OK, so by the end of the previous episode I’d selected three sets of ten images from just over half of a total 320 images I selected from this year’s amazing Complete Namibia Tour. Today, with slightly under half of my selection left, I was going to try to select just ten more, but after a very picky look through my remaining images, I have 25 that I’d still like to talk about, so I’m going to whittle that down to twenty and do one more episode after this to finalize the series. It was such a productive trip, so this is a nice position to be in, and I hope you continue to enjoy joining me on my travels via the Podcast.
We pick up the trail as we made our first visit to the Himba village, where I found that the girl I’ve been photographing over the years was not there. She’d be 18 years old now, and I was looking forward to meeting her again, and was ultimately hoping to get a photo of her with her first baby at some point, but at least for this visit, it wasn’t to be. We did talk with the people that were there and will try to get her back for our next visit, but only if it isn’t too much trouble. The Himba haven’t been getting so many visits due to the pandemic, so there were a number of things that happened during our two visits, one at the start of this day, and one towards the end.
The first thing that I noticed was that the Himba did not seem to get tired of our presence. Usually, after we’ve been there for a few hours, they set up a shop, with most of the women and children in the village forming a circle, and sell bracelets, bowls, baskets, dolls, and other ornaments. Buying these things is one of a number of ways that we pay them back, but it’s also, in the past, been a sign to us that they are ready for us to leave. On this visit, they didn’t set the store up until I felt that the group and I were running out of things to do, so I asked them if they were going to set up their shop, through our guide of course. My understanding of the Himba language stretches to around five or six words, so I rely on our guide heavily for communication.
The other thing that happened was that we met the elder of the group for the first time when we went back in the evening. We don’t usually see many men, but the elder was sitting on a chair near the entrance to the outer corral and was surrounded by many young to middle-aged men. They asked to see my photos from previous visits, so we spent ten minutes or so looking through my photos of them. It was lovely to see their reactions as members of their group that had moved away appeared on my iPhone screen. I was also interested to find that they knew many of the people from the group that lives near the foot of a mountain near Puros, a few hours by car to the northeast from their village.
We were also thanked by the elder for taking so many provisions for them, and he asked our guide to make a note of what he’d brought along for them, and to spread the word that this is the amount of stuff they’d like when people visit. I was amazed to hear that some people turn up, take photos, and leave without giving them any provisions. An exchange like this has to be mutually beneficial, or it becomes tiresome for the people in the village. And for those that turn up and think that paying $10 for a doll will make up for spending one or two hours there, it’s really not. Let’s help people out a little more than that.
Anyway, to the photos… One of my first shots was this image of four Himba children in the back of a truck. This was only the back of the truck, just sitting in the dust, but it was a nice toy for the kids. I found it ironic that the boy in the center of the frame had a key around his neck, as though he was going to be letting himself in when he got home from school. The irony comes from the fact that none of their huts have doors, let alone a lock with a keyhole, so this was purely an accessory, which I thought was a nice touch.
By the way, if you are new to the Podcast and wondering how to see the images, note that they are embedded in the audio file, and applications like Overcast or the Apple Podcasts app will automatically display the images for you as the audio progresses. There is a page under the Posts menu with the title Viewing Podcast Images that has more information. Note too that you can simply type mbp.ac with a slash then the episode number to jump to the post for each episode, so you can see the gallery for this post at https://mbp.ac/783. If you support us on Patreon for just $3/month or more you can also see the full manuscript, and supporters for $10 per month also get a beautifully laid out eBook of each post, that can be downloaded for reading offline and it contains 4K resolution images.
We took a number of the Himba people inside one of their huts to photograph them and at one time had a mother and child inside, giving me the opportunity to get this next photograph of the child lit by the beautiful light from the hut door. Note that I actually use a few layers to darken down the background to almost completely black and feather in the shadow manually with the brush in Capture One Pro. To illustrate this, I’m including the finished image alongside the original image straight out of the camera and included the Capture One Pro interface so that you can also see some of the settings.
If you listened to the episode I did before leaving for Namibia, you might recall that I was planning to take my 50mm ƒ/1.2 lens along with me for these portraits, but I actually ended up leaving it at home, because my bag had simply started to get too heavy, and I was fine with shooting at ƒ/4 with my 24-105mm lens. It’s also nice to be able to zoom in and out as well, especially with kids, because they run around all over the place, making it difficult to frame them well with a prime lens. You can see that I shot this wide open at ƒ/4, with a focal length of 88mm and a 1/160 second shutter speed, at ISO 4000.
