digital photography tips with Digital Photo Mentor Darlene Hildebrandt

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Tips for Making Your Photography Bucket List

Making a bucket list is a great idea, I encourage you to have one and share it publicly. I also suggest that you customize your list to include a few photography items as well, or make a completely separate photography bucket list.

Things you'd like to accomplish with your photography could be included, as well as places and things you want to photograph.

Another great list to make is one that encompasses all the things you've already done in your life. What have you achieved, where have you visited, what are some distinctly unique things about you? I find that when I get a bit down I can give myself a little pickup just by looking at this list and feeling like I've done some great and cool things. I call it the Things About Me List. It's still a work in progress.

So in this article, I'm going to share my lists with you (both of them) and suggest that you share yours in the comments below as well. Writing it down and putting your bucket list out there in the world (not just having it in your head) will put you on the path towards actually doing those things! The next step is to pick one or two and make plans to put them on your calendar over the next year. Okay – let's do this!

Things About Me

Here are 100 things you may or may not know about me (Darlene). Make your own list like this – it's not bragging it like your autobiography in point form. Take pride in the things you've done. I do. (updated Dec 7th, 2018)

  • I speak English, introductory French (took in school, forgot a lot of it), and intermediate Spanish.
  • Coded my first website in HTML myself in 1995 using WordPad.
  • Pets I have had include; 2 dogs, 5 cats, 5 birds, 2 iguanas, 1 snake, 3 gerbils, and a guinea pig.
My current pets. Munch (short for Munchkin) on the left and Fuzz on the right.
  • I have two tattoos (one on my lower back that represents my zodiac sign, two fish, and the Chinese character for strength – the other on the back of my left shoulder which is a hummingbird that for me represents doing the impossible) and want another one (a bee on my forearm with a trail behind him that says “Just bee . . .”
  • I have tandem skydived in New Zealand (my mom did it too!).
  • I have worked with companies in New Zealand (9 years, visited there 9 times for meetings) and Australia (dPS 5 years).
  • My husband and I bungee jumped the day before our wedding.
  • Spent 6 months traveling in an RV around the states and Canada (with my new husband). Went 17,000 miles, 27,000 km. Covered around 30 states and 7 provinces.
Us with our older cats (Pumpkin and Boo, that we lost in 2012) on our RV trip in 2010.
A neat diner we found on our RV trip.
  • Have spent over five months cumulatively in Nicaragua.
  • My mother and I rappelled into a cave in New Zealand.
  • I have white water rafted (even though I'm terrified of water).
  • I have been on four cruises.
  • I do not have kids but have two great cats, a niece, and nephew.
  • Visited a Maori village in New Zealand.
  • Have seen a live Hakka performed in New Zealand.
  • I have been to Machu Picchu. (Come with me on a tour!)
Machu Picchu. It's as magical as they say!
  • I have salsa danced in Cuba and did karaoke in Nicaragua.
  • I have taken Spanish lessons in four different countries (Peru, Canada, Nicaragua, and Colombia twice).
  • I’ve eaten fire.
  • I own way too many camera bags (10 – update, gave 4 away!) and may have a problem.
  • When I travel I buy clothes and/or art from a local (usually a street artist), not souvenirs and trinkets.
Singapore Sling in Singapore.
  • I have experienced three earthquakes (in Peru, Nicaragua, and Colombia).
  • I can drive a stick shift (standard) vehicle and have since I was 19.
  • My dad took his own life when I was 30. It was devastating. I still think of him often.
  • Drank a Singapore sling in Singapore
  • I have seen a koala and kangaroos in the wild in Australia.
  • Saw a howler monkey in the wild in Nicaragua.
  • I live in northern Canada but hate winter but I don’t ski or skate.
  • Had altitude sickness in Cusco Peru, almost had to fly out.
  • I have driven a car on the other side of the road in New Zealand (piece of cake).
  • My first job was at McDonald’s when I was 15.
  • My first car was a 1973 Toyota Corona Mark II (blue) which I bought when I was 16! Paid for it myself.
  • Have ridden in a classic convertible car in Havana.
Classic convertible ride in Havana, Cuba.
  • I drank a mojito where Hemmingway drank in Havana and bought one of his books from a shop in Paris he frequented early in his writing career.
  • I love all food but my go-to choices are always Asian; Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Malaysian, Korean – all come to the top of the list as take out and eating out for me.
  • Visited Salvador Dali’s house in Spain.
  • Got beads (the real way) in New Orleans and saw a St Patrick’s day parade there.
  • I have ridden a camel in the Sahara desert.
  • I have slept in a Berber tent in the Sahara desert and a deluxe tent in the desert of India near Dechu.
Berber tent in the desert. Basic but comfortable and warm.
Riding camels in the Sahara.
  • I have seen three Broadway shows in NYC.
  • I have seen the Moulin Rouge show in Paris.
  • Saw a space shuttle launch (one of the last ones in 2010).
  • Have served lunch to homeless people countless times.
  • I have eaten all of the following; eel, frog, turtle, ostrich, alpaca, guinea pig (cuy), rabbit, moose, deer, elk, mutton, bison, lamb, alligator, kangaroo (I draw the line at bugs, eyeballs, and internal organs).
  • I have been up to the deck of the following towers; the twin towers in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, Menora tower in Kuala Lumpur, the Calgary Tower, the Toronto tower, Empire State building, the Willis tower (used to be called the Sears Tower) in Chicago, and the Eureka tower in Melbourne.
