Since I've been practising DSLR photography (you can see other posts about my learning process here, here, here, and here), I really wanted to bring my camera on our trip to Turkey, Egypt, and the UAE. We were both a bit nervous about having it with us because we'd be very sad if it were lost or stolen, but I figured it was worth the risk. It's not every day that I get to practice taking photos in cities other than my own, never mind on the other side of the world.
I wasn't totally sure that my skills would be good enough to make a difference in the quality of the photos but it turned out that, skills or no skills, the camera made a huge difference. And since I wasn't sketching or doing any other creative activities, composing pictures gave me the opportunity to keep my creative muscles engaged.
The biggest thing I learned about travel photography was, simply, to take photos. I've always felt uncomfortable drawing attention to myself with a camera, and hate how touristy it makes me look. On trips where I've spent months in one city, there is plenty of time to wander without a camera, to blend in, to be present. But with only 19 days to see 5 cities, I quickly realized that if I wanted photos, I needed to be taking photos. All the time. I couldn't tell myself, oh I'll get a picture of that tomorrow since I most likely wouldn't be back tomorrow. I had to overcome self-consciousness and hesitation and stop every time I saw something that I wanted to remember. I had to really think about what I was trying to capture; carefully composing shots and trying different angles. It pushed me to prioritize photography and gave me a new appreciation for the art.
There were also many times that I had to decide if I wanted to be completely in the moment or be taking pictures, since it can be hard to truly experience something with a camera stuck to your face. During my printmaking workshop, for instance, I was disappointed with the rushed quality of the photos I took, as I was also trying to listen to my guide and learn the steps. I tried to balance it out by taking a few photos then putting the camera away and looking with my eyes rather than the camera lens. Other times, like in the breathtaking Hagia Sophia, I walked with my camera in hand, snapping anything and everything that might help me capture the experience.
I know from experience that memories fade and that these pictures will be the best way to call to mind the experience of life in these cities: the colours, textures, and flavours. While it was fun taking pictures of famous landmarks, I was a little surprised to realize that the pictures I enjoy the most are of the more minute details - the stuff that might not show up in a Google search of that city. These are what I have shared with you, for the most part. You can easily find pictures of the pyramids that far outshine mine, but you might not see Cairo exactly how I saw it, whether you visit it yourself or look at someone else's pictures.
This is how I saw Cairo. And Istanbul, Luxor, and Abu Dhabi. Enjoy.
Are there things I would have done differently? For sure. I wish I had been a little bit bolder, a little more ready to ask for permission to take photos of market stalls and of people. Any images of people were taken without their knowledge and I don't feel great about that. I wish I had slowed down a bit more in some instances and looked for more minute details. I took a lot of generic street shots that feel pretty bland to me. I wish I had done a little more research and knew ahead of time what sorts of things to look for.
All in all though I'm happy with what I got, and happy with what I learned. I feel more excited about photography than ever and can't wait until our next trip!