Tag Archives: hogwarts

How to take good travel pics on your phone

One of the greatest misconceptions about travel is that you need to buy an expensive, high-tech camera to document your adventures. But many of us do not have the technical “know how” or the luxury of spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on a camera for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

I’m here to tell you that you CAN take great pictures on your phone. In fact, some of my all-time favorite travel pictures were taken on my iPhone. Sure, they can’t be blown up to poster size or used for commercial purposes, but they are still great to look at.

I am not a photography expert, but I do like pretty pictures. Here are some basic tips on how you can take a quality photo with any camera phone:

Take advantage of the cropping tool. So many of my pictures have been enhanced as a result of strategic cropping. Look closely at every picture you take because you never know what gem you might find. In this picture from Wales, you would never know that there was a car coming across this bridge or that there are people playing in the river!


Use easy photo editing apps/websites. There are many user-friendly apps that will kick your travel photos up a notch. I like to play with saturation, mostly, in order to enhance the natural colors that don’t transfer as clearly onto my phone as they would on a high-quality camera. In particular, I like to use Instagram, MyCam, and Flickr for simple or fun photo enhancements. Below is an Instagram picture from Arizona, and a waterfall in Iceland that was saturated using Flickr’s editing tool:


Work your angles! Photos can look more visually interesting by utilizing different angles. Don’t just limit yourself to straight, front-facing images. At “Hogwarts” in Florida and in Vik, Iceland, I was inspired by the sheer magnitude of the objects I was standing next to.



On the other hand, don’t be afraid of taking pictures head-on! It can be just as interesting and impactful, like this temple picture from Cambodia:


Move the focal point of the image away from the center. It can look really interesting to shift main object slightly to the right or left. In this picture from Marfa, Texas, we were able to capture the entire RV and make the picture more visually appealing by sliding the placement of the doorway to the right.


Keep the horizon at a straight angle when photographing landscapes. Landscape pictures can look very crooked if you don’t line align the horizon properly. This picture I took at Angkor Wat shows a fairly straight image, and therefore allows the viewer to focus on the subject rather than getting distracted by angles that might compete with the picture box itself.


I hope this was helpful for those of you who, like me, are amateur photographers that enjoy capturing life’s exciting moments. Feel free to share your best camera phone pictures, I’d love to see them!

*All of the pictures in this post were taken on my iPhone 4s. The only editing that has been done is through the photo editing apps mentioned above. I do not Photoshop pictures or alter them in any other way.

Harry Potter Studio Tour, Warner Bros. London

Admittedly, Alex and I are both big fans of Harry Potter. We’ve both read all the books and seen all the movies. So we were excited to learn that mere muggles like ourselves could actually step into the world of Harry Potter at Warner Brothers in London. They offer a tour of the actual movie sets used during filming. The studio itself is only about 30 minutes outside of London, so we added this to our itinerary. To get there, we took the train out to Watford Junction and hopped on board a Harry Potter themed double-decker bus en route to the studio.



We got there at least an hour and a half before our scheduled tour time. They recommend that you get there 20 minutes beforehand, but we overestimated the time it would take to get there using public transportation. Luckily, there’s plenty to do and see until your tour begins. Inside, there is a cafeteria and a very large retail store where you can buy nearly any type of Harry Potter merchandise you could imagine.


The tour starts with a very long line that leads to an auditorium. It never  seems to die down because only a few people are let in at a time. It took about 30 minutes before we reached the end of the line and were led into the auditorium for a short introduction video. After that, we were free to move onto the set. We don’t want to ruin any surprises, but will say that the way you get onto the first set (the Great Hall) is wonderfully unexpected. The Great Hall itself is exactly as pictured, with the house tables pushed to each side of the room. The front of the room is set up with mannequins of the professors and their costumes, just as they appear in the movies.




After leaving the Great Hall, there are a plethora of “mini-sets” including the boys’ dorm, the Gryffindor common room, and the Weasley’s kitchen. There are also various movie props and costumes scattered throughout.




Some of the other small sets included Dumbledore’s office, Hagrid’s hut, and the Potions classroom.




I personally liked the visiting the Ministry of Magic. It was pretty large and therefore felt more “real” than some of the other interior sets.



Outside, we got to visit the Dursley’s home on Privet Drive. We also got to quench our thirst with a cold cup of butterbeer! It tastes like it’s cream soda with some butterscotch and is nonalcoholic.


The next building of the tour focused on behind the scenes production and technology. We learned about the elaborate makeup and various animatronics that were used in these films. It was a pretty interactive part of the tour, and we even got the chance to test out some of the special effects ourselves.




Finally, we walked through Diagon Alley and made our way to Hogwarts Castle. The model of Hogwarts itself is not lifesize by any means, but it was used for the exterior shots of the castle during filming.




We really enjoyed our time here. Any movie fan will appreciate the detail that goes into these sets. We also walked away with a lot of new information and insight about the movies. It was very educational yet extremely interesting at the same time. Watching the movies will certainly never be the same!