Shot from Eureka Tower in Melbourne, Australia.
  • I have been to Vegas 19 times, mostly for tradeshows (I was working at them). I actually really dislike the place – it's too loud, expensive, and too many things to always line up for.
  • I have seen a gay pride parade in NYC in the village.
  • I have been photographed nude on the beach in NZ (thanks, Sonya).
  • I have seen the sea lion caves in California.
  • Have been to both Disneyland in California and Disneyworld in Florida.
  • Donated a car to charity once.
  • I have smoked a peace pipe (at my own wedding).
  • We were married by a native Canadian shaman in the middle of a river (on the sandbar) surrounded by 30 of our closest friends and family. We had our custom wedding attire made by a tailor in Thailand. We had three eagles fly over our ceremony and a waterfall in the background. To this date, almost eight years later, people still tell us it was the most unique and personal wedding they've ever attended.
Our shaman and friend, Leonard Eaglecloud. You can see part of my shoulder tattoo here and our Thai wedding clothes.
We were married barefoot in this location. Don't you love my mother's photography squatting technique? I dunno either!
  • I have been on TV more than 12 times.
  • I have been vegetarian and vegan before (for 2 years).
  • I once completed a road 10km race in 60 minutes.
  • I cannot swim, I am terrified of water.
  • Hate and fear spiders (but I still went to Australia twice).
  • Have been up in a hot air balloon.
  • Broke my pinkie playing floor hockey at age 42.
  • Broke my ankle in Colombia at age 49.
  • A group I'm a part of helped 56 families in Nicaragua get houses.
One of the families we helped to get a Nicaraguan government sponsored house. This is the “before” shot.
  • Like Star Wars and Star Trek have seen all their movies.
  • I love wine, but also enjoy rum and scotch.
  • Have hiked up two volcanos and slid down one (Nicaragua).
  • Have slid down sand dunes in Peru (face first).
  • I dislike the commercialism of Christmas as it is in North America so I try to escape and be away whenever possible. I also don’t buy “stuff” for my family but rather an experience (my niece and nephew get a movie and lunch with Auntie Dar, a gift card for the climbing wall, etc.). We even brought my mom to Nicaragua with us on our last tour!
  • Hence why I have spent Christmas out the country four times (this year will be my fifth)
  • I didn't really get the travel bug until I was 35. Prior to that, I'd only ever been to the USA and Mexico. In the last 16 years, I've added 27 more countries (see below). My new goal is to reach 50. Not sure by when but sooner than later (I'm not getting any younger). When the bug bites, he bites hard! Have you been bitten?
  • I have walked over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Brooklyn Bridge at sunset.
  • Started photography with a 4×5 view camera in college, using only b/w film, did my own processing and printing in a wet lab.
  • I have been doing photography for over 30 years teaching it for more than six years.
  • I have had my own business since 1991.
  • I have done many different things in the photography industry including; photographed food, commercial advertising photography, portraits and weddings, fine art photography (had my prints in galleries and did art shows), was an account manager for a wedding album company (the New Zealand connection), worked part-time at a camera store doing accounting of all things, right now I teach classes and workshop, lead photography tours, and am also currently the Managing Editor of dPS.
  • I have photographed over 250 weddings (mostly between 1991 and 2004, mostly film!).
  • Was a bridesmaid twice and a bride twice.
  • Have a 96-year-old grandmother (good genes – sadly she passed away in Sept 2017).
  • My husband and I sponsor two kids in Nicaragua to help with their education and I have met them in person 4 times.
My mom with Guadalupe, one of the kids we sponsor.
  • Rode an elephant in Thailand and India.
  • Learned to ride a bike at age 37.
  • I was an honor student and self-professed geek in high school.
  • I had a total of ONE date in high school, got freaked out, and never had another. I was THAT shy. Now, not so much.
  • I attended a conference call the World Domination Summit four times and Camp Good Life three times.
  • I have flown first class more than once. It's fabulous on Thai Silk Air! Got to sit in the upstairs area with only 12 people and 2 stewardesses.
  • Have seen penguins in the wild in Peru.
Penguins on Ballestas Islands, Peru.
  • I have traveled to 30 countries (some are considered territories) and 6 continents (Canada, USA, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey, Spain, France, Italy, Vatican City, Andorra, England, [ cruise: US Virgin Islands, Antigua, St. Kitts, Martinique, Barbados, Trinidad, Curacao, Aruba ], India, The Netherlands, and Morocco).
  • I have been to 12 countries more than once (Canada, Mexico, USA, Nicaragua, Cuba, Columbia, Peru, France, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, and Morocco).
  • I have been to 19 major world cities: Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Perth, Auckland, Istanbul, Barcelona, Paris, London, Lima, Havana, Medellin (Colombia), Rome, Vatican City, Havana, NYC, Amsterdam, Delhi.
The Thames River and Tower Bridge in London.
Tower Bridge in London.
The Colosseum in Rome.
The Pantheon in Rome.
  • I have been to 24 US states (airports and driving through is not counted, only overnight stays).
  • I have been to 9 Canadian provinces.
  • I have been to 18 major us cities  (NYC, LA, Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, San Francisco, Austin, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Orlando, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Honolulu, and Chicago).
  • I have led nine photography tours so far and counting! So much fun. Love to have you join me on an adventure soon.

