How to take the perfect picture (even without Steve Carell)

How to take great pictures -- even without Steve Carell.

How to take great pictures — even without Steve Carell.

As the editor of Vegas magazine, I organize photo shoots and pick pictures for publication all day long. Another part of my job includes representing the magazine at the very best of Las Vegas events that in turn require having my photo taken, something I have loathed my entire life. But since I now have to run 3-4 of those pictures in every issue (oh, and I have a blog!), I have learned how to take good pictures or at least do the best I can. More and more lately, I’ve been asked for tips, so these skills must be improving… I promise you, it’s not about looking like a model or having the most expensive clothes, as evidenced in the following photos. In fact, there are several easy tips that make all the difference in the world.

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Electric Bicycles

I am a famously bad driver and have finagled ways for years to never have to get behind the wheel of my little Honda Civic, which I bought after half a decade of living in no-car-needed NYC. It now sits in my parents’ driveway, untouched. Owning a car in Costa Rica is super-expensive, so it’s the perfect excuse for me not to drive. Ever again. Alas, walking 45 minutes to yoga, the grocery store, and Spanish classes under the scorching Costa Rican sun does get old. Most people here get around on old bicycles, but I was recently introduced to the electric version. I’m quite enamored. Rather than pedaling away in the blazing heat, the electric bicycle allows its rider a smooth, reduced-sweat ride — without all of the messy paperwork and insurance required by an actual scooter. Easy and hassle-free? I’m sold!

My Spanish teacher, Patricia, just bought a spanking-new cherry red bike. She told me of an added bonus: “You can actually look around while you’re riding,” she says, “rather than staring at the ground worried about every little rock that could cause you to eat dirt.”

Need I say more?

Scorpions: Costa Rica vs Borneo

When I first moved to Costa Rica, I lived in a scorpion den up in the cliffs. Mornings started with a “scorpion sweep” for anything with a stinger, from the large nasty looking ones to the little baby scorpions, and the whole vibe in the house was that you had to be scared to death of them. In my new neighborhood, sightings are rare, but my phobia has stayed. Although now I know I won’t die on the spot if I get stung.

Pictured above, a darling little baby scorpion baby that was hanging out across the street at Lisa‘s house. The small ones don’t know what they’re doing yet, so if they sting you it actually hurts the worst. If you don’t know how to properly kill one, do not ask me. I claim to have done it once, with a telephone book, but I will finally admit here that it was already dead. (It still took me three days to bravely get the thing out of my house.) Denise has her form down perfectly and will demonstrate if asked.

Here’s a picture that my friend Cynthia sent me of a scorpion found in her friend’s bed in Malaysian Borneo, one of my last trips before I settled down in Costa Rica. Believe it or not, the poor girl didn’t see it before she attempted to snuggle in, and it pinched her. I think I picked the right place to live!

While I do not think I would have survived the heart attack that having those large pinchers come at me in my own BED, I have been warned that those baby scorpions really do hurt the worst, due to their immaturity and not knowing to conserve their poison. So be on the lookout for scorpions of any size!

Costa Rica’s first female president!

Costa Rica has officially elected its first woman president, Laura Chinchilla!! It was a rather anticlimactic evening, as a bunch of us were dying to know the election results, but no one had a TV. So I had to run home to jump on my laptop. Needless to say, I was soon jumping all around the house with the news! (Not hard, my house is small.) Chincilla was the candidate for the ruling National Liberation Party and had been campaigning hard: cars covered with Laura paraphernalia waving huge green and white flags out the window, pamphlets, signs everywhere. She joins four other Latin American female presidents, from Argentina and Chile, and our neighbors on either side, Nicaragua and Panama. So exciting to be here during this time!


There’s a reason that the Tico slang term for handcuffs is esposas (wives). Sometimes the bond between man and wife can literally not be broken here! In Costa Rica, Catholicism is the official religion, by law. So if a priest marries you, it is with governmental authority. Want a divorce? You’ve got to go back to the priest… and the Catholics don’t do divorce. My neighbor Steven married young in a lovely church ceremony, but the relationship didn’t last. He soon met Marta, his current wife,  but they weren’t allowed to marry until his first wife passed away. In 2007, when both lovebirds were in their 60s, they tied the knot — in front of their two grown children, both in their 40s, and two granddaughters.

Widow Makers

Tico houses do not come with hot water, nor do the locals care — the temperature, after all, is hot in Costa Rica year-round. The expats, aka “gringos,” have adopted a dangerous solution. Showerheads with live wires are installed in homes across the country, using a heated coil to deliver steaming showers. The three settings, “luke warm,” “hot” and “ridiculously hot” require a delicate dance of constantly adjusting the water temperature while not getting electrocuted. (Rubber shower mats are recommended.) Husbands risking their lives after their wives holler, “Honey, will you fix the shower?” eventually dubbed the contraption a “widow maker.”