A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about photography

Street photography

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In recent years I have become interested in street photography – both taking my own photos and in the work of others. There is something of the ‘thrill of the chase’ in hunting down these serendipitous moments when the right person walks into the right place to create a striking image for your lens.

Wikipedia defines street photography as featuring ‘unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places.’ While not necessarily urban, or even on a street, these chance encounters are of course more likely to happen where people gather in numbers.

Here is a selection of what I consider to be my more successful images to date, starting close to home:

London

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Portobello Road Market

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Camden Market

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On Regent Street

A zoom lens lets you get in close while remaining unobserved:

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At a festival on Regent Street

The Tube is a fruitful place to spot interesting characters:

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On the Tube

And art exhibitions create opportunities too, as visitors interact with the displays:

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Photography exhibition at the Royal Geographic Society

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Visitors to the Serpentine Pavilion, Kensington Gardens

Elsewhere in Europe opportunities abound too ...

Bologna

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Black and white seems to lend itself especially to this kind of photography, even on a sunny day

Tallinn

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On the streets of Tallinn

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Artist at work, Pikk Jalg

Human statues

These will expect a tip if you take their photo as they pose, but they often look more interesting when on a break:

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In Bologna

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In Lindau

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In Riga

New York City

Is there a better place in the world than NYC for photographing life on the street? I don’t think so:

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Policeman on Broadway

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SoHo street scene

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Near Broadway

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In Empire-Fulton Street State Park, Brooklyn

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On the subway

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Top of the Rock

India

In India much of daily life is played out on the streets, so it seems almost superfluous to describe these photos as street photography! But they make an interesting contrast to those taken in the western world (with apologies to those who have already seen these in my travel blogs):

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In Jodhpur, and in Old Delhi

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In Old Delhi

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In Agra

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In Chowara village

And to finish, a selection from a few other parts of the world:

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Shoppers on Takeshita Street, Tokyo

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In the Plaza de Armas, Santiago

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In Havana, Cuba

Posted by ToonSarah 03:54 Tagged people city photography street_photography Comments (10)

Doors and windows

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I enjoy photographing all sorts of architectural details (more may appear later in this blog) but there is something especially interesting about doors and windows. In a plain building, they are often the most decorative feature, and always they invite you to wonder about what lies within.

I have visited a number of European cities or even entire countries whose windows and/or doors have drawn me to photograph them in significant numbers. Let’s start with some of my favourites.

Iceland

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For the most part Iceland is memorable for its landscapes rather than its architecture, but both in Reykjavik and elsewhere I found its colourful corrugated metal houses very photogenic:

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Riga

The capital of Latvia is best known, architecturally, for its glorious Art Nouveau buildings (which will surely feature sooner or later in my blogs here). But to the south of the old town lies another district that I found equally captivating photographically-speaking, Latgale, more usually known as Maskavas forštate or the Moscow District. This is a traditional working-class area with a mixed population (Russian, Latvian, Jewish and more). The architecture is a mix of faded Art Nouveau grandeur and traditional 19th-century wooden homes that seem quite rural in character and a little out of place so close to a city centre. Here there are few tourists, but a photo around every corner and a rough-edged picturesqueness if you take the time to search it out.

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Tallinn

In Tallinn it was not windows but doors that caught my eye, and my lens. As I walked around the oldest parts of the city, both the lower and upper towns, I was struck by the large number of beautiful wooden doors on the old buildings, and took lots of photos:

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Portugal

A Virtual Tourist Euromeeting (read more about what that is here: You can kill a website but you can't kill friendships) brought me to Portugal’s Algarve. I don’t generally do “sun, sea and sand” holidays but in addition to the usual excellent company of VT friends I also found here plenty of history and some beautiful old buildings in the heart of Faro and even touristy Albufeira. I was especially struck here by the many old wooden doors with filigree metal inlays covering their windows. These seem to be part of a clever design – behind the metalwork are shutters that can be opened to let cool air into the house without any loss of security.

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Doors in Albufeira

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Doors in Faro

The doors often also have the traditional hand-shaped door knockers known as the Hand of Fatima or Mãos de Fátima in Portuguese:

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Door knockers in Faro

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And in Silves

These are more prevalent in Muslim countries on the whole, but very common here too – possibly due to the old Moorish influence which pervades other aspects of the architecture. There are various stories about them, for example that they protect the house from evil. I also read that where there are two knockers on a door one is male and one female, and that visitors would be expected to use the one appropriate to their own gender. As each had a different sound the women of the household would know whether or not they could open the door.

