everything quec.li


  • Apple?s New iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max Boast Improved Cameras (4107 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 15:05:00 -0400Apple?s New iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max Boast Improved CamerasPetaPixel

    Apple has announced the new iPhone 13 Pro (6.1″) and Pro Max (6.7″) devices featuring a familiar but improved design over the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max.

    The new iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max may look similar to the last generation iPhones but there is a lot updated behind the glass and metal. The front of the phones has been redesigned allowing for a 20 percent smaller top-notch which gives a bit more screen space.

    Speaking of the screen, it boasts a super retina XDR display with up to 1,000 nits of outdoor brightness, all protected by the Ceramic Sheild front cover which Apple boasts as being tougher than any smartphone glass. The device is IP68 rated for water and dust resistance as well.

    For the first time in an iPhone, Apple has finally implemented a faster refreshing display. The Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion has an adaptive refresh rate that will switch in real-time from 10Hz to 120Hz allowing for fast frame rates when users need it, and saving battery life when they don’t.

    The inside of the devices has been completely redesigned to be more efficient and allow for a larger battery which provides 1.5 to 2.5 hours of additional life over the previous generation of smartphones depending on the model. The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are powered by the A15 Bionic chip which provides up to a 50 percent improved performance to the phones speed, graphics display, and touch reactivity and accuracy leveraging a new 5-core GPU and a new 6-core CPU that has two new high-performance cores and four new high-efficiency cores. On top of this, the device boasts a 16-core Neural engine that is capable of handling 15.8 trillion operations per second, allowing for a faster third-party app experience.

    The biggest update to the new phone is by far the camera system with pre-build photographic styles, an entirely new set of sensors and lenses all optimized to work smoothly with iOS 15. They are powered by a new image signal processor (ISP) on the A15 Bionic chip for an “improved noise reduction and tone mapping.” Apple says this system is the best camera system ever on iPhone and all the cameras now include Sensor-Shift optical image stabilization (OIS).

    The new Ultra Wide camera features a much wider ?/1.8 aperture and a new autofocus system, which Apple says brings a 92 percent improvement for low-light environments and produces images that are brighter and sharper. iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max also boast a new 77 mm Telephoto camera, allowing users to get closer to their subjects while recording video and achieve even more classically framed portraits, offering 3x optical zoom for a total 6x optical zoom range on the camera system.

    Below are a few sample photos captured with the new iPhone 13 Pro:

    On top of the improved sensors and a new 77mm telephoto camera, the new Ultra-Wide camera now supports macro capabilities allowing users to capture sharp images with a minimum focus distance of just two centimeters. Below are some sample images that show what can be captured with the macro mode:

    Of note, it does not appear as though users will have to go with the larger iPhone 13 Pro Max in order to get the better camera system, as the Pro and Pro Max both share the same cameras and features.

    The new iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max devices bring more to the video side of things also adding ProRes support, Dolby Vision HDR, and a new “cinematic mode” that will apply real-time depth-mapping to the video allowing for precise “focus pulling” even after the video has been shot. This includes being able to shoot 4K video at 30 frames per second right on the device.

    More details on what to expect from this mode are explained in PetaPixel’s coverage of the iPhone 13 and 13 mini.

    The new iPhone Pro is available in graphite, gold, sierra blue, and silver with 128G, 256G, 512G, and 1TB storage capacities starting at $999 for the 13 Pro and $1099 for the Pro Max. The phones are available for pre-order starting today and will hit store shelves on Friday, September 24.

    Teardown Shows iPhone 13 Pro Camera Module is Much Larger [PetaPixel]
  • The world?s newest cruise ship doesn?t need motors to get around (though it has them just in case) (3450 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 15:00:00 -0400The world?s newest cruise ship doesn?t need motors to get around (though it has them just in case)The Points Guy

    This might just be the most eco-friendly new cruise ship of the year.

    Luxury line Sea Cloud Cruises is unveiling a new, 136-passenger vessel that can operate entirely on wind power, though it also has been built with motors and propellers (just in case).

    Dubbed Sea Cloud Spirit, the three-masted sailing ship was officially named earlier last week in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, by Gabriela Toran, the wife of the ship’s designer. It’s operating with paying passengers for the first time on Tuesday as it sails from Rome on a 10-night voyage to the Western Mediterranean.

    For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s cruise newsletter.

    Sea Cloud Spirit is the first new ship for Germany-based Sea Cloud Cruises — a line that specializes in sailing ships — in more than two decades.

    The line is calling it a modern interpretation of the brand’s original vessel, the 64-passenger Sea Cloud. Originally built in 1931, the still-operating, four-masted Sea Cloud is one of the cruising world’s most famous vessels. Commissioned by Wall Street tycoon E. F. Hutton, Sea Cloud for years was the personal yacht of his wife and Postum cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, who outfitted it with resplendent marble, mahogany and gold trim.

    Sea Cloud was converted into a cruise vessel in the 1970s.

    As is the style for Sea Cloud Cruises sailings, Sea Cloud Spirit’s sails will be unfurled by hand and set in the traditional way by a large team of deck crew who climb high into the ship’s rigging. It’s a throwback to the golden age of sailing ship travel in the 1900s that is a sight to behold.

    The tallest of the vessel’s three masts is 187 feet tall. The ship has more than 44,000 square feet of sails.

    Sea Cloud Cruises is known for using the wind as much as possible to operate its vessels, which also include the 20-year-old, 94-passenger Sea Cloud II. But all of its vessels also have motors as a backup. Sea Cloud Spirit has been built with two diesel-electric drives.

    Like Sea Cloud Cruises’ two other ships, Sea Cloud Spirit is being marketed as a luxury vessel. The 452.7-foot-long ship has an upscale “fine dining” restaurant, a casual bistro, a lounge, a sun deck, a fitness center with a sea view and a spa, among main features.

    It also has 25 cabins with balconies — a rarity for sailing ships.

    After initial sailings this fall along the Italian coast between Tuscany and Sicily, the vessel will reposition to the Canary Islands in November through April of 2022.

    After another summer in Europe, it’ll make its Caribbean debut in late 2022, spending the subsequent winter in the region.

    Based in Hamburg, Germany, Sea Cloud Cruises draws a large number of German travelers but also some North Americans, including U.S. travelers. It operates dual-language sailings with both German and English spoken.

    Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

    Featured image courtesy of Sea Cloud Cruises.

  • All-new iPad Mini Announced With 5G, USB-C, and Larger 8.3-inch Display (811 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 14:45:00 -0400All-new iPad Mini Announced With 5G, USB-C, and Larger 8.3-inch DisplaySlashdot

    Apple has announced its all-new iPad Mini. It features a new enclosure with narrower bezels and rounded corners. From a report: The big news is that it's larger than the iPad Mini 5 with an 8.3-inch display (up from its predecessor's 7.9-inch panel), making the device even more viable as a driver for multitasking or schoolwork. Apple says the screen can reach 500 nits of brightness. The iPad Mini is currently Apple's smallest tablet, even with the bump in size. Apple was rumored to have been considering a Mini LED display on the new iPad, similar to that of its largest iPad Pro. Those appear to have missed the mark; the new Mini sports a regular Liquid Retina display. The new iPad Mini is up for preorder today and will be available next week starting at $499.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • If you?re hungry, United Clubs are actually better than before the pandemic ? here?s why (3957 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 14:30:00 -0400If you?re hungry, United Clubs are actually better than before the pandemic ? here?s whyThe Points Guy

    While I’ve flown a number of times in the last 18 months, I haven’t visited a United Club since … March 2020. But on a recent trip to Turks and Caicos, we had time to pop into United Clubs both before our flight out of Houston (IAH) and then again when landing back in the U.S. in Washington-Dulles (IAD).

    I went in just hoping for a cup of Illy coffee and a nicer-than-the-terminal restroom. But what I found surprised me. The truth is that that the pandemic has actually improved the United Clubs, at least as far as I’m concerned. Here are the things that stood out from my experience.

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    United Club changes

    Before my visits, I already knew that there were pandemic-era changes to the United Clubs. But seeing is believing. Both United Club locations I visited were quite busy during Labor Day weekend, so it wasn’t a good place to go if you were looking to get away from crowds on those dates.

    We still decided to brave it, though, for the chance to snag some snacks and have a place to sit that wasn’t in the main concourse of an airport.

    The first thing I noticed was that the pre-packaged food, especially at the Houston location, was much better than I remember. During our 9:00 a.m. visit, there were both breakfast and lunch options available.

    If you were in the mood for breakfast, there was a hot sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich that tasted like a McDonald’s biscuit. Which is to say it certainly wasn’t healthy, but it tasted pretty decent.

    Related: Here are the U.S. airline lounges that have reopened 

    A few minutes later, out came egg, sausage and cheese breakfast burritos.