Next up, meet Tjiringa, a young Himba girl who I think may turn into my new project if we can’t get Makihoro back in the next few years. Tjiringa is very animated and can grimace as freely as she can smile, so it’s fun to photograph her, and I like the results. I zoomed all the way into 105mm for this, as she was sitting further away than the child in the previous shot. Although I do like a shot that I have of her from the doorway, I really like the serious, almost stern look on her face in this image, so it became my preferred image to share. So that you can see just the previous image as well, I’ll put both of these in together below.
I did, of course, process the photo of this little girl the same as the photo of the small child, using multiple layers to gradually darken the background, and draw attention to the subject’s face. This also simply removes the background, which I often find somewhat distracting.
As I mentioned earlier, we came back to the Himba village later in the day, to photograph the Himba bringing their goats back into the inner corral, and here is a photograph of them doing just that. In fact, this was one of the times when they were taking the goats back out again, and would then drive them back in for me and my group to photograph them once more. I just found this view, with the four ladies in full traditional dress, to be so fascinating, that I couldn’t help grabbing a few extra frames.
Following that, I got this next image which was probably my favorite of the session, with the sunlight catching the goat-dung dust through the wooden sticks that form the inner corral, and the ladies with their few children walking behind the herd again. There was a very relaxed mood, even when we had them do this a third time to increase our photographic opportunities, and one of the ladies thanked us for coming twice and spending so much time with them. I’m completely humbled by that, and as I have mentioned before, I’m so happy that we are able to have such valuable cultural experiences and exchanges on this tour.
The day after we visited the Himba people, we drove through the morning to arrive at our camp just outside the Etosha National Park, where we’d have lunch, and spend the next two nights. After lunch, we did one of their game drives, which I know to have a pretty good chance of seeing the subject of this next image, the amazing White Rhino. The last time I was here the owners of the lodge had bought a truckload of grass to feed the elephants and rhinos with because the drought had pretty much stripped the park bare. This meant that all of the rhinos were concentrated in a small area with the elephants, and that provided some unique opportunities, but it was so nice to see these magnificent animals simply reaching down for a mouthful of that beautiful golden grass.
We also had a few encounters with their lions, but the line of sight was very poor through the trees, so we only got a few shots as this male lion lifted his head reluctantly for a few seconds, before flopping back down to go back to sleep. The top left corner of this shot was very noisy, with heavily textured grass, catching the sunlight through the trees, and the right top corner was just grey dust, so the entire background was a source of annoyance. Because of that, I used a similar technique to that which I use to darken down the background of the Himba, but this was more difficult as the hair is really difficult to fade into the manufactured shadows. I think I made a relatively good job of it, but feel I’d like to revisit this again when I get more time.
I was also very tempted to convert this to black and white, as I enjoy that aesthetic, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw out these beautiful golden colors from the last minutes of the day, and it also looked too much like the work of my friend Christian Meermann. I’m fine with work looking similar to others, especially that kind of processing, as I’ve been doing similar processing on flowers and other subjects for many years, but in my mind, Christian owns the high contrast black and white lion space, so I decided to stay away for now.
The following day was spent inside the Etosha National Park. Not exactly big game, we spent a few minutes photographing these ground squirrels, which I thought were hilarious with their bot-bellies and that huge belly button. I have some hand-held video of these guys as well that I will include a few seconds in the slideshow I’m going to make soon, so stay tuned for that.
We also saw a black-backed jackal eating a snake, which I shot with my 1.4X Extender fitted to the 100-500mm lens, and still had to crop this to about half of the actual image size, but I’m pretty happy to have this. It’s a young jackal, so he did well to catch this snake. It took him a total of around 20 to 30 seconds to eat the snake, so I’d say he was happy for the meal.
Ten minutes later, we found a black rhino on his way to the waterhole. I know this is common knowledge, but if you’ve never heard how to tell the difference between a black and white rhino, here goes. If you look at the photo of the white rhino that I shared earlier, you’ll see that it has a very wide mouth for grazing, and the word White actually simply came from someone mishearing the work Wide, for the wide-mouthed rhino. The black rhino although markedly smaller, is about the same color, but it has a pointed mouth, using for browsing as opposed to grazing. He was apparently given the name black rhino simply to differentiate it from the wrongly name white rhino. True story.
