Why World Travel Blogger Sarah Wilkie Loves Photo Challenges

#14 of the Challenge Interview Series

Hi, I’m Marsha Ingrao and my blog is Always Write. Welcome to the Challenge Interview Series.

In addition to meeting the hosts of writing and photo challenges, this series also includes some of the wonderful participants who make the challenges successful.

Today I want to introduce my friend Sarah Wilkie, who writes inspiring and informative travel posts from all over the world. She is now an avid photo challenge blogger as well as a travel blogger. She often combines her love of travel and photo challenges into one post linking to many of the same friends you’ve already met through your journeys in photo challenges.

I am linking different favorite posts to her name if you’d like to check out her blog.

Please welcome Sarah Wilkie.

When, how, and why did you start blogging?

I only started this WordPress blog in August 2020, but I’ve been sharing my travels online since July 2005 when I joined the now-defunct Virtual Tourist website community. The emphasis there was on writing reviews of places visited (restaurants, tourist sights etc.) rather than blogging. I became a very frequent contributor and also got involved in attending the member-organised ‘in real life’ meetings, as well as organising some myself. I acquired a great network of friends around the world.

When VT (Virtual Tourist) was shut down by Trip Advisor in early 2017, many members gave up sharing travel info online. Others turned to other review sites or blogging. I joined TravellersPoint, partly because a VT friend was already active there and partly because the owner kindly developed a programme to move all our VT content across to stop it being lost (although I had nearly all mine saved as Word documents in any case). I really got into blogging, using TP (TravelersPoint) as a platform to journal my travels from that point onwards and write up some previous trips from old VT notes. But the transfer of VT material wasn’t as immediately successful as hoped, as the platform wasn’t set up to host reviews, and in any case I found I preferred the blogging format.

Sarah

How did you decide to move to WordPress?

Some other VT friends had started WP blogs and from time to time tried to persuade me to do the same, because they thought I would enjoy the flexibility of having my own site and full control over the content. I didn’t think I had the time to devote to two blogs and I was enjoying the community aspect of TP (although it wasn’t a patch on VT’s) so I resisted. But in 2020 two things happened to change my mind. I retired, so had more time, and the pandemic struck, which meant no new travels for a while. I decided to take the plunge and haven’t looked back! 

Whereas on TP I wrote day by day journals of a trip (and will probably continue to do so once I can travel again), I decided my WP blog would have mostly shorter posts focused on specific sights, experiences etc. Plus I saw it as an opportunity to be more reflective about my travels, pulling together different experiences at times to reflect an overarching observation about a place, or draw parallels or simply group some photos from different locations around a common theme. My sub-title ‘travel snapshots’ reflects this concept and also an increased emphasis on photography.

Sarah

How do you organize your posts and photos?

Did you take a class?

No, I worked all this out for myself. It’s probably over-complicated for some people but I think it was the librarian indexing training coming out in me, plus I tend to lean towards having a system / being organised.

From the start I knew my posts would all be about a specific place or places. I considered listing them all by country but choosing ‘Destinations’ as a heading gave me the option to list by city, state or whatever going forwards. I came up with the grouping by continent later, as my content grew and the list of places became unwieldy. But I thought it would also be interesting to group posts by theme as I saw them reflecting the various subjects I like to photograph – people, landscape, wildlife etc. I couldn’t decide between destinations or themes but realised I could do both! 

I also saw early on that some of my posts would be quite lengthy while others would have few words and have more emphasis on visual content – hence designating some of them as galleries to make that obvious. I originally had that as a heading on my menu but changed it to ‘My photography’ when I started to do the challenges so that I could group things there. It’s not ideal as not all my challenge posts are photo-heavy but it works for me for now. No doubt I will tweak it again one day!

Sarah

How do you decide a title for your post?

Some of us (like me) include the Photo Challenge title in the post like “Sunday Stills: Emerging Blossoms in Prescott, AZ.”

