adventure

6 UNTOLD TIPS FOR BETTER TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY by Amr Tahtawi

I’ve read many lists online giving “traveling photographer tips” that didn’t appear to be written by real practicing traveling photographers for passionate, aspiring travellers and photographers. Here’s some personal tips learned from my 6 years of travel experience on the road. I hope they work for you: 

1- Experience life itself, first!

Shot by my partner  Bassi Hamid  while scouting Spanish coast of  Malaga .

Shot by my partner Bassi Hamid while scouting Spanish coast of Malaga.

It's a common misuse of our artistic skills as traveling photographers to just start firing the shutter once you've reached a new destination instead of experiencing it in the first place, understanding it and enjoying it. One way to help you kill this habit is to Scout any given location for a better, fresh angles and moods that gives your photographs a unique, fresh look and feel.

2- Connect and make new friends as a person, not as a camera

Photographing people in far away foreign countries brings some challenges, tension, language barriers, and unfamiliar customs. But when you’re abroad, it’s most important just as at home to gain trust of others and this will allow you to photograph Local people rather than tourists as they really are in their shops, favorite hangouts, and even their homes. Always emit a positive vibe and approach your subjects not as a camera but as a person - Let your smiling face be the first thing they see and ask permission to shoot when you feel it’s right.

It's always a good idea to Learn a few complimentary words like "beautiful", "wonderful" and "Thank you" to help people feel comfortable and look natural in front of a camera.

3- Shoot in "Themes"

"Downtown Cairo" is a series of themed shots i took for Cairo's amazing downtown architecture. Click on thumbnails above for the full story behind each shot

"Themes" will improve your story-telling skill through the lens and help you focus on what interest you as a traveling photographer and you won’t feel overwhelmed by wanting to capture it all at once.

Themes can be created daily with a fresh one everyday or per the whole trip duration and you can change it anytime. So, if you are shooting architectural beauty in Andalusia and the perfect street portrait came up, shoot that too. My point is that when you discover a new place, it’s impossible to absorb everything in a few days and that's where "Themes" help.

4- Travel Light

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If it's a country you're visiting for the first time with no photo plans in mind, never pack everything you "think" you need. Take only the essentials, two lenses: 1 zoom + 1 prime lens or 1 wide + 1 zoom. This extremely comes handy if you plan to do some hiking or trekking and it help you focus and live the moment more than you think.

5- Keep it Natural

One of the most influential and inspiring photographers of all time, Henri Cartier Bresson never used flash in his photographs. A practice he saw “impolite…like going to a concert with a pistol in your hand” learn how to use the beauty of natural light and enjoy it before you jump to buy that latest expensive flash.

6- Don’t stop Traveling

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A good travel photographer must keep his/her portfolio alive. Keep on traveling, and you don’t have to travel far away for “good” travel photography. Try to bring the beauty of your own local town. Travel to the other side of your city or attend the next music/Art festival to keep your craft and imagination fresh.

Street-Fine-art from Espanya by Amr Tahtawi

Watching the magical Spanish scenic view from the train window on our way to Zaragoza was more than heartwarming. Heading there with no expectations at all wasn't enough to prepare us for the fact that this stop was the main highlight of our 2014 Spain tour. Charming mood and some of the most friendly people in the world is one of the few starters in Beloved Zaragoza.

As real travellers we allowed ourselves to get lost and explore this very important Roman city founded and named after one of the biggest Roman emperors, the famous Caesar Augustus. While getting to know the main historical places of interest in Zaragoza we stumbled upon the unexpected gems of Urban art paradise around every corner of basalt floored streets and alleys. So we decided to dedicate some time and get lost in hunting more street art. And the more we discovered the eager we became from awkward spots like a broken wall with mini beautiful shapes and colors to huge three stories highly detailed murals.

Zaragoza's narrow alleys are a street art paradise ( click for a full screen experience )

It became clear that most of these painting weren't haphazard, from a lone talent or a notorious killing time activity. It is a very strong local-driven statement that each year an International Urban Art Festival Asalto is held in Zaragoza to celebrate this contemporary art among historical places with the tourist and the locals alike. with national and international artists getting their hands color dirty to transform the ruins and old abandoned spaces of the city.

Panda fun ( click for a full screen experience )

A wall is a very big weapon. It’s one of the nastiest things you can hit someone with.
— Banksy

You can find cool street art all around Zaragoza, but most can be found around the narrow streets of “El Tubo”, an area of the city known for its windy streets filled with tapas bars and amazing nightlife.

Funky colorful characters in the narrow El Tubo streets ( click for a full screen experience )

My Partner in Crime having fun in the rain with her fav wall - Zaragoza

My Partner in Crime having fun in the rain with her fav wall - Zaragoza

Even Zaragoza's local park has it's artistic share of characters and colors.

Zaragoza ruins never abandoned ( click for a full screen experience )

The details mesmerize you and gets you reading ( click for a full screen experience )

As if Zaragoza wasn't enough, more street fine art surprises was waiting for us at the next stop; Granada. Most people visit Granada to see the Alhambra Palace, but the city also hides a surrealistic street art scene first fostered by Andalucían poet, Federico Lorca, and abstract expressionist painter, José Guerrero. in other words this art form runs in their spanish blood.

The Realejo quarter leading to La Alhambra Palace - Granada ( click for a full screen experience )

Granada’s most prevalent street artist is Raúl Ruiz AKA El Niño de las Pinturas whose instantly recognizable from his magical murals all around the city. His favorite spot seem to be the Realejo quarter which i highly recommend if you're an urban art lover like me.

Street artist Raúl Ruiz's depiction of Rodin's The Thinker.

