I’m launching a new tour for Spain starting next year specifically for those interested in landscape photography. We’ll be located in Western Andalusia honing in on three distinct locations which you can see from the gallery of images below which is my semi-abstract take on the region. The region is photographically rich and offers plenty of scope for using ND filters and wide angle lenses, kit that often doesn’t get a work-out in Morocco.
The photographic sites include the natural parks to the north west of Malaga with their unique cork trees, Rivers near Seville and beaches areas close to Cadiz. The tour will be instructive hands-on showing you how to get the best compositions and how to develop your own approach. We won’t cover the basics as we’ll be on location most of the time but techniques such as depth of field, hyperfocal distance will get covered and there will be the chance to review images during the day or in the evening. Whilst most of the locations are accessible by car, there’s a little steep walking in the river areas but easily achievable without a heavy rucksack. There will be the option of extending your stay in Seville or Malaga with the option to fly into either airport. The accommodation will be in rural settings as close to the photographic zones as possible. The cost for 8 nights will be £1799 which includes your accommodation and transport to locations based on 4 people.
Forests, rivers with waterfalls and rocky seascapes are all in the mix and there are both wider views to be taken as well as more abstract close-up work so ideal also for owners of macro lenses or a telephoto with a good macro facility. Available dates will be in July this year plus May and September in 2018. Click to view a gallery of my images from the region.
We stay in some splendid locations and Riads, and in Fez one of the best; Riad Ahlam, superbly run, is has a wonderful downstairs courtyard to take breakfast in. With a moveable roof you get both the options of warmth and sunlight in the day. Our northern tour in March went down very well and you can read more about it with a review by Peter Wyles.
Having been out with Darren on three previous trips, I knew we would be seeing some excellent photographic sites and we were not disappointed!
We covered Maracech, Fez, the Cascade Ouzoud Falls, Volublis (Roman ruins), Chefchaouen,and Meknes. There was a lot of travelling involved but the compensation was seeing the rolling hills and thousands of hectares of fertile valleys – so different from the stony deserts further south.
There was plenty of opportunity for street photography but also for architecture and landscape.
Our favourite was Chefchaouen, the blue city, where the architecture was so different and unique that you could not fail to take some brilliant images. The people there are so friendly too.
We were accommodated in traditional Riads which were very good and also provided excellent catering
Being only three hours and ten minutes from Gatwick, this is a fabulous way of getting exposure to a vastly different culture and amazing photographic opportunities.
I don’t have the figures to hand on global travel but it seems travel further afield is increasingly popular and with it the desire to produce good photos to show to friends and family or to satisfy a creative need. Here are my 10 photography tipsfor beginners on how to take better travel photos and certainly something to be considered ahead of one of the numerous photography tours available.
There’s a multitude of available photographic holidays Europe offers, but should you look beyond? The sector has mushroomed in the past 5 years since we started running our photography holidays in Morocco. Here we’ve listed what we think makes photographic holidays further south such a great investment of your time.
The inspiration for some of the teaching on our travel photography holidays
Back in the mid 1980’s the purchase of a few books via a book club lead to my early forays into examining the work of photographers from the great era of the 1930’s to 1950’s. The tradition of realism was firmly cemented through the images of 3 very different but now considered crucial photographers of their generation. Their individual approaches inspire the kinds of photography that guests on our travel photography holidays seek to weave into to their own way of looking at the world. Continue reading →
What exactly is a small group for location photography?
In my mind, to offer small group photography tours, there should be no more than 6 people. Group sizes that begin to creep up towards 8-12 are not small in any sense and despite being advertised as such they can inhibit getting full satisfaction on a tour. Bigger groups typically mean more generic experiences.
1. Vehicle layout
There are usually two options; a 4×4 which allows access off road but limits group numbers to 4 without extra space to place your camera bag, or a minibus that does allow a two seats per person. In a group of six, one large minibus will suffice while two 4×4’s will need to be used increasing overall tour costs. Minibuses have the advantage of being easier to get in and out of your own chosen seat without shifting other guests. Having the second seat next to you for your bag can also mean you can get to change lenses a bit quicker, although it takes a little longer to get out of a mini-bus, with the sliding door often need to be operated by the driver.
