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September 22, 2017

Quirky Travel Photo: Little African boy by a stream in Rwanda

Quirky Travel Photo: Little African boy by a stream in Rwanda

Little boy by the road in Rwanda - photo zoe dawes

Little boy in Rwanda

On a very long coach trip through Rwanda from Kigali up to Volcanoes National Park, we stopped en route for a ‘comfort break.’ As soon as we got off the bus, we were surrounded by a gaggle of children and adults who seemed to appear from nowhere. All curious, some holding back and others venturing closer, they wanted to say ‘hello’ and see what we were wearing and holding. This little boy caught my eye with his delightfully shy smile and, as I crouched down to talk to him, he came closer and closer. Finally he reached out a tentative hand to my camera so I handed it to him to have a look. Another member of our group came up and called to him to have his photo taken.

Little boy being photographed Rwanda - photo Zoe Dawes

I stepped back, clicked and got this shot. He sums up the warm welcome and friendly faces we saw throughout our memorable trip to Rwanda with Uber Luxe Safaris, a country coming to terms with a tough past and and embracing an exciting future.

Read more on Rwanda

Up close with Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda

5 great reasons to visit Rwanda

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Little boy in Rwanda Africa - Pinterest poster Zoe Dawes

March 30, 2017

Quirky Travel Photo: a blue-footed booby in the Galapagos Islands

Quirky Travel Photo: a blue-footed booby in the Galapagos Islands

Blue-footed Booby on Espanola Island Galapagos Ecuador - photo zoe dawes

Razor-sharp beak pointing towards the sky, the blue-footed booby flaps its wings in a couple of wide-angled swooshes, then returns to preening its brown and white feathers. Its bright blue feet seem to be suckered onto the rock, never slipping as it grooms and turns about, having a good wash. Beside it, flopped out as if totally exhausted, lies a young chick, all white, fluffy down and head akimbo.

I’m realising a life-long ambition to see one of these very quirky birds in their island home of the Galapagos Islands. Actually, it was initially my Mum’s dream to see them. She loved birds, especially the blue-footed booby with its blue beak and feet. We were probably watching a David Attenborough documentary the first time she showed me one, laughing at its comical appearance and hilarious name. Sadly, she never got to see them in the wild, but I am remembering her as I take photos of this one with its young.

Blue-footed booby and chick on Espanola Island Galapagos Islands Ecuador - photo zoe dawes

I’m in Ecuador on a trip with Metropolitan Touring, specialists in South America travel. We’ve already seen the historic sights of Quito, the first UNESCO World Heritage Site and spent a few days in the cloud forest at Mashpi Eco Lodge. But the highlight of this life-enhancing trip is a four day cruise on Yacht La Pinta to see the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. On the first day we visited San Cristobal Island and the Cerro Colorado Tortoise Centre, where the highly-endangered giant tortoises are bred. Day 2 took us to Punta Pitt with its large colony of bachelor sea -lions; one of the main highlights was swimming with sea lions, something I’ll never forget. On the third day I finally got to see the blue-footed booby and many other birds, including rare waved albatrosses, red-footed and nazca boobies and thousands of red and black marine iguanas. Our final day was spent at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, to see the giant tortoises, reared here to be released onto the islands in a unique breeding programme.

The Blue Footed Booby and Galapagos wildlife on video

The blue-footed booby settles down on the rock beside its chick, takes a brief look at the English woman grinning at it, sticks its beak in its feathers and goes to sleep. My dream is realised; and reality is a thousand times better than the dream. Hope Mum’s getting a look too …

NB: The name booby apparently comes from the Spanish word bobo (“stupid”, “fool”, or “clown”) because the blue-footed booby is, like other seabirds, clumsy on land. They are also regarded as foolish for their apparent fearlessness of humans. (In that case all the creatures in the Galapagos Islands must be foolish becuasue none of they seem to fear humans!)