    For those who preferred lunch-related items to eat later, there were pre-made containers of fruit and cheese, a pinwheel sandwich snack pack and a variety of turkey sandwiches on offer right around the corner closer to the bar.

    Related: Ultimate guide to United Club access 

    Sure, none of these items was beyond amazing in quality, but they were the sort of dishes that would probably sell for about $10 each out in the airport terminal, and they were easy to eat in the lounge, or carry with you onto your flight.

    Those previously mentioned items were the highlights in my mind (er, stomach), but between the two clubs we visited, there were also packaged fruit, muffins, chips, salsa, veggies and even gummy candy treats.

    This food selection in the United Club obviously isn’t on par with what you will find with the fresh, chef-curated options in an Amex Centurion Lounge. However, being able to grab a cheese and fruit package to enjoy along your journey was actually pretty fantastic, and in some ways handier, than a traditional airline lounge buffet offering that has to be consumed at that moment.

    While I”m not in favor of increasing packaging and waste at airline lounges, given that we’re likely to see these materials as necessities for health and sanitation for the duration of the pandemic, at least it makes it easier to “grab and go” with food from United Clubs.

    Bottom line

    Knowing that I can pop into a United Club and snag something delicious to enjoy along the way actually makes the club a much more useful resource for me than it was before the pandemic. It also sets my mind at ease since it means I don’t have to plan on camping out in the lounge and spending time there among other travelers during the pandemic just in order to get something to eat.

    If you want United Club access, know that membership comes with the United Club Infinite Card, or you can get a two, annual one-time passes with select United co-branded credit cards including the United Explorer Card.

    Featured photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy.

  • iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max Announced With High Refresh Rate 120Hz Displays (989 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 14:28:00 -0400iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max Announced With High Refresh Rate 120Hz DisplaysSlashdot

    Apple has officially announced the high-end part of the iPhone 13 lineup: the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. It's got a faster A15 Bionic chip, three all-new cameras, and an improved display with up to a 120Hz ProMotion high refresh rate display that can go as bright as 1,000 nits. The iPhone 13 Pro will start at $999, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max will start at $1099. Both will be available to order on Friday, shipping on September 24th. From a report: The OLED screens on both models are the same sizes as last year at 6.1 and 6.7 inches but with slightly smaller notches that should allow for more space in the iOS status bar. Apple says the phones have an all-new three-camera system. The ultrawide should offer better low-light photography, and the telephoto now goes up to 3x zoom, enabling 6x optical zoom across the three cameras. All three cameras now have night mode, and there's a new macro mode for photographing subjects at just 2cm.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Apple Introduces 9th Generation iPad and New iPad Mini (3084 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 14:20:00 -0400Apple Introduces 9th Generation iPad and New iPad MiniPetaPixel

    Apple has announced the new ninth-generation iPad, with new features as well as a new iPad Mini with a sleek design. Both tablets also see a major jump in performance over predecessors.

    The latest Apple event — “California Dreaming” — was kicked off with announcements for the company’s iPad lineup with powerful performance boosts to both Apple’s standard iPad and the new iPad Mini model.

    The popular standard size iPad model, which is now in its 9th generation, features a powerful A13 Bionic chip, which Apple claims packs performance all the while retaining battery life.

    Starting at $330 for everyday consumers or $300 for schools, the latest iPad offers fast connectivity, compatibility with smart accessories, and boasts three times faster speeds than Chromebook and six times faster than Android tablets, according to Apple.

    The new iPad features a 10.2-inch Retina display with True Tone — which allows automatic screen adjustments based on the ambient light and brightness — and a 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage. Center Stage is a feature launched with the iPad Pro earlier this year and enhances video calls by automatically panning the camera to keep users in view and detects others who join in. It can be used in both portrait and landscape orientation.

    The newly unveiled iPad Mini comes at a slightly higher $500 starting price but boasts a brand new A15 Bionic chip, with 80-percent faster performance compared to the previous generation. Together with CPU and GPU, the iPad Mini’s new Neural Engine enables a more seamless experience for apps, such as image recognition and language learning through the new Translate App.

    The iPad Mini has an all-screen design with an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display, 500 nits of brightness, features antireflective coating, and just like the iPad — has True Tone. Both cameras have been updated with a 12-megapixel rear camera with Focus Pixels and a larger f/1.8 aperture, and an Ultra-Wide front camera with a new 12MP sensor and a larger field of view.

    iPad Mini also features a new USB-C port, same as iPad Air, which gives users flexibility when working with additional devices, for example, cameras whilst out on a location shoot. Apple claims it gives users 10-times faster data transfer speed.

    Furthermore, cellular models will feature 5G, making iPad Mini an attractive tablet for users who regularly travel or work outside of the office. It is also compatible with a wide array of accessories, such as the second-generation Apple Pencil, which attaches magnetically to the side of iPad Mini for wireless charging and pairing.

    Both iPad models feature a new location for Touch ID, which is now situated on the top right of the device, just like on iPad Air. Both models are also built with 100-percent recycled aluminum in the enclosure as part of the company’s dedication to reducing environmental impact.

    Interested users can order both iPad models today on the Apple website, with units available from next week.

  • Hotel points help me beat price gouging at major events (6497 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 14:00:00 -0400Hotel points help me beat price gouging at major eventsThe Points Guy

    Sporting events, conventions, ski season, concerts, holidays.

    There are endless reasons why hotels will jack up their room rates throughout the year. Demand breeds price gouging and there is nothing you can do about it.

    Just kidding, there’s plenty you can do about it. All you need is a hotel credit card or two. The rewards I’ve earned from my World of Hyatt Credit Card and my Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card have saved me a whole lot of money throughout the years at major events.

    New to The Points Guy? Want to learn more about credit card points and miles? Sign up for our daily newsletter.

    I’ll explain what makes hotel credit cards special and recount my two favorite times I beat price gouging. You can use your points in this same strategic manner for whatever megapopular event you’re planning to attend in the future.

    Saving over $1,000 at the Indy 500 with Marriott

    Most hotel chains charge a flat number of points at each property. You can determine how many points you’ll pay by figuring out which hotel “category” they’re in. The higher the category, the higher the reward price.

    For example, here’s a look at the Marriott award chart.

    These price ranges stay the same no matter what the hotel’s cash price is for that particular night. Whether the hotel costs $150 or $1,500, your points will stay in these predetermined ranges. That’s the key to beating price gouging.

    A couple of years ago, I booked a Category 4 hotel, the Delta Hotels Indianapolis East. There’s nothing particularly outstanding about this hotel. It’s not a wish list destination. It’s fair but not five-star worthy ? it’s not even that expensive, with an average nightly rate of around $140. By all accounts, this hotel doesn’t seem like a great value for 25,000 points.

    But once a year, this hotel is wildly popular for a few nights when the Indianapolis 500 is in town over Memorial Day weekend.

    My family and I volunteer at the Indy 500 almost every year (even though I don’t get the sport’s allure), so we always stay at a nearby hotel the night before. As expected, this Category 4 hotel costs between 20,000 and 30,000 Marriott points per night. I took a screenshot of my reservation below.

    Now really take note of the following screenshots. Here was the room rate one night before the Indy 500 weekend.

    And here was the room rate the very next night during the Indy 500 weekend.

    That’s nearly 10x the normal room rate. We’re talking about the same exact room type but a vastly different price tag. Marriott points saved me over $1,000 on this hotel stay.

    Related: How to redeem points with the Marriott Bonvoy program

    Saving $1,000 during the Great American Eclipse

    Similar to Marriott, Hyatt’s award chart charges a flat points price for each hotel category. As long as there are available rooms, you’ll beat price gouging.

    I?d heard stories of men dropping to their knees in tearful wonderment at the sight of a solar eclipse. So when I heard that the solar eclipse in August 2017 would be casting its shadow a few states away from my house, I decided to make a trip.

    I flew to Charleston, South Carolina, to watch the event on the coast. Hotels were packed well before my trip, but I found a room available at the Hyatt House Charleston/Historic District. Rooms were selling for over $500 per night, up from an average of $200. The hotel was available for just 12,000 Hyatt points per night, however (now 15,000 points).

    I booked two nights for 24,000 Hyatt points and saved $1,000 to see one of the most anticipated phenomenons in recent memory.

    Related: The 50 most in-demand World of Hyatt hotels for point redemptions

    The immense power of hotel credit cards

    Hotel points can be a potent antidote for price gouging. But even if you don’t generate a lot of points from spending on your hotel credit cards, you can still often beat the surcharges simply by keeping the cards open. That’s because most hotel credit cards come with annual free night certificates. For example:

    The information for the Amex Hilton Aspire has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

    As you can see, these cards offer some form of annual night certificate just for keeping the card. Additional hotel cards offer an annual night after meeting a spending requirement. Read our post on the best hotel credit cards to see what each card offers.