2. Chain free, smaller hotels
Feedback for the tours here in Morocco often includes praise for the variety and charm of the accommodation which are located in the photographic locations. In more rural areas, these establishments typically have around 10 rooms which are not suitable for larger groups. The advantage of staying in these places is it allows late afternoon and evening photography without the rush to get back to your hotel for dinner. Larger hotels in the towns are able to accommodate bigger groups, offer more chain facilities such as buffet, room service and a higher standard of room furniture and bedding but they also come with more driving each day to get to photographic shoots.
3. Access to photographing intimate spaces
If photographing in people’s homes is on the itinerary then it matters that the groups are small. Ideally a group size of 3 to 4 works perfectly in this case. For 6, some position management is required but it’s not a major issue. Sizes beyond that mean photographing in shifts which can involve sitter fatigue, which is reflected in the second group’s images.
4. Reviewing your images
In a large group reviewing each evening becomes more difficult for one tutor, so check whether there are two tutors on a larger group tour. Rushing through individual processing decisions and advice can lead to mistakes being made about the quality of individual images. Good photography requires time to craft and small group photography tours facilitate this.
5. Out and about in the field
It’s simply easier to keep track of a group in busy locations such as larger markets, or in landscape locations where there is an element of risk such as slippy coastal rocks. Everyone wants to find their own way and explore a place for themselves. Having a meeting point and a health and safety run through can also assist here.
Images in the Sun uses minibuses in Spain for its landscape tours and a combination of 4×4’s and minibuses for tours in Morocco. Group sizes are typically 4. Find out more about how you can improve your travel photography with these tips.
At the end of 2018, I switched from approaching landscapes and portraiture with the sense to idealise both and instead decided to develop my own way of seeing, focusing foremost on subjects closest to home, thereby allowing me to establish a relationship with an intimate place and to create more meaning in the images. As I write I’m reminded of Robert Bresson’s ‘Notes on the cinematographer’
Light is everything, but matching light to subject is more important.
Reduce your colour palette. Colour intensity is fine but too many colours can diminish the impact of an image.
Think with intent about what the right approach is for it. That may be specific and unique to each project.
Avoid the obvious image. Find your own subject or a way of showing the unfamiliar angle.
Straight photography is not representational photography. Creative photography is not found by ignoring what’s in front of you.
Have more than one project on the go. The dips and slack in one will be offset by the other(s).
Seek visual consistency throughout a project.
Enjoy the work of others but follow your own path.
Form is paramount when human interest in the image is slight.
Think about your frame. Be wary of close-ups and abstraction as much as wide and non-specific. Both can diminish the understanding of a place.
Employ one aspect ratio at a time. Attune your mind to seeing with this rectangle. Embrace the limitation.
Image editing often referred to post-processing but it should also be about the sequence. In the early days of a new project, learn to study your images and see if a pattern emerges that prompts a project to deviate into something more interesting.
Drape your ideas loosely with ideological wrapping but let the project organically emerge, visually. Don’t straight jacket with a fixed intellectual concept.
Enjoy looking at your own images. Develop a narrative. Make a book. Reflect on its ‘story’.
Some musings on where photography and art meet in photographic practice.
The parrot and the mermaid
Mindfulness is a direction that’s gaining some traction in photography and art; the notion that connecting with the environment around us in a deeper way can bring emotional wellbeing. In a busy urban setting, the ability to step back from the pace around us and see the everyday for its small details of light, simplicity and beauty is a useful psychological tool and a necessary state for the photographer. Within a landscape, zoning out from mental clutter and being in the moment requires effort. Some photographers talk about their emotional state as a major contributor to their photography but I believe the opposite is true. In photography and art, for me it’s about responding to the location using present senses and leaving emotions temporarily to one side. A state of emptiness for an over active mind is a good base to begin with but increasingly the creative intellect takes over. An internal monologue starts to develop where scenes are processed and judged for photographic potential. Through intense scrutiny compositions reveal themselves and entice, what I would call mermaids, often in the form of dramatic lighting, or colour. Every photographer I imagine, has their own triggers. They are of course a trick and resisting the path to them requires an intellectual effort so hence the parrot which is the constant voice that drives the photographer away from shiny cheap shots that fail to offer photographic potential towards stronger successful images. Where mindfulness is less about success and results and more about exploring in the first instance, the parrot and mermaid are both two forces that live in the moment drawing on the photographer’s wealth of creative experience.
