Imagine how you would feel if you were walking down the street of your home town and out of the corner of your eye you saw someone with a 70-200 mm lens pointed right at you. You’d probably wonder why they wanted a photo of you, what would it be used for and where would it end up? You might even try to ‘hide’ by putting your hand up to scratch your face, or getting off the street at the next corner and taking an alternate route. Or, you may approach the person and ask them what they are photographing. Summed up, this is how most people feel regardless of their nationality.
Just because you are in someone else’s country doesn’t mean that taking photos is ok. Yes, as traveler’s and photographers we want to capture things around us. But, it is our duty to make sure that we understand the customs, beliefs and rules of the places we are traveling to.
In most countries, photographing government officials is taboo, if not flat out illegal. Unless of course they are on display for that purpose at a landmark or tourist attraction.
In some countries, such as Peru, many people believe that the camera captures your soul, so they do not want to be photographed at all. It is important to be aware of this and respectful.
Want to photograph someone? Why not ask them if they mind? It only takes a moment and it could lead to a really interesting conversation!
Don’t know how to speak the language? Learn a few basic phrases and watch for body language to tell you whether the person understands and is giving their permission.
If all else fails, use your own body language. Smiling and pointing at a person and then back at your camera is universally understandable … as is the shake of the head side to side for no, or the nod of the head up and down for yes.
When you are traveling, no matter where it may be – close to home or far away, take time to look around for colour and patterns! Think about Bermuda and their colourful architecture … The beach with it’s powerful waves and lines in the sand, fishing villages all around the world, architecture new or old (think Havana, Cuba or Dubai!)
Wherever you are traveling, strong lines, beautiful light and bright colours can be captured separately or together for outstanding images for your portfolio.
Galapagos Islands 2012
Beach – Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands
Orange Rocks – Prince Edward Island, Canada
Colorful Fishing Village – St. Pierre & Miquelon, France
Yellow flowers – New Orleans, Louisana, USA
Weaving – Ccaccaccollo, Peru
As tourists, we often tend to get a little snap-happy when we visit a new location. We try to capture everything that surrounds us, and are often under time constraints to do so. Maybe our tour bus has only stopped for an hour long visit in a city, but if you are lucky, you have an afternoon free to explore at your leisure.
Before you start taking pictures, start with a deep breath. Look around and take a moment to enjoy your surroundings. Often once we raise our camera to our eye we change modes and want to create beautiful photographs. I challenge you to make sure you take time to also enjoy the experience of the city. It is through living, feeling, connecting and doing hands on activities with locals that you truly get a feel for the community or city you are visiting. When you feel the connection, then it is time to raise your camera and capture that feeling. If you can wait … these photos will be far more meaningful to you then the 360 degree spin you did to capture everything without experiencing any of it.
Probably the biggest tourist attraction in Yangon is the enormous Shwedagon Pagoda. Nearly 25 000 people visit it per day on the weekend. Although, most of this is actually locals, not tourists.
We only spent about an hour wandering around the inside area of the Pagoda, but I could have spent much longer! Thankfully, our local guide took us to have our astrology reading done where we sat in the coolness of one of the buildings, out of the scorching mid-day sun. After our astrology readings, we bought the flowers as per each of our readings and then used them as an offering to the shrine for our day of birth, where we also poured an uneven number of cups of water on our symbols.
Here’s a quick little photo essay. Put your sunglasses on and get ready for a whirlwind of gold!
Appreciate the work of a photo enthusiast. Buy a print and decorate your home or office. Make a difference to under privileged kids in Peru.
It’s just that simple to make a difference.
Leading up to the Peru Through the Lens Art Show & Fundraiser on May 25th (and continuing after), I will be posting one or two photos each day from the art show.
The show is on display from May 25 – June 25th (now extended until July 10th). Prints are available for purchase for $30 (cash). If you see a photo you would like to purchase, drop by The Adventure Travel Company to purchase (or order) your copy between May 25th and July 10th.
Net proceeds from the art show are being donated to The Planeterra Foundation and the House of the People of the Sun where we spent a day photographing under privileged youth while in Cuzco, Peru. Your support will help them have a better education, a warm meal each day and learn new skills to work and help support their families.
It just wouldn’t be an adventure with Shari if a few things weren’t lost, broken or left behind along the way. It’s funny because I don’t consider myself particularly careless, but somehow I just have bad luck when it comes to travel.
Last year it was leaving my cell phone behind and then dropping a lens and breaking it before I ever went through security at the Halifax airport.
This year, my trip started with lost luggage in Lima. I thought that might be enough bad luck to hold me over for the entire trip, but no … that was only wishful thinking.
In case you didn’t read the Lost Luggage post, the gist of it is that I arrived in Lima with 11 of my 12 passengers on the morning of April 6th. All 11 of those folks had their luggage, but mine had decided to take the long route. Not a big deal … I had my camera, that’s what was most important!