I approach titling challenge posts the same way I do all my posts. I start with a title that simply appeals to me and reflects the content of the post. I have the MonsterInsights plugin that includes a Headline Analyser. It allocates a numeric score based on several factors such as length, use of certain trigger words etc. I can preview what it would look like in a Google search. I don’t always take notice of all of that but if it shows a very low score I will have a look at why and maybe consider tweaking the title. But usually I just stick with what feels right to me!

Sarah

which challenges Work Best for you?

As Yvette Prior pointed out in her interview, and we have all experienced it, none of us can do all of the challenges available to us. We all have to pick and choose. What about you?

I’ve dipped into quite a few as I started to explore that side of blogging. But now that I’ve got more into my stride I intend to focus mainly on those challenges that provide an opportunity to highlight stories from my travels like Cady’s Just One Person from Around the World, which is such an inspired, and inspiring, idea for a challenge! I enjoy challenges that have a strong photographic element like the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge and Sunday Stills. I also like Friendly Friday, while Jo’s Monday Walk fits well with ideas I already have for future posts (I keep a list). Lisa’s Bird Weekly is a chance to share one of the subjects I enjoy photographing, but I wouldn’t aim to do those every week.

Before I started on WP I didn’t even know about these challenges. None of my ex-VT blogging friends are involved in any of them. A few months after I started my blog I came across a challenge for the first time, Friendly Friday, purely by chance, through a blog I’d started following. It looked interesting and I saw it as a way to build my network of followers while trying out a different approach to blogging. It achieved both those things and I found that the people who did that challenge also did others, which led to me discovering those too.

Even though I enjoy the challenges I don’t want them to dictate the overall ethos of my blog. I set it up to share two things, my travels and my photography, so I won’t do any challenges that would force me to deviate too far from that, e.g. a purely writing challenge or one on a theme that doesn’t relate to travel in its broadest sense – by which I mean, including places close to home as well as those far away, but usually remaining location-centric. And I’m generally not interested in single photo challenges – I prefer to tell a story through my posts. Although I did do the ‘Around the world in ten photos’ challenge when several blogging friends nominated me, partly because I didn’t want to let them down, partly because it was so strongly travel related and partly because it was in the run-up to Christmas when I had a bit less time to write longer posts! 

I tend not to take photos especially for a challenge although I have been known to take one or two to supplement what I have. Rather, I look at the challenges as a way of focusing my ideas around material I already have, ideally photos and anecdotes from my travels or perhaps a subject matter I like to photograph closer to home. If a challenge theme doesn’t fit that principle I will skip it, like the recent ‘volunteering’ theme. I could have written about the charity my husband co-founded, for which I now volunteer, but it would have been out of place on my blog.

Sarah

Tell us about the cameras you’ve usedsome of your earlier pictures are just as clear as your newer ones

I think that’s an illusion caused by the resizing and down-grade in quality that happens when I upload to WP. I can see a significant difference in quality between my oldest photos and most recent ones when I view my originals. My photos from the Galapagos in 2012 were the last major travel ones taken with my previous Fuji camera; it was after that trip that I realised I wasn’t happy with the quality and switched to a Panasonic Lumix bridge camera. I really like it. The lens is first rate (Leica) and it has the right balance of ease of use (relatively light to carry, auto settings when I don’t need anything more) with full manual mode if I do want to play around with aperture, speed etc. In pre-digital times I used an SLR so I know what I’m doing around a camera but these days I don’t want to be encumbered with several lenses to hump around!

Sarah

Do you have published stories or photos?

Other than online on the various platforms I’ve already mentioned, no. I do upload some of my better images to Dreamstime, a stock photo library, and I’ve had some sales. It doesn’t pay at all well (sometimes only a few cents per image) but it’s quite fun to think my photos are being used somewhere. However many of the pictures I take aren’t suitable because they include people and I’m not keen enough to go out and take lots of the images needed for stock photography.

It would be fun if anyone did want to publish something I wrote or some of my photos, but I don’t write with that in mind.

