Tag Archives: passion

10 tips for better photos

1 Sep

Here are my top 10 tips to help you take better photos

1. Avoid distracting elements such as too much light / dark, light / dark elements. Try to set either a light or dark tone for your overall image.

2. Eliminate distracting elements that draw your eye in a bad way. Examples: If things are too close to the edge they will create unwanted tension because your eye wants to close the small gap. If there’s red in a picture it usually is the brightest element and can draw your eye even if it’s not what you wanted the viewer to focus on.

3. Don’t center things, it creates more interest when things are off center. Asymmetry moves your eye around the image more than if things are exactly centered. When things are centered rather than in thirds, your eye just looks and rests only in the center.

4. If you want to really impact people with your work. Think of how to photograph the subject from a different view (physically or emotionally).

5. Depth of field matters. You want to illicit emotion and movement of the eye. You want to focus on one subject and let the rest fall away / become the background. Your other option is to have everything tack sharp (everything all in focus). For sure, one thing in your picture has to be tack (meaning REALLY) sharp in the photo. Pick your focus: all in focus or only one element that’s focused really well, that will create your one emotion.

6. The fewer the elements, the stronger the composition. As you don’t need too many words in a sentence, you don’t need too many elements in a photo. It gets distracting. Have a resting place like the sky or the ground. Plus, if you have that space you can create images like this for your brand:

Light Our Own Way

7. Give scale by not all things being the same size. If everything was the same size in the photo it wouldn’t be as dynamic. Same goes for a headline in an ad. If it was the same size it wouldn’t draw you into the article.

8. When taking pictures of people, make sure that they don’t have a tree coming out of their heads.

9. If the photo is a close up picture of a person, make sure their eyes are in focus. That is the most important thing on the face to focus on. It will draw you into the portrait.

10. Remember that posture also matters a lot when taking pictures of people. You want them to shine in your photo, not look like Oscar the slouch that has no figure.


If you are trying to figure out what to do for your own head shot session, check out this blog post for tips.

If you like this post I’m coming out with an ebook very soon. It has expanded tips as well as example photos. Leave a comment if you want to know when the book is available.

7 wonders of Oregon

19 Jul

My home state has to be one of the best, if not THE best! We have 7 wonders…and then some!

I was just on a 1,000 mile road trip with a new friend to a new place. We went down to the Alvord Desert in southwestern Oregon. It was incredible, but not on the official Travel Oregon roster for the 7 wonders. But, really you can’t put all of Oregon on the list.

You can read all about the drive and experience on the Alvord Desert and see pictures in my last post.

Oregon’s desert hot springs

After watching the sun rise above the desert we went to relax in the Alvord Hot Springs. There’s a small $5 fee to go in but the views are great. You are sitting in this hot pool overlooking the desert on one side and looking up at Steens Mountain on the other. This is also a place you can camp if you don’t want to rough it without a toilet or fire pit. They also offer a private access road to the desert from the camp and a day use area for hiking.

When we were done soaking up the beauty and warm water we drove around the mountains and up to the top. It’s a rough gravel road but we made it to enjoy the view of the desert from 9,733 feet (the Alvord Desert at elevation of about 4,200 feet, that’s why it’s called high desert).

Alvord from Steens


Steens Mountain to Painted Hills

From the mountain we headed North to see the Painted Hills. My friend had never been there and we knew that if we timed it right we could make it by sunset. If we camped near by we could also do sunrise. Two of my favorite times of day. The world is so quiet and the light is just right for photos. Everything glows and looks so beautiful. when taking photos during mid day everything can get so washed out with the harsh light or provides weird shadows, especially on people.

We lucked out when we arrived before sunset to see the moon rising above the gorgeous Painted Hills. No camera tricks here, these hills actually look like this. The light changes slightly, but they are always amazing.

Painted Hills at Sunset


Painted Hills to Smith Rock

A short distance from the Painted Hills and pretty much on the drive home, is Smith Rock. Another of Oregon’s official wonders. It’s a great place for camping and hiking but we didn’t get to do either as we were pretty much exhausted from driving and playing for two days in the desert. We were ready get home and shower.