And, as the sun went down on our second day at the Etosha National Park, we reached our ten images, so we’ll wrap it up there for this episode. We will finalize this series next week, but our final ten images, from our last two days in Etosha.
Today I’m really happy to be able to bring you a conversation with Nancy Lehrer. Those of you that used to participate in our forum before we had to close it down due to the constant spamming, may well remember Nancy. She always had something useful and insightful to add to the conversation and started a number of great topics herself too if I recall.
Nancy has just written a book called Life Happens in COLOR – a Street Photography Manifesto, in which she shares some beautiful photography, as well as her firm opinions on the use of color in street photography. I, unfortunately, had to have this conversation having only skimmed over the book because I lost the time I’d set aside to read it yesterday to technical issues with the website, but with those behind me now, I really enjoyed this conversation, and I think you will too.
Here is a brief outline of our conversation:
Nancy tells us about herself and how she got into photography What is it about street photography that appeals to Nancy? What motivated Nancy to write her new book Life Happens in COLOR – a Street Photography Manifesto? We then talk through the below three photographs from the book. Nancy gives us three pieces of golden advice for making better street photographs
Here are three images that we talked about during our conversation.
Simply beautiful and very thought-provoking work from Nancy here. Sorry if you usually read, but today’s is a listen too only episode. 🙂
Morocco Tour & Workshop Nov 12 – 23, 2018
The closest I come to this kind of photography, as I mentioned in our conversation, is Morocco. If you’d like to join this year’s Morocco Tour and Workshop from November 12 to the 23rd we do still have some open spaces, so check out the details at https://mbp.ac/morocco
Today we conclude our Morocco 2017 tour travelogue series, with some beautiful portrait opportunities and a visit to the incredible Portuguese cistern at El Jadida.
On our second morning waking from our luxury tents in the Moroccan Sahara, I ventured back out again with a few early risers to capture the desert once more. This was the area where the grasses had got in the way a little, but the soft light before sunrise helps to outline the form of the sand dunes. Although photographically I wasn’t awestruck by this spot, it’s always nice to be out at dawn, and watching the sunrise to the left of this scene, over the border between Morocco and Algeria, is something that will stay with me.
For this photograph, I was using my 100-400mm lens at 330mm, and my aperture set to f/14, for a shutter speed of 25 seconds at ISO 100. That long shutter speed should be an indication that it was basically still quite dark, around 20 minutes before sunrise. I wasn’t using a neutral density filter or anything, this was just the ambient light level.
Man in the Well
After breakfast, we were sped across the desert in three 4×4 vehicles for an hour back to Erfoud and our tour bus and then continued on our journey to Ouarzazate.
On the way, we stopped at a site where there was a series of wells in an underground irrigation system and were fortunate enough to be able to photograph a gentleman named Karim, who you can see in this next image (left).
Karim here is looking up from the underground tunnel into the mouth of the well. I absolutely love this photo, and it’s become one of my favorites from the trip.
As a photograph, this was just about possible, technically. My ISO was at 6400, and my focal length at 105mm and an aperture of f/4. I have actually now got the new Canon 85mm f/1.4 lens with Image Stabilization and will be releasing a review very soon, but I’d have loved that lens down in this well, for the extra three stops of light that the f/1.4 aperture would have given me, and at this distance, I’d still have around 8 inches of depth of field too.
I also shot a few images including Karim’s feet, but unfortunately, he was wearing regular training shoes, and it didn’t quite match the rest of his clothing, so in this frame, I purposefully cropped off his feet.
After spending the night in Ouarzazate, we visited a beautiful little ighrem, or fortified village called Aït Benhaddou. In this next photograph (below), you can see the village with a bit of a reflection in the shallow river that flows beside the village. This was a 1/30 of a second exposure, so the woman carrying the sack of grain is a little bit blurred, I like the fact that she’s there to add a human element, although quite small and not noticeable at first.
We walked across the river and were hoping to get some photos from a slightly different angle when a tourist drove a car and parked right in front of the village, kind of putting the mockers on our plans, but that’s life. We did a group photo with the village in back, and then walked up into the village.