Sarah

How much time does it take to research, write and fact check a post?

Much of what I post is adapted from my TravellersPoint blog or old VT material. A lot of the research was done when I wrote those original reviews or blog entries. If it’s quite an old piece I do double-check some things, especially web links, and I sometimes add to it if I have a fresh perspective with the benefit of time.

The main work comes in repurposing the text to fit the style of this blog – I may make it into more of a narrative or pull several separate pieces into a single post. As an example, the post I wrote quite recently, Spending Time with the Children of Chongjin, used bits of two separate TP blog posts because we visited the two schools I describe on two separate days. And my very first post, Meeting Leo, was based on just a short section of an old TP post. 

I probably put more work into the photos. I enjoy editing my images in any case, and I quite often do further tweaking to those I’m going to use in a post, especially if they’re more than a couple of years old as I’ve acquired more editing software since then. 

Sarah

Which bloggers influence your blogging?

I won’t mention everyone – many will be known to you as they’re active in the same circles I think – people like Tina Schell, Anne Sadler, and Lisa on the Beach. Among my favourite photographer bloggers are Jane Lurie – I really love her work. Also Mike Ross, and Susy Blue for nature photography. And Maria Vincent Robinson is a great street photographer I’ve discovered recently.

For travellers’ tales I like The Hungry Travellers among others. And I especially enjoy Sandy’s take on the Just One Person Challenge – she features such interesting characters and I like the page design she’s developed to use for that challenge. I always enjoy the way Amy at The World is a Book uses quotations and the visual style of her blog.

Finally I have to give a plug to the friends who got me blogging in the first place and helped me with the set-up of my site when I was still learning how WP worked, Malcolm, Don and Albert. The latter also inspired our visit to North Korea which was an absolute travel highlight for me.

Sarah

Anything to add? Maybe a message to fellow photo challenge participants and to the hosts and hostesses of the challenges?

Quite simply, it’s been great to ‘meet’ you all and to be inspired by your various themes and by everyone’s posts. When I started blogging on WordPress I had no idea I would find such a great community here, it’s been a revelation and has added to my blogging fun enormously!

Sarah

Biography

Toonsarah – Sarah Wilkie

Sarah Wilkie was born in north London and grew up in a west London suburb, Ruislip. She studied English Literature and Librarianship at university in Aberystwyth, Wales, which is where she met her husband Chris.

Sarah worked in public libraries for many years, starting as a children’s librarian and working her way up into management, finishing with a short spell managing the library service in the City of Westminster. From there she went on to spend five years in a government agency managing a national public library service improvement programme.

She took redundancy when the agency moved out of London and set up her own consultancy service. For the last eleven years of her career she worked in that field both independently and with a small start-up consultancy firm, leading the development of their offer to local and national cultural services – strategy development, customer consultation, change management etc. She wound down from that gradually over the last few years (one of the bonuses of self-employment!) and declared herself officially retired last spring as the pandemic started to bite. When not blogging (and waiting for the chance to travel again!) she volunteers with a food surplus charity, Plan Zheroes, run by her husband.

Thank you so much for visiting me, Sarah. It’s been so much fun getting to know you better and learning about parts of the world I will probably never have a chance to visit in person.

now it’s your turn

Be sure and click on one or two of the links, leave likes and comments, and get to know Sarah and her community better.

Do you or someone you know host a photo or writing challenge? Do you have certain challenge communities that you participate in that you want to share? I’d love to interview you and get better acquainted. Contact me.

#Writer’s Quotes Wednesdays Writing/Photo Challenge #18: Travel

On the Road Again

In addition to being an introduction to the Writer’s Quotes Wednesday Writing challenge, this post is submitted in response to Lens Artist Challenge #140 “A Change of Scenery” hosted by guest host, Beth from Wandering Dawgs. “Beth suggests trying a different route on your walk, run, or bike ride of our local park. She also extends other opportunities for us, e.g. browsing our archives “to feature images from places we have visited in the past when you needed a change of scenery.”