Smith Rock Sisters


Mt Hood

On the way home from Smith Rock you get awesome views of Hood and after a short drive (and/or hike) you can have even better views. I just wish it weren’t so warm this year. The snow melt is way ahead of schedule. The plus side is that wildflower season was happening when I was up there. (Photo taken from the PCT trail — a short hike from Timberline Lodge)

Wild Hood


Columbia River Gorge

Another of Oregon’s wonders that didn’t make our road trip this time but I go up there quite a lot is the Columbia River Gorge. It’s cool on warm summer days and stays green year round. I love all the shades of green that you can see in the gorge. The waterfalls aren’t half bad either.

Latourelle Falls


Oregon Coast

The place where I’ve spent many years of my life, the Oregon Coast. We don’t call it a beach or beaches because it’s not really warm enough year round to hang out and get in the water but it’s still pretty special. It has some of the most picturesque places with all the rocks and trees. The wildflowers are nice too, when you can catch them.

Beach textures


Crater Lake

Crater Lake is another FANTASTIC wonder that you must see. The blue color of the lake is unreal. This place really is our #1 wonder! Well, that’s my opinion anyway.

Picture 070

The last official wonder is one that I have never been to but I hope to go soon. I’ll let you know about it when I get there but in case you want to go before me it’s in NE Oregon, the Wallowa’s.

UPDATE: I went to the Wallowas and it’s incredible!

If you like what you see, I sell prints of my photos. I have thousands (some on Flickr, some on my business website)!  You can also follow my daily adventures on Instagram. I post tons of photos from around the world. I’m also pretty active on Twitter.

I hope you enjoyed looking at the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them and sharing my home state’s beauty.



How to find good travel companions

15 Mar

Do you want to travel but you don’t want to do it by yourself? Or perhaps your spouse doesn’t have the time off and you do? There are so many ways to find good travel buddies. I’ve tried several things that have worked.

How did I get a four continent friend?! I just asked. Sometimes that’s all you have to do. Ask.

It all began…

Years ago, I was single and wanting to travel more. I didn’t really want to do it all alone and some of my friends just didn’t have that much vacation outside of family time. I had just met someone on a volunteer board. I heard she liked to travel so one day I asked her, “Would you want to do a trip together?” Then we started talking more and more. Soon we had planned our first adventure: a european road trip! After that, we toured a few SE Asian countries during two different trips and most recently we met up for a safari in Africa.

Friends on safari

Meet travel buddies while traveling

Not only have I had some amazing trips with friends and family but I’ve also met some really cool people while traveling. Wandering the streets of Gothenburg I was a bit lonely so I went in to the tourist office and overheard another woman asking about the same places I was looking to visit. So, I asked her if she wanted to roam around together. In the Philippines, on a trip with my husband we met two awesome sisters. Traveled to another city, had some great food and shared a hike.

Make new new friends from your home town

Recently in Africa, I met up with an acquaintance from home. I overheard her saying she was going to be in Cape Town the same time I was there and so I thought, I must meet up with her and get to know her. I mean, she does have good tastes in travel destinations, right? Well, we did meet up, on the top of Table Mountain (of all the awesome places!) and we are quickly getting to know one another. We have so much in common, it was meant to be!

Life on the Edge


Also, just because you don’t live in the same town doesn’t mean you can’t travel together. You just meet up at your destination. I’ve done this a few times. Works great!

Travel websites

There are also websites out there where you can find travel companions or people to stay with (Couchsurfing for example). You never know who your next travel buddy will be…just get out there and look. Ask around. Make new friends.

I love travel and I love meeting others who share my same passion. By reading this, I’m guessing that’s you too.

If you have any fun stories of meeting new friends on the road, feel free to comment. I love telling travel stories to anyone that will listen, but I also love to hear them as well.

Happy travels, my friends!