The moon was still in the sky as a few of us stopped at a cafe for some Moroccan tea, so I put my 100-400mm lens on my camera for this next photograph (below), shortly before the moon hid behind the hill. We actually stopped for tea a little earlier than this, but a huge group of tourists was looking out over the rampart and walking down the track, so I waited until just this one man in a traditional hat was looking out, just before the moon hid.
It’s a little bit touristy, but I quite like this, and of course, the 100-400mm lens, at 360mm, helped to make the moon look nice and big in the frame. My aperture was at f/10 for a 1/400 of a second exposure at ISO 200. I had actually gone back to Manual exposure for this shot, still struggling with exposure compensation in aperture priority. I just don’t like messing around with exposure compensation and prefer to take full control when possible.
Moroccan Man Pouring Tea
After we finished our tea at the cafe, we were treated by more tea in a gentleman’s house, arranged by our wonderful guide. The gentleman you can see in the following photos (below) is Jamal Eddine Mohammed and his ancestors have lived in this building since the 15th or 16th century.
The light from the window to his left, my right, was absolutely stunning, pouring into the room like Rembrandt light, so I was very happy that this gentleman was open to us photographing him. I set my aperture to f/5.6 for the first shot and f/8 for the second, both at ISO6400.
After drinking our tea, we were able to find a nice building across the way with some light coming in through the roof and were able to do another quick session with this gentleman in there too, as you can see in the next photograph (right).
At ISO 6400 my shutter speed was down to 1/60 of a second for this photograph, but it came out great, and none of these photos have any grain in them to speak of. It really is amazing what our cameras can capture these days. Even if we’d been able to set up a shoot like this a few years ago, the camera’s wouldn’t have been able to handle the low light.
These photos along with the man in the well from earlier are some of my favorite photos from the trip, and I can see at least one or two of them making it into my personal top ten favorite images for the year when I go through that exercise in just three or four weeks time now.
After our wonderful experience in Aït Benhaddou, we continued our journey on to Marrakesh, where we ventured into the square for a few hours. A somewhat hectic place, where every street pedlar was trying to get us to buy something, and even just raising your camera had people coming over asking for money, but it was a fun experience.
As a group, we paid some snake charmers to allow us to photograph them, and the most dynamic among them was quickly bitten on his ear, luckily only be a water snake, but it got the rest of the snake charmers laughing. Personally, I didn’t enjoy this, as they were throwing the snakes around and treating them badly, so although I have a few photos, I’m not going to share them.
The following day we spent more time in the morning walking through the markets of Marrakesh. As you can see in this photo (below) there were some beautiful streets, with lovely wooden doors on each of the stores. The man in the store to the left of this scene came rushing out every few seconds to tell us not to photograph him, and it was all that we could do to grab a shot like this before he stuck his head out again.
I do wish people were a little more tolerant of photography. I understand that in many ways, the reason is that people come with cameras, take only photographs and don’t buy from these stores very often, and I wonder how tolerant other countries would be too. As a group though, I think we did our fair share of spending, which all helps to improve the economy, which in turn helps all Moroccans, so I wish people would go a little easier on us with regards to photography. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed this tour, and I am planning to do it again.
Portuguese Cistern at El Jadida
On the final day of shooting, we had a drive back to Casablanca, via the port town of El Jadida, where we visited the beautiful Portuguese Cistern, which you can see in this photo (below). Again shot at ISO 6400, this and the following image do have a little bit of grain in the shadow areas, because I increased the brightness a bit.
My strategy with the exposure was to go a little over on the hole in the ceiling, and then I brought that down with the levels in post, and boosted the shadows by increasing the shadow slider in Capture One Pro to 30, and also increased the shadows a little bit with the Luma Curve. I didn’t want to open the shadows up too much, as that would look unnatural, and increase the grain further.
For this final image from the tour (below), we had our guide stand in the light, which lit him so brightly compared to the surroundings that there’s actually a little bit of a starburst effect coming off his hand when you view the image large.
Still shooting at ISO 6400, I was able to get a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second at f/8. I kind of wished I’d gone to Manual mode and reduced the shutter speed a little more, but I was back to trying to work in Aperture Priority, and kind of messed that up. The photos are fine though, and I really like the feel of this image.
