Wanna a better selfie? Get a selfie stick
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 and 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 selfie sticks 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.
Critical thinking challenge: Selfie sticks are not available everywhere yet. Why is it easier to buy a selfie stick at a landmark?