In this post i’d like to share my thoughts about my experience in making photos in Morocco’s Medinas and about this photo.
Making photos in Morocco is harder then in any western european country. Fullstop.
Making photos in Morocco is a great colorful experience with a surprire around each corner. Fullstop, again.
Why’s that? For a number of reasons im gonna talk about.
Mind you, again, i said “making photos” not just randomly snap-shooting around.
my trip started in Marrakech, then I went to Ait Ben Haddou, Boulman Dades, the sand dunes of Merzouga and Fes.
First off, trying to have an understanding of the places in the Medina of Marrakech and Fes to plan your shooting schedule well ahead your departure is pretty much impossible simply because is very hard to find a detailed and precise map of the old town city centre (the medina) and even if you find it you will not be able to see it through images as you can do for any major city in Europe through GoogleMaps. So you just have to go there and figure it out.
Second thing, people don’t like to see photographers, anyone with a camera around his neck is not the most welcomed tourist…imagine myself going around with a tripod in my hand and carrying a backpack…I also tried to go around only with the camera and a small lens but I always had the same feeling from the people and to be able to photograph them I had to pay, but even if you pay, the number of photos you can take is limited, wanna shoot more? Then you pay more, as simple as that. After a while you’ll feel like you are a walking wallet.
Third thing, you need to be quick because you will attract attention, expecially if you have a tripod and you intent to stay in a place for some time to wait for the right moment and take THE shot.
Fouth thing, if your photos will not be only for your own personal use but for a professional use, you need to get a permit, I had mine from the Moroccan ministry of communication and right when I thought it wasn’t important at all, during the last day of my trip I was stopped about 5 times from the police even if I had a guide and a policeman with me.
I could go on other things but this are probably the most relevant for the kind of photo im talking about in this post.
For all the things mentioned above I had no choice but to get a guide with me. I was going to Morocco to create a collection of photos from landscapes to cultural shots so I had a guide with me, actually, I had several guides and the best one among them was without a doubt Mohammed Ezzymoussi [firstname.lastname@example.org] great guy who I highly reccomend.
Unfortunatly he was the last guide I had, all the previous one had hard time to understand what I was really looking for [or maybe they wheren’t trying…], they could not stop showing me all the most important buildings when all I wanted to do in the cities was to get street/cultural shots of citylife and people.
For exemple, in Marrakech, I got rid of the guide after the first day, I felt I could get around on my own there and I decided I was better off alone, so I did.
The opposite was for Fes, where I met Mohammed and felt like I needed and wanted him around me as he revealed to be a great photography fixer besides being a great guide.
This photo i’m sharing in this post was not taken with him, it happened in a very strange moment.
I was in Fes and I had already waisted my morning with a not-so-good guide, right when I said to her that I wasn’t feeling like she was understanding what I wanted and that I wanted to get back to my accomodation and to go around on my own…right while we were going back we crossed this narrow street and this vision came to me so I suddenly stopped.
The colors of the walls and the lines of the stairs made a great background, all I needed were some “actors” (people) with traditional Moroccan clothes to cross the scene and myself ready to capture it.
All excited I began to take out my gear and set everything up in order to make my vision come true, to capture it, and to see it on the back of my camera and not only in my mind.
Because I could not stay close to the camera, otherwise people would have not acted naturally, as alwais I used a wireless remote controller as it allow me to stay a couple of meters far from my tripod and camera and at the same time fire the shutter by pressing a button with my hands in my pockets.
In this way no one sees me taking the photo and everything is more natural while having a perfectly sharp photo because no-one is touching it.
Obviously I define and eventually lock my framing/composition of the camera on the tripod and by following my initial vision I decide exactly where I want my actors/people to be to make the photo I want.
In this phase I also decide if I want to completely freeze the people’s movement by using a very fast shutter speed or if I want to give a sense of motion by using a slow shutter speed.
As I come from animation and I love to portay movement, I choosed to convey and emphasise the people’s movement so after locking the composition and the focus point I choosed the appropriate camera settings and then I took a few steps on the left of the tripod and waited.