The Cistern was a beautiful place to finish our tour. We walked down to the coast afterward and then went for lunch before the relatively short remaining drive to Casablanca. That evening after dinner, a few of us found ourselves in Rick’s Cafe, which was only built in memory of the movie Casablanca, that was actually filmed at studios in Burbank, California.
Although we had some members of the group that didn’t want to leave a comment in my traditional final recording, I’m going to play you the comments from those that did say something now, before we wrap this up.
[Please listen with the audio player at the top of the post to hear what people said about the trip.]
OK, so thanks for listening for the last four weeks as we’ve followed along with my two-week trip, and a total of 44 images. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
Join us on the 2018 Morocco Tour from Nov 12 – 23! For details and to book your place, please visit the tour page.
Back from Morocco, we continue our travelogue series today to walk you through the trip, picking up the trail in Erfoud, a beautiful little town on the edge of the Sahara.
Musician in Erfoud
We’d spent the morning in a local market photographing the people there, like the young man selling scarves, that we saw at the end of part two of this series. We then went for lunch, after which three musicians came into the courtyard where we were to sing for us. We see one of them in this first photograph for today (right).
Although there is an obvious tourist attraction element when these musicians play for us, I actually really enjoy it. Their songs and melodies are a great way to really feel the culture of a place. I shot some video on my iPhone that I’ll include in a slideshow perhaps at some point, but for now, listen to a short excerpt from their song, to hopefully put you in the moment a little better.
[Listen with the audio player at the top of the post to hear the music]
Perhaps the music wasn’t quite what you were expecting from the photo, but hopefully, it gave you a better sense of the atmosphere. This is a typical rhythm too, with the Krakebs, which are a type of metal castanet, making that distinctive sound like a galloping horse.
The light was also somewhat challenging in the courtyard, as there were lots of small holes in the vine above, so I exposed the image to ensure that these spots didn’t blow-out, and then I increased the shadows to around 70 in Capture One Pro to bring back the shadow detail. I find this works better than allowing the highlights to blow-out and then bringing them down, because once the detail is lost in the highlights you end up with just a white spot, regardless of how much you try to recover it.
After lunch, we were met by our 4×4 drivers, and transported into the desert to our camp for the next two nights. The luxury tents weren’t quite as luxurious as they promised to be, although very nice to say we were in the Sahara, and the sand dunes near to our camp were a little bit of an anticlimax. This is one of the problems with a first-visit trip planned on paper, but also the reason why I priced this first tour as I did.
Sahara Sand Dunes
I had been told that this was a great camp because it wasn’t teaming with tourists, but there is a reason it’s not teaming with tourists. It’s because it’s not very interesting. We took a walk into the dunes behind our camp, and photographed as the sun went down, but the relatively small dunes were scattered with clumps of grass that made them very unphotogenic in my opinion. I would fix that for the following day with some adjustments to our plan, but for now, the following photograph is one of the few images I was somewhat happy with from this shoot (below).
Because the larger scene wasn’t that pretty, and because I often do this anyway, I decided to zoom in capture some details. I shot this at 400mm with my 100-400mm lens, and just showed the layers of sand, with the ripples from the wind, and kind of made a bit of an accent out of one of the clumps of grass that was for me at least, pretty much spoiling the location.
I was in two minds as to whether to go back out at dawn, but it’s not every day you wake up in the Sahara desert, so a few members of the group and I went back out the following morning, using flashlights initially to navigate our way back into the dunes. The soft morning light just about makes this particular scene (below) bearable for me to show you, and hopefully, this will also give you an idea of the scale of the dunes.
Sahara Dunes at Dawn
I kind of like the rosy orange color here, and the undulating lines are nice too, but if I didn’t need to show you where we were, I’d probably never show this photograph to anyone. At least at dawn though, the angles where there wasn’t so much grass were a little more photogenic, making the location a little more bearable.
Sahara Nomadic Lady
After breakfast, I changed our plans and arranged for the 4×4 vehicles to come and take us to a different area, with the promise of better dunes. We adjusted our plans to have some camel handlers in the new area, and set off, initially visiting a nomadic family, where I photographed this lady in the shade of structure next to the main cabin.
This lady was difficult to photograph, probably somewhat shocked to have a group of photographers turn up on her doorstep in three 4×4 vehicles, it was a nice little stop.