Lisa Coleman invites us to share in the Bird Weekly Photo Challenge#41 Bird Reflections. Finally my photos also apply to Cee Neuner’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge Birds of Any Kind.

This was one of my dad’s favorite songs. He sang it every time we got in the car to go on a vacation. Interestingly, it was Mom who really took us on the road. When she and Dad divorced, the three of us, Mom, Randy and I, packed our belongings into a 1967 VW Bug and got on the road again traveling from Indiana to Oregon in five bumpy cramped days.


Oregon

Randy and I loved our new adventurous life. He still lives in Portland, OR not far from where we first settled, and I still love to visit. In 2018 when I went up to see him, we decided to spend a few days out of the hot, dusty, smoky, Portland air and go to Newport, Oregon. We stayed in a great suite right on the bay. Every morning we looked out and saw this bird standing in the water.

Same place. From our room he looked real. What do you think?

 “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

Gustav Flaubert

LOL! That’s a good excuse for travel, I’ll take it. I disagree that it makes you modest. So what if your tiny? Small and mighty, learned, more interesting, understanding, maybe.

To me, travel is a rare privilege in life. How many people are fortunate enough to have the time and money it takes to travel? I will never see every country in the world. Yet I am so blessed. I take the opportunities to travel as they come to me. Via these reflected birds, I’ll only tell you about a very few places I’ve gone.

Australia

Two blogging friends invited me to come to Australia. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. These elegant, photogenic birds swam in the creeks at Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria, AU. Their reflections told them what they needed to know, “I am so beautiful.”

By the way, I just read Lisbet Collaert’s book, Plunge. Fabulous book, stirring, heart rending, you must read it especially if you are thinking of sailing full time. You can read her promo on my blog here. She didn’t have a lot of money to travel, but made that her lifestyle choice. It’s always a costly choice even on a budget, but this next quote tells why travel is so important.


“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” –

Seneca

Central California Coast

Who doesn’t want a strong, vigorous mind? I do, I do!

I have been fortunate enough to change scenery both by traveling and by moving. When we lived in California, it was only a two hour drive to escape the summer heat or the winter valley fog. We enjoyed a change of scenery in San Luis Obispo, Avila Beach or Pismo on the Central Coast of California.

birds on a log
I wonder if they were placing bets. 🙂

One of my favorite things to take with me when I travel is a camera, and my phone has been a dearest travel companion. On this occasion in 2013, I isolated myself for two weeks for NaNoWriMo to write a book. Each day I walked to Avila Beach from our trailer. One day I caught this flock of birds sitting on the log with my phone.

My husband thought it was my best picture ever even though the quality was not great. I always looked expectantly at that log every time I crossed over the golf course bridge hoping to see them again, but I never did.

bird reflection
Dinner time Cannibal bird

This hungry bird awaited me at the beach.


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

Prescott, Arizona

When Vince and I married in 1995, he mentioned in passing that he loved the high desert and wanted to live there. I had a great job teaching in Woodlake, CA, and was as uninterested in living in a desert as these birds are in moving to the Arctic Circle.

Twenty-five years later, after he mentioned it maybe 30,000 times, I agreed that the time was right. If we were ever going to move to the desert, we should get a move on. As soon as I said yes, Vince sprang into action, and within three months, we had exchanged our California Dreaming for a home in the mountain city of Prescott, AZ.

We enjoy hundreds of miles of trails and a change of scenery as often as we wish.


Now it’s your turn. Are you among the hundreds of thousands ready to get back on the road again? Pull out your camera. Write in your journal, write a post and link to this week’s #WQWWC (Writer’s Quotes Wednesdays Writing Challenge).

Or maybe you’d rather make it a photo challenge. That works for me. Maybe you don’t even want to write a post. That works, too.

Find a quote or respond to one of mine.

Where to find quotes

Quotes are great fun. You can see how I quadruple-dipped here with one post. Make your post count for the most visibility and have fun with it.

