Video: Maori Creation Story Told In Sand Art

One of the great things about exploring other cultures is hearing their stories. The world is filled with myths, legends, fables, anecdotes, histories, jokes and all sorts of other oral traditions. Some traditional storytellers keep to the old ways, while others, like this sand artist, have taken on new methods to tell age-old tales.

Marcus Winter is a Maori artist who opened up the 2010 Original Art Sale in New Zealand by retelling a traditional Maori creation story. Through his work we see the world being formed when the children of Ranginui, the Sky Father, and Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother, separate their parents and set off a chain reaction that creates the world and, of course, New Zealand.

Stories are living things. They take on new forms to adapt to the times and perpetuate themselves through the ages. I’m glad that artists like Winter are taking their ancient tales and giving them a modern twist.

Dreaming of Bali – The sounds of Indonesia

Welcome back to Gadling’s newest series, Dreaming of Bali. Visiting the exotic Indonesian island of Bali is truly a feast for the senses. First time visitors and expats alike frequently remark on this island’s rich tapestry of exotic stimuli: the brilliant orange glow of a sunset as it slides gently into the sea; the wafting scent of kerosene and crushed chilis at a roadside food stall; the soft vibration of a gong as it’s struck in a temple. These are sensory experiences that bury themselves in your subconscious, sticking in your mind long after your return from a journey – they are ultimately the impressions that help to crystallize our understanding of our travels.

Words are only one way to tell a story. Borrowing an idea from Gadling blogger Stephen Greenwood, I’ve tried to capture my impressions of Indonesia through the medium of sound. Embedded below are four “soundscapes” from my recent visit to Bali and the nearby island of Java. Click on play, close your eyes, and prepare to be transported far away to the islands of Indonesia:

Sitting on the beach at dusk, listening to waves crash on the beach – a symphony of frogs croak at the onset of dark:

A group of musicians practices their Gamelan performance at a temple in Ubud:

Walking inside Ubud’s morning produce market:

Most of Indonesia, with the exception of Bali, is muslim. Here’s the afternoon call to prayer in Yogyakarta, Indonesia:

Dreaming of your own visit to Bali? Read more about Gadling’s “visit to paradise” HERE.

[Flickr photos courtesy of ^riza^, didiz | rushdi and norhendraruslan]

Gadling Q & A with Daniel Edward Craig, author and hotel consultant

Daniel Edward Craig shares a name with the current James Bond, and like 007, he’s a world traveler and a man of many hats. He’s taken a career in hotel management and a keen ear for storytelling and parlayed it into a murder mystery book series, an engaging industry blog, and a hotel and social media consultancy. Here he tells Gadling about his history in the travel world, who’s providing the best social media content for travelers, and what’s next in hotel trends.

Tell me about your history in the hotel and travel business.

I’ve worked in hotels off and on for about twenty years. I started on the front desk at the Delta Chelsea Inn in Toronto and went on to work for a range of hotels, from big-box to boutique, in positions ranging from duty manager to vice president. Most recently, I was vice president and general manager of Opus Hotels in Vancouver and Montreal.

What title do you think best captures your profession these days

These days I work as an author and hotel consultant. I left Opus at the end of 2007, shortly after my first novel was published, to complete the second and third novels in the Five-Star Mystery series. Now I am working on a fourth book as well as various consulting projects for the hotel industry, ranging from social media strategy to executive coaching. I also continue to write my blog and articles about the hotel industry. It’s been a rough few years for hotels, and I think we could all use some levity, so in my writing I try to take a lighthearted look at issues.

Do you think you’ll ever go back to managing a hotel?

I hope so. Hotels are my first love; writing is secondary. As a hotel manager, I feel fully engaged and at my best, whereas as a writer all my neurotic tendencies come out. Writing is a solitary profession, and I’m better as part of a team. Once I finish my current book at the end of this year, I’ll decide what’s next, and that could very well involve a return to hotels full-time. I’ll always write, but after a year of 4:00 AM mornings and late nights, I promised myself never to write books and manage a hotel at the same time.

What are you most critical of as a hotel guest?

I’m extremely service oriented. I’ll cut a property a lot of slack if it isn’t my style or if facilities are limited, but bad service can ruin my trip. In particular, I dislike overly scripted, apathetic service. I love a hotel with originality and a lot of life in the lobby. And I look for soul, a combination of design, culture, clientele and spirit, that intangible feeling that I’m in the right place. That’s why I prefer independent boutique hotels – it’s easier for them to do these things well.