    Both of the hotels I booked above can be reserved with a hotel credit card free night award. Most of these annual certificates won’t put you in a five-star hotel, but they can save you many hundreds of dollars if you know how to use them. This perk alone is worth paying your hotel card’s annual fee year after year.

    Bottom line

    It’s maddening that hotels can get away with such outrageous upcharges. If ever you think you can’t afford to travel to an event, remember the value of hotel points and hotel credit card free night certificates. They’re game-changers.

    Featured photo by Michael Allen Siebold/Getty Images.

    Book this, not that: Hawaii resorts edition [The Points Guy]
    5 reasons why Hyatt needs a premium credit card — and what it might look like [The Points Guy]
  • Apple Unveils the iPhone 13 and 13 mini with Enhanced Camera Tech (4619 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 13:53:00 -0400Apple Unveils the iPhone 13 and 13 mini with Enhanced Camera TechPetaPixel

    Apple has announced the iPhone 13 and 13 mini, which keep the same general design but have some new changes under the hood.

    Both models feature what Apple bills as major innovations, including what the company is calling the most advanced dual-camera system it has ever put into an iPhone. It features a new wide camera with bigger pixels and sensor-shift optical image stabilization (OIS) offering improvements in low-light photos and videos.

    The display has been upgraded to an improved Super Retina XDR OLED that Apple says delivers true black and a 28-percent increase in max outdoor brightness at 800 nits. HDR content gets a boost of up to 1,200 nits, which it can do while still being more power-efficient than the iPhone 12.

    Apple says that major battery life improvements come to both iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini, made possible by A15 Bionic, more efficient components, a larger battery, and power optimizations from a deep integration of hardware and software.

    iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini represent what Apple says is a massive leap in camera design with advancements in hardware and computational photography. The new Wide camera, with 1.7 µm pixels, comes with the biggest sensor ever in an iPhone dual-camera system and is capable of gathering 47 percent more light for less noise and brighter results. Apple is also adding sensor shift stabilization to the Wide camera, which was originally introduced in the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

    Below are a few sample photos captured on the new iPhone 13:

    iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini are powered by the A15 Bionic chip, which Apple says is several leaps better than the competition. The company says that there are innovations that improve both performance and efficiency in the new chip thanks to a new 6-core GPU. It features two high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores.

    Apple has also upgraded the neural engine which is designed in tandem with camera hardware and software teams. Apple says this results in faster machine learning computations as well. The dual-camera system is what Apple claims is its best dual system yet. The advancements work with a new image signal processor to allow what Apple is calling Photographic Styles.

    Photographic Styles allows users to bring their personal photo preferences to every image while still benefitting from Apple?s multiframe image processing. Preset and customized preferences work across scenes and subjects, and unlike a simple filter, intelligently apply the right adjustments to different parts of the photo to ensure the important elements, like skin tones, are preserved. The dual-camera system and power of computational photography support Smart HDR 4, now with improved color, contrast, and lighting for each subject in a group photo, including in challenging conditions, making images more true to life, as well as improved Night mode. And the TrueDepth camera supports all the amazing new camera features, including Cinematic mode, Photographic Styles, Smart HDR 4, and more.

    Apple has enabled a new video feature on its iPhones as part of its cinematic mode: rack focusing. Rack focusing refers to shifting focus in a frame to draw the viewer’s eyes to different locations in a way that aids storytelling. This usually requires physical control of the lens, but Apple has added the ability to do this by using artificial intelligence that evaluates a scene in real-time. When a subject is about to enter the frame, the iPhone can sense that and move focus to them. When someone looks away from the camera, the iPhone will shift focus.

    Remarkably, Apple has created a way for video creators to change the point of focus both during capture and after while the level of bokeh can also be changed. These are features that to this point have been somewhat available for still photos, but Apple is now making them features in video. Those changes can be made both in the Photos app as well as iMovie for iOS, and will be coming soon to iMovie for macOS and Final Cut Pro.

    Both models also offer HDR video recording with Dolby Vision ? from capture to editing and sharing ? now supported for 4K up to 60 fps on all cameras. These features combine with the iPhone’s ability to capture Dolby Vision as well to make it possible to shoot more cinematic videos on the iPhone.

    The iPhone 13 starts at $699 and will be available in pink, blue, midnight, starlight, and (PRODUCT)RED, with pre-orders beginning Friday, September 17, and availability beginning Friday, September 24.

    Apple iPhone 13 Demo Provides More Info on What to Actually Expect [PetaPixel]
  • Where Did You Grow Up? (8880 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 13:49:00 -0400Where Did You Grow Up?kottke.org

    My friend Joanna Goddard runs a website called Cup of Jo. She started it as a personal blog and has turned it into a site for women with a diverse and interesting group of contributors. However, the truly marvelous thing about Cup of Jo is the comments. That’s right, the comments. They are always good, often great, and occasionally sublime. Years and even decades after most websites have removed their comment sections for being toxic and unwieldy, Cup of Jo readers are in there delivering on the original promise of the web as a way to connect humans with one another by providing advice, reflections, stories, and support to each other.

    One of the site’s best uses of the comments section are on posts that ask a simple question, like Where Did You Grow Up? (See also What Unexpected Relationships Have You Formed During the Pandemic?) I pulled out a few of my favorite comments from this post and shared them below.

    My dad is a physicist and biomedical researcher, so we made a few big moves when I was growing up. From Long Island, to Chicago, and then to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (central Canada). I went to tiny town Oklahoma for college before coming back to Sask. It is wild up here, where winter days are often -40 degrees Fahrenheit. In my youth I was torn in half between my longing for city excitement and the call of the wild. These days, I am proud to be raising a 4 year old that knows the rules of camping, and how to act around critters like bears and moose. His first concert was an Inuit band who throat sang in Inuk. We danced as a storm opened up and poured rain on us, the natural light show illuminating the fractal jack pine tree tops. All three of us slept like babies that night in our tent with the storm pounding the forest in the background. The city was fun, but I wouldn’t trade my quality of life for anything. I know how to thank the Great Spirit for the grandfather trees of the forest, and how to step lightly where wood frogs lie. I know the feeling of the air changing to autumn or spring on my cheeks, before a single leaf falls or prairie crocus blooms. The knowledge of this place is etched into the fabric of my body, as it will be for my stepson.

    I grew up in a North Dallas trailer park backed up to a state highway and a freeway with my older brother and young widowed mom. We lived off social security and hotdogs. I thought anyone whose mobile home vinyl siding wasn’t peppered with holes from a weed whacker was fancy.

    After hours, I played in the construction materials depot next door with my brother and our little band of trailer park buddies. We got a lot of shit for being “trailer trash kids” but we all grew up to become hella cool and kindhearted: amazing parents, teachers, nurses, artists, writers, musicians, therapists, political shit-stirrers, philosophers, world travelers.

    We used to catch opossums with rusty cat traps and sneak them into our bathtubs where we would feed them scraps and get hissed at. I recall chasing an armadillo down a hill with a BB gun in the blazing Texas sunshine and thinking no funner game had ever been invented.

    We would dismantle the breaks from our second-hand banana-seat bikes and then race each other down the “big hill” and jump into the grass kamikaze-style at the screaming last minute where we would lay in a banged-up heap laughing hysterically in the face of death.

    My brother once shot a dove off a telephone wire from our front porch and proceeded to cook it for my first-day-of-high-school breakfast, ironically, because he wanted me to be able to tell that trailer-trash story to my kids someday. I do, and they don’t believe me. I’ve raised my two kiddos in Toronto, The Netherlands, and now Colorado. They think trailers are something you take into the mountains for a glamping vacation. They are also hella cool and kindhearted. I marvel at them.

    I grew up in a small town in South Alabama. I am from the land of yes ma’ams, covered dish suppers at church, and pulling over for funeral processions. I was raised on a steady diet of collard greens, pimento cheese, grits, pear salad (google it), boiled peanuts, and fried hand pies. To this day there is nothing more delicious - figuratively and literally - than the memory of homemade vanilla ice cream in an old ice cream maker with my dad cutting and dropping slices of peaches picked from our tree. I didn’t know enough to be concerned that he was cutting them with his pocket knife. I miss living somewhere that included mac n cheese on a salad bar. I have vivid memories of hearing my grandmother tell stories involving her childhood friend, Nell Lee (known to most of us as Harper Lee). One summer, I rode my horse into town almost every day and got an ice cream cone at the shop owned by my friend’s family. My dad was the high school principal and my mother was the deputy sheriff. I was the high school mascot and to this day, I highly recommend any job where the dumber you act, the more successful you are. High school adventures included bonfires in someone’s field, hot days at the creek, and constantly driving around the town square. There was one restaurant in town and it opened up late each Friday night to serve a full fried chicken meal to the returning high school football team, band, and cheerleaders after every away game. There was a wrong and a right side of the tracks. It was simultaneously both the most loving community I have known and the most discriminatory.