Sibiu

Another Virtual Tourist meeting brought me to Sibiu in Romania, where many of the roof tops have these distinctive small windows often referred to as the “eyes of Sibiu”:

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Eyes of Sibiu

But there were other windows, and doors too, that caught my eye:

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Italy

One of my favourite regions of Italy is Marche, with its ancient stone village atop the rolling hills. Here are a few photos from there:

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Offagna

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Corinaldo

New Mexico

Further afield, the adobe architecture of New Mexico really appealed to me, and the insertion of often brightly painted wooden window or door frames in the earthen walls makes for interesting contrasts:

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Window in Cimarron, NM

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In Santa Fe

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Ranchos de Taos

Morocco

Whether ornate Islamic architecture or more humble homes, there are plenty of photogenic window and doors to be found in Marrakesh and elsewhere in Morocco. The following photos were taken on two visits to Marrakesh:

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Window and door details, Marrakesh

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Window and door detail, Musee Tiskiwin, Marrakesh

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Cell windows in the Medersa Ali Bin Youssef, Marrakesh

Cuenca

Cuenca is known in Ecuador for the attractiveness of its old doors, both on major buildings such as churches but also, as in these photos, on regular houses:

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Doors in Cuenca

Japan

While for the most part Japan is a modern country, you can still find plenty of example of its traditional architecture, with paper screen walls and the calm geometrical simplicity of its doors and windows, as here in the old merchant houses of Takayama:

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Yoshijima-ke, Takayama

During the Edo period Takayama was largely a merchant, rather than a samurai, town, and its architecture reflects that fact. The streets of the old town are lined with houses of a style that accommodated both family and business life. The light inside these houses was beautiful, and the contrast of the heavy dark beams, the lighter lacquered wood used for door frames, pillars etc., and the translucent paper screens was captivating:

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Old merchant houses in Takayama

And let’s finish with a selection from elsewhere in the world:

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Door, Bibi Khanum Mosque, Samarkand

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Windows in Greenwich Village, NYC

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Entrance to the Sobierski Palace, Lviv

Posted by ToonSarah 11:17 Tagged buildings japan italy houses doors windows romania morocco photography iceland ecuador Comments (5)

Faces of the world

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In my last entry, Markets, I mentioned how much I enjoy taking photos of local people on my travels. Of course, people’s willingness to be photographed varies enormously from place to place – they certainly don’t always share my pleasure, I have to confess. I also have to confess to shooting candid photos on many occasions – not only because I realise that my chosen subject may be unwilling to pose but also (and primarily) because I prefer the natural look of an unposed portrait. That said, if anyone sees my camera and asks me to put it away or not take their photo, I always do so.

Africa

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Musician in Essaouira

My experience of photographing people in the various African countries we have visited is quite variable. In Morocco I found most locals very wary of my camera – even to the point that on a recent visit I was challenged to show two men the photo they claimed I had just taken of them, when I had not actually done so. It was only when I showed them every image, right back to those of our flight the previous day, that they believed me. You can imagine that I was very careful not to alert anyone there when taking pictures, and to restrict myself to long range shots. Some of these may find their way into later entries, but this one is focused (literally) on faces.

But in sub-Saharan Africa, on trips to Senegal and the Gambia, I found people much less interested in me and my camera, and portraits were relatively easy to capture.

Gambia

I have already shared some images from the huge street market of Serekunda in my earlier entry on Markets, so here are just a few of the portrait shots I captured there:

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In Serekunda Market

Our tour to the small villages of villages of Albreda and Juffureh offered much better opportunities to take photos of local people. I described that tour as follows on my Virtual Tourist page about the Gambia:

If you have read Alex Haley's book, Roots, have seen the TV series or are simply interested in the history of slavery in The Gambia and West Africa, this tour provides an interesting insight into the places and people behind his story and that of thousands of others. You board a boat in Banjul for the two hour journey on the River Gambia to the villages of Albreda and Juffureh. In the former you visit a museum dedicated to the slave trade and see various monuments to that time, as well as getting the opportunity to observe village life (albeit somewhat distorted by the locals' understandable desire to entertain and thus make money out of the many tourist groups). In Juffureh you meet the village chief (when we visited, February 2014, the role was taken, unusually, by a woman) and also members of Kunta Kinteh's family. The latter was the ancestor of Alex Haley to whom he traced his roots, and this village was his home.

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Kinteh family member, and village chief, Juffureh

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Villager, Albreda

Senegal

To visit the southern part of Senegal, as we did, you need to start in Banjul, Gambia, and catch the ferry across the river – a perfect people-watching and people-photographing opportunity:

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Once in Senegal, we took every opportunity to get out and about from our hotel bases, and met local people wherever we went:

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Local woman in Djifere

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At the market in Ngueniene

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At the market in Ngueniene

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Locals after mass in Mar Lodj, and animal trader in Ngueniene

India

There is no difficulty in India in taking photos of the people. While a few may wave away your camera, most are tolerant of it and many not only willing but eager to pose. As I have said, I prefer a natural look to my photos, so while I will take the posed shots, and show or share them if asked, I usually take a few extra when my subject is less aware that I am doing so.