Wisdom and inspiration from my WDS soul tribe

27 Jul Activate: Brave Bot

My journey to the unconventional life I lead now wasn’t long in miles (unless you count airline miles) but long in years. It took me a while to actually live the life I wanted to live. I always thought I couldn’t do it or I wasn’t ready. One thing WDS 2014 taught me was that taking imperfect action and starting before you are ready are the two things we all need to do more often. You learn so much when you just start. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to start. You have to live the life you want to live before you can actually live it.

Sounds confusing, right?

It’s not. Let me tell you about my favorite lessons from this year’s World Domination Summit. Maybe it will help you live the life you’ve always wanted. I know it’s helped me already!

AJ Jacobs told us to be bold. To be experimental. To act the way we want to feel. If your body acts how you want to feel your mind will catch on eventually. At least, that’s what science says so it must be true. Acting how you want to live will start to be how you actually live. For me that means putting a smile on my face when I’m feeling down or frustrated. Not walking all hunched over but instead putting on my invisible cape and letting my enthusiasm lead the way.

You just have to fake it till you make it. And, it’s not really faking it, it’s just starting before you’re ready. Maybe you need to look in the mirror and give your old friend a pep talk about how awesome you are. I know I need this kick in the pants some days. (insert power pose here — that’s right stand up, do it…you’ll feel better)

Be bold. Be experimental. Dream. Do.

Jadah Sellner of Simple Green Smoothies, taught us that building a business is like building a relationship. The first thing you should do is say your dreams out loud. Doing that tells the world what you want and people will help you get there and it also means that you are really asking for it.

Take imperfect action to achieve your dreams. You don’t have to know everything you are doing because you will learn along the way. All successful people have failed, you just might not know it, but I’m sure if you ask they will tell you about it. In fact, why don’t you do just that. If you are having trouble reach out to your mentors. Ask them how they got there.

The last thing you need to do is learn to let go. You can’t do everything to be successful in business. Learn what you are good at and do that. Hire professionals for the rest. Also, let go of those dreams that just aren’t working out. It’s ok. You’ve got other dreams you can work on. Don’t forget that in each of us is a 5 year old that has many dreams. Always be dreaming and doing…

I'm Melissa Jones and I am somebody

Michael Hyatt taught me that there are three kinds of life we can be living or maybe we’ve been living each of them at different points in our life. I know I’ve been in all three, probably just this week! There’s the drifting life where you are just floating and not really engaged or knowing what’s going on around you. You’re just going through the motions. I know I’ve been in this phase when going through a really rough patch in my life, I called it the fog. I didn’t know when I was in it till I was starting to climb out.

If you know that the drifting life isn’t for you, then you may be on the opposite side of the spectrum, leading the driven life. You are overcorrecting and trying to never drift. You’re trying to always be in control of everything. You aren’t letting go of anything but good health because you are stressed all the time. This is me when I let go of my self care (running, time with friends, time away from my computer). When I’m working so hard during the week, I don’t take any time for me. I feel horrible. I’ve forgotten what I want my life to be like. What’s work for, if you can’t play too?

The third life is the intentional life, it’s the desired life. You are doing the things that are important to you and focusing on how you want to be remembered. You are leaving your mark on the world and being a better person because of it. You are doing what matters to you. You are putting on your own air mask before assisting others. You can’t help others if you are dying. Wake up! Stop drifting and overcorrecting. Life is short. Here’s my story about waking up!

Go outside your comfort zone and live.

Elise Blaha Cripe, was a last minute addition to the WDS speaker list and one that really resonated with me as an artist. She was another that spoke to the theme of dreams and saying them out loud. She was also a huge proponent of breaking down your large goals into actionable to do lists. Doing this makes achieving your dreams more manageable. You just have to focus on step one. Then step two. Not looking into the future, just focusing on the here and now. The one step you have right in front of you. I’m so guilty of messing this one up. I can get really bogged down in my to do list without focusing on one thing at a time. When I do this, often called multi-tasking, I’ve screwed up everything I’ve been working on to some degree. When I do this, I have to remember to slow down and focus. Turn off my distractions and really prioritize. I really need to start going for a walk. I need to be clearing my head and remembering to put on a smile (and a cape if needed) before starting work again.