    I grew up in Houston on a street full of kids. Houston was playing kickball on a dead-end street and “hide from cars” on summer nights when we were allowed to stay out after dark. Everyone lived in their front yards and garages. A dad only had to prop up the hood of his car, and every man on the block came over and started consulting. This led to impromptu pizza or burger parties. Every Halloween, my dad and our preacher staged a spookhouse in our garage that ALL the kids visited. Our neighborhood was swarmed with kids trick or treating and our group, ranging from 3 years old to 10, roamed for blocks, completely safe, until the year The Candyman ruined trick or treating forever. Every Christmas Eve, we girlfriends swam in Sam’s pool, then went caroling on our street with bare feet and wet hair. We thought that was very funny. We rode our banana-seat bikes to stores near us until we graduated to 10-speeds. We went to glossy, over-air-conditioned shopping malls. We had a lot of freedom because things were so accessible.

    I grew up in Encinitas, CA (north of San Diego) when it was a sleepy, little beach town. I miss all “my” beach spots, friends, and that coastal air. It was one of those places where even if we didn’t know everyone, everyone was treated with consideration. It wasn’t always idyllic but it was a pretty lucky place to be raised. You could count on anyone being willing to help you. One time my dad’s Oldsmobile broke down on a random street. He had no problem walking up to a door, knocking on it and asking to use the phone (hello 1989!). The surfers were still zonked on the couches, but one let my dad in and let him call a friend. He told my dad to leave the car and come back for it whenever he could get a tow truck for the car. No one was mad at being woken up at 7am, they just rolled with it.

    You can read the post and the rest of the comments here. I grew up in northern Wisconsin on a farm and then in a small nearby town. We rode our bikes everywhere as kids and our parents had no idea where we were most of the time. The music options were country or heavy metal — I didn’t care for either. The nearest movie theater was in a town 10 miles away and I still remember the excitement of standing in line for Ghostbusters on a sweltering June evening. As a teen, I would go around to all of the vending machines in town (there were only three or four of them) and check the coin returns for money — any quarters I found would go right into the Ms. Pac-Man machine at Erickson’s grocery store. A few people I knew had a vacation house on the lake but we couldn’t afford one. School was terrible and cliquey and I never felt like I belonged. I left after high school and aside from summers and a short stint after dropping out of grad school, I never went back. I haven’t been for a visit in nearly 20 years and only recently have I been curious about seeing it through adult eyes and revisiting old haunts.

    See also this classic NY Times dialect quiz (which I took the other day and it nailed my childhood location within 90 miles) and using only food, where did you grow up? (my answer: hotdish, fried smelt, colby cheese, and summer sausage).

    Tags: Joanna Goddard
  • Instagram for Photographers: Expert Advice on Best Practices (20735 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 13:44:00 -0400Instagram for Photographers: Expert Advice on Best PracticesPetaPixel

    Instagram has nearly 500 million active users per day and pulls in engagement rates 23% higher than Facebook and 84 times higher than Twitter. With statistics like these, it?s the ultimate social media tool for photographers to share their work with clients worldwide.

    However, staying on top of Instagram?s frequent feature updates and taking advantage of its potential to grow your business can be challenging.

    You?ve probably heard lots of contradictory advice about Instagram best practices, particularly when it comes to engaging with your audience. There are several different approaches you can take to grow your following, but you need to do what?s best for you and what?s consistent with your brand. This guide will help you grow your presence on the platform with some proven and effective tips.


    Most Instagram usage guides emphasize strategy and engagement ? and of course, that?s super important! It?s also what most people struggle with. However, sometimes even the smallest and simplest things you can do, like adding a professional headshot and writing a unique, impactful bio, can make a big difference in your profile?s overall look and feel. Before we even think about audience engagement, first, let?s consider how you?re presenting your brand on the platform.

    Best Practice: Introduce yourself in your own voice.

    Instagram is more than just your pretty pictures, and your work is more than just the images you?re sharing with the world. Behind every picture is a story, and you?re the narrator (or protagonist?). Think of your bio as your chance to highlight key points about yourself and your work in 150 characters or less.

    The character limit is often why photographers neglect their bio, but it can elevate your presentation and make you seem more professional when done right. Your profile should have the following items:

    • Professional headshot
    • Your full name
    • Photographer tag
    • Location + specialty
    • Website link
    • Other things you want people to know about you!

    Best Practice: Create a cohesive profile.

    Your brand is an extension of your photography business, so the one particular question you should continuously ask yourself when sharing a post is whether or not you?re ?on brand.?

    What does that mean? Well, everyone has a different approach to their work. Some photographers have a more clean, curated look, while others are more spontaneous. Some have bright and colorful personalities, while others have moody or muted styles. Some have the famed ?Instagram-worthy? food shots, while others are long-form storytellers. For example, let?s consider two photographers both specializing in adventure photography. Stephen Matera maintains a bright, almost fantastical grid, while Chris Henry curates a more matte and moody profile.

    It all depends on what your brand is and how you want to present it. (And don?t forget to have fun with it!)

    Best Practice: Be authentic. Be true. Be you.

    These days, marketing yourself as a technically skilled photographer is no longer enough to wow clients. Clients are more curious about who you are, the story behind you and your brand, and how it all ties in together. Are you passionate and vocal about social and/or environmental issues? Do you identify as LGBTQIA+ or BIPOC? Do you have any side projects you?re working on, or is there an organization that you love and support?

    Instead of making your Instagram an exact copy of your website or portfolio, think of it more as a way to showcase your personality. If there?s anything special or important to you ? don?t be afraid to post about it! As a professional photographer, Instagram is your social media platform.

    Rather than juggling to manage one personal and one professional account, we think that aiming to achieve a harmonious balance between sharing your exceptional work and what?s going on behind the scenes will add an extra layer of depth to your profile. After all, one part of your brand is the awesome imagery you create, and the other part is you as a person and what it?s like to work with you.

    Most importantly, you want to be posting relevant images and telling stories through what you share?whether those stories are about recent projects you?ve been working on, adventures you?ve had, new updates to your business, or behind-the-scenes shots.

    Best Practice: Having a business profile just makes business sense.

    This might go without saying for some of you, but we strongly recommend you make sure your Instagram is a business account. A business profile for your brand gives you credibility, plus there are lots of additional tools you can take advantage of.

    Instead of taking up precious bio characters with contact info, there are separate buttons to call, email, and even get directions to your location ? making it easier for clients to connect with you. Even without a business profile, though, you can and should directly link to your website in your bio, which gives potential clients the ability to see your professional portfolio and solidify their interest in working with you.

    With a business account, you will receive useful analytics on your profile through Instagram Insights, including when your followers are most active (by the hour or the day), where they live (by city or country), and the demographics of your audience look like. You?ll also receive information specifically on your posts, such as impressions, reach, engagement, and saves within a specific time frame, as well as how many people clicked the link in your bio or tried to reach out via the contact buttons.

    As you get serious about growing your following, we suggest investing in additional software for more robust, detailed analyses (Hootsuite is a great option). Still, Instagram?s in-app analytics tab is certainly a great place to start.

    Scheduling and Posting Frequency

    Hold yourself accountable to a regular sharing schedule after determining the types of content you?ll be posting.

    Best Practice: Post on a regular basis.

    For most photographers, under-sharing is an issue more so than over-sharing. While there?s plenty of resources out there that offer different conclusions on how often to post, we suggest making your goal to post once a day. It?s okay if you miss a day or two each week because, ideally, about 5x/week is the sweet spot.

    Be persistent with it! We tell photographers if you?re only going to post on your blog twice a year, there?s no point in even having a blog. The same goes for Instagram?don?t let your account go stagnant. If your social media has the ability to get your work in front of thousands of people on a daily basis, you should be engaging more frequently.

    If you struggle with finding the time to update your social media platforms in between assignments and projects as a professional photographer, we suggest taking advantage of one of the many scheduling tools out there. There are plenty of third-party platforms out there, such as Later or Buffer, that allow you to schedule posts in advance and post them at a scheduled time. (Here at WM, Later is what we use to stay organized.)

    Tying in with the last point, these tools also have the added benefit of letting you see into your audience analytics, with insights into categories such as impression and reach. Make it easy for yourself and do your scheduling and your analysis all in one!

    If you struggle with preparing a photo to schedule and post daily, don?t forget that you can also harness the potential of Instagram stories.

    Best Practice: Take advantage of Instagram stories.

    Stories are the perfect place to share in-depth coverage of your process or more of the narrative of your day-to-day as a photographer. Since they?ll have disappeared in 24 hours, you don?t have to take them as seriously or worry if they?re getting less engagement than your other posts (no one will even know)! Stories push up your chances of appearing in the Explore section in addition to keeping you top of mind for your followers and clients perusing Instagram.

    Instagram Stories also allow you extra fun ways to be creative through different fonts, colors, tags, mentions, and locations. With Type Mode, you can share your thoughts and words in various colors and font styles that tie in with your visual brand identity. With stickers and doodles, you can add on various interactive decorations that will change depending on your location, weather, or if there?s a special event happening.

