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Monday, February 23, 2015

What the Top Ten overused travel cliches really mean


If you ask me, travel writing is supposed to be informative and entertaining. You either read it for a bit of fun and maybe a giggle, or for serious research into your next holiday that you've scrimped and saved for all year. It doesn't help if every place you read about is described by the same dull and repetitious words. Chances are the place is as equally dull and unremarkable.

If you're a travel writer, copywriter or public relations scribe, then you are forever dipping into the lexicon of adjectives and adverbs trying to find a new twist on an old subject. Trotting out the same old tripe is not going to impress anyone anymore.

Here are some of the most popular and overused cliches in the travel writing business and what they probably really mean. I've included some real life examples for your entertainment. Why change the names? They wrote it.



Luxury - we make the beds and do the cooking.

Luxury and 'luxurious' are constantly changing and relative terms. It means a level of service or experience beyond what you might expect at home or in your day-to-day living. More recently it has come to denote less tangible qualities like location or superlative service. Just because you say it's luxury doesn't make it so. How do you describe 'luxury' to a prince/princess or head-of-state? Bling and lapdogs don't equal luxury, sorry Paris Hilton. If you insist on using this word, make it relevant and meaningful, if you can.

Unique - different from the hotel across the road

If you want to drive your editor insane, use this word lots. Because of frequent misuse by lazy writers, 'unique' has lost its true meaning. If you want to get really finicky, everything down to molecular level is 'unique', so it's hardly a useful word to describe anything anymore. Do you mean 'exceptional', 'outstanding' or 'without equal'? Then say so. And 'unique' does not exist in degrees. Either it is, or it isn't. 'Most unique' or (cringe) 'almost unique' will ensure your submission is the last one an editor will ever read from you.

Best kept secret nestled uniquely in verdant paradise

Nestled - the builders are finished and you can check-in

A resort or hotel sits on a parcel of land, or in some cases, over water or perched on a cliff. Just because there's uncleared jungle out the back or it's up against a canyon doesn't make it 'nestled'. You might think it sounds cool and hip to 'nestle' something, but it just shows you are lost for words, grasping at straws or scraping the bottom of the barrel. Get it?

Pristine - there is garbage collection and someone sweeps the street

If I read this word, it instantly makes me (and many readers) think you have never seen pristine, ever. Anything touched by the hand of man instantly loses any quality of pristine. To describe a holiday resort (next to another resort) on a 'pristine' beach not only insults the word and your readers' intelligence, it advertises your ignorance. The Moon was pristine until some blokes left footprints and space junk all over the place.

Did I forget to mention 'lush and exotic'?

Hidden Gem - people stopped coming and we need the business

You found it, so it wasn't very well hidden was it? And if the clue in the brochure or guidebook calls it a 'hidden gem', then forget it. Even though your new-found boutique hotel might be 'out of the way', 'off the beaten path' or just at the end of the main drag, doesn't mean it's a hidden gem. Either way, as soon as the ink hits the paper, it's found.

Paradise - is a place where the ATMs work, the taxis are cheap and you can get a massage and/or cocktail for under $10

Seriously folks, have you ever been to paradise? If so, then you should be writing near-death experiences, not travel. Like Shangri-La or Nirvana, 'paradise' is an aspirational term that ceases to exist as soon as it's found. In my mind at least, true paradise won't ever be in a travel brochure, it's at the end of the white light.

Must-do / Must-See - Take my word for it, I'm a famous travel writer

Says who? Don't be so bossy. It's entirely possible that your reader may not want to see the world's largest tadpole feces or climb the 1000 steps to the souvenir stall at the top. Make a confident suggestion by all means, back-up your assertion too, but make it an order? No thanks. That's arrogant.

Iconic - a cross between eyesore and tourist trap

I liked this word once, but now it gets slapped on every piece of mundane architecture from gas stations to Big Bananas. You might get away with calling the Empire State Building or the Eiffel Tower 'iconic', but you can bet Ballina to a buck, it's been done by every two-bob copywriter and travel hack before you. Want to impress your editor? Then use this word very sparingly.

Exotic - someone or something you've never met before

Oh, you don't say? So you went all 'exotic' and tried the Thai restaurant instead of McDonalds? I often wonder if some writers would know 'exotic' if it slapped them in the face. Do you really mean 'alien' or 'unfamiliar'? Then say so. 'Exotic' is another way of saying 'I have no idea what to call this thing'. As soon as you get off the plane, it becomes 'exotic'. Surprise your readers , or your editor, with something original.

