Photography 101

Since I need a selection of photos for something, and I didn’t want to just have an impersonal link list, I decided to talk a bit about my favourite photos, where and when I took them, and why I like them so much. Most will be travel photos because, well, that’s the kind of photo I take the most, but I’m going to try to have at least some variety for those of you who, for some bizarre reason I can’t fathom, don’t enjoy travel photography. 😉 By no means do I consider myself a pro at photography; on the contrary, I still feel very much a beginner. But it’s what I enjoy, and I hope you will, too. A technical note, before we get started: All photos should be clickable and should direct you to flickr, where you can either click on them again to see them on black, or right-click for all possible sizes. Or you can just look at them here, slightly smaller though they are.

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best moment of the whole trip

Okay, this has got to be the first one. It’s possibly my favourite photo I’ve ever taken. Not because it’s necessarily the best in terms of technique, but because we really were that close to an elephant. Not in a zoo, but in the wild. We had already seen a few elephants in the course of the morning, but suddenly, we turned a corner and there this guy was. The driver stopped, and the elephant just stood there, looking at us, flapping his ears against the heat. And then, once we had gotten a few nice shots, it turned around and walked off. No one else got as close to him as we did, and it somehow felt like he modelled just for us. (Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania. Nikon D5100.)

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London at sunset

This one is, quite obviously, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. I don’t know how many times I’ve stood there. Definitely once every time I’ve been there, but probably far more often. My favourite part of all of London is that bit along the Thames between Embankment and Westminster stations. And yes, it does look best at sunset. I was particularly lucky here, with just enough clouds, a few birds, and wonderful colours. And what I love most about it must be the tiny bit of sunshine you can still see filtering through the Parliament windows. (London, England. Canon EOS 1000D.)

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Lighthouse Warnemünde

One of a number of lighthouses in Warnemünde. My mother, baby brother and I took a quick family trip to the Baltic Sea, and this is where we ended up. In all honesty, it wasn’t my favourite trip. Warnemünde might be interesting to people who like lying on the beach for hours at a time, or for people like my mum, who just like to window-shop. There was nothing to see or explore, and the weather wasn’t the best either. My brother and I did spend some time walking along the beach, though, and this is what happened—a photo that, to me, encompasses Warnemünde. (Rostock, Germany. Canon EOS 1000D.)

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Pumbaaaaa!

Another safari photo. (Fair warning: There’s more of those coming up. Don’t complain, animals are great.) I have to admit, the focus on the grass was not intentional. I had only gotten my new camera a short while before my first Africa trip and hadn’t had time to master the autofocus just yet because it was so different from my old Canon. And I had intended to focus on the warthog. But when I saw this photo on my laptop a month or so later, I loved it immediately. So, thanks, Nikon, I guess? (Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. Nikon D5100.)

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Elmina Castle

In Ghana, the boyfriend and I, along with a friend of ours, visited two castles while we were at the Ghanian coast, namely Elmina Castle and Cape Coast Castle, and the former is, without a doubt, my favourite, if there can be such a thing as a ‘favourite’ when looking at centuries-old slave forts. But Elmina was much less touristy, and that’s always a plus in my book. This is part of the outer wall with the Gulf of Guinea in the background, and some of the brilliant blue sky we enjoyed that day. I really like the colours here, they look better on the photo than they did in reality; the sunlight reflecting off the white walls was just too bright to be able to see much. (Elmina, Ghana. Nikon D5100.)

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Plaka, Athens

One of the first travel photos I ever took, once my father had given me his old Nikon F50. F50 means that this photo was taken on film rather than digitally, and just having to explain that makes me feel old, so let’s move on. I have so many good memories of this trip. It was a school trip, though not the regular class-trip kind. Instead, a small group was selected and allowed to attend Model UN at the German school in Athens, where you really do pretend to be a little working United Nations. My group represented Israel, and I was put into a Special Committee for Health. Right up my alley, that one, and it was so much fun. Outside of pretending to be UN delegates, we also got to see quite a bit of Athens, and this was one of my favourite spots. We only walked past it and nothing much was going on, but I loved how steep some of the roads were (and probably still are), and how they just left this random door there even though the rest of the building had long since collapsed. I really need to put Athens on my to-go-back-to list. (Athens, Greece. Nikon F50.)

