This Prairie City Deserves Your Travel Dollars. Here’s Why. by Yulia Denisyuk

Canada, once again, does it better.

Not only is our neighbor to the north able to offer free healthcare and create a tolerant atmosphere towards diversity, but it also has tricks up its sleeves when it comes to its smaller cities.

I’ve had a chance to visit Winnipeg, Manitoba on a recent visit to Canada. This trip has reminded me that great discoveries and amazing experiences can be found anywhere—if only we are willing to look.

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.” - Isaac Asimov
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Tucked away in the southeast corner of the vast Manitoba province, Winnipeg is an easy two and a half hour flight from Chicago.

Upon landing, a laid back, traffic jam-free version of Chicago awaits. Indeed, Winnipeg has been called “Chicago of the North” during its boom of the late nineteenth—early twentieth century. People have lived here for millennia, attracted to the favorable location on the intersection of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. The battle ground for the fierce fur trading battles of the Hudson Bay Company fame, Winnipeg became Canada’s third-largest city and a major railway transportation center by the turn of the century.

As railways slowly lost importance in the twentieth century, the glory of Winnipeg disappeared with them. Today, a quiet resurgence of a different kind is brewing. In the last year alone, half a dozen new breweries have opened in the city of seven hundred thousand residents. Indeed, Winnipeg is one of the latest places to undergo the craft beer revolution as its laws have turned in favor of craft producers in 2016. Now, it is entirely within reach to stop by a brewery such as Little Brown Jug while strolling through downtown Winnipeg. The open concept craft brewer welcomes customers to come in and enjoy a pint or two while observing the end-to-end beer making process.

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This creative upsurge is sweeping across the city.

A sure win for the Winnipeg’s creative community, recently launched Design Quarter is a curated destination experience and a collective of local businesses that aims to promote authentic retail and design focused culture. Created and led by Johanna Hurme, a Finnish-born architect who now calls Winnipeg home, the Design Quarter makes it easier for visitors to find unique food, design, and shopping opportunities that are sure to inspire the creative spirit in any of us.

One of the spots on the Design Quarter map is Forth. A cafe, a craft cocktail bar, a rooftop music venue, and a community meeting space, Forth is a great example of what Winnipeg’s creative spirit stands for: supporting each other is at the forefront of the city’s creative community.

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Another spot on the Design District map that shouldn’t be missed is the Lennard Taylor Design Studio, loved locally and recognized globally for its fashion-forward, detail-oriented pieces that don’t fit a particular mold. Pop in the open concept studio at any given moment and you’re sure to see the soccer-hopeful turned fashion designer and artist himself sitting behind his sewing machine or putting finishing touches on his latest painting, always with a smile.

Fashion designers, jewelry artists, coffee roasters, painters, book purveyors, fine leather craftsmen, and more—this is Winnipeg.

If a tight-knit community is one way to describe it, open concept would be another. As if borrowing from the vast swaths of prairies that surround the city, Winnipeggers exchange ideas as easily as they share food on their table, welcome people, and converge on a common goal of growing their city together.

Lennard Taylor painting one of his pieces in studio

Lennard Taylor painting one of his pieces in studio

Johanna Hurme, the creative force behind Winnipeg's Design Quarter

Johanna Hurme, the creative force behind Winnipeg's Design Quarter

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If encountering a passionate community of creative minds isn’t compelling enough,

there is an opportunity to experience Winnipeg—and with it, a glimpse of humanity—in a different way. The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is a first museum of its kind dedicated to a concept, not artifacts. Thought-provoking exhibitions about the Holocaust, the plight of the First Nations, the Ukrainian Holodomor, and more educate and invite reflection on human nature and on what it means to have a shared future. It’s a delicate balance to present such difficult topics with dignity, poignancy and compassion. The museum maintains it expertly.