    Even if you?re having a slow work day or week, or you?re losing steam on your IG posts, successful accounts share what they find interesting and/or relevant to their stories. At the very least, it keeps you on the minds of your followers; at the most, it raises engagement on your page and draws in more viewers.

    Shutterstock has a great article about how to create amazing Instagram stories.

    Captions and Hashtags

    Captions and hashtags are an excellent way to draw engagement to your photos and drive up the likes and follows. While, of course, visual content is king, captions offer an additional space where you can infuse a bit of your personality.

    Best Practice: Craft your captions well.

    Remember that your viewers will spend more time on an image if there is an engaging caption to read. Per Instagram?s recommendations, 125 characters are what to aim for if you want the majority of your caption to display (for captions longer than three lines, people will have to tap ?more? to read the whole thing). While length is a consideration, if there?s an interesting story to tell about the photo, take the time to write it out. You?re more likely to spark a genuine interaction this way, but keep that first sentence engaging and lure the reader into clicking that ?more? button.

    Keep your captions descriptive (though not overly) and stay true to your personal voice, letting the language hint at your personality. It?s a great way to show clients what it?s like to work with you.

    Hashtags are a different story, used primarily to pick out relevant topics, discover new accounts, and pick up followers.

    Best Practice: Be strategic with hashtags.

    Here?s something to consider: Hashtags can have both a positive and a negative effect on your reach and engagement. Millions of photos are categorized with the ?popular? tags, and new images appear every second. So, if you use the most popular hashtags (such as #travel) and aren?t pulling in thousands of likes per photo or being featured on the ?Top Photos? portion, users scrolling through are most likely never come across your buried photo. Plus, you may end up receiving more spam comments and likes from bots rather than real humans.

    The right hashtags you want to use are the more specific ones that real users (and potential clients) browse ? they are generally not the most used ones. Be creative with it ? @ and hashtag brands, hashtag your specific genre of photography, the city, and state where you?re based, etc. For example, #fujifeed is a quality tag for Fujifilm camera users run by Fujifeed.

    We recommend keeping it simple with no more than 15 hashtags (you don?t want to look spammy or like your grasping at straws) and using a site such as Display Purposes to find relevant hashtags when you get stuck.

    If you use social media software like SproutSocial or Onlypult, analytics will tell you what your most engaged hashtags are, making it easier for you to replicate the success found with certain images.

    You can also hide your hashtags, so they aren?t visible when your image shows up in the feed by copying and pasting the ?.. (five dots) on each line of text and then following them by your chosen hashtags. You can also have a set of hashtags ready to go, and as soon as you post the image, throw them in the first comment.

    Hashtags were created to organize the massive amount of content on social media feeds but have grown to be much more. They offer a new way for you to begin conversations, interact with a creative community, and promote your services to many new users. Hashtags are an important part of discovery and allow you to gain exposure to niche groups and specific areas of interest as a professional photographer.


    Best Practice: Geotag to find and be found.

    Geolocation allows you to tag a place in your photo. The same reasons you should utilize hashtags and engage with your audience apply to why you should geotag all your photos. It makes it easier for your audience, plus people searching for pictures of a particular place, to see your photographs. Oftentimes when we are doing stock research for an ad campaign that wants to utilize Instagram photos, we?ll check the location of a particular spot to find relevant content.

    By turning on location tracking in your phone?s camera roll, Instagram will be able to track the geotag of a particular spot where you were if you want to share a photo you took there later. This applies to iPhone photos, but many cameras have GPS capabilities, and you can easily map your coordinates and enter the metadata yourself or just search through the available locations.

    Geolocation is an especially important tool for documentary photographer Johnny Haglund, who often travels between countries.

    Engaging With Other Users

    One of the best ways to grow your social media reputation is to engage with others in the industry actively.

    Best Practice: Get involved with your Instagram community.

    Start by searching hashtags yourself to find other photographers interested in the same subjects and techniques as you and follow accounts that inspire you.

    Then, start to interact with these other photography accounts?we recommend liking, sharing, and commenting on other peoples? posts as well as responding to comments on your own feed. When you encourage a two-way conversation, you begin to build real relationships online, and your audience will grow with it. Try to spend at least 30 minutes each day engaging with your community.

    Additionally, who you follow plays a huge part in defining your brand, simply because who you follow is who you tend to engage with regularly.

    While it might be tempting to follow your friends, family, and that cat IG account, those probably aren?t relevant to your brand. Save those types of follows for a personal, private account, and focus your professional account on professional connections. Following other photographers allows you to see who is working with what client and the type of work they?re producing. You might also get an idea of the production crew living in your area or find a new photography resource to check out. Engaging with other photographers on Instagram is especially important because they are most likely to engage back with you.

    You will also want to follow the Instagram accounts of dream clients, current clients, and relevant industry accounts. Engaging with these types of accounts will increase your follower base with the right types of followers. A huge follower base is all well and good, but having followers that are photographers or photo industry professionals is much more helpful as that audience will have a higher engagement rate and connections in the industry. Decide which client accounts you want to engage with and then commit?regularly interact through likes and comments and tag the account in images you post if the content relates to that account. Be consistent?doing something once or twice is unlikely to gain traction, but consistently interacting with an account over weeks or months will have a higher success rate.


    Instagram has various algorithms in place that establish an order of users within any given person?s feed. In the past, Instagram presented posts in chronological order. As more and more people joined the platform, however, they wanted to personalize each account?s suggestions by prioritizing the exposure of some accounts over others. This means that for an account to be seen by other users, you have to engage with others frequently enough for the algorithm to work in your favor.

    Remember that Instagram?s algorithms are meant to show users the posts and accounts most relevant to their interests. It is important, then, to engage with accounts that are interested in photography. From there, it?s simple: the accounts you interact with most will also be the accounts that will give you maximum exposure. Make sure, however, to not focus on only a handful of accounts to interact with ? you?ll want to gradually ramp up your efforts to ensure your posts are being seen by a wide range of users.

    Other ways to use Instagram?s algorithms to work in your favor include posting at popular times (which can be found within ?Insights?) and following trends (such as utilizing new features like reels).

    Ultimately, for Instagram?s algorithm to work in favor of your account, you have to be aware of your audience and who you engage with.


    Collaborating with fellow photographers and other industry professionals is an excellent way to build your social media presence as well as overall brand recognition.

    Best Practice: Plan for cross-promotions and takeovers.

    Take advantage of cross-promotions, shoutouts, and takeovers whenever you get a chance. Don?t discount an account that doesn?t necessarily have the biggest follower count, as they potentially attract a very different audience than you are. Sometimes brands will do takeovers with photographers and influencers that they feel represent their brand, and this is where tagging those accounts in relevant images you post becomes important. They may repost your work or ask you to submit multiple images for a themed takeover if they feel your content resonates with their aesthetic.

    Here?s an example of the popular magazine and brand Bon Appétit sharing one of photographer Chona Kasinger‘s recent images. It?s a great example of how you can feature your content on a related brand?s platform to garner more exposure for your work.

    When posting work from a recent project, always tag relevant crew, clients, and brands. It may encourage them to repost your image, and it will show up in Instagram searches and the account?s tagged photos. Consider Lauren Pusateri‘s Instagram tagged page ? averaging at least one post a week in which she?s been tagged, slowly but surely broadening her audience. Once, Savage Universal noticed images using their seamless paper in non-traditional ways that Lauren was sharing and reposted a number of them?leading to additional exposure for her.

    Final Thoughts

    We live in a mobile world where you have a much better chance that a photo editor will stumble on your Instagram account rather than on your portfolio (even if it?s well-referenced and cross-linked).

    Best Practice: Use it or lose it.

    When you sign up on Instagram, you?re joining a creative community that will allow you to engage with your audience, share, be inspired, and continue to inspire others as you grow your business. As long as you post quality content, are strategic about when and what to share, and interact with others on the platform, your photography will continue to reach more and more people with each post.

    Take advantage of the visibility that Instagram can offer you, and be interesting and interested in the online community around you.

    Staying on top of Instagram trends requires continuous growth and evolution, just like your business.

    About the author: Jaymie Hommel and Shannon Stewart are part of the team at Wonderful Machine, an art production agency with a network of 600 photographers in 44 countries. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors. This article was also published here. If you have any questions, or if you need help with your SEO, you can reach out to Wonderful Machine via email.

    Image credits: Header illustration photo licensed from Depositphotos

  • Activate now: New 5x quarterly bonus categories on Chase Freedom, Freedom Flex announced (8916 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 13:37:00 -0400Activate now: New 5x quarterly bonus categories on Chase Freedom, Freedom Flex announcedThe Points Guy

    Editor?s note: This is The Points Guy?s permanent page about Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Flex?s latest quarterly bonus categories. 