I used a wide lens (16-35m f/4) and because this street was just 2 meters wide i had to place my camera as close as I could to the wall behind me to get all the scene into the framing without cropping the path on the right side of the framing.
Some people happened to pass by and although after about 15 minutes I had several good shots I wanted to wait until I got what I was really picturing in my mind. What really made me stop there.
I wanted to wait for someone to get close to the camera on the left side of the framing dressed up with a color that would stand out from the all the others and someone else on the other side of the framing while leaving the center of the image a bit “empty” to allow the viewer to see the environment.
When the lady dressed in white come down the stairs I knew she was the perfect subject, she was moving slowly and at the same time the men in blue come out from his home (the maroon door on the right side of the framing) I felt very lucky to have two person right where I wanted them and both with traditional Moroccan dresses.
Because I knew my framing in my mind, even if I weren’t close to the camera and could not see through the viewfinder I was able to take the shot at the right moment.
I was really happy about the result, the people are just where i pictured them and their movement is slighly blurred. i was also happy about the fact that the men in blue does not stand out in the picture, while the lady in white does, so that the viewer has an element to discover while looking the photo.
I was ready to go home and call it a day but I obviously kept wondering around that area trying to find another interesting backgrounds like this one.
When back home I processed this photo I was a bit nervous, even if I have my own structure and workflow to finalise a photo, I felt like I had to use extra care on this one, it was just a feeling, but because I had such hard time to do this kind of street photography in the Medina, I felt like i had something more precious then all the other photos.
You can get quick snapshots of people when they are not looking at you if you want to, but to really construct a photo you need to get close and a way to portay the subject in a natural way and, most important, you need to wait and wait for the right moment to come to you and be ready for it!
A selection of the photos from Morocco is visible here: http://emporoslight.com/travels/Morocco/1/thumbs/
In this post i’d like to share my thoughts about my experience in making photos in Morocco’s Medinas and about this photo.
I love photography because allow me to travel and discover new places, sometimes I love it even more when I stumble upon something unexpected.
I love planning my trips as much as I love to be outdoor taking photos, it’s like a leaning experience every time.
This time around I was in Amsterdam but before spend my days in the city I wanted to visit the countryside, so with a good friend who happen to live in Amsterdam and loves photography as much as myself, off we went to the Marken Island mainly to photograph the lighthouse and to scout the place hoping to find something good there.
While we were going there I realised how flat and desolated the area is so we headed straight to the lighthouse.
When we got there the weather was not very good, cold and cloudy was just not what we were looking for. Before the sunset some ray of sunlights broke through the clouds but nothing more then that. The water was quite high so we couldn’t even get lower on the rocks along the coastline and when the sun was setting we decided to go back to Amsterdam.
On our way back we crossed this little village and thought that at dusk would have been quite nice to see it all lit up with the sunset’s colors in the sky as background. So we decided to park the car and do it.
We were basically on the side of a countryside road and when the village and the clock tower lit up it was really nice, everything fell into places and the location revealed to be good.
Being able to see the reflection of the clock tower into the pond was, for me, the surprise that made my day. All I wanted to do then was to emphasise this reflection and the pond so I used the edges of the pond to drive the viewer’s eye into the photo. Also I decided to frame it without anchoring the photo to the ground, without showing the a full stripe of grass in the foreground, deliberately, to give a sense of closeness to the water and it’s reflection.
This was a totally unplanned dusk shot and turned out to be quite good!
How much time does it take to make a photo?
Almost no one asks this kind of question. Much like asking to a painter the same question about a painting.
Mind you, I said “make” a photo, not “take” one.
In this post I’d like to talk about the story of the featured photo to give some informations about the making of it.
