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Trip Coach: Need help taking better vacation photos?

By Brad Tuttle
October 3, 2012

You're back from a recent trip, scrolling through the pictures in your digital camera, and frankly, they're a bit disappointing. The images are flat, out of focus, barren of life, just plain lame. What went wrong? In an upcoming Trip Coach column, we'll help explain—and reveal how to bring back awesome photos next time around.

Fire away every question you've ever had about how to get better vacation photos. Want some tricks for nailing the perfect sunset? Or to find out some easy ways to get great pics of your kids? When's the best light, and how do you cope when the sun just isn't cooperating? Are you puzzled as to what photo-sharing services work best? And what the heck are all those icons—runner, flower, crescent moon, and so on—next to the shutter release?

We can help. Send us your questions, and we'll answer them in an upcoming Trip Coach column of the magazine.

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Inspiration

Paris: Mama's roof is on fire!

Beginning tonight, the incredible value Mama Shelter hotel will begin hosting weekend BBQs up on their roof. The menu is a bit pricey—dinner for two will cost as much as your room—but this is a good chance to mingle in the open air with a hip eastern Paris set. It also happens to be one of the few tasty dining options close to the Père Lachaise cemetery. Superchef Alain Senderens won't exactly be manning the grills, but the rooftop menu reflects his hand in the hotel restaurant downstairs. On the menu for €39 ($54) a basket of crudités, lentil salad, grilled kebabs of beef, chicken and fish, lamb chops, potatoes, sorbet, watermelon and other seasonal fruits. Drinks not included. Lunch is served on Saturdays from 12–4 p.m., and dinner on Thursday to Saturday from 7–11 p.m. It sounds pretty fun, but here's the serious budget strategy: stay in the hotel—summer rooms start at only €89 ($125)—and bring your own bottle of rosé up to the roof. Pretend that you're waiting for your party to arrive while reveling in the buzzy scene. Finish your drink, then head off to dinner at Frenchie! Mama Shelter, 109 rue de Bagnolet, 20th arrondissement, 011-33/1-43-48-45-45.

Should the TSA regulate carry-on bag size?

Congressman Dan Lipinski (Democrat of Illinois) introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives yesterday to "standardize and clarify the dimensions of carry-on baggage." Right now, each airline sets its own rules on carry-on bag size and weight, and the airlines do their own enforcing of the rules. The congressman wants to create a one-size-fits-all law, and have the TSA enforce it. The proposal is to allows all bags to be as much as 22 inches by 18 inches by 10 inches in external dimensions. Travel writers are splitting into two camps about the plan. David Rowell at The Travel Insider likes the idea. He writes in his e-mail newsletter this week: "Anyone who has watched boarding passengers flagrantly disregard airline 'rules' about the number and size of carry-on pieces, only to then board themselves and find no remaining overhead space for their own modest sized single piece, will support this legislation." On the other hand, Brett Snyder at The Cranky Flier doesn't like the proposed law. Southwest, he points out, currently allows 24 by 16 by 10 in dimensions, and AirTran allows even larger pieces, and JetBlue (on its larger A320 planes) is the "most generous" by allowing 26 by 18 by 12 maximum inches. So the new regulation would force these airlines to shrink the carry-on sizes they allow. If you're used to having a bit more room for your carry-on bags when flying those planes, you'll be annoyed, he points out. What say you?

Inspiration

Toledo "hearts" its zoo babies

Just in time for Father's Day, Ohio's Toledo Zoo today opened its cutting-edge redesign for a children's zoo: Nature's Neighborhood. Open year-round and free with regular zoo admission, Nature's Neighborhood helps kids learn about animals and nature while they play games, often mimicking the actions of the very animals they're studying. A classic example: At the new Guinea Pig Exhibit—the zoo believes it's the largest in the world—kids can watch the little creatures go up and down little slides. Next to the exhibit is a kid-size slide for the little ones to play on. At Home Sweet Home, set up like a real house, kids learn all about taking care of household pets, with dog, cat, and bird training demonstrations and the chance to see zoo staff making treats for their furry pals. The kitchen features a "catwalk" above the cabinets where felines can roam—and hide inside the cabinets when they want privacy. In the "bedroom," kids can hold and learn how to groom guinea pigs and also dress up in face paint and costume likenesses of their favorite animals, including birds and zebras. Keep an eye out for the special bookcase, which slides aside to reveal the secret passageway to the Forest. There, kids can learn all about insect hierarchy by dressing up like worker and queen bees, and gardener and soldier ants. Then they can experience the creatures' habitats by crawling in and out of a giant honeycomb and up and down a kid-size spider web. There's also an aviary, with a special branch that's half inside the aviary and half outside it, allowing children to sit on the same perch as the colorful birds. Outside, there's the Backyard. Kids can splash around in the stream and test different materials to see what works best to dam up or divert the flow of the three-inch-deep water (don't worry, it's pool-quality water). At the nearby beach, kids can put on "animal feet" and make deer, raccoon, and duck tracks in the sand. At the gift shop, KC's Corner Store, kids can "Build a Conservation Animal." Similar to Build-A-Bear Workshops, only focusing on animals that the zoo is working to save through conservation efforts, the store allows kids to create their own polar bears, penguins, cheetahs, and more—with a portion of proceeds benefiting the zoo's conservation program. Zoo admission is $11 for adults and $8 for kids; visit on Father's Day and dads get in free with their children. And if you're into zoo babies (who isn't?), the Toledo Zoo in April welcomed a newborn white-naped crane. Zoo Babies 2009! Vote for your cutest baby

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