Follow me on my adventures as I visit different places and photograph stunning locations.
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  • Day5

    A Late Night After All

    May 5, 2019 in Morocco ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    It was a really good evening and such a privilege to spend it in the home of such a friendly person. We’d stayed a long time and it was quite late when we collected our things together and headed out into the darkness. We looked up - and there were the stars to greet us. It wasn’t perfectly clear though as quite a lot of cloud still hung around especially near the horizon where we knew the Milky Way was rising. We walked slowly through the town a little disappointed to be honest, with some of the group declaring they were actually quite tired and questioning if it was worth attempting photography. After a while it was decided it wasn’t and Katrina said we should call it a night. So that seemed to be the end of it then.

    Three of us were left: myself, Monique and her husband Nigel who had come to support Monique, the photographer of the two. Nigel knew the theory but had commented he still couldn’t take a decent photo because he simply didn’t have the eye for it. I was disappointed the evening has stoped without the night photography and Monique really didn’t want to give up either so after a brief discussion the three of us decided we’d head to the car park in front of our hotel and simply have a go. What had we got to lose? Only time - and sleep of course.

    So there we were, in the car park by the newly formed lake and setting up our tripods and having a go. I showed Monique how to focus her camera when it’s pitch black and we stayed up until the early hours taking photos. Not all that many to be honest but we each did get at least one we were extremely pleased with. You see, after a while those clouds drifted away and we were left to enjoy our galaxy on full display.

    Those who have followed my blog before will know that all the photos I post here are taken with my phone ... except the night sky photos of the Aurora and, tonight, the Milky Way. This is my image from Ait Ben Haddou which I took on the posh camera and processed after I got home. Enjoy.

    So was it worth persevering and losing some sleep? You bet your life it was!

    (That bright star is Jupiter in case you are wondering)
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  • Day4

    An Unexpected Meal

    May 4, 2019 in Morocco ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

    We met in the hotel lobby to go and meet the rest of the group. We knew we weren’t eating in a restaurant tonight but we didn’t really know what to expect to be honest. It was to be a surprise and all we knew was we had to bring cameras and tripods etc for an astrophotography workshop after the meal or, for the uninitiated, a workshop photographing the stars. We were a bit perplexed by this because when we arrived it was about as cloudy as it could get and from the lobby we could hear it was raining. So how was all this going to work then?

    Our first surprise was when we went outside, for whilst we had relaxed in our rooms it hadn’t just been thunder, there had been a massive cloudburst and the car park was now a lake. We did get to meet up with the rest of the group but we had to find a way to cross the car park which took several attempts, but we made it without getting wet. It even stopped raining as we walked to the meeting point. No stars though, not even one.

    Katrina then took us down narrow streets which meant our torches we’d brought came in handy but it was tricky at times because everywhere was flooded. Eventually, then, we made it to our Moroccan host where we discovered we were to eat home-cooked food in his house. This turned out to be a great experience and everyone enjoyed it tremendously. The food was excellent and afterwards our host demonstrated the ritual of making mint tea and showed us around is home. There was even a cake for one of our group whose birthday was today. Amazing.

    The photos in this footprint give you the flavour of the evening ... pun intended.
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  • Day4

    Late Afternoon Storm

    May 4, 2019 in Morocco ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    After a very pleasant lunch we climbed back into the bus to continue our journey to Ait Ben Haddou for our overnight stay. There was also the promise of a chance to photograph the Milky Way and I was definitely looking forward to that opportunity.

    I got the impression the journey had taken longer than expected. It was around 6pm and we were travelling along a straight bit of road, the mountains far behind us, when Katrina asked the driver to pull over for some photography. I suspect we should have been at our hotels by then but the stop was worth it and the main photo in this footprint shows the sort of thing we were after. A storm was building and there were angry grey clouds forming in the distance, dropping their rain heavily. Then there were flashes of lightning.