First off let’s just mention the technical stuff behind the shot as I don’t think they are too important, besides the shutter speed in this particular case, but people might wonder about them so here you have them. [Camera: Nikon d7000 - lens: 50mm f/1.8 - focal length: 50mm - f/4.5 - iso: 100 - shutter speed: 1/4]
I was in portugal to create a collection of travel and landscape photos. I spent the first 2 days of the trip in Lisbon and I wanted to get some shots featuring something typical of lisbon’s urban environment while having at the same time a bit of moving city life and travel feeling in the shots.
While planning the trip I read about the tram line 28, famous among tourists for being a cheap and easy way to visit Lisbon’s old town city centre and for having a well kept traditional vintage/old design and feeling to it. So before living home this was already on my shooting list.
Around Largos Das Portas do Sol I saw this beautiful facade and begin to wonder around it. Still with my gear in the bag I was trying to visualise the final photo in my mind, thinking about the best point of view and composition.
I like to work a lot with my eyes before anything else, so I move around, get lower or higher and then when I feel I got it I place the tripod below my chin and adjust the camera position to match my eyes viewpoint.
For this shot I quickly felt like a vertical composition was best to emphasise the building’s facade, which was what intrigued me in the first place. At the same time I wanted to anchor the photo to the ground and giving a bit of space to the sidewalk in the lower part of the frame.
By doing it I also gave a clear location and space to the ancient cobblestone road and tram tracks, keeping them inside the lower third of the image.
At this point my tripod and head was all locked down into this framing…but it wasn’t enough, I wanted something typical with tourists and a bit of city life. Even if the building’s facade is typical of Portugal I still wanted to add something more than that such as the tram and ideally some tourists as well.
This is when the wait begins.
But while waiting I knew I had to some tests to do in order to get the right motion blur effete for the “moving city life feeling” I mentioned before. After a while I realised that the tram was not always on time, sometimes I had two trams running one after another and other times not a single tram for a long time. I also noticed that some trams were red and some other were yellow. I wanted to get the yellow one. The red one was too close to the pink/orange facade, so the yellow would have really stood out and grab the viewer attention into the photo.
So I started to figure out what shutter speed would give me that tram’s motion blurred effect just as I wanted it to be on the final photo. I had some ideas about what shutter speed to start with but because each moving thing has it’s own speed it’s always best to test it ahead so that when THE moment to get the photo you’re working on comes you know what do you.
I started with 1/10 of a second but it didn’t produce what I wanted so I played a bit around until I saw that 1/4 was what I pictured in my mind.
Now I needed to wait for the last element of the photo to come in, the tourist, but it had to happen at the same time when the a yellow tram was passing by.
So I kept waiting and waiting for the right moment.
Maybe someone while reading this is thinking, why didn’t I just take 3 different shots, one of the environment, one of the tram in motion and one of the tourist in 3 different moment so that I’d have 3 different photos and then I’d combine them in Photoshop?
Well the answer is that this is not how I like to do things, I like to get everything right in camera and there are several reasons to that:
1- If I would work like this I would need to spend a ton of time in front of the computer to fix or get things as I wanted, and I don’t have this luxury. This is not possible when you have to process and finalise hundreds of photos because otherwise you’ll be stuck with the computer for many weeks and you will not take another photo or make another trip or take on another job for months.
2- In order to do so you must have the same weather throughout the time you’ll be taking this photo…you might be lucky and get all you need before the weather changes, but if not you’ll ended up waiting a long time anyway. so you might as well get all you need in camera.
3- Before photography I use to work in the animation industry and I’ve been trained by talented coworkers and supervisors that in order to make good animation or any type of artwork there’s no shortcuts and that love, patience and hard work is the key.
4- I love photography too much to do this. It means that I not only love the part when I take the photo but I also love to be out there, to test things out, to make mistakes and improve and to wait to get THE right moment and feel it as it happen while I press the button to capture it. I love those moments! I love it!
…I was still waiting…so much so that a man from a bar nearby came to talk to me asking why was I standing there since 2 hours, if I was waiting to photograph a famous person living in that building like a paparazzo or something. It made me laugh.