The thoughtful design of the museum was conceived by Antoine Predock. The New Mexico-based architect aims to show, through structures, how human beings can interact spiritually with a building, with technology, with the natural environment and with each other. The architecture with odd angles and contradicting lines continues to stun throughout the visit and represents the idea that the path to equal human rights is not straightforward.

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Winnipeg may have been called Chicago of the North in the past, but today the city is coming into its own. Because of places like the unassuming Clementine Cafe (you’ll discover a whole new world by trying its yogurt panna cotta with nectarines), Winnipeg easily competes with such culinary heavyweights  as Chicago and New York, while award-winning architects, musicians, artists, and fashion designers choose to create here, with passion.

This vibrancy is contagious.

My Go-To Photo Editing Apps by Yulia Denisyuk

Must-have apps for digital photo editing

“Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.” - Man Ray

I hear the question "What do you use to edit your photos?" quite often and I've decided to lift the curtain and reveal some of my secrets. While I firmly agree with Man Ray that the editing style is not as important as the photographer's vision, some of the techniques I am about to share with you can give your photos more polish and higher quality look. 

During my initial forays into digital photography, I was a complete novice. I shot on AUTO mode, saved my images in the JPG format and did not use any editing apps or techniques. Over the years, I've become more comfortable with shooting in full manual mode and switching to RAW image format. Following these steps ensures I have full control over how I shoot my images and what I can get out of the digital file, but it also means I have to further edit my photos (as RAW camera images are often duller than JPG when taken straight from the camera).

The steps below describe my usual workflow from desktop to mobile. As always, I'd love to hear from you in the comments on what I might have missed or what other suggestions you have for me!

1. Adobe Lightroom

The first app I use on my RAW image files straight out of the camera is Adobe Lightroom. Here (usually on desktop, although the app is available for mobile as well) I make basic adjustments of alignment, exposure, shadows, temperature, highlights and so on. I try not to over-process the images, but rather pull out the best details and light possible from each.


2. Adobe Photoshop

The next app I use on my now corrected images is Adobe Photoshop CC. I also use it mainly on desktop, although occasionally I open the Photoshop Express mobile app. The adjustments I do here are mainly esthetic: I add matte finish, remove unnecessary objects and the like. Once again, I try not to overdo it and choose the natural look over the highly processed one.


3. Priime

Now my images are ready for mobile. The Priime app is my favorite app from this list, because it gives my images a certain polished finish. The app filters were developed by the likes of Pete Halvorsen and Pei Ketron (if you are into Instagram then you might have heard these names before) and the selection is top notch.

I have a few favorite filters that I use again and again. Lately, I've been enjoying Apollo and Alpine, but there are several that I use on a regular basis. Once again, I use these filters lightly (there is a sliding scale for intensity to adjust the strength) to ensure my images don't look over processed.

Most of the times, this is where my image editing flow stops and I am now ready to share my work with the world :)


4. Additional Apps

On rare occasions that Lightroom, Photoshop, and Priime are not enough, I also use LensLightSKRWT, and Snapseed (all on mobile) to add any final adjustments.

LensLight app amplifies the image's light sources and lets you select from a wide range of light visual effects (although I stick with a few that look the most realistic).

SKRWT app is a blessing for someone with a minor obsession to keep their images straight, although I don't use it as often now that Instagram app has improved its straightening tools.  

Snapseed is a complete photo editor that can serve as a competent substitute for the Lightroom and Photoshop desktop apps. I don't use it as often now but if you're a mobile only photography enthusiast it may be quite helpful.

And that is all! Let me know in the comments if there is another app I should check out or add to my flow. Happy editing!


Ten Instagrammers that Inspire Me Every Day by Yulia Denisyuk

These creators are killing it in the social media game.

Instagram is my favorite social network for three simple reasons. It pushes me to be creative every day, it allows me to connect to like-minded individuals from across our globe, and it provides a source of endless inspiration in the realm of visual - and written word - creativity. 