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Blue-footed booby and marine iguanas Galapagos Islands - image Zoe Dawes

Want to find out more about the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador? Click links

No Place on Earth like the Galapagos Islands

Swimming with Sea Lions in the Galapagos Islands

The Culture, History and People of Quito, Ecuador

Mashpi Lodge and the Heavenly Hummingbirds of Ecuador

More Quirky Travel Photos here

September 12, 2016

Top tips for tasty Food Photography

Top tips for tasty Food Photography

Food Photography collage zoedawes

On your travels around your home country and further afield you no doubt come across a lot of delicious local food. Perhaps you take photos of the dishes you eat, the wine you drink and the produce displayed in shops and markets. Would you like to take better photos of that food and drink? That’s what I wanted to do when I enrolled on Aspire Photography Training: Food Portraits workshop. I’ll share with you some of the food photography tips I learnt on that useful and inspiring day.

Food Photography shoot

Food Photography Training

Our group of photographers ranged from professional to amateur, all with a desire to learn more and practise with expert tuition. Tutor, food photographer and writer Joan Ransley, took us through the basics of good food photography and showed us some of her superb photos. She then went on to explain clearly and simply how to use a digital SLR camera for close-up food shots. I had never been able to get my head round F stops and aperture settings but Joan explained it so simply that even I could understand, at least for the duration of the course! She’s a really good teacher and very encouraging. She talked about using a smart phone camera, which as a travel blogger is something I do very often. As she said, anyone can take a good photo with a phone camera if you have an eye for a scene and follow some basic principles.

Garlic and salad leaves - Food Photography Tips - The Quirky Traveller

After lunch we had to choose from a wide selection of fresh food including salad ingredients, bread, cake, fruit and accessories on which to display it all. I chose some delicious sourdough bread, olives and olive oil, pecorino cheese, Parma ham, tomatoes and salad leaves. We went outside to set up our photo shoot, with Joan and Catherine Connor, MD of Aspire Photography Training and a great communicator, sharing ideas to create a memorable photo. The following tips are especially suitable if you’re on holiday, travelling or out for a meal; in other words, short of time and needing to take a picture fairly quickly, without special lighting or studio conditions.

Italian Food Collage - zoedawes

7 Food Photography Tips

1. Create a desire to eat

Meringues and summer fruit - Food photography tips - create a desire to eat - zoedawes

Joan says, “One of the most important things you need to do when taking photos of food, is ‘create a desire to eat’. Eating is a sensual experience, so a food photographer aims to add vibrancy, enticement and increase our emotional response.” If you keep that in mind, your food photography will come alive and set the taste buds tingling. We experimented with positioning of ingredients (all fresh and delicious) and ‘props’, light sources, including use of reflectors and different angles. Joan told us some insider tricks, including use of oil-dropper/spray to add sheen, avoiding steam from hot food, leading lines and a lot more.

2. Every picture tells a story

Italian Food Photography photo shoot - zoedawes

Well, maybe not EVERY picture, but many do and when you’re composing your shot think about what you want your viewer to ‘read’ into the photo. This scene-setting shot shows all the ingredients I was to use in the main photo shoot. The aim was to showcase an Italian lunch so the bottle of olive oil and ham were the keys to setting the scene. In the background is part of a sign for Morecambe, near to where I live, so it has a personal resonance.

3. Use Natural Light

Use natural light - food photography tips - zoedawes

Natural light is much more flattering to food photography. Pick a table or seat by a window, a park bench or wall where you can arrange your food and not have to rely on a flash. That distorts colour, distracts other people around you and generally makes your food look unappetizing. Joan also showed us different types of Reflectors, including a very handy portable one. When setting up their foodie shot, the guys in the photo above made sure there was a lot of light coming in from left, to compensate for shade on the right.

