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Photo Forum Everything on Travel Photography, from what kind of equipment to how to light a subject, moderated by Stuart (Reggie) Martindale, a pro English photographer
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  #1  
Old 17 Nov 2009
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Morocco Photography tips

Hi,

I saw that a lot of guys here went to Morocco or Africa and I'm planning my first trip there, so I'm quite enthuziastic about it. Actually this is my first big trip, so I have a lot of reading to do in these remaining months.

I will be there in March 2010 and as far as I read, it's a good time to be in Morocco.

I want to make the best photos I can, but I am bit puzzled with the gear I need to take. So far my photography experience is quite limitted and I have never taken photographs of things similar to what I will find there.

I currently have a Nikon D80 + 10-20 wide sigma lens + 35mm f2 fixed lens and a good tripod.

My questions for the ones of you that carried photographic gear are these:

1. Is it worth to take my tripod? It's a Manfrotto and it's not that light (but not too heavy either). In the last trip I made, the nightshots were the best ones from the whole trip and I did not have the tripod with me, so I would say it's better to take it this time.

2. What choice of lens is the best? I can buy one especially for this trip, but don't really know what to choose. Should a go for a "normal zoom", or a telephoto zoom? Do I need a 2.8 (bigger, heavier) or I can do just fine with a normal zoom? I was looking at photos on the web and I think a zoom is a must, especially in the desert and in the wild, but maybe i'm wrong? Of course I want to be as light as possible, but still have *almost* everything I need in terms of focal lenght.

3. How did you carry your gear on the bike? I will be riding on a XT600 with an Acerbis tank and I can only fit a small tankbag (wolfman enduro) (the d80 + 10-20 + 35 just fit)

4. How did you carry your gear when in big cities and crowded places? I've read that they steal a lot, so care should be taken I suppose

5. How about the desert? What did you do to protect your gear from excessive sand/dust, especially when switching lenses? I am usually not worried about this and never had problems with changing lenses if it's a bit raining or dusty outside, but desert and tons of sand is a different story.

6. Did you do both photos and movies? I am talking about having a DSLR and a movie camera, so having to deal with both. Is it a bit of a strech? I really want to document this trip as good as I can and I would like to have both photos and movies, but I am afraid that if I will want to do both, I will fail to do either of them to an acceptable level.

7. How do the local ppl react when you take a picture with them? Are they angry, happy, indiferent? What is the best approach to deal with people if you want to take pictures with them? Take the picture first and then see what happens or tell them before? Their culture is very different from mine so I don't really now what to expect.

8. How about the owners of buildings/animals? Is is ok to take pictures with their belongings?

9. Are there any special issues or things related to muslim religion that are somehow connected to photography that I should be aware of?

10. Pfu, I think you are already bored now ... but the last question is about general tips and tricks you might have about things not to miss, maybe better angles for common objects, or general advice you might share about photography in Morocco (e.g. a camel looks better if you take a picture from a 45degree angle then from the side)


Thanks for reading and hope to get some advice from you.

Adrian from Cluj Napoca, Romania
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  #2  
Old 17 Nov 2009
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Ummm quite complicated there but for any sand dunes etc wait until near sunset to get color and shadow. (or sunrise)
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  #3  
Old 17 Nov 2009
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Hi ekkemu,

I was in Morocco last March and took several hundred photos. The trip lasted the whole month and covered some 8000km over tarmac and piste.

I also have a Nikon D80 but my main lens is an 18-135mm lens, which is quite versitile. I did carry a tripod, but don't think I actually used it. The night photos that I took were limited to the Djemma el Fna in Marrakesh, and these were hand held.

I was travelling in a landcruiser so cannot comment on tank bags. The camera used to travel in the cubby box between the two front seats. Dust is a big problem when out in the desert. In the end I used to wrap the camera in a clean Tshirt to keep the dust off it.

In cities, as always, you have to keep your wits about you. I tend to carry my equipment in a backpack. It the area is very crowded I am likely to carry it on the front. The camera, though, I tend to carry round my neck and in the open - where I can reach it easily and quickly. tbh I never felt threatened because I carried the equipment openly. I guess the question is, are you prepared to risk the camera versus having it to hand for photo opportunities.

People react differently to being photographed. In el Fna, there are a lot of performers and snake charmers who want to be paid for photographs - and the asking price can be as high as 10euro - which is way over the top. In rural areas, in particular the women folk, dislike their photo being taken, although you can sometimes come to some arrangement. I don't think there were issues taking photos of buildings but obviouly avoid anything remotely military.

My photos are here:

http://s439.photobucket.com/albums/qq118/SpinDrift/Morocco%20April%202009/?albumview=slideshow

regards

Reinhard
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  #4  
Old 17 Nov 2009
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I would refrain from changing the lens in dusty conditions. The risk of contaminating the sensor is high and the conditions less than ideal to try to clean it on site.

R
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  #5  
Old 18 Nov 2009
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Computer and Console

Hi Reinhard

Could you please tell us a bit about your computer console and how it performed on the offroad sections
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  #6  
Old 18 Nov 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reinhard Lenicker View Post
Hi ekkemu,

want to be paid for photographs - and the asking price can be as high as 10euro - which is way over the top.
Aham, good tip! And how much did you end up paying? Would they ask EUR or DH?