    Photography here was a bit like playing chicken - this was a road after all, so we took it in turns to be photographers and lookouts to warn when cars or lorries were approaching. We stayed quite a while here, taking various photos, but no one managed to get lightning in their shot. Just before we left our driver and guide both decided to have a moment of madness, jumping high in the air for us to catch them at the highest point in their flight. Photo three is what I managed to get and in one take too, though to be fair it wasn’t taken on my phone - our driver is on the left and our Moroccan guide on the right. I’m not sure I could ever jump that high, but then maybe I’m a bit of a wimp.

    Finally we arrived in Ait Ben Haddou and checked-in to our hotels - we had a little time to ourselves before dinner, enough for a shower and to gather our thoughts, whilst outside I could hear thunder. There was no outside window in my room so that’s all I thought it was.
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  • Day4

    Crossing the Atlas Mountains

    May 4, 2019 in Morocco ⋅ 🌧 12 °C

    It’s a long way to get to the Sahara desert from Essaouira so it was an early start leaving well before my hotel served breakfast, but I’d asked if they could help me out and as I left to join the others I was handed a small recyclable bag with breakfast to go. Appreciated.

    We collected together near the port area and soon our minibus arrived, our bags were loaded and we began the journey which would take us most of the way across Morocco via the Atlas Mountains and an overnight stop. The views were varied as the landscape changed from dry and barren to the green foothills before the mountains and the views they bring. The photos in this footprint give you the general idea as we climbed higher and higher. To be honest, there were no steep climbs really and you didn’t realise how high you’d got until we checked the GPS (phones are amazing aren’t they) and noted we were at around 7200ft. We were also interested to learn the road we were travelling, Tizi n’Aguelmous traversed by Route National 9, is rated as one of the world’s most spectacular (ok, we got that) and dangerous roads (what!) in the world, requiring strong nerves (aaarrrgh!) to negotiate it. To be honest, at this time of year it’s fine because it’s the winter snows which make it treacherous but soon, when the extensive roadworks are finished, I suspect it’ll simply be reduced to a pleasant drive whatever the weather. Shame that ... give me dangerous, that’s what I say.

    There were a few stops on the way which included a viewpoint overlooking the twisting road and yes, we had just come up there to where I took the photo. The last photo is where we had lunch.
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  • Day3

    Blue Boats in Essaouira

    May 3, 2019 in Morocco ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

    Having chilled out for a while our group reassembled to begin a sunset photography workshop and an opportunity to see the blue fishing boats for which Essaouira is well known. You can see from the main photo in this footprint the option of sunset photography was no option at all - it was cloudy. You'd think we were in Britain.

    We wandered down to the port in any case and found a myriad of blue boats huddled, or more accurately squashed, together which meant finding a good composition for a photo was quite hard. We stayed here for a while but then Katrina said we must leave, which perplexed a few of the group because everything seemed fine - but it wasn't. As we walked away an argument broke out between some of the Moroccon fishermen then, as we looked back, people were shouting at each other and quite a large group on their blue boats were pushing and shoving each other and shouting in a very intimidating way. Katrina was right, we did need to leave.

    So we headed to the beach area to find photographic opportunities there and stayed until it was almost dark. Some of the group concentrated on beach parasol silhouettes, me included, and others photographed reflections across the beach. I wish I'd done that in the end because I felt I wasted too much time trying get get an image that wasn't really worth it. C'est la vie!

    We finished the evening with a meal together then went our separate ways to our various hotels. Tomorrow we start our journey across Morocco and towards the Sahara desert so, for me, the most interesting part of the trip is about to begin.
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  • Day3

    Arriving at Essaouira

    May 3, 2019 in Morocco ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Having left the goats, trees and Chinese tourists (or were they Japanese, who knows) we continued our journey with a couple of stop-offs on the way.

    The first was was at a co-operative making Argan Oil from nuts - nut oil if you will. Here, by placing cash in a small wicker bowl, you are allowed to photograph the women working the nuts and we all duly photographed the women at work. It looked easy to crack the nuts but it wasn't because the nuts are quite hard and how they do that, for hours on end, is anyone's guess.