What’s your favorite hotel?

Don’t make me choose! It depends on my mood and the nature of travel. I was just in Chicago and was blown away by the new Elysian Hotel. If I’m relaxing or working, I like the Four Seasons. I can’t always afford to stay in them, but I will splurge on a drink in the lounge and will hang around until I’m asked to leave. My favorite is the Four Seasons Georges V in Paris. But I also love contemporary boutique hotels. I’m a city boy, and when I feel like socializing I want to stay in a hotel with a scene, like the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, the Mondrian in Los Angeles, and the Clift in San Francisco. XV Beacon in Boston is also one of my faves.

Given the many social media experts today, how do you stand apart?

I’d never call myself a social media expert. Who can keep up? I’m a hotelier first, who happens to know a lot about social media and reputation management. Social media allows me to combine my two professions as a hotelier and an author, because essentially it’s about storytelling. Social media touches every department in a hotel, and as a former general manager I understand the interplay and interdependence involved, and to rise above individual departmental interests to develop a strategy that benefits the hotel as a whole.

What hotels/travel companies do you think are doing social media “well”?

I think there are a number of hotel companies that do certain aspects of social media well, but nobody is doing anything particularly innovative. HKHotels in New York are doing a great job of reputation management. Best Western runs a good Facebook page. InterContinental Hotel Group makes great concierge videos. The Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee manages Twitter well. Red Carnation Hotels in London and Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver have good blogs. Joie de Vivre Hotels does great contests.

Hoteliers are great storytellers, and with all the comings and goings of guests we have a rich resource of content to draw from, and yet this isn’t translating to social media. A lot of hotel content is trite and uninspiring, and most of the voices sound the same: perky and vaguely annoying. Hotels can learn a lot from online reviewers, who spin the best stories, with strong points of view, hooks, humor, trivia and facts. I think there are huge opportunities for the hotel industry, and I’d love to help a hotel become the social media hotel in a given destination.

What made you start writing murder mysteries?

I always wanted to write, and naively thought that writing a mystery would be fun and easy. They say write what you know, and at the time I was working as a duty manager, so I set it in a hotel. Ten years later, Murder at the Universe was published. For me it was a one-off, but my publisher liked the idea of a hotel manager who writes mysteries set in hotels, so they contracted me to develop it into a series. Since then I’ve published Murder at Hotel Cinema and Murder at Graverly Manor.

After three novels, I started to get bored with my protagonist, the hapless hotelier Trevor Lambert, and all that whining. And there could only be so many murders in his hotels before people started suspecting him. The book I’m finishing up now is non-fiction, an irreverent insider’s look at hotels, written for travelers.

What do you see as the next big trends in hotels?

Mobile is huge. Increasingly, people are researching, booking and recommending travel via smart phones. Social media will grow as people continue to bypass travel journalists and hotels for travel information in favor of travelers, friends and social networks, all from the palm of the hand. When it comes down to it, however, above all hotel guests still want comfort, convenience and value. They just have much larger audiences to air their grievances to when they don’t get what they want.

What’s next for you?

After I finish the book, I’ll put book writing on hold for now and will continue to work on hotel projects, to blog, and to write articles. I’m starting to book quite a few speaking engagements in 2011. My platform as an author and hotelier is quite unique, and social media reputation management are hot topics. If I find a good job with a progressive hotel company, great, but until then I have no shortage of things to keep me occupied.

Read all about Daniel Edward Craig, his books, and his blog at his website,

Talking travel with Shutterfly’s resident photographer

Dane Howard is the photography portal Shutterfly‘s resident photographer and author of The Future of Memories, a book about sharing photos in the digital age. He’s here today to talk about some secrets of the trade–and to give us the scoop on today’s launch of Shutterfly’s new travel site.

What photography equipment do you take on your travels?

When I have a targeted 2-hour segment of shooting, I like to walk with my digital SLR, the Nikon D40x. I’m like a soldier for visuals. I’ve outfitted my Nikon with a hand-strap, allowing me to freely walk with my finger on the shutter button at all times. If I’m planning on taking large area photos with a single shot, I’ll bring along my Nikkor 18-55mm wide angle lenses, a lens hood to reduce flare and increase contrast.