If you don’t know where to start ask someone that’s been there, they’ll tell you the steps. Take bold moves or you’ll never achieve anything beyond what you’ve already done. Speak your dreams out load and get on board with your own ideas. Get others to hold you accountable or help you when you get stuck. This works! Do it and do it often! If the thing you want to do has never been done before, do it. If you make something for you, chances are others will benefit from it too. If not, your life isn’t over, move on to the next dream. It’s ok to fail, that’s how we learn to succeed.

Find your tribe, if you haven’t already.

Start a mastermind, resource circle or accountability group. I’ve had a group of four ladies that I’ve met with online for the past four years. WDS 2014 was the first year we were all together in person. It was amazing! And it all started because I asked for some accountability friends for a course we all signed up for. They answered the call and now I have three friends for life! Who knows what more you can have in your life if you just ask. That reminds me of last year’s speech by Jia Jiang. Take risks, make the big asks…stop being afraid of rejection.

We’re all in this together. We’re all family, really, just look at our family tree.

WDS is truly my soul tribe, the place where I belong.

 I'm Melissa Jones and I want to change the world!

Make good choices! — John Jantsch

 Are you a maker or afraid of your own ideas? I know I’m a maker that’s afraid to ship…sometimes!

Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Jump! — Scott Berkun

Read more about my leap into helping awesompreneurs “full time”. My jump into the intentional life.

 I help awesompreneurs!

WDS is all about inspiration, adventure and service to the world! Let’s do this!

Full speed ahead!

How can I help you today?

Moving to Portland: How I reinvented my life through my WDS tribe

18 Jul

Drawn to Portland

When I lived in Corvallis, I loved visiting Portland on weekends. There was so much to see and do all the time, especially in the summer. How did I end up actually moving to Portland after years of talking about it and lusting after this awesome city? It all began when a mentor of mine drew me to a Portland-based conference of amazing people and when I was told “no” one too many times.

Learning to listen to myself

In 2012, I said “yes” and I went to the World Domination Summit (WDS) in Portland. It changed my life. I had been in a fog since my mom’s death in 2009 and I was searching for a better life, a different way than I was living at the time. I always considered myself unconventional yet I wasn’t really living that way on a day-to-day basis…anymore. I was living in a town that didn’t fit my adventurous ways and working at a job that caged me in a box.  After two and a half days at WDS, I came home late Sunday night and went into work early Monday morning.  It was like hitting a brick wall. My inner consciousness was screaming: “You don’t belong here”!

I had heard this voice before. I had heard it even before my mom was sick, and the whole time she was fighting cancer. But I ignored what it was saying. I didn’t think that it was a great time to up and quit my job. I had to keep paying my bills. I had a husband. I had friends and family telling me “no, you can’t quit”. The last thing I wanted was to be a burden on anyone else. I put my needs on the back burner. Besides, I had no energy left to fight for anything else but her cancer for four years. When she passed I was exhausted. I felt defeated and wounded beyond belief.

Finding my way by making new goals

WDS was the inspiration I desperately needed to wake up again. After the event in July of 2012, I decided to make some one-year goals for myself, for the next conference. I wanted to drastically change my life. I wanted to quit my job, move, be around more amazing people and travel the world for more than a week or two at a time. I wanted life to be more unconventional, every day. Thankfully, my husband supported me in all of these goals. And the people that didn’t support me?  I wouldn’t let them derail me anymore.

Months later, at the end of 2012, things started lining up. Chris Guillebeau, the founder of WDS and my travel mentor, was having a celebration in Oslo, in April 2013, because he had visited every country in the world. Norway being his last stop. I have followed his journey for some time and really wanted to go. I asked if I could have the time off work and was told “no”. I knew it was time to pick what was most important to me. I had wrestled with this soul-sucking demon long enough. It was time to end it and start over. Time to rip off the band aid and start the new journey into healing myself and my soul. I bought my ticket to the party, and booked a plane ticket to ensure there was no way I could continue at my job. I had backed out of quitting so many times before, but I knew that I would never back out on a plane ticket and trip with friends. Part of the healing process is to know thyself and listen to the voice within!