As we’d become conditioned, we paid her a tip for her time, and just as we were about to leave, and the other two cars pulled away, and we were just saying that in Namibia we take more practical supplies to these people, then our driver got out and gave her a case of water and some butter.
Although not always possible, or even necessary, this seemed a much more appropriate way of thanking this lady for her time and cooperation, and I would imagine much more appreciated.
White Turban Musicians
After this, we drove through to a town on the other side of the dunes from where we’d stayed and stopped for a restroom break at a little oasis, where we found some wonderfully charming men to photograph.
To make it easier to format the blog post, I’ve created a tryptic of my favorite three images (below), rather than adding each image individually. I had the gentleman on the left stand in front of the Moroccan flag on the wall, making for a very striking background and wonderful contrast between the red and the white of his turban.
Three Moroccan Musicians
The light was beautiful, with the men in the shade, but a very brightly lit courtyard behind us, so they each have really nice catchlights in their eyes, and the light is much less contrasty than if we’d had them stand in the sun. I opened up my aperture as far as it would go, which is f/4 on my 24-105mm lens, and that gave me just about the shallow depth of field that I was hoping for at this distance.
Photographer’s Friend Pixel Peeper Mode
Using my app Photographer’s Friend in the new Pixel Peeper mode, I was able to calculate that I had probably around 1cm or 0.35 inches of totally sharp depth of field, and on inspection at 100% on the computer screen, that looks pretty accurate, although you’ll think the depth of field is a little deeper when viewing the web sized images. With the Pixel Peeper mode turned off, Photographer’s Friend reports around 2.5 cm or one inch of depth of field, which is probably closer to what you’ll see here, so I’m pretty pleased with the calculations and having the options to quickly switch now. For more details on the Pixel Peeper mode that I just released last week, see the Photographer’s Friend page here.
Camels in the Sahara
After a long relaxed lunch to burn off the midday sun, we headed back out in the 4×4 vehicles and photographed the oasis, before meeting with our two camel handlers, and actually riding the camels into the desert to photograph them. As you can see (below) on this side, the dunes were much more, well, dune-like, and having the camels and their handler to pose for us made this a great opportunity.
Camels and Handler in Sahara
The dunes weren’t perfect, especially in the wider view, but I thought this scene was worth spending a few minutes to clean up some of the clumps of grass from the original image, just to polish this a little. I used both my 24-105mm and 100-400mm for this shoot, and for this, I was working with a focal length of 200mm, to isolate the subjects and to compress the elements of the scene a little for a more dramatic look.
Although I directed the shoot, as far as where we stopped, and where the camel handler walked for us, being accustomed to having his photograph taken like this, when there was a pause in the shooting, the camel handler wrapped his headwear around his face, and sat in front of his camels for this next photo (below, left).
Camel Handler with Camels
Camel Handler Sitting with Camels
I was thinking it was quite a nice pose, and then he had the front camel sit and he leaned against it, for this second shot (above, right). He also laid down for a third pose, but I prefer these first two images. Both of these were shot around 200mm, and I stopped down the lens to f/11, so that the camels were also relatively sharp. In the shade at this point, that gave me an ISO of 4000, although there’s no grain in the images because I was exposing them with the information over on the right side of the histogram.
This next photograph (below) is one of my favorites from the entire trip, as we had the camel handler walk the camels around and over the brow of a dune to the right of where we were standing. As you can see, there was now a little red in the sky too, as the sun neared the horizon.
Camel Silhouettes at Sunset
I allowed this image to go to near silhouette, but I decided not to plug up the shadows complete, so you can still see a bit of detail in the animals and this side of the dune. Due to how tightly the camels were tied together, it was actually more difficult than I’d hoped to get a shot where there was separation between all of the camels, but this is one of them, which contributes to my reasons for making this a favorite. I shot this at 35mm, with the aperture set to f/10, and my ISO was at 500 for this image.
Color-wise, this next image is much better, but there isn’t any separation between some of the camels here, and I’m sure you’ll agree that this kind of messes it up a bit. Still, I’m happy with these shots on the whole, and the group was probably the most excited that I’d seen them as we worked this location. You probably can’t tell as this is now almost complete silhouette, but this is a different camel handler, in blue, as opposed to the white clothes of the other handler.