4. Consider the Depth-of-Field

Food Photography Tips - zoedawes

Joan says: “Depth of field is controlled by the aperture of your camera lens; the larger the aperture ie f2.8 the narrower the depth of field. The smaller the aperture i.e. f8 the greater the depth of field. In food photography we usually use an aperture of around f3.5 when we’re photographing a plate of food close up. This will ensure the subject is in focus i.e. a piece of fish or a slice of cake and anything in the background looks soft and dreamy. For overhead shots when we need everything in the scene to be in focus, an aperture of around f8 is best. If you can control the aperture on your lens it will improve your photographs at a stroke.” I focused on the fruit and walnuts on this tasty Damson Brandy Fruitcake (made by Ginger Bakers in case you tempted!) to draw your eye to their glossy sheen.

5. Go for a close-up

Close up of sourdough bread - photography tips - zoedawes

We love to see details of the food or drink ie the bubbles in a glass of prosecco or the icing on the cake and getting in close to the subject helps tempt the taste buds. Fill the frame or just have a little of the surrounding area in shot. In the first photo, I shot the sourdough bread from above, which simply shows it on the board. In the second I went in much closer and tried to capture the dusting of flour and the bread’s gorgeous texture.

6. Use the rule of thirds

Food Photography Tips - rule of thirds - zoedawes

As you may have seen in this article on Top Travel Photography Tips, our eyes are drawn to certain parts of a picture; the rule of thirds helps you to capitalize on this. Imagine your photo is overlaid with a grid of lines in thirds both horizontally and vertically. Where the lines intersect is the ‘point of interest’. If you position the main elements of your photo on or near those points, the viewer is more likely to focus on them. In this photo, the ham and bread were the key elements. Joan added the THREE olives, the olive slices and three sage leaves to increase the threesomeness.

7. Create a ‘set’ for your photo

Setting up Aspire Food Photography shoot - zoedawes

Even if you’re taking a quick pic of lunch, spend a few seconds to look through the lens/viewfinder and see if there’s anything you could remove that might distract the viewer ie phone, dirty knife etc. Maybe you could add something. I often include a menu, guide book, or some reference to the place where I’m taking the picture. Catherine had a vast array of vintage and contemporary plates, cutlery, pots and glasses plus trays, scarves, material, edible flowers and other things for us to experiment with during our photo shoot. Joan told us of a street food photographer who uses park benches and other outdoor furniture to set up his shots. She also shared the secret of crummage; artistically scattered crumbs or other bits of food – see the Fruit Cake photo in Tip 4). Be creative; a few seconds can make the difference between a good photo and a stunning one.

Edible flowers - food photography - zoedawes

All the photos here were taken by me during the Aspire Food Portraits day. Many thanks to Joan Ransley and Catherine Connor for all the tips and tricks; I enjoyed every minute. Lara Ferroni‘s excellent book Food Photography: Pro-Secrets for Styling, Lighting and Shooting has lots more professional advice. Find out more about Aspire Photography Training Courses here.

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The Quirky Traveller Food Photography Tips

May 18, 2016

Quirky Travel Photo: the ‘Great Men’ of Milan at Casa degli Omenoni

Quirky Travel Photo: the ‘Great Men’ of Milan at Casa degli Omenoni
The House of the Titans - Milan Italy zoedawes

The ‘Great Men’ of Casa degli Omenoni

Tucked away in a little backstreet near Il Duomo, Milan’s famous Cathedral, is Clubino, an exclusive gentlemen’s club. Historically it is better known,  appropriately, as the Casa degli Omenoni – the House of the Great Men (rebuilt 1565-67). Adorning its facade are eight enormous male figures with serious features. They were made by sculptor Antonio Abondio, to a design by renowned Italian sculptor Leone Leoni (c1509 – 1590) to decorate his own mansion. They are Atlantes (Titans), named after Atlas, decorative supporting figures, their heads bowed to take the weight of the structure above.