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if these guys aren't careful, they'll be somebody's breakfast soon

Back to Africa! I like this one not only because of the technique (rule of thirds, diagonal lines, yadda yadda), but also because while it seems so peaceful on this side of the safari car, there’s a lioness slowly creeping over from right behind us. And nobody appears to care. That might very well be their end. Cue ‘The Lion King’ soundtrack. Also, the clouds are pretty damn cool, aren’t they? (Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. Nikon D5100.)

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weaver bird

Possibly my favourite photo I took in Ghana. When I bought my 18-270mm lens, I knew it wasn’t good enough to take photos of birds. But that was okay because I don’t really care much for photographing birds anyway. When we saw whole swarms of these weaver birds here, though, I couldn’t resist. Thankfully, a lot (and when I say ‘a lot’, I mean it; think small ant-colony) had built their nest on a tree right next to our hotel restaurant. And the noise they made! I’ll never forget that, how loud it was. But what stands out most of all is not the noise, or the way they hang upside down while building their nests, but rather those devilish eyes. (Cape Coast, Ghana. Nikon D5100.)

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Venice

Something entirely different now, Venice. I’ve been there twice now, once by choice and once not, and it is not my favourite city in the world. Far from it. I know it’s supposed to be, and that most people love it so much that they want to live there—or so I hear. It’s just that I don’t really like water. Or boats. Plus, the first time I went (when this photo was taken), it was freezing, and the second time, we almost drownded in acqua alta. Not the best memories. But even though the boyfriend and I nearly lost some body parts that I don’t want to specify here while waiting for the sun to set, it was an amazing moment. All through the trip, we used Santa Maria della Salute as a kind of guide, to tell us which part of the city we’d gotten lost in now, so we thought we really needed to see it at sunset. For the photo geniuses (genii? no, it’s geniuses. I looked it up, okay?) amongst you, yes, this is an HDR shot. But you can’t really tell, can you? Mostly because it was my first HDR and I had no idea what I was doing, so it turned out more like a regular photo than like an HDR. Oops? (Venice, Italy. Canon EOS 1000D.)

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lone antelope

Told you there’d be more safari photos. Nothing special about this one, except that it’s the only actually focussed photo I have of an antelope. They’re just too quick! And always moving, either because they’re running or because they’re eating. I like how this one is sort of backlit by the sun, making it look as though it glows. (Ngorogonro Crater, Tanzania. Nikon D5100.)

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Barakese reservoir

Our friend G. took the boyfriend and me to the reservoir where he spent half a year helping out. It was a nice and sunny day, so we thought nothing of leaving the car windows wide open while we went exploring. Bad idea. Very, very bad idea. We were as far away as we could’ve been from the car when these clouds appeared. Not just the interior of the car was in danger, no, we’d also foolishly left our jackets inside it, as well as the plastic bag I always use to keep my camera dry. Cue us very nearly running back. I didn’t really care about getting wet myself, especially in the Ghanaian heat, but my brand new camera, my baby? I had to get it back safe and sound. And—to not keep you in suspense much longer—I did make it. Only just, but the weather had apparently decided not to drench us after all, and we arrived back at the car just damp rather than wet. (It was still enough rain to turn the red sand to mud, and to this day, I still have some of it stuck to my trekking boots. (Ashanti Region, Ghana. Nikon D5100.)

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dhau at sunset

Sunshine! Much better. On Zanzibar, I discovered I’m a huge fan of dhows. I already knew I was a huge fan of sunsets, so that worked out well! I don’t think my camera even managed to capture half the colours we saw in the sky that evening, but this is better than having nothing to remember it by at all. Zanzibar really is as close to paradise as you can be, at least of the places I’ve seen so far. Blue skies and clear, turquoise water during the day, and sunsets like this practically every night. I’m definitely going back one day. (Zanzibar, Tanzania. Nikon D5100.)

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elephant family

More elephants because I love elephants and so should you. I think this was pretty much the same spot as the first picture above, except on the other side of the car. That hole the elephants had made in the bushes was apparently on one of their regular routes; easily ten or fifteen elephants trotted out and walked across the road right in front of our cars, including a wee little baby elephant. Such a great experience. And these ones here stopped to take a lunch break. (Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania. Nikon D5100.)