If you respond to this #WQWWC prompt – Travel, leave me a link in the comment section. I don’t always get pingbacks. I love it when you do that, too, but I have missed people and I hate to do that.

WQWWC Instructions
9 Ways to Respond to a Quote for Writer’s Quotes Wednesdays Writing Challenge

You can copy, paste and edit this little logo in your own post and add my link each week to the url and have an automatic pingback. Or just add it if you think its a good logo. Canva is my graphic artistic consultant.

#WQWWC Logo
Writer’s Quotes Wednesdays Writing Challenge Logo

Thanks again for stopping by my blog and playing with quotes.

My Reading List for This Week

A comment about reading. When you commit to submitting to a photo or writing challenge, it’s most rewarding if you meet the people in the community. Reading adds a lot of time to the process. I never thought I could read this many blogs in a month, much less a day. But I found that if I take the time to cut and paste the links into a document – even my blog, but I also use a Google Doc, I can read at least half of these in a day. I’ve never tried to read this many blogs in a day, so this is my challenge.

You are welcome to cut and paste my list into any document and see how well you can do with it. If you put this list of links in your next photo challenge for any of these wonderful bloggers, you give them some extra coverage too. So it’s win-win.

#WQWWC List


#LAPC List


Bird Weekly Challenge


Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

have a great week!

#WQWWC #17 Leisure

This week our topic for Writer’s Quotes Wednesday’s Challenge #17 is Leisure. Check out my page for more information.

To participate, find a quote about leisure, write a post, put a link to this post somewhere in your post. It doesn’t hurt to leave me a link in the comment section either because sometimes I don’t get notification about your post.

#WQWWC Logo
Writer’s Quotes Wednesdays Writing Challenge Logo

How Bloggers Spend Leisure Time

People spend their precious leisure doing many useful and enjoyable activities. Blogging is my hobby of choice right now, which encompasses any hobby. I’ve met bloggers who love horsemanship, reading, writing, travel, cooking, skiing, uphill slogging, walking/running, hiking, stretching/Yoga, cartooning, and I’m sure you can add so many more. How many leisure activities can you list?

How about Dancing?

“Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion.”

Martha Graham

Here’s the original recording of King Harvest who recorded “Dancing in the Moonlight.”

Organizing your leisure effectively is the highest level of civilization.

Bertrand Russell

What about games?

We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.

 Benjamin Franklin

My dad and I used to play chess. My mother and her parents played bridge. My husband and I love card games, too. Our favorite is pinochle. What games do you and your family enjoy in your leisure time?

Photography Anyone?

When I think of leisure my first thoughts go to Terri Webster Schrandt who writes her blog “Second Wind Leisure” and hosts #Sunday Stills. Any leisure photographers out there?

“We all need empty hours in our lives or we will have no time to create or dream.”

Robert Cole

My new friend Lisa Coleman challenges her followers to take pictures of birds from her blog, Our Eyes Open. Challenge #39 is birds that eat fish. Here are some birds photographed for her challenge.

Travelers or Trekkies?

With the availability of the vaccine, we all hope that traveling will soon open up. One of my favorite travel photographer, Tina Schell, of the Lens Artists Photo Challenges reminds us in LAPC Challenge #139 that life is full of special moments. I found this next quote on her post.

“Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but of moments. ”

Sarah Breathnach

One of the most special moments in my leisure life was a trip to Australia, where I met two of my favorite bloggers, Carol and Leanne and many of their friends. They nearly wore me out taking pictures. But I saw incredible sights like this man playing the digeridoo, a very unusual experience.

didgeridoo
indigenous didgeridoo player

Do you love to spend leisure moments traveling?

About that List of Leisure Activities

When you think of leisure what quotes come to mind? Give us a piece of your mind using quotes from someone else’s mind! 🙂

#WQWWC Instructions2
How to Create a #WQWWC Post

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your participation in the Writer’s Quotes Wednesday Writing Challenge. It takes effort to look up quotes and then think about what to do with those quotes. A couple of weeks ago a friend suggested that I drop the challenge if no one participated in a month. I’ve decided to keep going for a while. The challenge is starting to grown on me. These three woman keep me going.