Camels with Saharan Sunset
OK, so as the sun goes down in the Sahara, we’ll start to wrap it up there for today. I have another 10 shots or so that I’ll share with you in the concluding episode of this travelogue series, probably next week.
Join us on the 2018 Morocco Tour from Nov 12 – 23! For details and to book your place, please visit the tour page.
Just back from my first tour of Morocco, this week we continue our series of travelogues to walk you through our antics in this majestic north-western corner of Africa.
Having just about finished my edit of my photos, I now have around fifty in a collection, so I’ll continue to whittle that down to forty so that we can complete this series in four episodes. We pick up the trail as we leave the beautiful blue city of Chefchaouen, and made our way to Fes.
We had lunch near Meknes, outside a barbeque style restaurant, and I recall this as perhaps one of the best meals I had in Morocco. The food was seasoned perfectly for my tastes. As we walked to the bus to continue our journey, I grabbed this photo of a donkey tied up outside another restaurant, waiting patiently for his master to finish his meal (below).
This is more a documentary photo, but I liked the relationship between the donkey and the men eating. Donkeys seem to play an important part in the lives of the Moroccans that live and work in the medinas and small towns. We’d sometimes be walking through an alleyway and have to move to the side to let a donkey through, often carrying huge loads, like gallons of water or gas canisters stacked high.
After this, we continued our journey and stopped at the ruins of a Roman town at Volubilis. I have to admit, this is one of the locations that was recommended to me that I was not very impressed with. If I was a tourist, I’d probably stop by to check it out, but as a photographer, wanting to make beautiful photographs, it probably wasn’t the best use of our time, so we’ll most likely be skipping this next year, and head straight to Fes.
As we were there though, I tried to make something of our visit and found an angle to photograph this archway with the sun poking through a corner in the stone forming a sunburst (below). It’s actually a UNESCO World Heritage site, so I wished I’d found it more interesting, but I don’t think I was the only one that didn’t really appreciate this stop.
Arch of Caracalla
I converted this image to black and white in Capture One Pro, as the sandstone colors didn’t really work for me either. The sunburst is more a product of forcing the sun’s light through a corner, but I did also have the aperture set to f/14, which probably helped somewhat as well, although I’ve done sunburst shots at f/8 in the past.
Colorful Fes Alleyway
We went to a location to enjoy a view of Fes at sundown after this, and then the following morning ventured into the medina, which is over 1200 years old and has around 9,000 alleys, one of which you can see in this next photograph (right).
Again, I’m trying to respect the wishes of the local people to not be photographed, but at a distance, the two women obviously have a heavy presence in this shot. The visual mass of the human form is always somewhat larger than the actual percentage of area that it takes up in the image.
I found this alleyway to be absolutely beautiful though. As I mentioned last week, on this trip I was working in Aperture Priority quite a lot. It was frustrating at first because I’m not used to any automated exposure modes, but as the light changed so much, such as when we shot into a side street alley like this, Aperture Priority and Auto-ISO was pretty helpful once I got used to it.
I had also set my minimum shutter speed to 1/250 of a second, in a bid to freeze any action that might be happening, and was glad for that setting a lot of the time. The downside is that when there isn’t much movement, like in this shot, my ISO still jumped up to 2500 to give me a 1/320 of a second exposure at f/11. Luckily though, even the 5Ds R does great, even with ISOs up to 6400, as long as you expose the image as bright as possible, protecting your highlights, and not letting the shadows plug-up too much.
After this, we made our way over to the tannery, which is a site that perhaps has to be experienced to really grasp the atmosphere. We were given a sprig of mint on our way into a building, then we climbed its stairs to around the fifth floor, to come out on a balcony with the view that you can see in this image (below).
Although I didn’t really find it that bad, apparently the smell was quite strong, so many of the tour participants had their mint sprig in their nostrils as we picked out and composed our photographs. I went wide for this first image to show how the tannery is enveloped in the surrounding buildings, and also to show how many people were working there at any one time.
For this second image from the tannery (below), I zoomed in to capture just one worker, standing in one of the vats with the liquid up past his knees. The content of some of these vats are natural, like the red color from pomegranate skin, but some of them can apparently be a little toxic, although that doesn’t seem to stop the workers from getting in with their bare legs.