Street artist Raúl Ruiz's depiction of Rodin's The Thinker.

Raúl Ruiz paintings are often a poetic journey with murals and stanzas. ‘Cansado de no encontrar respuestas, decidí cambiar mis preguntas’ (Tired of not finding answers, I decided to change my questions) is written underneath this study of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker (Calle Molinos).

We spent the rest of our time between eating churros with chocolate and hunting every single piece of street art we could possibly find and the only thing left now is to be in Zaragoza while this art is being painted by the renowned street art artists working and creating LIVE. I highly recommend you attend Zaragoza's annual International Urban Art Festival AsaltoWho knows, I might see you there next year ;)

Andalusian dreams by Amr Tahtawi

After spending 7 fabulous days in Barcelona, Zaragoza & Madrid ( read Part I here ) We took a train, relatively expensive for a budget travel (64 Euros) toward our first encounter with Andalusia (Al-Andalus) region. 

Cordoba was our first stop and as soon as we walked it's cobalt streets we felt like flying back in time to witness the magic and wonders that kept the muslim empire igniting Europe for centuries with art and science. We threw our bags in, and rushed to scout the city exploring it's historical gems and important cultural sights and Oh Boy! what we found was more than a handful of dreams. From absolutely artistic greenery stuffed home entrances to the warm enchanting narrow alleyway leading us to the majestic Mezquita. Passing by surprise after surprise on those ancient small streets kept our minds buzzing with a photo-euphoric state as our fingers kept clicking the shutter with silly smiles of wonder and happiness.

Roman bridge view for  Guadalquivir river during my blue hour shoot - Córdoba , Spain.

Roman bridge view for Guadalquivir river during my blue hour shoot - Córdoba, Spain.

We were lucky to catch a very special season this year at Cordoba. Every year in May, the city celebrates its traditional Cordoba Patio Festival where patio owners decorate their ornate iron grills and balconies with plants and flowers, geraniums and carnations. The Festival is a true Andalusian folklore that manifests itself in its entire splendour of early spring. Patios are privately owned and unavailable for public viewing, but during the festival their doors open up for all to see by their proud owners. The best conserved and most beautiful patio is voted on and the winner is recognised not only with a grand prize but also with the prestige and admiration of having the best patio in the city. So we made sure we visited as many patios as we could and shoot houses, restaurants and souvenir shops covered in creative green.

Click on the thumbnails below to see some of the best Patios displays - Córdoba, Spain.

The vast entrance of Mezquita with the famous fountain   -   Córdoba  , Spain.

The vast entrance of Mezquita with the famous fountain Córdoba, Spain.

Then came Mezquita, the great Córdoba’s mosque shining like a star withstanding the centuries with pride that at any given time this place will feel good and look great in your eyes.  It’s impossible to overemphasise the beauty of Córdoba’s great mosque. Mezquita reflects, with all its lustrous decoration, at a lavish and refined age when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived gracefully side by side and enriched their city and surroundings with a heady interaction of diverse and vibrant cultures.

Mezquita fountain with   fun water wheel kinetic sculpture in the courtyard of the famous mosque -   Córdoba  , Spain.

Mezquita fountain with fun water wheel kinetic sculpture in the courtyard of the famous mosque - Córdoba, Spain.

Mezquita by the blue hour while having a relaxed walk   -   Córdoba  , Spain.

Mezquita by the blue hour while having a relaxed walk Córdoba, Spain.

Shooting the first top photo "Andalusian dreams" i was met with perfect conditions for photographing the Mezquita. Vibrant skies started tingling in front of my eyes as i waited an hour for the element to come together and i'm so grateful to capture such grand scene. Would have been a great loss to miss a timeless sky over Andalusian legacy.

After 3 awesome days in Cordoba, we headed right into the core of Andalusian legacy, Granada with a spanish local gentleman who offered the ride through www.blablacar.com in exchange of networking with us and a humble 7. The ride was smooth, fast, comfy and although the owner didn't speak any english he was very polite and friendly and i would definitely do it again and recommend it for all travellers on a budget.

Now let me try and explain the feelings you get when in Granada. It resides on fairy tales that you wouldn't allow yourself to believe it exists yet shiver at the fact it does, mingled with the modern development of the city, you have a universe to wander in and That's exactly what we did. We took the uphills through El Albayzín district's narrow winding streets of Medieval Moorish to have a clear vision of Alhambra Palace with Sierra Nevada in the background.

The view from uphill is breathtaking yet shared with many tourists and photographers, and if you want to capture the grand Alhambra at the blue hour, be there early ahead by 1-2hrs. A wide angle lens is definitely a must here yet a zoom one will reveal some hidden Nevada wonders as well. so make sure you capture the whole story.

As much as we loved the Alhambra look on the distant hill, we found it more valuable and timeless experience from inside. Check below for yourself!

On our way down we stumbled upon a lot of street art ( soon will have a blog post on it's own ) and many beautiful icecream shops that we devoured and souvenirs we bought along. just before we arrived to the hostel we got to chat a bit with a very happy man, smoking his pipe calmly and i got to capture his happiness over looking the streets in Granada.

After we drank our fill of Granada's beauty which we later learned we're still absolutely thirsty for more, we headed for Malaga with a bunch of new friends to chill out and wrap up our spanish tour. We had a lot of fun with Segway city tour, running on wheels around the city. visited every church, every touristic alleway and some exclusive places, best of all we visited Picasso statue park which was so close to his house he lived in for 10 years before relocating to Barcelona.

Now, book that ticket, stop making excuses... Travel will improve your life!.
For me, goodbyes are sad and I'd much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure, a new pin on the map :)