    I caught the eye of one woman who then gave me a couple nice photos, but on the other side of the room the women all looked the other way, which is what happens when I attempt to photograph a horse - it immediately turns to face the other way so all I ever get is a horse's bottom. Fortunately for the nut women they were sitting on theirs so I couldn't tell if they had bottoms any more or less attractive than a horse. I'm afraid I neglected to take a phone picture whilst there but just imagine a bunch of women sitting on the floor working the nuts between their legs by hitting them until they crack open. I realise the picture I just painted may well have brought tears to the eyes of some readers but they were inside the coloured buildings in photo 2, if you're still interested.

    The next stop was a viewpoint overlooking the coastal town of Essaouira. There were camel drivers offering camel rides, which we all avoided, with many of the group snapping photos of the view to the coast but taking great care to in no way get even the slightest portion of any camel or driver in the shot in case money was demanded for the privilege.

    Finally we arrived in Essaouira where we found our various hotels and chilled out for a while before meeting later for our next photography workshop. My room was amazing, being on two floors as you can see, so it would have been nice to be there for more than one night. Essaouira is much more of a relaxed experience compared to Marrakech and, in my opinion, much better for it.
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  • Day3

    Goats in Trees - Not!

    May 3, 2019 in Morocco ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Breakfast was a little earlier than yesterday as we needed to board our minibus to begin our journey to Essaouira to the west of Marrakech. Once we were out of the city the land became quite barren at times and not quite the palm tree and sandstone building landscape I expected. I wasn't unhappy at this and enjoyed the views, knowing I'd see those later in the trip.

    Mid-morning the bus pulled over so we could photograph the strange phenomenon of tree climbing goats. Yes, you did indeed read that correctly because we are talking about goats on sticks, a welcome change to birds on sticks I must say.

    To be honest, though it may seem a bit of a fairy tale or the after affects of a quick spell of sniffing suspicious substances, the spectacle of a goat, or a number of goats, up a tree is something I have actually seen before. I've seen them in Cyprus on the Akamas Peninsula - goats up a tree eating the leaves, in the middle of nowhere with no-one to be seen. So I knew it is possible for a goat to be in a tree.

    In Morocco of course, the idea of emptying tourists pockets to allow them to see and photograph grazing goats amongst the branches was too much of an opportunity to miss. So when we got out of the bus with our cameras there were no goats in trees at all, not until payment was agreed and one of the 'shepherds' grabbed an unsuspecting goat and stuck it in a tree, whether or not the goat thought it was a good idea. Mostly they didn't think it was and promptly jumped out, impressively I might say, landing gracefully (for a goat) on the ground. They weren't there for long of course, not with those goat herders around.

    Eventually we all pretty much got a photo of a goat in a tree so everyone was happy. We asked if we could have two goats in a tree but then suddenly all the shepherds ran away at high speed towards an arriving bus exclaiming, "Aah, quick, Chinese tourists, must go." Those goat herders could certainly smell the money, which is obviously much stronger than twenty goats on a hot day.

    We all agreed it was a bit of a disappointing experience. Did we see goats in trees? I'm not sure we did.
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  • Day2

    Street Photography

    May 2, 2019 in Morocco ⋅ 🌙 22 °C

    I met with my group at the prearranged time. You see I'm on a Photography Workshop tour and there are ten of us including Katrina our tutor/guide. So after an initial meet up and a check of our cameras and settings, we headed off into the alleyways and passageways to try out some street photography. This isn't something I've really done in any sensible way before so I didn't know what to expect, especially given what happened this morning.

    We got back to the Ryad around 11.30pm having all got on really well and had a great time. It was challenging - Moroccan's don't like photographers, unless money is involved of course, so many photos were taken discreetly and literally from the hip. This led to some very random results with shots of people's legs or of nothing at all. The odd one worked though so maybe it's simply a case of more practice needed.

