Tag Archives: travel

How To Look Cool In Photos

People always ask me, “Planetross, how can I look cool in photos like you?”

First I have to explain that they can’t; it’s a photogenetic thing that you have in your kodachromes and monochromes or you don’t.  But …. here are a few pointers to improve your photo-coolness factor without having to buy special cameras with shutter speeds and apertures, or join groups like ISO. 

Tip #1:  Use bamboo

Bamboo is a universally accepted high quality multipurpose flexible usage item.


You might not look any better, but most people will be distracted by how great bamboo is and just think you are too: Greatness by association has worked well for many things: peanut butter would be nothing with out jam, no Jerry Lewis-no Dean Martin, Paul McCartney would have been nothing with out those Wings, … I’m sure you can think of others.


See how the magic of the bamboo distracts you from the bamboo holder! You are probably thinking, “I want to get my hands on some of that bamboo and be like that guy in the photo. Mmmm …. he must be cool too!


Just in case you are a bit slow: bamboo my friends … bamboo!


Tip #2: Flags and Seagulls

Two common everyday items that most people have easy access to in their bathroom cabinets.


Shake the dust off those flags and seagulls and use them to your advantage. (burning flags and seagulls usually won’t win you any cool points though)
How many times have you seen athletes, leaders of state, and large crowds of people waving flags, wrapping themselves in flags, or saluting flags and thought to yourself …. Mmmm …. that’s pretty cool, but it could be better with a few seagulls as well.


Tip #3: Ball Caps, Bridges, and Temples

Separately these things may make you look uncool; but together, very powerful.  


Having your head only cover about 1% of the photo helps too!


Tip #4: Be in a photo with 2 women and a box of doughnuts


Facing away from the camera, pretending to take a photo … but actually thinking about those lovely doughnuts and how wonderful it would be if those women forgot them on the bench when they left, or even just took their eyes off of them for a second, or didn’t threaten to report me to the police for stalking them with my creepy friend standing behind them chanting “eat the doughnuts bury the bodies“.


Tip #5: Be photographed in a cool vehicle


I don’t have any photos of that, so here is one of me in my van.


Final Tip:

If everything else fails to make you look cool in photos, then stick your head in a garbage receptacle or anything else it will fit in to: box, lampshade, KFC chicken bucket, tuba, old cannon barrel, pet carrying cage, toilet, …



If you think you look cool in photos already and are not following the above guidelines, you probably hang out with sycophantic people who tell you lies because you have pots of money, or have a very high opinion of yourself, or are one of the lucky people who were born with several focal points, or depth of field, or isotopes, or some other thing that camera sales people talk about while I feign interest and am really just thinking about what color the camera case will be.


note: all photos taken by Kelly Pettit, except for the Bamboo sign one which I urinated on once, but it’s rained since so that’s okay.



When I’m Not Blogging I Go To …

 Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture Japan

Matsushima is a small town on the North East Coast of Japan. It is home to one of the “Three Views” in Japan. (more info about all Three Views here)

I left the computer reluctantly and drove for 6 hours with my friend Kelly Pettit  to Sendai, Miyagi. We arrived in late afternoon, found a hotel, and enjoyed being in a big city with lots of people for a change. After visiting an izakaya (restaurant/bar) and another watering hole, we called it a night.

In the morning we awoke to no water!! The hotel’s water supply had been cut off for reasons we never did discover. Not a good start to the day.

We drove the  40 minutes to Matsushima and took a 50 minute boat tour of the Bay. For the first 20 minutes the main attraction was the seagulls that followed the boat. The seagull food for sale looked very similar to processed potato snacks.



After everyone got over being excited about the seagulls, the islands came fast and furious. There are about 260 little islands dotting the bay. I didn’t count them all, but there are probably enough to have a salad dressing named after them.


All the islands have names. I can’t remember any of them, but I’m pretty sure none of them are called Ross or Kelly island.


I thought this bay would be a good location for a Bond villain’s house or a high speed jetboat chase; but I think that about everywhere usually, so don’t get too excited. 
I also named all the seagulls: this one is Sammy. 


Oysters are a big business here. There are hundreds of these things in the bay. Water skiing is frowned upon.


Coming back in to the dock we saw our next destination: the small temple hall Godaido. 


We crossed over 2 little bridges and navigated our way around the hundreds of people navigating around us. These temple posts were dressed up the same way as the stillborn/miscarriage Mizuko Jizo statues nathaliewithanh describes in more detail here accompanied by great photos of the usual Mizuko Jizo.


Like most temples and shrines, there are ornate carvings. I’d show more, but looking over my photos I’ve realized that I’m a bad photographer. Who knew? 


After Godaido, we climbed up a few streets and got a better view of the area. We visited Fukuurajima in the background later in the day.


We decided that we didn’t want to walk around all day with bad hair from not having showers in the morning, so we visited an onsen (hotbath). Sorry no photos. The above photo is not of an onsen, but of a man on a bicycle.


Feeling clean and refreshed, we drove to a view point overlooking the town and bay.


I rang the bell.


I thought the bell’s hook thingy looked pretty cool.


Back in town we walked passed this pagoda on the way to Fukuurajima.