Thanks,
Adrian

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Old 18 Nov 2009
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Adrian,

They would ask for dh. When we were caught out be a ‘friendly’ tout, we gave quite a bit less and walked away. But beware that the reaction could be low level verbal aggression. It is best to ask and agree a price up front.

At el Fna, the performers are there to make money – so if you photograph them, expect to pay. The food stalls on the other hand are there to sell and don’t seem to be too bothered by people taking photos, although they would appreciate you buying something from them. There is a meat market on the right hand side of the square where taking photos seems to be a big no-no.

Ultimately, I suppose it boils down to basic respect – the locals probably get irritated of people just taking photos of them as if they are on show. It helps to get talking and to ask before taking photos of them – they could agree and not ask for payment. The problem is where someone appears to be friendly, encouraging and accommodating and then asks for payment afterwards.

Regards

Reinhard
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  #8  
Old 18 Nov 2009
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Tony,

The laptop is actually a self refurbished one running Windows 2000, it dates back to around 2000 and is primarily used for navigation. The laptop is mounted on a laptop stand purchased from a company in the US and easily found through auctioning sites. It consists of a tripod that is permanently fitted to exiting mounts in the vehicle and a removable tray on which to secure the laptop. The laptop and gps’s were plugged into a third (leisure) battery so that the equipment could be left on with the ignition off and the keys removed.

For navigation I used Garmin’s Mapsource and nRoute. Mapsource is used for route planning and setting up waypoints. nRoute is used while whilst driving to show your actual position, to show the planned route and waypoints and to record your tracks. GPS positioning was achieved by connecting a Garmin GPSmap60 (other models and gps dongles also work) via the serial port (it can also be connected through USB). The digital maps used were Olaf’s Morocco maps – which are quite detailed. A world map and maps for various countries are also available from different sources, with varying levels of detail. Most of the waypoints I used on this trip came out of Chris Scott’s Sahara Overland, and there are more in his more recent Morocco Overland book. By varying the zoom resolution it was possible to view the tracks being driven and the next waypoints on the screen. This made navigation easy. There were cases where the tracks were clearly defined and all we had to do was ‘follow the road’. However, there were instances where the tracks either became confused or disappeared or we decided to leave the tracks and go cross country. It was quite easy for us to navigate towards the next waypoint/destination in those situations. What this particular software did not do is turn by turn navigation – and to be honest, I would not want that anyway. The biggest advantage of using a laptop as opposed to a standard vehicle gps is the size of the screen, which allows you to see a larger area and more detail.

Having said all that: beware an over reliance on the laptop (read GPS) for navigation. It can break down and without a suitable backup (second gps, paper maps, compass, hard copy of waypoints etc) and knowing where you are, you could get into trouble in the more isolated areas. There was a thread on this recently.

I did use the laptop to make backups of my photos as I went along but because of its age it was quite slow for this purpose. Some people also use the laptop to play music through the car stereo but I didn’t bother with that.

Apologies to Ekkemu for going OT.

regards

Reinhard
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  #9  
Old 18 Nov 2009
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double post -- removed
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  #10  
Old 18 Nov 2009
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Keep it simple

Choice of lens/camera really depends on what you want the pictures for, but as a general rule I would always opt for simple equipment. Even with a car you will spend a lot of time on foot so you won't want to carry loads of kit around. More important is the changing lens part; not only sandy/dusty, but a general fiddly business particularly in crowded places. Personally I would go for one lens which does virtually everything; I also use D80 and have found Nikkor 18-200VR lens gives perfectly adequate images for small prints and definitely for web. I have avoided D3 or any of the "professional" cameras with larger sensors as you then need much bigger, heavier lenses and unlikely to find as versatile lens as the 18-200 and, unless you need the higher resolution it is a waste of time (and money!). You might also take specialist lenses such a macro, but even then I have found the 18-200 to give good close-up/nature images.
One tip on images: switch off the auto white balance if you want consistent colouring and nice sunsets etc.; you cannot do that with preset programmes, but easy enough to use AP, SP or even...manual!
Only downside I have found with this combination is tendency to "hunt" on autofocus in poor lighting/low contrast.

You can see some of my results at:
Morocco

Good luck and enjoy what will certainly be a very photogenic experience!
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Old 18 Nov 2009
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keep it simple

@ nomadintent:

Thanks for the reply. Your suggestion with a 18-200 VR is a good one from many aspects:

1. I can carry only 1 lens
2. I don't need to change lenses - fewer chances for dust to get in the camera

But has also some drawbacks:

1. When using a long focal lenght, it gets pretty long and is pretty vulnerable and also the plastic body does not look very tought to me, sand can catch in the plastic rings?
2. Fixed lens - better quality - smaller, faster focus (but you need to change them all the time).

However, the 18-200 is in the top 3 choices, but I need to think about it a little bit more.


Thanks again,
Adrian

Last edited by ekkemu; 18 Nov 2009 at 22:28.
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  #12  
Old 19 Nov 2009
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D80 + 18-200vr

I have the same as Nomad and agree with everything he says.

To counter the extended lens issue I bought myself a Joby Gorilla flexible 'mini' tripod which I strut against myself if nothing else is available.Not bad for amateur usage.

Reinhard,

Thanks for reply.I will now go ferretting for tripod+tray manufacturer.If u can remember a name I would appreciate it.
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  #13  
Old 20 Nov 2009
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Tony,

try Ram Mounts.

cheers

R
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