    A new quarter has just arrived, which means reshuffling which credit cards to use to maximize all of your purchases.

    Want more credit card tips and travel news from TPG? Sign up for our daily newsletter.

    For those of you with the Chase Freedom (no longer open to new applicants) or Chase Freedom Flex, tomorrow, Sept. 15, you can begin to activate the new Q4 2021 5x rotating bonus categories: Walmart and PayPal purchases, up to a cumulative $1,500 spending maximum per quarter, then 1x.

    This has historically been our favorite quarter, as it should be especially easy to maximize the spending limit.

    Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex Q4 2021 categories

    From Oct. 1, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2021, Chase Freedom (card no longer available for sign-ups) and Chase Freedom Flex cardholders can earn 5% cash back (or 5x points) on the following categories:

    • Walmart purchases
    • PayPal purchases

    When shopping online, thousands of retailers offer an option to checkout via PayPal. As we head into the holiday season, Walmart can also be versatile whether you’re buying electronics or groceries.

    Don?t forget to activate your fourth quarter categories starting today to earn 5%/5x, which you can do online through your Chase account.

    Frequently asked questions about Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex bonus categories

    How do rotating categories work?

    Each quarter, Chase announces a group of bonus categories that will earn 5% cash back throughout the upcoming three-month period. Generally, these categories are announced halfway through the month before the new quarter starts to give cardholders time to activate new categories beforehand. However, you can activate your categories up until midway through the last month of the quarter.

    The categories tend to repeat ? grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations are all common categories that you?ll notice frequently pop up on the cash back calendar, for example. So when you can maximize your rotating categories, these types of cards can offer quite a nice chunk of cash back or bonus points over the course of a year.

    Related: Check out our full Chase Freedom Flex card review

    How much cash back can I earn each quarter?

    Chase limits the 5% back to the first $1,500 spent in combined bonus categories each quarter you activate the bonus.

    While that may not sound like a lot, that cash back adds up over time. If you maximize the cash back categories each quarter, you?ll earn $75 in cash back quarterly ? $300 per year. For a no-annual-fee credit card, that?s a lot of value.

    Alternatively, that can be viewed as 30,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards earned each year if you also have a premium product, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. In that case, those 30,000 points can be worth up to $600 when maximized with travel partners, according to TPG valuations.

    How do I activate my 5% categories each quarter?

    You can head over to Chase?s site to activate your 5% cash back for this quarter. You can also register through your Chase mobile app, making one less credit card website you?ll need to visit regularly this year.

    Here?s how to register:

    1. Head to the Chase bonus activation page or login to your Chase account.
    2. Enter your last name, the last four digits of your card number and your billing zip code. If you don?t have your card on hand, log into your Chase account to retrieve these digits.
    3. Click ?Activate Now? to register.
    4. If you have multiple Chase Freedom cards, make sure to register each one.
    5. Save a screenshot of your activation, just in case there are any issues later.

    Can I have both the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Flex to double my earning potential?

    Yes, you can have both cards! So if you already have the Chase Freedom and want to add the Chase Freedom Flex to your wallet, you?re free to do so. Just keep in mind that the original Freedom card is no longer open to new applicants.

    But if you?d rather only have one, the Freedom Flex is available as a product change.

    How do I maximize my Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex card?

    The most important thing is to make sure you?re activating your categories each quarter and then actually using your card for those categories.

    You can set up a recurring reminder in your calendar, or you can sign up for the TPG newsletter (we send out a reminder when it?s time to activate every quarter ? plus tips and tricks for maximizing your card strategy and scoring some awesome award redemptions).

    Better yet, paired with a Chase credit card that earns fully transferable Ultimate Rewards points like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Freedom Flex?s 5% cash back effectively becomes 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar, as you can learn all about in our guide detailing Chase?s ?Perfect Quartet.?

    In that case, you?ll be able to transfer the points earned with the Freedom Flex to Ultimate Rewards points to travel partners like SouthwestHyatt, and United.

    If you don?t yet have the Sapphire Preferred to pair with your Freedom Flex, now is an excellent time to act as the sign-up bonus for the Sapphire Preferred is at an all-time high of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

    What are common bonus categories for the Freedom and Freedom Flex?

    Of course, you?ll also want to make sure that you?ll potentially be able to maximize other bonus categories throughout the year. For reference, here are the previous Chase Freedom quarterly categories calendar all the way back to 2012, so you can decide if common categories make sense for your spending patterns:


    Bottom line

    If you?re not already a Freedom Flex cardholder, now?s as good a time as any to sign up. The no-annual-fee card offers a $200 cash back sign-up bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. New cardholders can also earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

    In addition to the rotating 5x bonus categories, the Freedom Flex comes with 5% on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on drugstores, 3% on dining (including eligible delivery services) and 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases. Those are the same bonus categories as the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

    Official application link: Chase Freedom Flex with a sign-up bonus of $200 cash back after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. 

    Additional reporting by Stella Shon and Chris Dong. 

    Featured image by John Gribben for The Points Guy.

  • TikTok Faces EU Data Probes Into Children's Safety, China Link (797 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 13:25:00 -0400TikTok Faces EU Data Probes Into Children's Safety, China LinkSlashdot

    TikTok faces two investigations by the Irish data watchdog following intense scrutiny for months over concerns that children's data isn't safe on the platform. From a report: Ireland's Data Protection Commission, said on Tuesday it opened two "own volition" investigations into ByteDance's TikTok amid worries about the way it handles its users' data. The Irish regulator became TikTok's lead European Union data protection authority in December. The first probe will look into TikTok's processing of data by its underage users and whether it's in line with the EU's strict protection rules. The second follows concerns expressed by the Irish privacy chief, Helen Dixon, that some EU user data could be accessed by "maintenance and AI engineers in China."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Teledyne e2v Unveils the Industry?s Smallest Global Shutter 2MP & 1.5MP CMOS Sensors (1105 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 13:08:00 -0400Teledyne e2v Unveils the Industry?s Smallest Global Shutter 2MP & 1.5MP CMOS SensorsImage Sensors World

    GlobeNewswireTeledyne e2v introduces its Topaz series of industrial CMOS sensors with new 2MP and 1.5MP resolution devices. These 1920 x 1080 and 1920 x 800-pixel format sensors feature 2.5um low noise, global-shutter pixel and housed in a tiny 4.45 mm wide CSP.

    Gareth Powell, Marketing Manager for CMOS Sensors at Teledyne e2v said, ?Modern logistics, retail, and manufacturing applications all require enhanced productivity and throughput, with longer working ranges. The new Topaz sensors were developed with this in mind, offering an excellent cost/performance ratio for high volume adoption. They also have a tiny footprint making them ideal to drive the world?s smallest barcode OEM engines and thinnest mobile platforms.?

    Samples and evaluation kits are available now.

    Key Features

    • Advanced 2.5µm x 2.5µm global shutter pixel
    • Low readout noise of 3.3e- (typ)
    • Low dark signal for good high temp performance
    • Frame rate of >100 fps in 8 bit output mode
    • 2 lane MIPI outputs (1.2Gpix/sec each) 
    • Fast Wake Up mode ? decode within 10ms after power up and other useful application features

  • Bangkok will reopen for travel in October: Here?s what you need to know (5735 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 13:00:00 -0400Bangkok will reopen for travel in October: Here?s what you need to knowThe Points Guy

    Several countries, mainly in Europe and the Caribbean, have reopened to fully vaccinated travelers in recent months. But much of Asia has remained off-limits during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

    However, Thailand has slowly been reopening several provinces through the Phuket Sandbox program (and, more recently, the confusingly named Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension).

    And now, the country plans to reopen five more areas, including Bangkok and Chiang Mai, starting Oct. 1, according to a Bangkok Post report. Here’s what you need to know.

    For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

    The latest

    The plan is to reopen to fully vaccinated tourists, including Americans, who will be able to visit without having to quarantine. Currently, travelers to the provinces that have already reopened, such as Phuket, must quarantine for a minimum of seven days before traveling elsewhere in Thailand. The new reopening plans are the most significant travel policy changes the country has enacted since the start of the pandemic.

    Additionally, the Thai government relaxed some restrictions on gatherings in certain areas, including Bangkok.

    The city is still in the “dark red zone” — the strictest designation — that has restricted movement in the city for months. However, the government has said that activities such as shopping malls and dine-in services in the dark-red zone will be allowed to reopen. Gatherings are now capped at no more than 25 people, an increase from just five people. A curfew still remains in place, however.

    ?This October reopening will be launched alongside with the country?s newly adjusted ?universal prevention? guidelines against COVID-19 … including accelerating vaccination for the local population and formalizing tourism campaigns,” said government spokesperson Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.

    Thailand reopened in phases: Phuket reopened in phase one in July, while Bangkok will reopen in phase two. Phase three will reopen 21 destinations in mid-October, while phase four will begin in January 2022.