Only a couple of days into the trip, one of our passengers dropped his glasses on the ground and they broke. It was several days later, as we got ready to do a little tour around the Puno market, that he found a little stand selling eye glasses. Lo and behold, he was able to replace them and despite dropping them a couple more times on the trip, they made the journey!
Next casualty of the trip was at Luquina Chico. Audrey brought a nice big Canadian flag with her and she pulled it out and we all gathered around for a group photo. What happens when a group photo gets taken? Everyone hands their cameras over to the person in charge of taking the photo, including me. So, we each handed our cameras over to Elard, our G leader who quickly took a group photo with each of all of our cameras and then handed it back. Mine was somewhere in the middle of the group of cameras. He handed mine back and we all continued to pose for the group photo.
After all of the cameras were handed back, Clever gathered our attention to explain what was going to happen for the rest of the day.
And then ‘thud’
There it was, my 5D MK II, face down on the rocky beach …
Pretty much everyone in the group turned to look, and I’m pretty sure my face was white.
I picked it up off the ground and looked at the damage.
After letting Clever know that he could continue explaining to the group, I half paid attention and half studied the damage. The entire filter was smashed. The question was, did the smashed glass from the filter hit the lens? A filter is $60-$100 to replace. The lens is about $1000 to replace.
I slowly and tentatively unscrewed the filter from the lens. I could hear the glass shifting and starting to come loose. I had no idea what I was going to find behind that filter. Would my lens be equally as shattered? Finally, when the filter was off, I could see the lens. It had not broken, which was a good start, but with the shards of glass and dust all over it, I couldn’t really see how much damage there was.
A little in shock, I decided to just ignore the damage for the time being, pay attention to the day’s plans and deal with it later.
When I reached my home stay (about an hour later), I took a closer look. I carefully used my blower & lens pen brush to dust the remaining glass off the lens and held it up in the sun light. Miraculously, the filter had sustained all of the damage and the lens came out perfectly fine. As far as I can tell, not even a scratch. Guess it was my lucky day!
The next day, I stayed back at Luquina Chico while most of the group went on a tour of nearby Taquille island. I loved the tour of Taquille that we did last year, but altitude was affecting me and I knew that I could not do the physical exertion needed for this particular tour. I was really disappointed because they were also taking a different route than I had the year before, so it would have been a new experience for me.
They docked at a lovely beach and then meandered their way up, up, up and around the hilly island to the top where the main square is. While they were stopped to take photos of the beach area, Elard borrowed one of the passenger’s converters. Now instead of having a 70-200 lens, it would be more like a 400mm lens. I wasn’t there to see it, but I think he was a little excited. He took off, up another hill to take photos from afar and give the converter a try. Unfortunately, when he got ready to take it all apart and head back down, he dropped his lens with the converter attached to it.
This time, the lens didn’t land face down, but instead the rocks bent and twisted the ring that attaches to the camera. Luckily, a few days later in Cuzco, Elard was able to get the converter fixed relatively inexpensively. The 70-200 (his own), however, is still awaiting repair.
Last, but not least …
It was the day of our night photography workshop. Everyone gathered around with their cameras, tripods and rain gear as we could hear thunder in the distance. We headed out to an area of Cuzco called San Blas to take some golden hour photos before day turned to night.
About half way to San Blas, the rain started to fall. And then, it started to pour. We quickly dashed into a little bar for drinks, hoping that the rain would quickly pass. Not the best night to be out finding ‘golden hour’ … more like ‘grey hour’. After about half an hour of chit chat and drinks, the rain had stopped and we continued on our way up the hill to San Blas. We arrived to see vendors setting up their street market areas again and the sun just starting to peak through the clouds. Maybe we’d be lucky and see the sun again before nightfall.
Everyone went their separate ways to find something interesting to photograph in this quaint little bohemian neighbourhood. After snapping a few photos in the main square area, Elard and I headed up, up, up higher where we could get an even better view of the city. I took this photo along the way, when I needed to stop and catch my breath.
At the top of the hill, we found a small common area, enclosed by glass and one of the participants was climbing up on the railing to take photos.
I set my tripod down to line up my photo of Paul. Took a few shots and then we headed back down the stairs to our meeting point for the group. Quite a few group members were standing around staring at this little spectacle where a huge dog was greeting people, squeezed through the rungs on a partial balcony. It was quite the commotion when two or three other little dogs decided to join him.
After taking pictures of this curious dog watching over all of us from above, I got ready to gather everyone up to leave when I realized that I was missing something. Where was my tripod? Had I given it to someone to hold? Had I set it down?
Damn it. I had left it at the top of the hill.