A small, lightweight tripod is really useful when it comes to time-lapse or night shots. The Joby Gorillapod is awesome because it works on uneven surfaces and can even be wrapped around rails and branches.

When it comes to everyday shots, I’ll need something pocket size. I use my Panasonic Lumix LX2 or my Canon G9. These are my ‘everywhere’ cameras, which means I take them ‘everywhere.’ They allow me to shoot great photos and video. They are small enough to just slip into my pocket.

Extra memory cards are definitely a necessity because you don’t want to be caught in a situation where you have to delete pictures just to take more. And of course a battery charger–do not forget that! If I’m traveling to a foreign country I also make sure to bring a power adapter. I use the Belkin Universal AC Travel Adapter. I never shoot with the flash, so this extends my battery life while travelling.

How would you make the best of shots from a point-and-click? Any tips?

  • Find Visual ‘Book-ends’: Think about the visual elements that establish a new scene. These can be either a sign or entry into the successive shots. By establishing a shot that gives context, you help build a stronger narrative.
  • Panoramic POV: Photos are magnificent because they can really get the span of a beautiful view. One of my favorite techniques for the photo books that I make on Shutterfly is to create panoramic layouts by facing two “full bleed” pages.
  • Take your time. Take a moment to observe your environment and take shots from different angles to make sure you get the best lighting, background, and character of your environment.
  • Close-ups: You’ll never forget to take the wide panoramic, but you’ll want to remember the details. Don’t forget to capture the Macro shots of an important detail, like a table setting, glass or ornate door or structure. Focus on textures, like ripples on a lake and various materials on city buildings. You’ll want the juxtaposition later.
  • Use people or objects: Put them in the foreground/background to help convey the scale of your subject matter and to make the picture more visually interesting
What advice would you give to travelers who want to move away from the cheesy “me-standing-in-front-of-the-Eiffel-tower” shots?

I would definitely suggest trying different perspectives than the predictable shots. Not only is it more fun for you, but it makes it more interesting to those you share your photos with. For example, if you are taking a picture of a monument or sign, stand below and look up at it versus the usual front and center point of view. Or another unique approach is to take a picture of the monument/sign reflected in another object.

How do you land those “slice-of-life” shots of locals?

I stay put. Usually when you travel you’re always on the go. I often observe and set a camera on a key ledge or table where I know the locals will pass by. If you are on the move, so is your camera. I like to show ‘local fare’ by shooting two shots of a local passing through their space. This gets to the essence of local movement, thus local behavior. If I have time, I’ll switch over to movie mode and capture an audio track along with the video. I may use this later when I share the memory.

It’s always good to venture away from the tourist shopping areas to check out the local market where residents buy their groceries. Check out local hangouts and neighborhoods away from downtown.

What are some tips to telling a narrative through photography?

Context, context, context. Choose and drive the context of the story you want to tell through your pictures. If you know what context you want your narrative to be told in, it makes it much easier to stay focused. This helps in the process of actually taking pictures while out and about as well as when you have to choose the best pictures that you want to include in your story and how to do it in a cohesive sequence.

No matter what you choose your narrative direction to be, enjoy the process of gathering a body of work aligned with something that gives you the freedom and creativity to author something you will enjoy for years to come.

What are your favorite digital solutions for preserving and displaying vacation photos?

I really love online sites like Shutterfly for photo books. Vacation photos can be shared individually or by album. You can also create a photo book with captions and share the beautiful finished product with friends and family.

I also use VUVOX, which enables me to quickly showcase and share my photos in rich presentation styles. I use this on all the time.

Top 3 photography travel blogs?

  • Europe: I love his emphasis on Europe through the Back Door. I find helpful hints, stories and insight by his site and the community that follows it.
  • Daily Practices: I must practice what I preach, and when I re-read my own material and from contributors of my own book, I am reminded why I am so passionate about the future of memories and sharing this information. These convictions help push me to make my photos and my work better, wherever I go.
  • Shutterfly Gallery: Shutterfly Gallery is a community that provides readers with inspiration for storytelling, tips, and encourages them to be active in the community by contributing their own photo books. You can learn a lot here. They’ve also introduced “Hit the Road with Shutterfly,” a new destination for travelers to find inspiration on where to go this summer and how best to record and tell tell the story of their summer journeys through photos.