Shortly before the trip I put in my notice at work. They thought I was crazy to quit my job and not have anything lined up. Not to mention going to Europe for three weeks. “Who does that?” they asked me. Obviously not the people that worked there. I was different; I could see that now.  I could see myself going places. I couldn’t stay a caged cubicle bird any longer. I had to fly, literally and figuratively. I worked hard until 5 o’clock on my last day. I walked out the door and got on a plane for the first three week vacation of my life. I was flying off to celebrate a special achievement for someone with big goals, someone I admired, someone I wanted to be like. I was flying off to start an adventure, to craft my own big goals. Life was great! …Then my husband got laid off work.

Where do I belong?

I had an amazing time in Europe, but was worried about spending money; not knowing what we would do when I came home. More had to change in order to live the lifestyle I wanted. Once I returned home we made the decision to move. I wanted to move to Portland for the city life and the people I had met at WDS. My husband thought we should check out Austin, TX or another state instead of Portland, which he considered a “comfortable” choice. He remembered that I wanted to push my boundaries, and Portland might not be enough of a push. We decided to take a road trip and apply for some jobs along the way.

We toured 10 states! The road trip was great, but the decision was clear: we wanted to be in Portland. We put in our month notice at our apartment and I began packing up the life I had led for the previous ten years. I purged a lot of belongings; I cried; I wanted to change my mind but ultimately, I knew I needed to move on. I needed to be in the city. After all, I wanted to do that years ago. It was my dream. Time to make my dream happen.

What I love about Portland

Portland has an amazing food and arts scene, amazing people and a top rated international airport — all things I was looking for and that were important to me for my home city. I wanted to surround myself with the people I saw as my mentors — my tribe — my WDS community. I wanted to be around people that were going places, achieving their big goals or starting something new. I didn’t want to be stagnant anymore. I wanted to grow. I wanted to be with my tribe year round. And I wanted to travel more often without the road trip just to get to the airport.

Now I Belong

Things were scary and different at first, but I wouldn’t have changed it. After being in Portland for just over a year I have grown so much. I have met so many great people through my WDS community and beyond. I have pursued my own business and partnered with others (still working on making it sustainable but at least I started). I have eaten at many great restaurants, photographed my adventures (I sell prints!), had gallery shows and I have gone to several movies, concerts and events. There are so many things to do on any given day. I have sounding boards for my business ideas and more fast friends than I’ve ever had before. I didn’t lose anything by moving to Portland; I’ve only gained. For the first time in years — or maybe ever — I feel like I belong, and that’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. Other than skydiving or my mother’s unconditional love and friendship.

Living in Portland is like living WDS year round. It’s a way of life. It’s my community. I’m not a native, but I feel like this is my home. When I travel, I know I have a great place to come back to. I know I that I have a home that I’m connected with no matter where I fly off to.

Portland. It’s not just different; it’s better.


P.S. If you think this would help someone, please share. If you want to talk more with me about my story and what I do, contact me. I’m just a girl, making her way in the world.

P.P.S. WDS 2012 post, WDS 2013 post and the other awesome Chris G event Pioneer Nation.

Mom and I

One of the last photos I have with my mom, my best friend and the person that inspired me to travel and live my dreams.


TEDx inspiration

12 May

I went to my first live TEDx event and it was fabulous. All the inspiration you get when you watch the talks online but you also get the comraderie of seeing these talks live with 200 other people.  Plus, you get to network with those people. They are potential friends, business partners and future collaborators.