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Security guard, Khimsar Fort hotel

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In Khimsar

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Locals in Udaipur

On both our recent visits to the country we have spent quite a lot of time driving (or rather, being driven) from town to town, and with all the activity to be seen on and beside the road there are plenty of opportunities to grab some candid shots. I already shared this photo in my Road to Jaipur blog, but it's one of my favourites and I can't resist also including it here:

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Camel herder on the road to Jaipur

Japan

This was another place where I found it very easy to get some good portrait shots, with many people willing to pose or to ignore my camera:

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Wedding at the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

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Rickshaw driver, Takayama

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Market stall-holder, Takayama

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Two different faces of modern Japan - Buddhist nun and bullet train guard

Latin America

On occasion it is worth ‘paying’ for a shot. The lady below, in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, was happy to pose in return for our purchase of one of the little bead key-rings she was selling, while the guy in Jamaica was equally happy to be in my shot once I had bought a cold drink from his shack:

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Others there though were perhaps just too spaced-out to notice my camera at all!

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Guy selling grass at Bob Marley's birthplace

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At the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston

A few more of my favourites from that part of the world, taken on our recent trip to Chile, and a couple of years ago in Ecuador:

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Kebab seller, Machuca, Chile

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Souvenir seller, Rapa Nui

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In the Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile

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Local in Otavalo market

Europe

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Musician, Tallinn

Special events often provide an opportunity for candid photography, such as the Old Town Days celebrations in Tallinn which I saw while at a Virtual Tourist meeting there in 2014, and the same city’s Medieval Days a year later on a return visit:

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Musician and stall-holder, Tallinn Old Town Days

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Stall-holder, Medieval Days fair, Tallinn

Closer to home

Here’s a selection from much closer to home, in London:

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Performers at a carnival at City Hall, London

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Portobello Road Market

And finally, let us remember that portraits don’t always have to include the face to tell you something about the person portrayed, so here are three photos taken from behind the subject:

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In Rajasthan

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Football fan in Lisbon

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Geisha, Kyoto

Posted by ToonSarah 05:42 Tagged people parties london japan india chile guatemala jamaica photography tallinn ecuador rapa_nui street_photography Comments (8)

Markets

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Another of my favourite subjects for photography is a local market – the more colourful and livelier the better. There are two main attractions for me as a photographer – the variety of often unfamiliar produce on display, and the local people who shop or sell in these markets. I will feature ‘People’ as a theme in a later blog entry for sure, but some are certain to find their way into these market photos too!

Some of the best markets I have visited have been in Africa.

Senegal

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Every Wednesday there is a large market in the village of Ngueniene, which draws people from miles around - to buy or to sell, but also, it seemed to me, to meet and gossip. A visit here is a popular outing for tourists, but still they are hugely outnumbered by the locals and it is a totally authentic experience. In fact there are two markets - one for animals and one for everything else - and I mean everything!

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In the general market, Ngueniene

You have to be a little discreet if you want to get photos of the locals here. Most people don't mind you photographing the goods on sale, and some of the men were happy to be in my photos, but on the whole the women preferred not to be photographed. If they asked me not to, I put the camera down, but I have to admit to shooting a few of these pictures "from the hip"!

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There were exceptions to the 'no photo' rule, as you can see

After spending some time in the main market we moved on to the animal market on the other side of the village, travelling between the two on a traditional horse cart. Here there is a much narrower range of goods on offer – goats, sheep, cows, donkeys and horses. Until very recently, our guide told us, all business was done here by exchange - two goats for one sheep, five sheep for one cow and so on. Nowadays people are more likely to use cash, but some trading still goes on.

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The animal market

While the men we saw were obviously here to sell, it also seemed to me to be a great excuse for them to catch up with friends as there was a lot of standing around chatting going on. I found that they were more relaxed and generally seemed less bothered by my camera than in the busy main market.

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Animal traders, Ngueniene

Gambia

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Serekunda market

Serekunda Market is the largest in The Gambia – a mad melee of sellers, shoppers and a few tourists that pack the streets of this small town every day.

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The market takes place all day and every day. Few Gambian homes have freezers, and with frequent power cuts the fridge cannot be relied on to keep food fresh, so the women (and it is still always the women) shop daily for fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, fish etc. The place was so packed it was hard to make progress at times, especially with the occasional car or bush taxi trying to squeeze through the crowds and the many porters with their wheelbarrows (all licensed by the government, with "number plates" to prove it).