Why a visit to the National Gallery in London can be useful
As a young teenager a school trip visit to the NG in London seemed a worthy thing to do. The paintings were old which was the important thing about it. As an 18 year old, a second visit was in mind of art movements and styles particularly contrasting brush work as well as varying types of lighting within scenes. Think of Turner. It was in October 2019 when suddenly I made the connection with a scene in front of me that took me back to that visit. Whilst there was no one thing about what was in front of me that resembled any particular painting, the quality of light; the direction it was coming from, the intensity and the colours the light helped to lift reminded me of how some masters used to understand suggestion with light and not entire revelation. You can see my image in the Spain Autumn gallery half-way in with the river in the foreground. Why I like the photo and why it reminded me of old paintings is the scene in modern landscape terms is compositionally quite weak, the abstract graphical approach is absent as indeed it was for the master painters who were interested in light and scene formed within a framework of romanticism. Instead it suggests and offers a subtly that is out of step with most photographic landscape ‘in your face’ imagery… Photography and art meet in an organic way.
All about the series
Increasingly I judge a portfolio based on the number of images that relate to each other with reference to place, style or set of intentions. Creating a coherent sequence where the images represent a whole as well as the individual merits has become my methodology and also how I judge others. I have a dislike of broad galleries which may extend to various landscape scenes where the tone, colour and compositional approach are all varied. I even prefer in some cases to shoot the images all vertically including a continuity of style and approach perhaps even limiting lens choice. Within a series it’s also worth looking at the ordering of images to create a narrative based on grouping textures, colours etc. and seeing how images side by side relate to each other. You can view more of my Spain landscapes here.
Salt piles both white and brown, excavation by way of evaporation, the semi arid Morocco desert located basins exposed to the prevailing northerly winds and summer heat. Salt production from the sketchers’ imagination, an environment extremely hostile to life revealing through the frame a kind of atavistic visual austerity.
Some 30 years ago I had read about Saharan Salt and the caravans transporting it up from Algeria and Mail into and beyond the Morocco desert. Salt literally worth its weight in gold. I can’t be sure whether I had read or imagined desert towns made entirely from blocks of salt. The notion of such a wild inhospitable place appealed as a location to write about. Many years later, I found myself much closer to the Saharan source of salt, living in Morocco.
The small pockets of Morocco desert salt production located near its western coastline had been on my radar for years but photographically it seemed too unstructured and harsh to make any images there. Set across a few acres, these ad-hoc basins provide a source of income for local families, the men either managing their own small plot or working in a gang to harvest the salt and bag it for the larger pond owners.
Using hand dug wells of 2-3 metres across in some instances and 10 meters deep, water is pumped up from the saline underground water source using old band strap pumps and piped into the plastic sheeted basins using roughly connected plastic tubing. Then nature and the daily sunshine takes its course. Most of the basins have been discarded as small scale set-ups offer little financial return due to the increasing cost of materials to manage the plots. The salt is shipped for fish packing or refined for table salt.
I saw the potential for revealing a chaotic harsh environment seemingly devoid of conventional photographic beauty in graphical terms. It’s austerity in form became ever more appealing to me. Drawn essentially to line and shapes, the puzzle solving was to create mid distance landscapes whilst veering away from images that became too abstract and of course to make sense of the unstructured layout of the land.
A well known photographer once said that they take photographs to later understand what they saw. The image once transfixed offers a hyper real examination of what was in front of the camera. Small details unnoticed at the time become loaded with meaning and prompt a curiosity in the mind of the viewer. This is essentially the draw of the salt basins and the reductive qualities of black and white mean a single stone can take on visual significance.
Photographing in harsh sunlight also became a conscious decision. It’s the foremost lighting in the region and so is more honest to work with this rather than seek the quality of light rarely available and associated with an idealistic romantic appreciation of land. A gritty aesthetic was also paramount, to reflect the nature of the place. Morocco doesn’t lend itself to clean imagery, making the challenge of finding form in chaos ever more difficult.