    The measure comes not a minute too soon for local tourism operators. Tourism is one of the nation?s largest gross domestic product drivers (GDP), and preventative measures against COVID-19 resulted in a massive blow to the industry.

    But, if the country wants to avoid delays in reopening, it?ll need to combat a worrying surge in COVID-19 cases. Thailand has recorded 1.4 million positive cases of the coronavirus and over 15,000 deaths. More than 500,000 of the positive cases were from the past month. And just over 18% of the country is fully vaccinated, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

    Still, some areas in Thailand have already begun to reopen to travelers, so if you?re planning to travel to the country this year, you may want to start looking into your hotel and flight options. As the situation on the ground can always change, it?s best to book your award tickets and hotels now because you can always cancel later down the road if necessary.

    Where to stay in Thailand

    If you have a large points balance, or just earned a big welcome bonus, there are several ways to use your points in Thailand. Keep in mind, however, that the country has pretty affordable cash rates for hotels, so you may want to save your balance for another destination.

    How to get to Thailand

    You may not find much flight availability if you’re flying from the U.S., but consider flying to Thailand with Emirates, Etihad Airways or Qatar Airways.


    Emirates recently launched the Emirates Skywards card with Barclays. You can also transfer points from the major transferable points programs (Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points and Capital One Miles) to Emirates Skywards at a 1 to 1 ratio. With Marriott Bonvoy, you can transfer points at a 3 to 1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.

    If you were flying from New York-JFK to Bangkok (BKK) in Emirates business, for instance, a one-way ticket would cost you 131,000 Skywards. Out of Los Angeles (LAX), that price would jump to 145,000 Skywards.


    Etihad Guest is a transfer partner of three major U.S. transferrable points programs: Amerian Express Membership Rewards, Capital One and Citi ThankYou. Transferring miles from these credit cards is the easiest way for American travelers to earn Etihad Guest miles quickly.

    Economy flights to Bangkok are also pretty affordable for flights originating from the U.S., with flights starting at just under $700 for October dates.


    If you have American AAdvantage miles, the program allows one-way redemptions, and you?ll avoid the high fuel surcharges British Airways and Iberia would impose.

    Featured photo by Peerapas Mahamongkolsawas/Getty Images

    Bangkok pushes back its quarantine-free reopening to November [The Points Guy]
    5 times it makes sense to transfer American Express Membership Rewards to Delta SkyMiles [The Points Guy]
    6 ways Alaska Mileage Plan can improve and stay one of the best frequent flyer programs [The Points Guy]
  • China Uses Anti-fraud App To Track Access To Overseas Financial News Sites (1260 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 12:47:00 -0400China Uses Anti-fraud App To Track Access To Overseas Financial News SitesSlashdot

    Chinese police are using a new anti-fraud app installed on more than 200m mobile phones to identify and question people who have viewed overseas financial news sites, according to individuals summoned by the authorities. From a report: The app was launched in March by the public security ministry's National Anti-Fraud Center and blocks suspicious phone calls and reports malware. Police said it was needed to combat a surge in fraud, often perpetrated by overseas operations managed by Chinese and Taiwanese nationals. The ministry recommended that the app was downloaded but numerous local government agencies made it mandatory for their employees and individuals with whom they work, such as students and tenants. One Shanghai-based user told the Financial Times he was contacted by police after accessing a US financial news service. He was also asked whether he had contacts abroad and regularly visited overseas websites. The user, who asked not to be identified, said police seemed genuinely concerned about foreign scams. "But the questions they raised about whether I have contacted foreigners made me feel like they don't want me accessing foreign websites," he added. "I deleted the app after the meeting."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Canon Closed the Gap With Sony Much Faster Than Expected (5662 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 12:45:00 -0400Canon Closed the Gap With Sony Much Faster Than ExpectedPetaPixel

    Canon has spent the last five months hyping up its new sports camera and if there is anything to take away from it now that the R3 has been fully announced, it is that Canon has done a remarkable job closing the technology gap with Sony.

    For years now, Sony has been the undisputed champion of camera technology. While there have been complaints on other aspects of the company’s products — the menu is still not the best, despite a recent rework — no other company has really come close when it comes to the impressive technology packed into a camera.

    That really all came to a head in 2017 when Sony launched the Alpha 9. I tested that camera when it first came out, and what it was capable of really did blow my mind. Things have only improved with the Alpha 1, which I lauded as the most professional camera ever made in the mirrorless age.

    For the better part of the last decade, Sony has felt untouchable, but today there are many features in the new EOS R3 that Canon developed in-house that shock me with how on-par they are with what Sony has produced. If it’s not clear, I’m saying Sony is still the champion when it comes to the best possible technology in a camera. But what I also want to say is that I, and many others in the industry, are genuinely shocked at how quickly Canon is closing that gap.

    There are a few very specific things about the EOS R3 that stand out to me when it comes to technology: autofocus, sensor performance, the electronic viewfinder, and the hot shoe. In all of these areas, Canon either matches or comes close to what Sony has spent years leading up to — on paper, at least — and Canon appears to have done it in half the time.


    Sony has great autofocus, but Canon has always been right there with its Dual Pixel technology. The R3 might actually be on par or better than the Alpha 1 when it comes to in-the-field performance, but since PetaPixel has not had a chance to test the camera yet, let’s focus on what’s on paper for the sake of this conversation.

    The Sony Alpha 1 features 759 autofocus points that cover 92% of the sensor. The Sony Alpha 9 II has a 693-point autofocus system with 93% frame coverage. The Canon EOS R3 has 1,053 autofocus points that cover the entire sensor.

    The EOS R3 also is able to perform 60 autofocus calculations a second, which matches the Alpha 9 II. The Alpha 1 does still win here as it performs 120 calculations per second.

    Sensor Performance

    Sony has been pushing the envelope with its sensors for quite some time and currently has the best combination of resolution and speed available in the Alpha 1. But Canon isn’t far behind. The R3 features a backside-illuminated stacked design that can shoot at 30 frames per second with no blackout. That’s faster than the Alpha 9 II at the same resolution and matches the speed of the Alpha 1, though Sony takes the win on resolution.

    Still, that’s remarkably close.

    Electronic Viewfinder

    I think it was largely overlooked, but I cannot emphasize how impressed I am with Canon’s electronic viewfinder (EVF). Not only does it integrate eye-control autofocus which is a whole other level of technology integration that Sony doesn’t have a direct comparison to, it is also a 5.76-million-dot, 120 frames-per-second OLED that was designed and developed by Canon. It has better resolution than the Alpha 1’s 3.68 million dot OLED, although it is not quite up to the 9.4 million dot OLED Sony has in its Alpha 1.

    Still, it was made in-house, which is worth pointing out considering how few other companies choose to go that route.

    The Hot Shoe

    Sony has been talking about the capabilities of its hot shoe for a few years now, and Canon has basically wholly caught up. Both companies offer a better and more functional connection for accessories and both also have made shotgun microphones that take advantage of that.

    The Gap Between Canon and Sony is Small

    What I want to put in perspective here though is how quickly Canon blew past the Alpha 9 II — which is probably the R3’s actual competitor since both cameras are aimed at photojournalists — and how close many of its technologies are to Sony’s flagship. Sony made its first full-frame mirrorless camera in the Alpha 7 and 7R in 2013 and launched the Alpha 9 in 2017. The Alpha 1 was released just this past year in January.

    Canon launched the EOS R in 2018, which was basically a rehoused 5D Mark IV. It didn’t produce its first real from-scratch mirrorless until 2020 with the EOS R5 and R6. And just one year later, it produced the R3.

    It took Sony four years to make a really great photojournalist camera after starting its camera line and eight years to reach what is the pinnacle of technology today. It took Canon two years to go from its first mirrorless camera to the R5, and just three years to get to the R3.

    What makes this impressive is that Canon developed its own sensor, viewfinder, processor, and associated hardware and software technologies in that time and did not rely on any other company to do it. Sony makes the sensors and much of the technology found in all the other full-frame mirrorless competitors except for Canon, and it happens to be Canon that is the closest to matching the best that Sony can make, especially considering that Canon not only has done this but has done so in just three years.

    Sony is still at the front of the pack, but Canon is nipping at its heels.

    Image credits: Elements of header photo licensed via Depositphotos.

  • 10 new countries receive highest travel warnings from US government, including Belize and Israel (3685 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 12:30:00 -040010 new countries receive highest travel warnings from US government, including Belize and IsraelThe Points Guy

    The list of countries with travel warnings due to increasing case numbers of COVID-19 continues to grow, as the U.S. government issued guidance against 10 new counties on Sept. 13, including St. Kitts and Nevis, Belize and Israel.

    Slovenia, Serbia, Mauritius, Lithuania, Guatemala, Grenada and Albania also received Level 4 warnings from both the  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of State to suggest American travelers think twice before traveling to any of the highlighted countries due to “very high levels of COVID-19” and increased crime in half of the locations.