Breathtaking - you climbed a flight of stairs with all your luggage because the lift was broken

If you've just done the world's biggest bungy-jump or skydived from 10,000 feet, then okay. But if you just got out of a gondola with 20 people to see the valley, then it's more likely to be the fat German who farted bratwurst that took your breath away than the view. Save this one up for something really gob-smacking.

More fun reading:




Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Downloading High Resolution Images from Flickr


In order for this process to work successfully, this presumes you have been granted permission by the Flickr account owner to access the high res images.

Click any of the images below to enlarge.


Fig 1: Select the image you want to download.

Fig 2: Click this icon in the corner and you will see the available sizes, including original.

Fig.3: So long as you can see the 'Original', go ahead and download from this menu. No need to progress to Fig.4

Fig 4: Check out all the different sizes and pick the one you want.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Sending images and graphic files across the Internet - how to get it right.


Holy jumpin' JPEGs Batman!

Anyone who has tried to get or send images has faced this dilemma.

What file type is best?

What's the difference anyway? Tiff, Gif, Biff! who cares?

Truth is, there is a world of difference in the various file types and no quicker way to send an editor into a psychotic fury than give him or her the wrong one on deadline.



Here's a quick-and-dirty rundown of the most common image file types and where it's best to use them.

JPEG

This clever image show a progressive
scale of compression from L>R
Named after the Joint Photographic Experts Group who created this standard of photographic computer file which first appeared on computers back in the early '90s.

It's really clever because when you create the file (either in the camera or with computer software) you can specify how much compression (quality) you think you need. On a scale of 1-100, 100 being virtually no compression and super quality.

JPEGs (.jpg or .jpeg) files travel really well over email and file transfer. You can have really big images (in pixel dimensions) travel in fairly lightweight files, so if you are sending images with your press release or story, JPEGs are by far the preferred standard.

Compression requires compromise, meaning that you are trading some level of image quality for economy. You can get away with lesser quality for screen (online) publication than print, but with the new High Definition LCD screens in devices like iPads, this gap is closing.

The whizbang software compresses areas of like colour or tone. So, an image of one solid colour will compress to almost nothing, while one with lots of fine detail will not compress as readily. This is why comparing file size (in kBs or MBs) to image size (in pixels) can be confusing.

TIFF

The Tagged Image File Format (.tif or .tiff) is a useful file still preferred by graphic artists and designers using Adobe products for desktop publishing. It can store lots of different types of data besides just the image.

As a rule-of-thumb, unless you know you are sending your image or graphic to an experienced graphic designer or layout artist, a TIFF is overkill and likely to frustrate a regular publisher, especially an online publisher or blogger as TIFFs cannot be displayed on many common browsers.

PNG

A PNG image
The Portable Network Graphics file is a newer file format designed mainly to replace the clumsy old GIF that has been around since 1987.

Although PNG can be used reasonably well with images, it is better suited to net graphics and digital art. 

Logos, for example, come up well with PNG because you don't get those blurry 'jaggies' that can appear when JPEGs get passed around a lot - and your corporate colours are more accurate.

GIF

Closeup of JPG (L) and GIF (R)
click to enlarge
The Graphics Interchange Format is older type of image and graphic file now largely redundant and superseded by more useful and efficient types, like PNG. While it still has some uses, like basic animation, there is almost no need for this file type anymore as the image quality is poor.

PDF

The Portable Document Format is just that, a format for documents.

The most common and appropriate use for this file type is for the distribution of printed information like ... documents. It's clever because you can embed fonts and graphics and when passed around and around on the Internet, the layout always stays the same (when set up correctly in the first place).

Public relations folks like to include PDFs as press releases so they and their clients can see how neat and pretty it is, but many journalists dislike this format because if they are cut-and-pasting quotes or portions of the information, it can be difficult to work with.

While it is possible to send images as PDFs - and some people do - it is likely to cause frustration to the receiver as they need to extract and convert the image to use it and more often then not, they will mess this process up and get really cranky.

Others

There are many other file types used for online purposes, but their application is specialised and limited. Unless you have a very good reason, you can ignore and avoid these ones for online purposes.

BMP - Bitmap files

RAW - These come with lots of file extensions like .crw .cr2 .ari

EPS - Encapsulated PostScript

PICT - Classic Macintosh QuickDraw file



Roderick Eime has been working with computer graphics and imaging for more than 20 years. He taught photojournalism at Charles Sturt University in the early '90s when digital photography and the World Wide Web were in their infancy.

He is now an award-winning travel writer and photographer.

www.travography.com