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Tomatoes, palm oil and okra among the goods on sale

Marrakesh

The souks of Marrakesh are perhaps the most photographed markets of all. Unlike in sub-Saharan Africa, I’ve found it much harder here to include local people in my photos as they are really not happy to see a tourist camera pointed in their direction, but if you’re discreet then it can be done:

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In the Northern Medina

North of the Djemaa el-Fna the narrow souks weave and intersect in the most confusing (to the visitor) of manners. Locals outnumber tourists here, even though this is the Marrakesh that everyone comes to see. Donkey carts and mopeds add to the confusion and at times it is difficult to even find the space in which to stand and take a photo! The goods on display are so distinctive and vividly coloured that they form my favourite subject-matter here:

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In Latin American countries too we have been to some wonderful markets. Here is a selection of photos from that part of the world:

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Market day in Petzun, Guatemala

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Bananas for sale, Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala

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Bananas sellers, Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala

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Pisac market stall, Peru

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Pisac, Peru

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Mercado Central, Santiago, Chile

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Roast pig, Otavalo Market, Ecuador

But you don’t have to leave Europe to find colourful markets. Let me finish with a selection of images from several European cities:

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In Riga's Central Market

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Local market in Tallinn

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In Sibiu's produce market

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Melons for sale in Bologna's Mercato delle Erbe

If you've enjoyed this page you'll find lots more of my market photos in my blog entries about Jaipur, Otavalo, Pujili and Munnar, among others.

Posted by ToonSarah 06:38 Tagged people food india peru market bologna fruit chile guatemala romania morocco photography riga vegetables tallinn ecuador marrakesh gambia senegal Comments (8)

Birds of the world

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This is the first of what will be a series of occasional blog entries built around my love of photography. Unlike most travel blogs, this one will be organised by theme rather than destination, starting with one of my favourite subjects of recent years, birds.

I am not an especially keen bird-watcher and feel no need to tick off lots of species, but I love the challenge of capturing their bright colours and active behaviours with my lens.

Gambia

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Speckled pigeon

One of the best places we have visited for bird watching is the Gambia, especially at Mandina, an eco-lodge in the Makasutu Cultural Forest. The bird-watching is known to be especially good in this area – the naturalist Chris Packham regularly brings specialist tours here:

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Bee-eaters - swallow-tailed and white-throated

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Firecrest, Goliath heron, Hooded vulture

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Bearded barbet, Pelican and Plantain eater

Senegal

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Egret

Souimanga Lodge in Fimela, Senegal, was another fantastic place for bird-spotting. We had our own private walkway and shaded jetty overlooking the water, from where we could see a myriad of water-birds, especially in the late afternoon.

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Pied Kingfisher

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Spur-winged Lapwings

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Little Bee-eater

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Village weaver

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Senegal dove

Galápagos

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Waved albatross

But nowhere is quite like the Galápagos, not least because there you can get much closer to the wildlife than elsewhere because the birds (and animals) have never learned to fear people. Unfortunately the camera I had back then was less good than my current one, but nevertheless I got some photos worth sharing here.

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Juvenile Galápagos hawk

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Nazca booby chick

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Female magnificent frigatebird

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Magnificent frigatebird and Blue-footed booby

By the way, if interested you can see many more of my Galápagos photos, both birds and other wildlife, in a series of blog entries starting here: The adventure begins

India

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Black kite

Our recent visit to Kerala also gave me some opportunities to photograph birds, both inland in Periyar National Park, on the backwaters, and at the coast:

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Grey heron, Periyar

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Egrets by the coast

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Darter, Kerala backwaters

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Heron, Kerala backwaters

In Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan we also saw lots of birds:

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Scops owl and Rufous tree pie

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Peacock

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White-throated kingfisher and Bulbuls

I also enjoyed photographing the Demoiselle cranes of Khichan:

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Demoiselle cranes

In England

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Chaffinch, Kielder Water

Closer to home I take fewer bird photos but I make an exception when I get the chance to visit somewhere like Kielder’s Birds of Prey Centre or Eagle Heights in Kent:

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Bateleur eagle, Eagle Heights

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Bald eagle, Eagle Heights

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Tawny Eagle, Eagle Heights

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Caracara, Eagle Heights

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Ural owl, Kielder Birds of Prey Centre

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Harris hawk, and Peruvian striped owl, Kielder Birds of Prey Centre

And of course there are occasions when we are out and about and a pretty bird catches my eye:

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Black-headed gull (winter plumage), Druridge Bay

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A very English robin, Tynemouth

Posted by ToonSarah 04:29 Tagged birds wildlife india kerala photography national_park periyar rajasthan galapagos ecuador gambia senegal khichan Comments (14)

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