    For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

    The CDC says to “make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel” to any of the Level 4 countries, which have had a minimum of 500 cases of COVID-19 per 100,00 residents in the past 28 days. Some of the included nations, Belize for example, have barely surpassed the weekly case number threshold since Aug. 16, including nine days where they recorded zero cases (Aug. 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 and Sept. 6, 7, 12, 13) per data from the World Health Organization.

    Then there are warnings for some countries, such as Afghanistan, that are a direct reflection of ongoing turmoil.

    “Do not travel to Afghanistan due to civil unrest, armed conflict, crime, terrorism, kidnapping, and COVID-19,” says the State Department. “Travel to all areas of Afghanistan is unsafe. The Department of State assesses the risk of kidnapping or violence against U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is high.”

    Related: CDC and State Department tell Americans to reconsider travel to Canada

    After withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul suspended operations on Aug. 31, but “continue(s) to assist U.S. citizens and their families in Afghanistan from Doha, Qatar.”

    Similarly, Israel has received the highest travel warnings from both agencies despite having one of the highest vaccination rates among its residents in the world, with 63% and over 5 million people as of Sept. 13, according to Our World in Data. Even so, the country recorded record case numbers for most of the summer, including a high of nearly 70,000 cases for the week ending Aug. 30, per data from the WHO.

    Related: CDC issues 7 new travel warnings, including Switzerland

    Other places have received warnings tied to the development of COVID-19, including many island nations that have been hit particularly hard by lost tourism due to the pandemic, such as the Caribbean.

    Of the 105 current “Do Not Travel” State Department advisories, 13 of them are for Caribbean nations, including the two issued this week for Grenada and St. Kitts and Nevis. In addition, existing Level 4 warnings are in place for Jamaica, St. Lucia, the Bahamas, Sint Maarten, Haiti, Dominica, Aruba, Cuba, Curacao, the French West Indies (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint-Martin and St. Barts) and the British Virgin Islands. Just three of them include additional safety concerns from the State Department (Jamaica, the Bahamas and Haiti).

    Read more: Jamaica among latest destinations to receive travel warning from CDC

    Since the start of the pandemic, St. Kitts and Nevis has recorded fewer than 1,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and six deaths, according to the WHO. Likewise, there have been just over 2,200 cases in Dominica with only six deaths, and 2,600 cases and 37 deaths in the BVI.

    Featured photo of St. Kitts by tillsonburg via Getty Images.

  • India and Singapore To Link Their Payments Systems (622 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 12:05:00 -0400India and Singapore To Link Their Payments SystemsSlashdot

    India and Singapore are working to link their digital payments systems to enable "instant, low-cost fund transfers," in a major push to disrupt the cross-border transactions between the two nations that amounts to over $1 billion each year. From a report: The project to link India's Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Singapore's PayNow is targeted for operationalization by July 2022, both nation's central banks said on Tuesday. Users on either of the systems will be able to make transactions to one another without having to sign up to the second platform, the banks added.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • 85239142 (641 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 12:01:00 -0400Nikon Rumors

    The Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 lens is now availabke fore pre-order:

    The shipping date for the 40mm lens is “later this fall” according to the official press release.

    The post The new Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 lens is now available for pre-order appeared first on Nikon Rumors.

  • Earn 60k bonus miles: Capital One Venture Rewards credit card review (7703 characters)

    Tue, 14 Sep 2021 12:00:00 -0400Earn 60k bonus miles: Capital One Venture Rewards credit card reviewThe Points Guy

    Editor?s note: This post has been updated with current information.

    Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card overview

    The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card continues to innovate by attracting new customers and rewarding existing ones. The card effortlessly blends fixed-value redemption with several airline and hotel transfer partners with many new transfer rates. Plus, a new lucrative sign-up bonus makes it even more attractive for new cardholders. Its low annual fee and solid return on everyday spending make it a keeper ? if you?re able to get approved for it. Card Rating*: ????½

    *Card rating is based on the opinion of TPG?s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

    The award travel world is incredibly complex, with transfer partners to keep track of and a never-ending stack of acronyms to memorize. But it shouldn?t have to be difficult to earn and use credit card rewards. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a great answer to this complex problem, offering both simple earning and redemption options for beginners and high-value transfer options for the more experienced points and miles collector.

    Application link: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card available for 60,000 bonus miles.

    Who is the Capital One Venture for?

    Free-agent travelers, or those who aren?t inherently loyal to a single hotel chain or airline, can take full advantage of the flexibility that this card offers.

    While you won?t get any airline-specific perks such as free checked bags or priority boarding with this card, you?ll be able to use your rewards to jump on the cheapest cash ticket to wherever you?re going while still taking advantage of transfer partners in all three major alliances (Star Alliance, Oneworld and SkyTeam). That flexibility to switch between ?cash tickets? paid at a fixed value with Venture miles and award tickets booked by transferring your miles to the line-up of airline programs make it even easier for you to stay on top of the best deals.

    Capital One Venture Sign-up bonus

    The Capital One Venture comes with a decent sign-up bonus of 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on the card within the first three months of account opening. This sign-up bonus isn?t the highest we’ve ever seen from Capital One, but it?s a decent offer for the relatively low spending requirement.

    Based on TPG valuations, Capital One miles are worth 1.7 cents each when they?re transferred to loyalty programs. In other words, the 60,000-mile bonus is worth $1,020.

    Related: Redeeming Capital One miles for maximum value

    Main benefits and perks of the Capital One Venture

    The standout benefits of the Capital One Venture are:

    Benefits are only available to accounts approved for the Visa Signature card. Terms apply.

    Related: 6 reasons to get the Capital One Venture Rewards card

    How to Earn Capital One miles

    Earning miles on the Venture Rewards card is pretty straightforward, making the card useful to those who don?t want to spend a lot of mental energy swapping credit cards in and out for different types of merchants. You?ll earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend with the card on every transaction, which means you?re getting 2 to 3.4 cents (factoring in TPG?s latest valuations) in travel for every dollar in purchases, with no annual cap.

    It?s easy to zero in on high-powered and popular bonus categories for dining or travel, but there?s a lot of money that gets spent outside of defined bonus categories. Adding a card like the Venture Rewards card to your wallet can help you mop up all those extra miles and ensure you aren?t leaving anything on the table when paying for big-ticket but usually non-bonus purchases.

    How to Redeem Capital One miles

    There are two solid ways to redeem the rewards you earn with this card:

    1. Pay off travel purchases made in the past 90 days on your statement without having to worry about the complexities of many loyalty programs.
    2. Transfer miles to 16 airline and three hotel programs.

    This second option is the way to get the most value from your miles. Here are some examples of what you can do:

    • Booking Lufthansa business class with no fuel surcharges through Avianca LifeMiles.
    • Booking American Airlines business-class flights to Europe through Etihad Guest.
    • Booking U.S. domestic flights through various airlines.

    If you?re confused about how to transfer Capital One miles to airline and hotel partners, here?s how to do it.

    Which cards compete with the Capital One Venture?

    No card perfectly replicates the Capital One Venture, but here are a few cards that offer a similar experience:

    • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card:
      • 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points awarded with $4,000 in spending within the first three months from account opening.
      • 5 points per dollar on Lyft (through March 2022) and travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal.
        3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services and online groceries (excludes Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs).
        2 points per dollar on all travel not booked through the Chase Travel Portal.
        1 point per dollar on everything else.
      • Ability to transfer points to valuable airline and hotel partners.
      • Book travel through the Chase Travel portal at a value of 1.25 cents per point.
      • $95 annual fee.

    Related: Starter card showdown: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Capital One Venture

    • Amex EveryDay® Preferred Card from American Express:
      • 15,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
      • 3 points per dollar on the first $6,000 you spend each year at U.S. supermarket (then 1 point per dollar).
      • 2 points per dollar at U.S. gas stations.
      • 1 point per dollar on all other qualifying purchases.
      • 50% points bonus when you make at least 30 purchases in a billing statement.
      • Ability to transfer Amex Membership Rewards to valuable airline and hotel partners.
      • $95 annual fee.

    The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

    Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card:

    • 20,000 bonus miles after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
    • 1.25 miles per dollar spent on all purchases.
    • Ability to transfer miles to valuable airline and hotel partners.
    • No annual fee.

    Related: Credit card showdown: Capital One Venture Card vs. Capital One VentureOne Card

    Bottom line

    The Capital One Venture Rewards Card earns miles at a consistent rate and can facilitate simple fixed-rate redemptions along with more complicated awards with hotel and airline partners. This card packs a lot in for a $95 annual fee, and it even makes the cut as one of our best travel credit cards.

    Official application link: Capital One Venture Rewards Card available for 60,000 bonus miles.

    Additional reporting by Stella Shon and Joseph Hostetler.

    Featured image by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy.

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