By that time I captured several photos with the tram in motion and people passing by but I didn’t feel I captured the right photo yet. The people were just walking by, they didn’t communicate to the viewer if they were tourists or locals. So I kept waiting…
…then suddenly I saw this couple coming from the right and at the same time I heard the tram approaching from the left. The couple stopped while looking at that menu placed outside the restaurant (thank God for that!) and this gave time to the tram to pass by.
Having the tourists still while reading the menu was perfect so that the contrast between what’s in motion and what’s not has more emphasis and is more clear.
So to make this photo it took me about 2 hours and a half and I can honestly say that I loved every moment of it! :)
Lately I’ve some friends asking advices about what camera they should buy and what not.
It reminds me when I had those thoughts myself for the first time.
For me the reality is that is not only about the camera. A good photograph is taken with a lot of things that don’t include the performances of your camera.
Plus it depends about what kind of photography you love to do. If you’ll want to do portrait you might as well invest in a good set of flashes or strobe lights and you might also think about fixing a wall in your home to make a small shooting area out of it.
But let’s say you want to make landscapes and taking a some shots while traveling. Well there I’d say get in a store, try a few camera yourself in your own hand, see what feels nice and what not and then buy one of the cheapest you can find.
If I were you i’d probably buy a Canon 450D or a Nikon D5100 or something on this line. The reason is that you’ll need to invest other money into other things such as a decent lens, a cleaning kit for your camera, a couple of filters (better if Graduate Neutral Density Filters - GND), a tripod and a bag to carry this stuff around.
Then you might want to save some money for the future, for when you’ll see what you really like and then buy something more appropriate to fulfil your needs.
I’m also saying it because most of the stuff I did for the first year of work was done with a cheap DSLR like the one mentioned before, and I still use them for paid jobs, and they works great!
If you know you’ll gonna love being outside and capturing THE moment then you’ll soon feel the need to study photography a bit more with book and courses and you’ll see that there’s a lot of work before taking your gear out of the bag and later on as well when you’ll be managing and finalising your photos at home.
So buy a comfortable un-expensive camera first, get a feel for it and then you’ll see how many other things you will want to get, study and do to improve and you’ll soon realise that saving some money was a good move while understand that the camera is just a box, a tools.
Photo: taken in a cold winter morning in Sheffield Grave’s Park, England, with an un-expensive camera and a kit lens.
'Ndocciata 2013 - Agnone, Molise, Italy.
Being originally from Molise it’s a shame I’ve seen this beautiful event just 2 times in my life. The second and last one was last 24 december 2013 when I went there to photograph it.
Being a photographer is great and for events like this is really the best position to be in because you are right in the centre of the action as I literally was as you can see from this photo.
You can witness the ‘Ndocciata from the sidewalk or if you are lucky from the top of a building but experiencing it on the ground in the middle of the fire path among the people who carries the so called ” ‘Ndocce” is really wonderful.
Arc de Triomphe at dawn.
Being in the middle of the street with your tripod to photograph the car light’s trails running towards your subject is not the safest thing to do but despite that I have to say it was much safer than what it looks like. I had pedestrian stripes and a traffic light behind my back, I was basically attached to it with my tripod just in front of me.
For most of time I was, as always, concerned about getting a good sharp photo. Cars passing by made the ground move a little and that worried me
In the end I realised all the photos were nicely sharp.
The Arc of Triomphe is much bigger than what is seems, I had to extend my tripod to get as high as I could to avoid deformations and be as high as I could.
In january the sunrise from that boulevard is just in front of you and right behind your back you got La Defense with its Grand Arc. Another advantage of photographing this place in winter is that the trees don’t have leafs so the view is clearer, however, Paris is not a place where the sun shines often so there are a lot of cloudy days especially in winter.
Parisian citylife and traffic in early morning.
I just finished to photograph the sun rising behind the Arc de Triomphe when I turned my head and realised that La Defense quarter was just behind me in the far background.
I stayed there a little while before the biker and the woman passed in front of my composition. I wanted to have something else besides the cars and and the tall building in the background to fill the compositions.
Parisian rooftops photographed from the top of the arab institute.