My Bucket List

Making a bucket list is all about dreaming. Where do you want to travel? What do you want to do? Try to think about experiences and not so much about things or stuff you want to have. Material things are nice to have but when we're gone, people will remember us for what we did, not what we had. What will you do? What's on your photography bucket list?

Bucket list (20054800529)

My list is by no means exhaustive, and it's always evolving. When you make your bucket list just write, don't sensor yourself. Even if it sounds ridiculous or unachievable – write it down anyway.

  1. To live debt free (no mortgage – working on a 3-year plan).
  2. Spend every winter somewhere warmer than Canada.
  3. Spend a month in Tokyo (and see my buddy, Nick).
  4. See the hot tub monkeys in Nagano Japan. (going to Japan in March 2018 but not to see monkeys, to eat!)
  5. To speak fluent Spanish or mostly (working on that!).
  6. To speak fluent French (next).
  7. To visit the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador to see the blue-footed booby (and other animals).
  8. I wish to ride the Orient Express across Asia to Europe. Not sure why but I've always wanted to do this.
  9. I want to visit to go all seven continents (just one left – Antarctica). I've got North America, South America, Asia, Europe, and Africa covered.
  10. Go on an African safari.
  11. Go to Carnival in Rio.
  12. Drink wine in Tuscany and stay in a castle or villa.
  13. Go to Carnival in Venice (also ride a gondola) and photograph the masked characters.
  14. Visit Cinque Terre in Italy.
  15. See the Great Wall of China (ideally camp overnight and shoot the stars over it at night).
  16. Donate $10,000 to charity (annually would be ideal).
  17. Go to see the opera at the Met in NYC.
  18. See the ballet at the Palais Garnier opera house in Paris.
  19. Attend the secret pop-up dinner in Italy.
  20. Attend Burning Man in the Nevada desert.
    Burning Man festival by Trey Ratcliff.