I especially cherish the opportunity to be inspired by this amazing wealth of creativity coming from Instagram. Be it photographers, graphic designers, artists, consultants, or marketers, this list below contains some of my favorite Instagrammers who inspire me to be more creative every day.  

1. Brandon Woelfel @brandonwoelfel

Brandon creates dreamy portraits that are always full of light, magic, and bokeh. I can look at his work for a long time, and each shot, while unique, is incredibly consistent. Follow Brandon here: @brandonwoelfel.

2. Aigul Vishnya @vi66nya

Russian Instagram scene is becoming stronger each year. There are so many wonderful creators in the country that I won't be able to fit all of them here. Aigul, however, is special for me because she combines wonderful shots of Moscow with her travels from all over the world. Follow Aigul here: @vi66nya

Расскажу о том, что узнала на собственном опыте, и что стоит знать всем, кто собирается в Стамбул. Первое - нас развели. Оказалось, способ известный: чистильщик обуви роняет перед вами щетку, вы поднимаете и отдаёте её, он в благодарность предлагает свои услуги, а потом вам уже неловко не заплатить. Когда Серёжа @sergeysuxov понял, что его решили облапошить в благодарность на его желание помочь, то очень сожалел, что не швырнул эту щетку ногой нафик. 😂 развод ну очень некрасивый, конечно. Второй момент. Мы пользовались такси Uber, потому что знаем его, и сначала я не удивлялась, что другим таксистам это не нравится, везде так. Но здесь это буквально травля,начинают говорить, что Uber в Турции нелегален, стоит упомянуть его в аэропорту, как начинаются недовольные ругань, возня и крики. Я не поверила в нелегальность, уж больно крупная компания, в сети не нашла ничего об этом. Однако! Когда мы уже ехали обратно, водитель попросил нас не говорить в аэропорту, что мы едем на Uber, а сказать, что это трансфер из отеля. Собственно, и работники отеля, провожая нас, проявили недюжинный интерес, выспрашивая, на чем это мы уезжаем. "На такси," - ни о чем ответила я, чтобы они отстали, подумав, что с такой навязчивостью я принципиально и в следующий приезд закажу проверенный Uber. Им какая разница? Такси нас ни разу не подвело, всё на уровне, в общем, пользуйтесь, но называйте его просто такси)

3. Barkin Ozdemir @barkinozdemir

Barkin's images are almost always filled with gorgeous golden light. His shots of Cappadocia and New York are especially enchanting! Follow Barkin here: @barkinozdemir

4. Erol @erol_is

It's all about the details on Erol's feed! His shots are always meticulously arranged and capture tiny moments of wonder in every day life and his travels around the world. Follow Erol here: @erol_is


5. Kristina Makeeva @hobopeeba

Kristina is another great Instagrammer from Russia. Her work is characterized by otherworldly night shots filled with light and pure magic. Follow Kristina here: @hobopeeba

6. Jin Chu-Ferrer @jinchuferrer

Jin (and her insta-husband @vince.ferrer) are hands down my favorite Insta-couple. Jin's work has that wonderful matte quality and her feed is full of delicious snaps from all over the world. Follow Jin here: @jinchuferrer

7. Kristo @somewhereinhelsinki_

Kristo is the king of spiral staircases! His feed is full of wonderful shots of Helsinki and its architecture, and his Stories are always fun and well done. Follow Kristo here: @somewhereinhelsinki_

8. Nanda Hampe @100gramsofsun

Nanda and her husband Bartolomeo travel the world in search of the most beautiful places. While her images are always stunning, it is Nanda's wonderful positive message and outlook on life that brighten my day - every day. Follow Nanda here: @100gramsofsun

9. Sara Melotti @saramelotti_

Sara's work has become my go-to for 'golden hour' inspiration. The light in her photos is soft and almost ethereal. Be it American Southwest or classic Italy, Sara's shots are packed with gorgeous wanderlust feels. Follow Sara here: @saramelotti_

