountain Regional Park.  RVing isn’t always glamorous, so we RVers really cherish the times we find clean park facilities, great company, and beautiful scenery.  Here’s a peak at my backyard this week! And then I was attacked by a cactus… Milli and I went for [...]

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5 Strategies to Bust Your Funk and Feel Happy Again

March 22, 2011

Kids, spouses, family friends- everyone is around yet you feel so lonely.  You are in two places, but not enjoying either. Feels like someone woke you up out of your sleep to tell you something.  Your mind is partly there and partly trying to hold on to the dream you were having.  It’s hazy. During [...]

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Children’s Books: David Shannon

March 18, 2011

I don’t really care for David Shannon books.  *gasp* I find little quality in his writing and the illustrations seem so aggressive.  So many people, parents and teachers alike, rave about how much they love his books. Do you really or are you suppose to LOVE his books? David Shannon stands out, because a lot [...]

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Rocking Shutter Speeds: Milli Runs the Catwalk

March 16, 2011

About two years ago, I decided it was time to use my SLR for all its worth.  I was the mom running around with a great camera and no idea how to use it past AUTO.  Use these tips to help you move away from auto and snap professional photos of your children, grandchildren, or [...]

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About: Nomad Baby

March 11, 2011

Adventurous.  Observant.  Grounded, yet experimental. Love a sense of home like old blankets, to-do lists, and photo albums.  Chocolate milk can fix any bad mood.  And grocery fresh daily muffins for that matter.  I love to exercise, but not too much.  Nothing beats the countryside  in the summertime and sweet tea. Once upon a time, [...]

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