Chouara Tannery Worker
The name of the Fes hat comes from the fact that they were made in Fes, and craftsmanship seems to be a big part of the Fes culture. We photographed this man hammering away at his copper pan.
He, and a younger man, possibly an apprentice, put on a bit of a show after this, where they both hammered at the same pan making a nice rhythmical beat. Not a great photo opportunity, but I shot some video of this which may find it’s way into a slideshow of my Morocco work, as time allows.
We continued photographing in the alleys of Fes, and I have a number of other images that I’m happy with. There was some craftsman dying silk made from the agave plant, which is used to make tequila, and we also visited a pottery workshop and watched some of the people there painting the plates, and also creating the incredibly intricate and ornate mosaics that play such a big part in the Moroccan culture.
We also had lunch in a restaurant that was absolutely gorgeous, and yet from outside it was just another sand colored alleyway, which made us think about how deceiving the exteriors of some of the buildings can be.
The following day, we left Fes and wound our way through the Middle Atlas Mountains heading to Erfoud. The locations that we visit are spread out, and some of the days are spent mostly on the bus, although we sometimes made planned stops to give ourselves a chance to stretch our legs. Sometimes though, we just see something that looks interesting so we’d see if it was possible to stop to photograph it, as was the case with this next image (below).
Shepherd with Sheep and Mountain Stream
As we rounded a bend having just crossed a small stream, I noticed the young shepherd in this photograph with his sheep, walking across an expanse of land. That alone would have been nice to photograph, but he was open to walking his sheep back over to the mountain stream so that we could photograph them there instead.
I’m happy with this image, as it shows a man at work in nature, in one of the oldest professions we have, giving it an almost biblical feel. I recall spending a few moments struggling with Aperture Priority here, and quickly jumped back into Manual, as the light was not challenging like it is when one minute you are photographing a light street, then the next minute photographing down a dark alley.
I stayed in Manual as we pulled up to photograph a kasbah, which in this case means a storehouse or keep for farm produce, as the sun shone down into the valley for the last few minutes before it would cast it fully into shadow (below).
I purposefully let the adobe kasbah fall into almost full silhouette, so that you have to work a little to see any detail in the building, but it is there if you look close. I like the layers that this exposure gives us in the mountains with the suns rays creating another layer to the right.
In front of the kasbah, there were two men and a woman working with the corn. As is often the case, the men were actually just sitting around, and the woman was doing most of the work, peeling the outer leaves off the corn and throwing it into a large circular area that they’d made, obviously wanting to dry out the corn to help preserve it for the winter.
We were able to photograph these three people, but I’ve dropped their photographs into a single image as a tryptic (below) to share with you today, as I don’t have much to say about each individual image. The man in the blue turban just sat for us, and the guy in the orange spent most of his time with his hand out, waiting for his tip, which kind of spoils the experience a little, but I quite like the photo.
Three Workers at Kasbah
We can see from the tattoo on the lady’s forehead that she is a Berber, an ethnic group from Northern Africa. They apparently tattooed the girls in the family to stop them from being stolen, or to at least be able to identify them as their own family if they were stolen.
We stayed in a wonderful hotel in Erfoud on this day, before visiting a market the following morning, and had a wander around photographing the people there.
The people selling their wares can be a little tiresome because they will generally continue to walk with you until you either buy something from them, or they see someone else that is perhaps more likely to buy something from them.
The handsome young man in this photograph was particularly persistent, telling me that my wife would love one of his scarves. I have a wider shot of him in which you can see the scarves, and I asked my wife if she’s have liked any of them, and confirmed as I thought that she did not.
So, I made the right decision on this occasion, by giving him some money for his photograph instead. There wasn’t a lot of light in this market, so this was shot at ISO 6400 at f/4.5 with a shutter speed of 1/160 of a second.
As I mentioned last week, as much as I love the new 24-105mm f/4 lens for its versatility, I’m thinking to get the new 85mm f/1.4 IS lens when it comes out, as it will be invaluable for some of this street portraiture in Morocco during next year’s trip, and for other photography as well of course.
We’ll pick up the trail next week as we head into the Sahara for two nights, to photograph our camel handler models, as well as perhaps the best portraits of the trip.
Join us on the 2018 Morocco Tour from Nov 12 – 23! For details and to book your place, please visit the tour page.