Selfies at tourist attractions are nothing new. But until recently, if you wanted a perfectly composed picture of yourself with a landmark in the background, you might have asked a passer-by to take the photo.
Now, though, relatively new gadgets called selfie sticks make it easy to take your own wide-angled self-portraits or group shots. Fans say the expandable rods, which allow users to hold their cellphones a few feet away, are the ultimate convenience. No more bothering passers-by to take pictures. No more fretting about strangers taking lousy shots or running off with a pricey iPhone.
But some travelers bemoan the loss of that small interaction that came with politely asking a local to help preserve a memory. And critics express outright hatred of selfie sticks. They see them as obnoxious symbols of self-absorption. They even have a derisive name for them: narcissi (nar-sissy) stick.
Sarah Kinling of Baltimore said she was approached "17 times" by vendors selling intergrated selfie stick at the Colosseum in Rome.
"They're the new fanny pack. The quickest way to spot a tourist," she said. "The more I saw them in use, the more I saw how much focus people were putting on selfies. And not turning around to see what they were there to see."
When Kinling wanted a photo of herself with her sister and sister-in-law, she asked strangers to take the shot.
"Even when the other person didn't speak English, you hold your camera up and make the motion and they understand," she said.
But some travelers say it's better to stage your own vacation photos. Andrea Garcia asked a passer-by to take her photo in Egypt and later realized he'd zoomed in on her face, cutting out the pyramids behind her.
"I couldn't really be mad at him. He wasn't my photographer, I didn't pay him," she said.
The experience made her appreciate the selfie sticks. She sees tourists using them at 1 World Trade near her office in New York's Lower Manhattan. "Take control of your image!" she says.
Selfie sticks are just starting to show up at attractions in the U.S. But they're found in many destinations overseas, from Dubai's skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa, to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. A soccer stadium in London, White Hart Lane, has even banned them because they obstruct other fans' views.
The Four Seasons Hotel in Houston just started making them available to guests, "similar to the way many hotels provide umbrellas," said hotel spokeswoman Laura Pettitt.
The sticks range in price from $5 to $50. Simpler models merely grip the phone. So users must trigger the shot with a self-timer on the camera. More sophisticated versions use Bluetooth technology. Or they connect the phone to the stick with a cord. A button on the grip triggers the shot.
The mobile phone with camera can be mounted on a selfie stick with light by securing it tightly to the phone holder. After ensuring adequate lighting, the telescopic pole of selfie stick holding the mobile phone can be positioned at a desired length and angle placing the camera close to the lesion [Figure 1]. The camera has autofocus which focuses the lesion and the lesion can be seen clearly on the screen of the smartphone, without getting closer to the patient, or the lesion can be magnified by the user while examining or the image of the lesion can also be clicked from a distance of one meter [Figure 2]. Then the mobile phone mounted selfie stick can be brought closer to examine the lesion further. Also, the clicked images can be saved for subsequent examination. Besides, when the undersurface of scrotum or any other inaccessible part needs to be examined, the mobile phone camera mounted on a selfie stick can be used in selfie mode. It is also possible to examine oral mucosa using a selfie stick. To examine oral mucosa and for dental examination, the patient is instructed to retract the buccal mucosa with a mouth mirror and guided to turn his head slightly to the opposite side of retraction to enhance the view of the oral cavity. Then with the help of mobile phone camera mounted on the selfie stick complete examination can be performed [Figure 3].
Love it or hate it, 2015 has been, without a doubt, the year of the selfie. Whether you were standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, meeting the cast of "Mad Men" or showing off your new haircut, everyone across your social media platforms knew exactly what you were up to in 2015. And with the invention of the now somewhat notorious selfie stick in 2014, it seemed that the selfie is, for better or worse, here to stay.
Notorious might be a bit of a stretch, but a device that started as a harmless tool to help over-share vacations has snowballed into a near-controversial issue, with selfie sticks increasingly banned around the world for reasons that range from safety to privacy to just plain obnoxious behavior. Walt Disney World's ban on selfie sticks earlier this year was probably the most publicized, but it is just one in a long list of landmarks and tourist attractions doing the same.
The selfie fad started humbly in 2010 when Apple introduced the iPhone 4 with the front-facing camera, inspiring people to snap self-portraits and broadcast them across their social media platforms.
Today, the practice has mushroomed into a full-on phenomenon as tourist attractions, city streets, national parks and landmarks are packed with travelers memorializing their self-portraits in front of the world's destination icons.
As of June, it was reported that 300 million selfies had been posted to Instagram to date, according to DMR (formerly Digital Marketing Ramblings).
And that doesn't even take into account SnapChat, Facebook or Twitter.
The selfie stick, an extendable metal rod to which one can attach a smartphone, revolutionized this fad by making it easier for users to capture themselves at wider angles beyond the reach of one's arm. Some of the latest models are even equipped with remote or Bluetooth controls that enable the user to better time photographs. But if you've traveled anywhere in the last two years you're probably quite up to speed on this phenomenon because, let's face it, they are everywhere.