The more I have visited the locations, the greater sense I have that my personal circumstances influence my interest. At home, rocks surround our house both fashioned in lines to create barriers or heaped in piles awaiting ground clearance. Essentially I live amongst rocks and so the fascination for the fusion point between managed and scruffy finds its place. You can see the full gallery here.
Join us for a desert tour and expand your portfolio with hands on tuition and guidance on how to unlock your creative potential.
This year I’ve been keen to develop intermediate and advanced level (photography tours Morocco and Spain) to cover nomads as well as landscapes in Spain. This includes both tours in Andalusia and the northern Spanish forests and well as Moroccan nomadic people. In Morocco we’re still running the desert and High Atlas tours and the new addition of the nomad venture. I’ve also personally acquired an old 5×4 film camera and scanner which will allow me to do some black and white developing at home. For B&W I really feel that film offers a much better finish with deeper blacks. If anyone is interested in learning how to shoot and meter with film cameras and develop I’m more than happy to cover this.
It appears high on the list of must sees in Morocco and despite it’s relatively isolated location it offers the photographer something unique. A small town and relatively easy to walk around, Chaouen sprouts photo opportunities at each turn in the narrow roads. It’s feel is more like a Greek island village with smooth edges to walls and steps. For those that like simplicity and a limited colour palate, it’s ideal. The blue hues are of course the backdrop but it’s the second colour either via an object or person which provides the focal point of interest. Linda Wride, an accomplished photographer, came out in March and you can see her take on the town at her RPS gallery (http://www.rps.org/member/gallery/linda-wride/Chefchaouen-Blues) . Click to view Linda’s images of Chefchaouen
I’ve self published two books now with BB. The picture quality is excellent and the downloadable software is especially easy to navigate both adding text and image page by page. More pricier than rivals, after exploring online reviews it seemed picture quality came out top. There is a choice of papers, from the regular gloss/matt and a new type which is their photo paper. It wouldn’t recommend this option as it feels very plastic to touch. Although heavyweight, it cheapens the book. Better to go with standard gloss in flat lay form. You can also enter their Book of the Month competition which wins you a code to make a free book if you are chosen. The judges are BB themselves. The annual competition wins you an Ipad but that goes to public votes and invariably what wins is a wildlife book. Click to see my latest book, The Forest Next Door
I ran the first of my nomad tours in April. Limited to 2 guests, the 6 days in the Atlas mountains offer unique daily access to different nomad families. With just 2 guests it’s possible to get into the tight camp spaces with the option of moving about. A small group, and 2 really is small, allows some direction of subject so you can really create the compositions you want to get. April’s guests Robin and Josh inhabit different ends of the photographic spectrum both in age and experience and they approached subjects in individual ways. Josh with shooting film was concerned with lighting and Robin was always looking for a decisive unusual moment. For my own approach in 2017, I focused on composed still imagery of nomad women and girls.
Last year’s late October trip to northern Spain proved fruitful from the number of images I was happy with. The vast array of reds and yellows at this time of the year mean that colour wise there’s no shortage of directions to point your camera. Like always however, it’s all about balance, filling the frame with chaotic colour doesn’t often work. Instead it’s about finding balance and within the forest location, using ‘cooler’ to balance out the warmth. If you wish to learn about how to discover more balanced compositions then join me for a Northern Spain tour in late October. Dates 18th – 25th. Autumn scenes Spain
Earlier this I wrote an article with accompanying photos from Northern Spain on the virtues of including more meaning within your photos and encouraging metaphors. It’s just been published (https://www.onlandscape.co.uk/2019/06/in-need-of-a-narrative/) this month. Getting your work shown in magazines often takes patience and having some words alongside helps. One comment from the article via Thomas Rink makes an excellent point. “I define “narrative” as something like an “aesthetic vision” that I have about a certain place, for a lack of better words. This means that the place elicits some kind of mental imagery in my mind, something that I would find difficult to write down since it is non-conceptual. Within this framework, “seeing a picture” means that I come across a scenery that just fits to the “aesthetic vision” like key and lock. If I’m lucky I’m able to conserve this in a photograph, like a gift I’m given for which I have to be receptive. I consider the photograph to convey “beauty” if it transports this vision (as opposed to superficial “prettiness”). You can view Thomas’ latest gallery (http://www.picturesfromthezone.com/stillgewaesser).