    Burning Man festival by Trey Ratcliff.
  21. Drive the entire Route 66 in a convertible classic Corvette (like 1965 or older).
  22. Spontaneously walk into the airport and randomly buy a same-day ticket to wherever looks appealing, with NO luggage prepacked – buy what I need at my destination (except maybe one pair of underwear and a toothbrush). This is a stretch for me – I always plan to the tiniest detail. My husband, not so much.
  23. See Angkor Wat in Cambodia (planning for 2019, see SE Asia tour coming soon).
  24. Visit the Taj Mahal  (will do this Nov 2018 – DONE).
  25. Stay in a bungalow over the water with a glass bottom to see the fish swimming underneath (Seychelles, or Bali maybe).
  26. Go to the Tomatina festival in Spain where they throw rotten tomatoes at one another.
  27. Attend Holi festival in India (have to figure out how to photograph it and not ruin a camera or take an old one). This is where they throw powered die or paint at each other.
  28. Attend the Pushkar camel festival in India (will hit it in 2018 with our tour – DONE).
    Pushkar camel festival. Image by Daniel Korzeniewski who will be leading our Morocco and India 2018 tours!

    NOTE: Notice that I have events attached to some of my items. So not only do I want to travel to that place but to attend or do a certain thing while I'm there. Add a level of personalization to your list.


  29. Other countries I want to visit yet include; Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Japan (going in March 2019), Nepal, Korea, China, Vietnam (going April 2019), Hong Kong (April 2019), Taiwan, Croatia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Czech, Poland, Greece, Portugal, Costa Rica, Panama, Iceland, Scotland, Ireland, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Antarctica, Ecuador, Argentina, Jordan, Samoa  – just to get started.
  30. Add tours to; Vietnam, Scotland, Peru, and Thailand to our photo tours list (Vietnam and Scotland are on for 2019 and Peru and Thailand are in the works for fall 2019).
  31. Create two exclusive photography workshops in Mexico (or possibly Tuscany) for a small group of 4-5 people (Would you be interested in this? One for beginners, and one for intermediate photographers. Tell me in the comments below.)
  32. Own my dream camera for traveling (not sure which that is but love my Fuji, and have a few lenses on my wishlist; 10-24mm, 55-200mm, 300mm reflex lens.) What's your dream camera system?
  33. See and photograph polar bears in Manitoba (Canada).

Get tour information

NOTE: Get early notification of our upcoming photography tours and workshops by going to this page and filling in the form. Check off all the options you might be interested in attending. Once we have the information ready, you will get it before it is sent to my entire email list. Maybe we can help you with a bucket list item! 

Your turn – planning and execution

Okay, now that you have your lists and have shared them (either in the comments below or with family and friends) it's time to plan how to do those things and get going. A bucket list is really just a set of goals. Making goals without a plan are just dreams. Let's take your list from being dreams, into execution and make at least a few of them a reality.

Baby steps

The first thing you need to do is pick your top five items from your bucket list. Which things are the top priority for you? What is really calling your name and you're yearning for big-time? Work on those first.

Next, figure out when you can realistically take action on one of those things. Can you do it this year? If it's a trip, start researching, ask for time off work if necessary, and make a budget. If it's something you want to learn or do in regards to your photography – what do you need to complete that? Do you need to take a course? Find a mentor or tutor? Do that.

Break the item down into small steps that you need to do to make that list item come to fruition. I'll give you an example from my list:

Combine bucket list items

I want to speak fluent Spanish. I did some research online and found a great language school in Colombia that I went to in January. But I happened to break my ankle so had to come home early. So, I've planned a holiday cruise with my husband for December (working on #3) and a trip back to Colombia for January and February (#3 continued and #6). We may be able to get a flight and check off #8 while we're down there so close as well (see how the timing goes but we're open to that option). The flight and cruise are booked and in the schedule.
Apple Calendar Icon

Pick a date or deadline

I've also got a giant dry-erase calendar for 2018 so I can plot in my workshops, tours and personal travel for that year. 2019 is a sketch on a piece of paper right now as well. So think ahead and start making plans and making steps toward something on your list now. If you do not pick dates and plan it, then it will never happen. “Someday” isn't on the calendar.

If your list item is something you want to accomplish, give yourself a target completion date. We all work better with a deadline and as it gets closer to that date you'll work harder towards achieving your goal.

I can't wait to learn more about you and hear what's on your photography bucket list! Tell me how I can help make them a reality.



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