Finally the sun came out and we crossed the 252 meter bridge to the nature reserve. There were a lot of good views of some islands from this island, a little temple, and 2 young women with a box of doughnuts that thought we were stalking them. (the 2 young women not the doughnuts)


Down on a little beach Kelly took a bunch of cool photos of me looking cool, but he hasn’t given them to me yet. Did I say I looked very extremely cool in them? Because I did. I took this photo of an island looking a little cool. (me looking cool; not the island)

We eventually checked in to a little Japanese hotel, ate a big seafood dinner, wandered around the town at night, exclaimed repeatedly that it was a “swing a dead cat town at night” sort of place, and then tried to get in to a bit of trouble anyway with out too much success.

The next morning found us back on the highway heading home at tremendous speeds and happy that we had made the journey. 


note: One of the above photos is actually a photo of a poster. Can you guess which one?  I’m not sure what I will send the winner, but it will be amazing! If more than one person guesses the correct photo, I will give a prize to the first correct guesser, or draw a name out of a hat, or send an amazing prize to all people with the correct answer, or something along those lines.






People who live on islands go “overseas” a lot more than the rest of us.

note: Is an overseas adventure called an “overture“?

double note: Is someone who goes “overseas” called an “overseer“?

triple note: Is sleeping with somone “overseas” called an “overscore” or an “overlay“?

quadruple note: Are “overseas'” attractions called “oversights” or “overlooks“?

quintuple note: I’m always “overexcited” and “over-optimistic” before going “overseas”.



The Beach



Everyone has their beach.


Mine is on Morro de Sao Paulo, Brazil: 2 hours by catamaran from Salvador.


Off and on, I spent 4 months there from April 2006 to January 2007.


I met amazing people; had amazing adventures; and became the laziest person on earth for a short time.






But very close.


When I think of the beach, I think of this one.



Where is your beach?



I had my passport stolen a few years ago.

I wonder if there is someone bumming around in different countries doing wanky stuff under my name.

I hope not because that’s my job!


Counterfeit Cigarettes

Unscrupulous people sell counterfeit cigarettes around the world.

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Marlboro is doing something right.

It’s pretty dangerous to smoke counterfeit cigarettes.

Who knows what harmful chemicals and carcinogenics you are breathing into your body?

note: there is something wrong with that last sentence.

double note: this guy stole my counterfeit lighter.


Counterfeit Money


When travelling I am always on the watch for counterfeit money.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve only got about $20 worth in my lifetime.

It was from a bank machine too!

If you can’t trust the banks, who can you trust?

note: there is something wrong with that last sentence.





 On a visit to one of the Galapagos Islands there was a dead marine iguana at our tour guide’s feet.

How did this die?“, he asked.


3 of us gave him our best guesses:

– old age.

– it ate something poisonous.

– it was attacked by something.

– it lost too much body heat at night.


Maybe“, our guide said reflectively.

After a long pause we asked, “So what did it die from?

I don’t know. I’ve just never seen a dead one before.” he answered.




How people act while backpacking always amazes me.

Many backpackers can be fit into one of the following categories.

The Homer: Never changes their thinking on anything: home rules apply. They flush toilet paper in 3rd world countries, think siestas are stupid, and eat dinner at 6 pm sharp.

The Hippy: 24 hours after getting off the plane they are clothed in tie-dye, henna tattooed, pierced, and beaded up. Usually there is a mystical journey of discovery in progress.

The Mover: Go,  go, go! Around the world in 6 weeks. Saw everything and have photos and t-shirts to prove it. They have visited a museum, bought stuff at a market, and taken a tango lesson before most people have gotten out of bed.

The Un-Jaded: Amazed at everything and never lose their sense of wonder. They could see 100 temples, shrines, cathedrals, or craft markets and still be incredibly fascinated by them.

The Secretive: Nocturnal; non-communicative; and vanish mysteriously with their stuff, without their stuff, with your stuff, or with the police.

The Tightwad: Will bargain with starving children to knock a penny off the price of a postcard. They visit every cheap place to stay, restaurant, shop, and tourist agency before making any kind of decision. Usually seen pocketing food during breakfast, so they don’t have to spend money on lunch later.

The Betters: Whatever you’ve done, seen, or bought; they’ve done better, seen more, or bought cheaper than anyone else. They not only visited Machu Picchu, but hang glided above it while Sting performed a free concert.

I guess I’m in The Labeler category: The person who pidgeon holes everyone else. They can usually be seen drinking and playing card games with all the other perfect people.


Tourist Attraction Improvement Guy

Tourist Attraction Improvement Guy! That’s my new dream job.

Just going around telling tourist attractions how to improve their trap… uh, I mean attraction.


Lighthouses: You only visit a lighthouse because that’s the next thing between good stuff and more good stuff. You have to pass it, so why not stop in for a look? They all look the same: by the ocean, big house with a light on top, white.

I’d put a really big switch on the outside of it that says, “Off/On“. Great photo opportunity. I’d bet more people would visit, or at least remember the stop. (same thing would work for Nuclear Power Plants too)

Anywhere that has a plywood/stick your face in the hole/take a funny picture thing.

Make the cut-outs naked and doing rude things. (doing rude things to other naked cut-outs would be better)


Signposts showing distance from other locations.

Put a few original locations with the distance from them; for example…

ex-wife: 5,000 km

job: 2,184 km

Tim Horton’s Donuts: 3,987 km

there: 1 cm

photographer: 5 meters

the moon: 400,000 km

being a millionaire: a long way

normal: see “being a millionaire” above

Spicing up tourist attractions; that’s for me!


note: photo model courtesy of planetross modeling inc.