If it is easier for you, write your quote in the comment box with your poem, opinion, picture, or other response. I will visit your blog either way.

#WQWWC Citizenship Posts

#WQWWC Spring Posts

Thank you Frank for hosting this week.

Have a great week. See you soon.

Getting High in Black and White – Bird Weekly Photo Challenge #40

The Bird Weekly Photo Challenge Week #40 by Lisa Coleman is all about birds in black & white, sepia, monotone or you can add a bit of selective color. Your choice of birds this week. She aligned this with Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week in case you wanted to add any flying birds to this challenge. Cee’s theme is Anything in Fight. Thanks again to Cee Neuner for the lovely featured blogger award for last week. It’s such an honor. Also, Terri with Sunday Stills offered a theme of Best Black and White Photos on 3/14 and her challenge runs until Saturday if you want to link to her challenge as well.

I am following suit with Lisa and linking this to all three photo challenges.

Since I am still a total neophyte with birds, some of you will have to help me with bird names. I found the Australian birds listed on Wikipedia complete with pictures. Wow! There is another site for North American birds as well, but I don’t even know where to start.

Birds on Watson Lake Peavine Trail

These beauties currently live on Watson Lake on Peavine Trail in Prescott, AZ. There are lots of happy ducks scooting across the water, but these don’t look like ducks. I love the shadow of the bigger bird onto the smaller bird’s side. I didn’t notice it in the color shot, so that was a beg advantage.

Australian plumed whistling duck in Melbourne, AU park.
Maybe plumed whistling duck

Speaking of ducks, this Australian quacker has a lot to say to Carol and me about our photographic etiquette. Apparently, we forgot to ask him to sign a media release. He has kind eyes, though, and that tells the rest of the story. He was happy to sign for a fee, just a little bite of quacker, I mean cracker. Don’t tell other birders, though. (PS, birders, don’t worry, this story is almost 100% fiction. No birds were fed).

White cockatoo in Melbourne
Australian White Cockatoo also known as Umbrella Cockatoo, yes?

These birds love to pose. It’s like they know how beautiful they are. It does help to have a camera with a zoom lens, however.

My Reading List

These participants in Lisa’s challenge finished before I did. I’m sorry I missed others who are flying in on the red eye. 🙂

Here are some of Cee’s friends. I may not get to all of you this week, but I’ve got your number.

Terri’s participants.

I’ll be hosting Sunday Stills for two weeks, March 28 – Respect Your Cat and April 4 – Volunteering. I hope you’ll join me.

Bitmoji Essential B & W

Have a great week!

#Bird Weekly Photo Challenge #39 Mostly Australian Birds that Eat Mostly Fish

You can’t be friends with Lisa Coleman and not be all about birds. So here is my first contribution to the Bird Weekly Photo Challenge.

You can join too if you’ve ever taken a picture of a bird that swims and eats fish rather than bread crumbs as the majority of its diet. Here are my choices for this week.

black and white fish eating bird at Healesville Sanctuary

Isn’t he a beauty? I’m assuming he’s a pelican, but don’t quote me.

sea gulls swarming the beach

This might have been a preview for the Australian version of Birds. Sea gulls by the hundreds suddenly swarmed St. Kilda beach goers.

This little cutie walked on water at the Healesville Sanctuary.

This benchmark bird picture is just for Lisa to show you my best eagle photo as of 3-13-2021. This pirate never came down from his perch to dip into the water for a bite to eat.

For more great bird photos watch for Lisa’s Bird Roundup each week. Roundup Week #38. I’m making it my reading list for this week.

Coming up on Always Write

Story Chat Summary March 23 – There’s still time to comment on Wanda Lust by A. Kid

#Writer’s Quotes Wednesdays Writing Challenge #16 Spring hosted by Frank at Beach Reflections.