10. Simone Bramante @brahmino

I've followed Simone ever since the beginning of Instagram. He is such a prolific creator, and his work is filled with light, hope, optimism, and playfulness that so befits him. Follow Simone here: @brahmino



Instagram-Worthy Spots in Riga, Latvia by Yulia Denisyuk

Ten locations to visit in Riga, Latvia for a great photo

If you are as active a member on the popular Instagram platform as I am, then you know this: finding Instagram-worthy locations for a great photo is an important part of trip planning. I spend quite a bit of time before each trip to scout possible locations for that one great photo! My primary sources include hunkering down on Google, asking my local friends, as well as mining the app itself. Many great spots, however, are found through the old-fashioned trial and error. 

Here are 10 spots I found to be Instagram-worthy from my recent trip to Riga, Latvia. I have deliberately stuck to the Old Town area, but let me know in the comments if I missed any spots there or in other parts of Riga!

1. House of Blackheads

Location: in the heart of Vecrīga (Riga Old Town), directly in front of the Akmens Bridge that connects the center of Riga with its suburb parts. Bring wide lens to fit in all the gorgeous buildings surrounding the square.

2. Rigas Doms

Location: Riga Old Town, a few blocks north from the House of Blackheads. The Riga Cathedral is the postcard symbol of the city, and the surrounding area is a perfect starting point of exploration of Riga's many tiny streets. This spot is also the most likely location for annual Christmas markets.  

3. Petera Baznica (St. Peter's Church)

Location: Riga Old Town, across the street from the House of Blackheads. The tallest peak in Riga offers the best views of town and the nearby Daugava river, in my opinion. If you visit in winter, come prepared: the air at the top of the 130 meter spire is freezing. If you can, bring telephoto lens for the up-close shots of the city below.  

4. Rozena ielā (street). 

Location: Riga Old Town, just behind Rigas Doms. Come here at dusk for tight shots of the narrow street and bring wide angle lens.

5. Riga Art Nouveau Museum

Location: North of the old town centre, on Alberta iela (street). About one third of buildings in Riga are built in the Art Nouveau style (called Jugendstil), but the Art Nouveau Museum's main draw (for me) was its stunning spiral staircase. Bring wide lens!

6. Akmens Bridge

Location: near Latvia National Library. The motor/pedestrian bridge is a great spot to capture multiple shots of the city. If you're facing north, the Old Town across Daugava river, with Rigas Doms and St. Peter's Church piercing through the cityscape, will be on your right. On the left: the ultra modern building of the Latvia National Library will be sure to delight you. Bring a tripod if possible to capture some long-exposure shots of the ongoing traffic at dusk. 

7. Tirgoņu ielā (street)

Location: Riga Old Town. The main street between the House of Blackheads and St. Peter's Church, Kungu iela, will eventually turn into the smaller Tirgonu iela. This street is one of the best examples of Art Nouveau in the Old Town, perfect for those umbrella jump shots!  

8. Jauniela

Location: Riga Old Town, near Riga Doms. One of the many tiny streets around the cathedral, Jauniela street is sure to get you into medieval spirit. Bring wide angle lens to fit in all the details into frame. 

9. Kaku Nams (The Cat's House)

Location: Riga Old Town, few blocks west of Rigas Doms on 10 Meistaru iela. An iconic building in the old part of Riga has an interesting legend associated with it. The building's owner, a rich and prominent Rigan, was trying to become a member of the venerated Blackheads traders society and they wouldn't take him. To annoy them, he turned the cat statue around so that its behind was directly facing the Blackheads Great Guild building... once they had accepted him into membership he turned the cat statue back around. Passions were running high in the medieval Riga!

10. Trīs brāļi (the Three Brothers)

Location: Riga Old Town, near Riga Castle on Maza Pils iela. The Three Brothers are a building complex of three houses dating back to the late 15th century. Bring wide angle lens for sure as the houses sit in a narrow street. If you do forget your wide angle lens (like I did), worry not - there are several nooks and cranny alleyways nearby to make up for the loss!