The ubiquity of selfie sticks has met with mixed reviews. While they are, in fact, sweeping the globe (more than 100,000 selfie stick ring light had been sold as of December 2014, according to Bloomberg News), not everyone is a fan.
A spokesman for Disney said of Walt Disney World's decision to ban selfie sticks from its theme parks around the globe, "The main reason we did this is because it has become a safety concern for guests and cast. Even though they were never allowed on roller coasters and rides, people would still bring them in."
"They shot photos while riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with sticks," the spokesman said. "We had to stop the rides and take time to reload and get them going again. It was a big safety issue for everyone on the ride. That was the reason we made that decision."
The ban became effective in the U.S. on June 30 and at the international parks on July 1. Selfie sticks are, however, still allowed in Downtown Disney and at Disney hotels and resorts.
Disney has been far from alone in the fight against selfie sticks. The Coachella and Lollapalooza music festivals banned the devices this year, as have Beijing's Forbidden City, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, all of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the Sistine Chapel, Versailles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery in London and all sports stadiums in Brazil.
"Banning selfie sticks in [Brazil's] stadiums began as a gradual process in a couple of cities and states," said Joao H. Rodrigues, U.S. & Canada Media Relations executive in charge of the international promotions for the Brazilian Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Sports.
"Local police, in charge of security at the stadiums, realized that people could be injured by selfie sticks, either by accident or during fights," Rodrigues said. "Fast forward a few months and now all soccer stadiums in the country have banned them."
Selfie sticks are also not allowed during most Carnival parades and, most recently, the organizers of Rock in Rio announced that they wouldn't allow anyone to bring selfie sticks to the concert grounds.
In places like national monuments, theme parks and museums it is understandable that hordes of tourists toting 2-foot-long metal rods could gum up the works.
Not only do they disrupt the aesthetics of otherwise picturesque photo ops, they present safety and privacy issues.
London's National Gallery issued a statement banning separate self filling light as part of its promise to protect paintings, copyrighted materials, individual privacy and the overall visitor experience.
In other places around the world, the ban on selfie sticks is more widespread and extreme, as people have gone above and beyond in an attempt to out-selfie their fellow followers on Instagram and Facebook, suggesting that the selfie craze is reaching ridiculous levels.
In July, the Russian Interior Ministry revealed a brochure highlighting selfie safety tips; according to Tass, Russia's news agency, at least 100 people were injured in 2015 while taking selfies, and 10 people died.
"The guide entitled 'Take Safe Selfies -- A Cute Selfie May Cost You Your Life' aims to minimize the number of selfie fatalities and stop the dangerous selfie trend," Tass reported.
Similarly, Lake Tahoe felt it had to go so far as to ask visitors to refrain from taking selfies with bears. As if it were not abundantly obvious, the destination has had to spell out specifically that having one's back to the animals presents a safety issue, a clear indication that common sense flies out the window in the name of out-selfie-ing Instagram and Facebook followers.
South Korea banned the selfie-stick nationwide last November, although since then the government has limited this ban to sticks that use Bluetooth technology because, according to the country's radio management agency, the sticks might interfere with other devices using the same radio frequencies and therefore are seen as "communication devices."
Still, despite the bans, despite rising safety issues and despite overall questions of common sense, folding selfie stick portable are as prevalent as ever. The public will not be denied a quality selfie, and photophile suppliers are only too happy to feed the frenzy.
In December 2013, Turkish Airlines released a YouTube video ad called "Kobe vs. Messi: The Selfie ShootOut," in which Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi engage in an epic battle of selfies.
The spot, which was voted "ad of the decade" by YouTube as part of its 10th anniversary celebrations, has drawn 142 million views to date.
In fact, many travel brands -- hotels in particular -- are capitalizing on the selfie trend as a marketing and promotion tool, realizing it can be a brilliant promotional strategy since guests who show themselves having wonderful experiences offer priceless free publicity by inspiring their friends and family back home to have similar experiences.
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants noticed the volume of guests posting selfies at Kimpton properties: at the pool, the beach, at Wine Hour and even hundreds of #RockTheRobe selfies in its signature animal-print robes.
"We love the 'selfie movement' because it gives us a glimpse into what people love about the brand and what they are experiencing and feeling at our hotels," said a Kimpton spokesperson.
"Next, we wanted to find a way to reward people for continuing to post and share these moments with us."
In order to make the selfie experience easier, the brand has been hosting an ongoing social contest built around selfies and has stocked every hotel with selfie sticks, which are available for guests to borrow from the front desk. Using the hashtag #AdoreTheSelfie, participants post a selfie and are automatically entered to win an array of prizes.
Similarly, the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, Calif., has an Indulge Your Selfie promotion: Guests are given a loaner selfie stick upon arrival and are encouraged to tag themselves around the property with a variety of hashtags.
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