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Torcello

My family is only half-German, the other half is Italian. To be more specific, they’re sort of from Lazio, in that way that people in one generation are from somewhere but the generation before might’ve lived somewhere entirely different. But Lazio is where I spent my summers as a child, and Lazio is what I knew of Italy. (I say ‘knew’ because since I took this photo, I’ve seen a few more parts of the country.) So when we went to Venice, I missed Italy desperately. This might sound weird to you if you’ve never been to Italy and Venice both, but it’s true. They’re so different that I, a year after this trip, I still caught myself saying ‘I haven’t been to Italy in years!’ even though I had, in fact, been to Venice. One day on the trip, though, we went out to Burano and Torcello, two little islands an hour or so off the main city. Burano is colourful and also not really Italy, but not really Venice, either, but Torcello, oh, Torcello. Torcello is dry and rural and exactly how I remember Italy. For the first time in ages, I felt like I had come home. That feeling is what makes this photo so special to me. (Torcello, Italy. Canon EOS 1000D.)

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double-toothed barbet

Ghana is the country of birds. Or at least of bird-photography, in my case. This was a one-in-a-million shot for me. Not only were the double-toothed barbets (is that the best name or what?) insanely quick, but they also disappeared as soon as any of us approached them. I don’t actually know how I got lucky enough for this photo, but I did. I even got two more with other positions, and everything that’s supposed to be in focus is, and it’s really just like hitting the jackpot. Especially considering how long we chased after them; the cameras always ready when we sat and talked, and as soon as a bird sat down on a branch somewhere, we’d ever so slowly stand up, look through the camera only to realise we needed one more step towards the bird, and BAM! Gone again. I guess this one was just curious. (Greater Accra, Ghana. Nikon D5100.)

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view from Monument

This was a lot of fun to take! It’s London, but you can probably already tell from the red buses. The boyfriend and I had, for whatever reason, decided to climb Monument. Probably because it was cheap, and nothing in London is cheap. I don’t usually climb things, or at least I try not to and then often fail—the eternal dilemma between ‘you’ll get great photos!’ and ‘but… stairs!’ And the boyfriend isn’t good with heights, so I have no idea why he keeps insisting on climbing things. But he did, and while I thought I would surely perish at the time, I’m glad we did it. For those of you who are also not so good with heights, don’t be afraid, there is honestly no way you could fall off this thing. Oh, and you get a little certificate at the end for having climbed all those however-many steps there are. Such fun! (London, England. Canon EOS 1000D.)

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goodbye, Zanzibar

Fittingly titled ‘Goodbye, Zanzibar’, this photo is the last of my Zanzibar photos. It was such a nice evening, despite the fact that I was very sick (thanks for nothing, Malaria pills!), that I even insisted my friend Kate and I join the rest of the group for drinks later. I hadn’t really eaten anything since the first day on Zanzibar because I couldn’t keep anything down anyway, and that spoiled the Zanzibar stay for me a lot. I still loved it so much, and I’m glad I had that last evening. This is in Stone Town, after we’d spent a few days on the Northern Beaches, and we’re standing in a little Italian restaurant/café, except they didn’t serve any alcohol and were out of icecream. So much for that! We really just wanted to watch the sun set, though, and the restaurant was actually a nice spot to do that. This, however, is my favourite photo, rather than one of the actual sunset. Maybe I do like boats after all. After this, we went back towards the city centre to get food. It was Ramadan, which means everything was closed during the day, but a giant food market opened up at night. Sadly, most of it was sea food, but since I couldn’t eat anyway, I just soaked up the atmosphere and got a tiny little crêpe-like concoction. And afterwards, we went to have those drinks. Everyone ordered alcohol, and then they all laughed at me when I ordered tea. I sure know how to live it up! (Zanzibar, Tanzania. Nikon D5100.)

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now all those dreams of old will be stories left untold

Now for something entirely different: A vintage car! This shot means something to me personally because it was one of the very last photos I ever took with my first proper camera, my Canon. Shortly thereafter, I got a Nikon, and while I love it very much, I do miss my Canon once in a while. We had some wonderful years together. That’s why I thought it fitting to take a photo of my dad’s vintage car on his birthday. It kind of looks like it’s got a face, doesn’t it? (Berlin, Germany. Canon EOS 1000D.)

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Tower Bridge at night

Let’s stay in Europe for a moment for an iconic shot of London’s Tower Bridge. I have been in London I don’t know how many times now, but only ever with people that haven’t been there before. A travel group, my friend H., my mother and brothers, the boyfriend, etc etc. Which means I got to see the same things over and over and over and over again… Tower Bridge among them, of course, but this was the first time I had a tripod with me. So… Baby’s first foray into (slighly) long(er) exposures! (London, England. Canon EOS 1000D.)

