7 Super Shots

This post has been inspired by two things: firstly I am taking part in HostelBookers 7 Super Shots, the challenge from the HostelBookers blog to post seven travel photos I’ve taken that fit into various categories.

Secondly, the Ansel Adams exhibition at London’s Maritime Museum in Greenwich, which I visited last weekend. It not only allowed me to check out some of my favourite landscape shots of all time up close, but encouraged me to work harder on improving my own photography skills. It’s closing in just over a week, so get down there fast if you want to catch it — the photos are gorgeous and full of interesting ideas about how best to capture natural landscapes.

I’m off to the Traverse blogger conference in Brighton this weekend and will be taking various workshops there to help me improve my photography — among other things — but here are some of my favourite images up until now!

A photo that takes my breath away

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I’ve been to some truly wonderful far-flung places, and yet strangely it’s a photo of something I look at every single day that most takes my breath away. For as long I’ve been a part of London, the Shard has too, so it doesn’t look to me — as it does to some — like a scar on the skyline. I can see it from my bedroom window, and as such it’s usually one of the first things I see when I wake up every morning and the last thing I look at before I go to bed at night.

On completely clear nights it shines so bright as to dazzle, but on others it merely glimmers, or it’s obscured by cloud and all but disappears. Similarly, perspective really matters. Take in the view from Greenwich Park and it plays second fiddle to Canary Wharf, whereas if you catch a glimpse of it from inside SE1, it’s a glass monster bearing down on you.

It had been a grey, drab start to the new year and I was finding the early mornings tough, but on the particular day I took this photograph, perspective and light and timing worked together in my favour. Dawn was breaking in the most dramatic fashion, giving shepherd’s and commuters everywhere fair warning that they should cling to this moment, which in its very nature would be both breathtakingly beautiful and dishearteningly brief.

A photo that makes me laugh or smile

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“The giraffe will eat it straight from your mouth,” they said. “Everyone who does it loves it,” they said. As you can see the giraffe did indeed take the pellet from my mouth, but not without KISSING MY WHOLE FACE FIRST.

What I didn’t know as this photo was being taken was that that big rough tongue was about to slide its way up my face, leaving strings of giraffe saliva attached to my chin as it pulled away. Who could be a mad at  a giraffe, though? Their big blinky heavily fringed eyes — so cute! Their silly gallopy runs — so hilarious! I can’t lie…  I was grinning from ear to ear the whole time I was at Nairobi Giraffe Centre. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had with wild animals in captivity. Interacting so physically with these gentle giants was an utter joy and the memory of it still makes me smile.

A photo that makes me dream

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I’ve said before that the Gili Islands are my go-to happy place — the little piece of paradise I like to always keep in the back of my mind. I love this shot because it reminds me on the murkiest of days that places like this really do exist. And not just on some luxury holiday website or in some travel magazine, but in my memory.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to go somewhere this beautiful even once in my lifetime, but it also makes me hope that I’ll get to go again — that someday in the not too distant future, I’ll be lying on a beach, slurping on fresh watermelon and gazing out at a view much like this. And that makes me happy. It really does.

A photo that makes me think

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Culturally, some places are easier and more interesting to travel around than others. One of the reasons I found Bali such a rewarding destination was the particularly chilled-out brand of inclusiveness and spirituality exuded by the Balinese people. I liked the way they’re so serious and devout and ceremonial, and yet so unhurried and mellow and friendly.

There’s nothing private or apologetic about the way they practise their religion. There are offerings laid out daily in the street, temples built in to every home, daily rituals with incense and processions in each family compound. And yet it all feels very gentle — the smiles, the colours, the pace of life. The meditative attitude of the Balinese is both captivating — as can be seen in this photograph — and catching which is why, I suppose, the island has a reputation for attracting artists, free thinkers and soul searchers.

A photo that makes my mouth water

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I’ve eaten some amazing food on my travels, I really have. Some countries have spoiled me rotten with steaks the size of an actual cow (thanks Canada), others have seduced me with bubbling cheese (France), buttery waffles (Belgium) and tangled bowlfuls of fresh pasta (Italy). Well done, abroad, I appreciate each of your various efforts. But none of you did what we did, made what we made… not ONE of you came up with anything close to the holiest of holey tea-time snacks: the humble but glorious crumpet.

At least that’s what I thought until I went to Morocco, where they have baghrir — sweet crumpet-like pancakes that won me over immediately both aesthetically and sensually. Traditionally they’re supposed to be eaten with honey, but I had them with yoghurt and jam — and mint tea and coffee on the side. I do declare it the breakfast of champions, and I would have it every day if I could.

A photo that tells a story

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The story behind this photo is a sad one as stories go, but one that as a witness I’m in the rare and privileged position of being able to tell. You see, when I was in Kenya it wasn’t all jollying off on safari and making out with giraffes — I was also working as an intern for Reuters.

The man in the photo is called Eric and he, his wife and six children had just been evicted from their home in the Mau Forest. Here he is carrying two chickens and a pack containing their belongings out of the forest to a grass shelter they have just built in the mud and pouring rain. The people of the Mau Forest had had their land seized from them by the government, which was claiming it was never really theirs to begin with. It caused a mini humanitarian crisis that gained almost no media attention at all — particularly in the west — and it was pretty much just us, the Kenyan Army and the Red Cross on the scene. I never found out how this story turned out in the end for Eric and his family, but you can read more about it in the official Reuters’ report.

A photo that I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot)

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I’m not very good at getting up earlier than I really have to, but I learnt a valuable life lesson the morning I took this photo: if you make an effort to tear yourself away from your bed to watch the sunrise, you will almost definitely not regret it.

I was on a wild camping and canoeing expedition in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park in early September, and there was no part of the day in which the turning leaves did not look brilliant and beautiful reflected in the lakes under the last of the summer sun. Sunsets were sublime, and yet nothing compared to waking up to the  haunting sight of the mist lingering silently the water at first light. As the sun rose, the mist also lifted, leaving the water placid and untroubled.

There’s something intensely peaceful about this shot that in every way reflects the mood I was in when I took it. I love the way the lake is so perfectly still and smooth that it looks like a solid object — like polished hematite.

If you happen to like what you see, follow me on Instagram to see what I’m up to on my travels and adventures. I love looking at beautiful photos, so if you’ve taken any you’re particularly proud of be sure to leave a link in the comments so I can have a peek at your efforts and follow you on Instagram too!

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4 Comments on “7 Super Shots

  1. Pingback: Postcards from Brighton | An Unfamiliar Sky

  2. Pingback: Equity Point Hostel, Marrakech: A spa, baghrir and rooftop beers | An Unfamiliar Sky

    • Haven’t been up there yet, but determined to soon!

      Canada is utterly beautiful and so peaceful. I wholeheartedly recommend!

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