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*** True or False? Cayenne Pepper Keeps Your Feet Warm… Plus, Six Photo Lessons Relearned in Santa Fe
*** Does the life of a travel writer excite you?
*** Practical Writing Prompt of the Week: 33 Minutes at A Time
*** Reader Feedback: 10 Articles Sold Since August

Dear Reader,

Santa Fe is colder than I imagined.

At 7,000 feet, it’s a good 10 to 15 degrees cooler than D.C. right now. I packed a light jacket and an extra wrap in case I got cold… I should have packed a hat and gloves.

The skies have been great for photography, though. And in the afternoons, with the sun out, the temperature is perfect for walking around.

I’m here for our Ultimate Travel Photographer’s Workshop and enjoying my first introduction to the southwest. Here’s something I didn’t know: When you’re cold, you can put a little cayenne pepper in your shoes, and it’ll keep your feet warm. At least, that’s what one local attendee said during our lesson on chile peppers today…

We were eating lunch at the Coyote Café and Cantina, and I asked the chef if he could share with us some pointers about the locally beloved chile peppers. That’s when this workshop attendee piped up to say that certain peppers are used in medicated sports rubs.  Crushed chile pepper can warm your skin, and if you put a little cayenne pepper in your shoes, it’ll keep your feet warm.

Old wives tale or not, I may just try that tomorrow. It’s going to be cold. We’re getting up early to photograph the Bonanza Creek Ranch (that’s where they filmed the controversial, now-playing TV series, Kid Nation).  We’ve hired models and we’re splitting into groups to photograph the General Store, the Saloon, the animals, and the hired ranch hands.

Of course, our resident professional photographers, Rich Wagner and Shelly Perry, will be on hand for the shoot. Earlier today they reminded us of a few fundamentals we’ll need to use.

They’re things you should be doing every time you go out with your camera, in fact.

They’re so important, I want to repeat them here. Really, it’s a six-step formula for gorgeous photos:


1) Get in close. More often than not, amateur photographers can improve their photographs by simply getting closer to the subject and eliminating background distractions.

2) Frame out unwanted objects like power lines and trash cans with overhanging tree branches, doorways, or even people. (See: for more details.)

3) Editors like vertical shots because magazines are vertical. If you find something worth taking a picture of… take four or six. Take a vertical, a horizontal, move to the right, to the left, get up high and kneel down low.

4) Give your viewer a place to stand. Travel editors like pictures that let their readers feel as if they’re standing next to the photographer. So include a little foreground in your shots.

5) Optical zoom is OK. Digital zoom is bad. Turn off your camera’s digital zoom and use your feet to get in closer instead. Digital zoom does nothing more than enlarge the pixels in your image, causing you to lose image quality. Instead, put one foot in front of the other and walk closer to your subject.

6) Put people in your photos. The human element arouses our curiosity about who these people are and what they’re doing, as well as giving the bridge, skyscraper, etc, a scale that we can relate to. (See: on selling pictures without a model release.)

I’ll post a few of my pictures on our website when I get home. As you know, including photos with your articles increases your chances of landing by-lines. In fact, about half of our attendees here in Santa Fe are honing their photography skills to compliment the writing they already do.

That’s something David Jackson knows all about. David is a newspaper editor who recently moved from California to New Mexico, not far from Santa Fe. He edited the section in our Turn Your Pictures into Cash program on breaking into small newspapers, and he just recently did an interview with Jennifer Stevens for the third edition of our Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program.

David will be here tomorrow to talk to the group about selling photos and travel articles to local and small newspapers. I’ll pass along any tips I pick up next week.

Stay tuned…

— Lori
Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]


Last week at AWAI’s Copywriting Bootcamp in Delray Beach, Florida, the experts shared loads of tips and practical advice for copywriting that applies to travel writing, too. One speaker suggested you set a timer for 33 minutes and during that time, do nothing but write.

When the buzzer rings, even if you’re mid-sentence, stop.

Then get up, stretch, go get a snack, take the dog for a walk, loosen up a bit.

When you’re ready, set the timer for another 33 minutes and again, don’t let yourself do anything but write. You don’t have to come up with perfect, genius sentences… just write.

So this week, pick a day, think of a subject, set your timer, and write for 33 minutes at a time.

If you can’t think of a subject, try this: Write about something that travel has taught you. It could be as small and silly as cayenne pepper keeping your feet warm or as life-changing as you want, so long as you’re inspired to write.

And if you come up with something you think should be published, send it on over to Travel Post Monthly. Writer’s Guidelines here:

READER FEEDBACK: 10 Articles Sold Since August

Hi Jen,

I’m not sure if you remember me from the Writer’s Workshop in Portland. It was an excellent workshop and I’ve been using the ideas you gave us big time since I attended — with good success.

I used to write 20 years ago, and had close to 100 articles published on running and fitness back in the mid-80’s, mainly in regionals. I took the workshop in Portland to expand my writing options.

I’ve have had 10 articles accepted since August 28. Not all have been travel articles, but close enough for government work. I’m not making a lot of money but sure am building up my by-lines in a variety of magazine genres. I have actually had to stop sending out query letters because the back log of articles I have to write is getting too long.

I have been getting good mileage from the 200 or so WWII museums in Western Europe I visited. Five military magazines have picked up articles about various types of WWII museums. I also had a travel article about the Van Damme Memorial track meet in Brussels picked up by a running magazine.

An article about a young American who won the pole vault at the recent world champs in Osaka, was picked up by his hometown newspaper. (The University of Washington Alumni Magazine came oh so close to accepting a similar article — and if he makes the Olympic Team, they will take another look.)

Videoscope magazine has picked up 2 articles about the Bussels International Festival of Fantastic Film and the Seattle International Film Festival (plus I got press passes to see dozens of movies free). Sharon Miller has indicated she is very interested in my article about a Balinese Hindu Cremation Ceremony-I’m still polishing that one before I send it to her.

I think I am doing ok. Really enjoying the research, finding magazines that are a good fit for my articles, or vice versa, pitching the query letter, and writing the articles. I think I write good query letters because I am getting good responses from the editors, even the ones who reject. Their reasons for rejecting my pitch are usually because they have lots of similar articles in stock, or have just published something similar. Many have asked that I submit other ideas.

I’m excited about using your advice and finding success. It really works!

Thanks again for an excellent workshop….
Best Regards, Roy Stevenson

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