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near the edge

Zebras are just the best. And this one looked like it was standing very much near the edge, and it probably was. We were leaving Ngorongoro Crater (that isn’t actually a crater, but a caldera) when I spotted it, and it just looked so lonely, poor thing. Plus, again, those clouds. They were great, wrapped around the edge like that. (Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. Nikon D5100.)

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red bench in the jungle

This was the second time I’d ever seen the jungle, and this one was scary. Insect-wise, I mean. But let’s not get into that. We got here after a night of heavy rainfalls, only to be told that none of the jungle guides had made it to work because the roads had been washed away. So we took off on our own for a bit. But while the noises and colours are just amazing, I’ll never feel entirely comfortable in any jungle. The boys looked around some more and walked further into the forest, whereas I waited in a safe spot, which just happened to have this little red bench right next to the huge trees. (Ashanti Region, Ghana. Nikon D5100.)

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San Marino

Probably the most recent shot I’ve included in here, from late October, when I joined my father on a short trip to Italy. He mostly went for family business (the official reason) and a car exhibit (the unofficial one), but I really only went to meet family and see some places I had never seen before. We arrived in Venice, I on train and he on a plane, and then went to Rimini and later to Udine. And there were many a day trip; one to Bologna, for example, and then another to San Marino. My father hadn’t been too happy about my plans at first, and I had planned on going by myself because there was no way I’d miss out on seeing San Marino, but then, suddenly, my father decided to come with me, after all. And that’s how I ended up taking this shot. But let me tell you, it was not as nice up there as it looks. San Marino city / old town is located on a mountain, and while sunny, it was so windy up there I almost froze to death. No kidding; I’d already caught a nasty cold the day before… But it was worth it just for this shot. If you’re ever in the area, do go to San Marino! And if you can, take the cable car up. Such a great view. (San Marino, San Marino. Nikon D5100.)

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Leadenhall Market

The story of this shot isn’t particularly interesting, so I’ll just say that I really liked Leadenhall, but I never really thought of taking a photo there, until we suddenly found ourselves there on a Sunday afternoon with literally nobody else out and about. So we stopped and I snapped this, and I love the colours nearly as much as I love how empty it is. (London, England. Canon EOS 1000D.)

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places which the clouds never see

My 23rd birthday! That I got to spend on Zanzibar! Exclamation marks are very much necessary here. Okay, granted, this isn’t Zanzibar yet, but when my friend Kate and I planned our Africa trip, we didn’t know exactly when we’d be on Zanzibar, so I just got it in my head I’d spend my birthday there. We made it there a day late, and I woke up on this horrible, horrible camp site, but after a fairly long drive, we made it to the beaches near Dar es Salaam. And then I got to spend my birthday there, on white sand, with a beautiful sunset, veggie burgers, and even wifi to skype home. I did take a few minutes away from the rest of the group because it felt weird not being home on my birthday, and that’s when I got this shot. One of the very first things I did was take off my shoes; even sandals are too much on the beach. (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Nikon D5100.)

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goodbye, summer

This is, admittedly, not the best shot, technique-wise. Most of it is blurry, but it reminds me of a wonderful evening spent outside. The boyfriend and I went to watch the sun set near his place. A lot of people were out trying to get kites into the air, and children were playing in the grass. It was already well past summer, but out of the corner of my eye, I spotted these flowers, and I knew I just had to take a photo of them. I didn’t really have time to set up my tripod, thus the blur, but I still love this photo very much. (Berlin, Germany. Nikon D5100.)

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panoramic view from Elmina Castle

And a last one, again from Ghana. This one really is best viewed on flickr in a bigger size because it’s a panorama shot. Ever since he’d discovered how to stitch panoramas, my friend G. had been needling me to take panorama shots so he could stitch them. Of course, in the end, I had to stitch them myself. But while they’re certainly nice, I don’t think I’ll ever be a big panorama nut. I like them well enough for high-resolution versions of ‘regular’ photos, but I have yet to really enjoy, say, a 180° panorama, let alone a 360° one. This one turned out okay, though, and it’s one of the few I bothered to put online. I like how two worlds collide in it; on the right, you have the Gulf of Guinea and the beach with palm trees, and on the left, you have the town of Elmina and the boats that are being built. (Elmina, Ghana. Nikon D5100.)

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And that’s it. I guess it’s safe to say I’m not a big people-person when it comes to photos, but that I’d rather have landscape or animal shots. And as long as photos mean something to me, I will always like them more than photos that are perfect technique-wise, but that don’t have a soul.

One thought on “Photography 101

  1. Pingback: Life Is Good | suaheli

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