    Lunch was taken on the lovely cool roof terrace of the Museum of Photography where we had free access to look around afterwards. Then more opportunities to practice our street photography skills.

    The hooded person in the doorway is our local guide who at one point had to suffer the violent abuse from a young group who felt they should have the money being paid to an old guy with whom we'd agreed a price to take his photo. It got quite nasty, resulting in no photos being taken and no money for the old guy, who looked as if he needed it if we're honest. Our guide was fine but it was a shame this happened.

    We ended the day in the large square (Jemaa el-Fnaa Square) which you can see in the two photos taken not long after sunset. We photographed the sun setting whilst sipping drinks on a roof terrace overlooking the square then moved elsewhere to photograph from another terrace. Finally we ate in a small cafe before sharing taxis back to the Ryad.

    A good first workshop day then and quite a mixture of things on a common theme. Did I get some street photos worth showing? I think perhaps I might have but I think there’ll be a lot of rejects.

    Tomorrow we head to the coast.
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  • Day2

    Single White Male

    May 2, 2019 in Morocco ⋅ 🌫 18 °C

    The first stop was a cash machine to get some Moroccan currency as the Ryad only accepted cash and that wasn't planned for. I hadn't got 200 metres along the road afterwards when I was approached with the old story of "Ah hello, work at your Ryad and I show you around to the leather festival that stops at one o'clock. I not guide and you no need pay me. I show you. It's over soon." It wouldn't be he'd not want money and the chances are he never worked at the Ryad or had ever seen me before. But I had time to kill so why not?

    So he walked me for about twenty minutes to the tannery area where there are tanneries of course, and leather shops of all shapes and sizes. On the way I got to see how bread is made in ovens heated with cedar wood and had various schools and other buildings pointed put to me. It was all very I interesting to be honest, made better of course because he'd said, "no need pay me." His English was not so good but I kind've got the drift.

    I then had a free tour of a tannery which was very interesting too and very unexpected to actually be able to visit one, pong included. What a coincidence my guide happening to know the tannery guide so when the tannery tour ended I was ‘shocked’ to find that both expected to be paid. Wow, I say tutting in a sarcastic manner, I never saw that coming and I definitely never expected that between them they wanted the equivalent if around £70 for their time. It's a shame they do this because it tends to spoil things when you have to argue about their broken promises when I’d be more than happy to pay them a sensible rate for their time.

    And so it was as I walked the twenty minutes or so back to the Ryad. Time after time men came up to me to tell me about the festival, the gardens, the just about anything that might allow them, for no charge of course, to empty my pockets into theirs. Whilst I walked I realised small groups of tourists or couples didn't get hassled as much as me even though I had no camera gear with me to attract attention. But I was a Single White Male, a solitary tourist and to them an easy target.

    I enjoyed my time out and about though and got back to the Ryad about 12.30. Just right.
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  • Day2

    Cool and Cloudy

    May 2, 2019 in Morocco ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    So the first proper day begins. The first task was breakfast of course, then afterwards I followed the staircases upwards to find the roof terrace of the Ryad. Oh, I thought, as I felt the chill of 16c, and oh again as I saw the grey skies. Should I have packed my waterproofs I thought. Mmm ... too much thinking I finally thought, and decided the weather forecasts can't all be wrong and surely it'll brighten up later. So I admired the view.

    It's a typical hot country old city scene with buildings that look as though they'll fall apart at any minute but have undoubtedly been here for a very long time. There's the hot city smell too, that gentle aroma of festering drains, though not overbearing you realise, just there in a comforting kind of way. You can see the way the tops of the buildings are used with most looking very weathered of course but some looking like they're used to dump everything that can't be dumped elsewhere. Such is the character of cities like this.

    Look for two things in this footprint's photos - the Jacuzzi on the roof here (not heated of course) and the rabbits. On the roof of the building opposite I counted at least six but I think there were more than that hopping around.

    I'm off for a wander in a minute but I need to be back here for 1pm.
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