Casa degli omenoni milan italy zoedawes

Casa degli Omenoni facade with ‘Atlantes’

I was shown this impressive building during a walking tour of Milan with Milanese travel blogger Simon Falvo; you can read her fascinating blog Wild about Travel.  It’s great to go round with a local as you get to see sights that a tourist often misses. I only spent 24 hours in the city and barely scratched the surface of its many historical and architectural treasures, but these figures made a big impression. In his poem ‘The House of the Titans’ George William Russell refers to “… the tender shadow of long-vanquished pain and brightening wisdom …” which sculptor Abondoni has captured beautifully in these evocative figures.

Casa degli Omenoni Atlantes Milan Italy zoedawes

Casa degli Omenoni

If you visit Milan, search out the Casa degli Omenoni; you’ll find it at No 3 Via degli Omenoni; well worth a detour from nearby Piazza Il Duomo .

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The Great Men of Milan Italy Casa degli Omenoni - image zoedawes

March 25, 2016

Tulips from Amsterdam – spring flowers at Keukenhof Gardens

Tulips from Amsterdam – spring flowers at Keukenhof Gardens
Tulips from Amsterdam and spring flowers Keukenhof Gardens - zoedawes

Tulips and Grape Hyacinths

Tulips from Amsterdam

When it’s Spring again I’ll bring again
Tulips from Amsterdam
With a heart that’s true I’ll give to you
Tulips from Amsterdam

A popular song in the 1950s and 60s, Tulips from Amsterdam evokes springtime in Holland, with its fields of spring bulbs spreading colour and scent throughout the Dutch countryside. A visit to world-famous Keukenhof Gardens is everything an flower-lover could wish for. I went a few years ago and look forward to returning. The floral exhibitions and planting are splendid; each year there is a different theme, around which creative displays and artworks are show-cased.

Artwork in Pavilion Keukenhof Gardens

Capturing the essence of Keukenhof on canvas

Across many hectares are not just tulips from Amsterdam but every spring plantern you can imagine, flowering in colourful profusion. Surrounded by striated bulb fields, the heady scent of hyacinths, the decadent smell of lilies, the delicate aroma of narcissi envelops you in a sensual bouquet of delight …

Vase of lilies - Keukenhof Gardens

Scent from Lily Exhibition almost overpowering, the blooms each a poem of perfection.

Keukenhof tulips from Amsterdam - zoedawes

Tulips of every shape and colour

Tulips from Amsterdam and narcissi Keukenhof - zoedawes

Tulips and little narcissus in flower beds

Keukenhof Gardens Hyacinths and tulips - zoedawes

Pink Pearl Hyacinths and matching tulips

Tulips and Zocher lake Keukenhof Gardens - zoedawes

Tulips by the lake with quirky artwork

You can read more about my visit to Keukenhof Gardens here. I travelled to Holland with Stena Ferries.

The Quirky Traveller on Keukenhof windmill - zoedawes

View of Dutch bulb fields from Keukenhof Windmill

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Keukenhof Gardens spring flowers - pinterest

February 19, 2016

Quirky Travel Photo: Horses by St Moritz Lake

Quirky Travel Photo: Horses by St Moritz Lake

Horses by St Moritz Lake Switzerland - zoedawes

These lovely horses were standing beside St Moritz Lake on a sunny day in March. They takes tourists in a carriage around the popular and very chic ski town in the heart of the Swiss Alps. I was staying in St Moritz at the end of a train journey across Switzerland with a group a couple of years ago. It was our last day and I had left our hotel to explore the area before we left. St Moritz Lake freezes over every year and they hold polo matches, horse races and even cricket tournaments on the ice during January, February and early March!

St Moritz Lake Switzerland - zoedawes

We were lucky to arrive in St Moritz on the luxury Glacier Express and be there for the colourful Chalandamarz Festival, a celebration of spring and to visit the famous Olympic Bobsleigh racetrack – great fun!

Horse sleigh St Moritz Switzerland - zoedawes

January 16, 2016

Top 5 Travel Photography Tips

Top 5 Travel Photography Tips

Ever wondered why your holiday snaps don’t come out quite how you want? Do you look at other people’s photos and wonder why they look better than yours? Well, here are 5 Travel Photography Tips from photographer Clare Malley that will help you to take better photos every time.