My highlights from TEDx ConcordiaUPortland:

When you don’t know what to do, do something. Don’t just sit there and do nothing. It’s one small thing that will take you on a path to the next thing and then pretty soon you are that much closer to your BIG goal. All big goals should be broken down into smaller goals anyway. It helps make them more achievable. Dream big. Have adventures…it makes you smarter, stronger and more attractive.  — Tyler Tervooren

I should have taken a gap year! Something you don’t learn in school in the U.S., I feel. You learn that you should graduate high school, then you need to go to college or get a job. No one really helps you find yourself. That’s where a gap year can come in handy. You get to live a dream and explore the world, all while trying to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life. In case you don’t already know, you can’t absorb a culture from a book. You must go there to really experience it. Connecting with others in their culture is magical. It’s worth every cold shower and lizard on the wall. Trust. If you don’t, you’ll live in fear. — Rita Golden Gelman

If you make a lot of things, it makes it clear what matters. Making a lot of small things, really does add up to something big. You need to be determined to prove that voice in your head wrong. It’s not your job to judge your work, it’s your job to make the work. People never agree on the crap and the greatness. You should be more afraid of making nothing than making something bad. The collective is always better than the individual pieces or steps. — Jolie Guillebeau

Everyone has a disability in their life whether is’s temporary or permanent, noticeable or not. — Catherine J. H. Miller

Community is formed around a pint that is changing the world. — Ryan Saari started the first non-profit pub.

Treat others how you imagine they dream of being treated, including yourself (I don’t know about you but I need more practice on this one!). When you are hard on yourself, you are hard on others. That’s the Golden Rule 2.0 by Ryan Wines.

Know your true goal. Follow your passion. Begin with Balance. Entrepreneurship is just a tool to build the life you want. Don’t sacrifice balance for a big payoff. All you need is a teaspoon of passion to work on something. Don’t kill your biggest passions by turning them into a business. It will take the fun out of it. Build a relationship with work that suits your lifestyle. — Michelle Rowley

Far too often when we are trying to think of something creative we start looking at what others are doing and we don’t look to our own natural filter first. Take the golden moment and think abut your own expertise and originality. Stand up, move around, take a walk, take a shower. Your idea will come if you foster this creativity inside yourself. — Michael Curry

Love yourself first. Then love your neighbor. You can’t offer someone else a drink if your cup is empty. How about you exchange full cups? Respect each other. Treat yourself as you would treat a friend. Look in a mirror if you have to. — Saeeda Wright


If there is a local TEDx event in your community check it out. Other great events in Portland are Pioneer Nation and WDS. All great communities with amazing people!

Feel free to share or comment. I love having conversations about inspirational ideas, amazing events and great people!


Getting that energized travel high every day

18 Apr

I love travel!

I love adventure and trying new things. I was talking to a friend about this the other day and gained some new insights I thought I would share.

I love to discover new places. I love finding out how to navigate a new city or find the best market to shop at. I love finding restaurants and trying the local favorites. I love being immersed in another culture. It’s all so new and different.

Now, I’ve been at home for months with no actual travel plans on the calendar. Eek! How do I keep that “alive” feeling when I’m not traveling? My friend told me that this feeling I love is because being somewhere new makes you more present. You are more in the moment than you are in your day to day routine. You are soaking in the details, using all your senses to take it all in and remember that moment. You are there, mind, body and spirit. When you are at home you may have a routine or already know everything that is around you in your home, office or car. You don’t have to be as “in the moment” to keep yourself going in the right direction to get home. You often go on auto pilot and don’t even notice anything in your path. So, my new challenge is to be more present in my day to day life and to have more “local” adventures at “home”.

My goals for being at home:

  • Setting my phone aside and being present in my in person meetings.
  • Go on more walks in my neighborhood and just look at things (look up, look down, left, right). I do often do this with the photographers eye but I’d like to do it with the grateful eye or the “in the moment” eye too.
  • Cultivate more awareness everyday, not just on the days I am somewhere new.

I challenge you to do the same if you also like that “alive” feeling. To me, that’s the only way to live. Living is being outside your comfort zone, it’s pushing your boundaries. It’s about constantly growing, having new experiences — even if you’ve done something 1,000 times — I’m sure you can still see something new. How about walking a different block or street. Driving a new street home. Eating at a new restaurant. Going to a meet up. Look for new things. Don’t just go on auto pilot. Life is about living!

What are you doing to challenge yourself in this realm? I’d love for you to leave a comment.

Rose colored run

Today I ran until I could find a pink path. That was a fun challenge.