Elard looked at my sadly and I laughed and said ‘I don’t think I’m going back up there to get it!’ The next thing I knew, he was headed that direction. I stopped him and said I would go. I walked to the end of the street, took one look at how many stairs there were to the top, turned on my heel and marched right back to the group.
‘There’s not a chance in hell I’m doing those stairs again. My tripod just isn’t worth it.’
To that, a couple of the men from the trip offered to go back up and looked for it, but I argued that it really wasn’t worth it. The tripod had been at least seven or eight years old, only cost $30 and it really was broken. I had decided to bring it with me because my good tripod was too heavy and the part that was broken on this one, I could work around for the few shots that I would be taking with it.
“Don’t worry about it. It was cheap and partially broken. I don’t really care about it.”
The next thing I knew, someone was asking me questions about photography and then, out of the corner of my eye I see Elard sprinting up the street. I yelled for him not to bother, but he kept going. I really didn’t want him to go all the way back to the top for my broken tripod that may or may not be there, but there was no way I was running after him (at altitude) to try to stop him!
A few minutes later, Elard returned, breathless from hurrying up and down the stairs ….. no tripod to be found.
So, all I can do is hope that someone in need found the tripod and will sell it on the street or at a market somewhere and make enough money for a day or two of food for themselves and their family.
Good news out of all of this? One less thing to carry in my backpack. Five pounds lighter and easier to pack!
As one of our Peru Through the Lens passengers had a particular fascination with birds, our G leader surprised us with a visit to an animal sanctuary in the Sacred Valley where there were condors. Not only were their condors, but ones that we could get within feet of. It was absolutely amazing.
After a short introduction to the sanctuary and meeting the llamas, pekuna, parrots and pumas, we got to the main event … the condors.
Animal lover – Audrey
3 pumas were rescued from a bar where they were drugged & used for show. So sad.
We entered into the large condor cage with a hill in the back and three monstrous condors sitting on their perches near the front of the cage.
After a few minutes of admiring the giant birds, the handlers led the birds to the top of the hill where the took flight swooping within only a couple of feet of our heads. One of our passengers squealed, Elard fell over and several of us ducked even though we were already kneeling. You could feel the power of their wings pushing the air around you, but yet they landed on their perches and paid no attention to us.
condor in flight
condor in flight
condor in flight
condor in flight
condor on its perch
condor on its perch
condor on its perch
condor on its perch
Before leaving the giant birds for their next visitors, we were given a few moments to pose with them. Look how close we could get!
Overall, a pretty cool surprise. Amazing to see these giants up close!
I was really excited to return to the community of Ccaccaccollo this year. Last year my photo group spent three days doing a home stay and portrait project for the Planeterra Foundation in this community. This year, we were returning only to visit the weaving community and have demonstrations on how the community operates.
Our G leader, Elard Aranibar, has been to the community many times and had taken a few photos of this elderly man while visiting in 2008. In 2011, the man passed away.
When we returned to the community this year, Elard was showing the photos to the man’s family. It was a very emotional moment and it reminded me of the power of photos, even more so for those who don’t have them as a regular part of their lives.
For us, photos are standard and help us remember our youth as well as the elderly in our lives. For many communities around the world, photos don’t exist and memories are only those in your mind. That is why the emotion behind these photos is so incredibly powerful.
The Uros Islands are truly one of the most unique and amazing places that I have ever visited. They are located in Lake Titicaca, approximately a 20 minute boat ride from Puno. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in South America at approximately 13 000 feet.
The Uros islands are a group of approximately 79 floating islands hand-made of totora (reeds from Lake Titicaca). Totora is the staple of these islands. From actually building the islands on layers of reeds and blocks of roots, to eating the white part, to building all of their boats and homes from the reeds.
As the old layers of reeds begin to rot, new layers are added on top to keep the floor fresh and solid. Boats and houses are rebuilt approximately every six months for the same reason.
At one time the islands were moved amongst the reeds to hide from impending danger and strategically for war. Now, the islands are anchored in place with three to five families living on each island in small reed huts. There is a hospital, a school and a seventh day adventist church for the community.
Today was the big day, the most anticipated day of the Peru Through the Lens trip. We were all up at 5am and down for breakfast by 5:30am. By 5:45am we were out the door and on our way down the hill by foot to the bus station.
The bus takes about 10 minutes through town and then 20 or so minutes up a steep and very windy road to the entrance of Machu Picchu. The road is barely big enough for one bus, but somehow we squeezed by the first couple of buses that had already dropped off passengers and were on their way back down.
Once through the gates, we made our way to a look out point where everything was covered in fog. Within minutes, the fog swirled around and moved out of the way so that we could see the residential area of Machu Picchu below and beside us. Moments later, the fog swirled back in and covered it all again. The cat and mouse game continued for nearly an hour as we stayed in this one area and enjoyed the mystical and magical presence of being in the Lost City.