Travel Photography Tips by Clare Malley

Man dyeing wool Marrakech - claremalleyphotography.com

Man dyeing wool Marrakech – claremalleyphotography.com

Here are my top tips for travel photography, to capture the essence of your travel destinations. They are all simple and easy to apply. You don’t need a fancy camera – an iPhone or something similar, or a basic compact camera, will fit the bill perfectly. I do hope they inspire you.

Travel Photography Tips – #1

Use the Rule of Thirds

Scooters Rovinj, Croatia - rule of thirds - claremalleyphotography.com

Photographs have more impact when the subject is a third of the way across, rather than in the centre. The photos above show the difference that this can make. In the top pictures, the ‘rule of thirds’ is used: the eye is drawn first to the scooter and then it looks further around, to take in its surroundings. The photos underneath don’t use the rule of thirds – they just show a rather snazzy scooter (in Rovonj, Croatia) slap bang in front of you. Use the grid on your camera’s display to use the rule of thirds to compose your shot. (For recent iPhone models, go to Settings > Photos > Camera > Grid, to switch it in or off.) You can also use the grid to make sure the horizon straight.

Travel Photography Tips – #2

The hour before sunrise and after sunset is a wonderful time for landscape photography

Sunrise Croatia - claremalleyphotography.com

The light at these times of day can make for beautiful and unusual photography. This photo was taken just before sunrise, near Motovun in Croatia. If you’re using a digital camera, you can keep the camera shutter open for a comparatively long time to get a good picture so use the ‘shutter delay’ setting on your camera. If you are touching the camera at all it will almost certainly spoil the picture so a tripod can help. Plenty of tripods are available online relatively cheaply, even for smart phones. Some have flexible legs to hold them in position and there are also versions with magnetic feet to keep them steady. If you don’t have a tripod, just balance the camera in position, propping it in place with something, like a bean bag, to keep it absolutely still. Of course, you can take some fab photos without doing any of this!

Travel Photography Tips – #3

Use lines and patterns in the photo to draw the viewer in

County Kerry claremalleyphotography.com

Look at the way the subject of your photograph pulls you in. These photos from County Kerry, Republic of Ireland, demonstrate how this works in different settings. The lines of the rocks on the left draw the viewer’s attention straight to the heart of the lake. The bridge in Killorglin leads you to a building a third of the way into the photo on the right, which adds to the effect. (Red in a photograph attracts the eye quicker than other colours.)

Travel Photography Tips – #4

Check the camera display screen carefully

Girl on phone Croatia claremalleyphotography.com

It sounds very obvious, but it’s so easy to forget to check the screen when you’re somewhere unfamiliar or in a hurry. The difference in the photographs above (also taken in Rovinj, Croatia) is purely down to the camera shutter being open for different lengths of time. To avoid the problem, with an iPhone or iPad camera, tap the screen where the main subject of the photo is, until you are happy with the display. Other basic cameras will have a means of achieving the same effect.

Travel Photography Tips – #5

Don’t be afraid to be quirky!

Sheep by water claremalleyphotography.com

Sometimes, look at your photos from a different perspective. This was part of a dull photo of sheep in a field near a river. Rotating the original 180° and cropping it made it far more eye-catching.

And Finally… I hope these simple travel photography tips will inspire you to try different ideas with your camera and composition. You’ll find you’re learning all the time, acquiring the know-how to be ever-more creative. Have fun!

Clare Malley claremalleyphotography.comClare Malley is a professional photographer working in and around the Lake District. She specialises in portraits of pets and people. She loves travel photography and, whenever the opportunity arises, gets out and about with her camera to capture the sights she sees around her. You can see more of Clare Malley’s photographs here.  Follow her on Twitter @ClareMPhoto and on Instagram @ClareMPhoto

 

 

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