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Photography course on Zanzibar

Posted on 12 Aug 2017 | 2 comments

It was long overdue. We have been using cameras all our lives and manage to get some lucky shots occasionally. Now that we are taking around 1000 photos on average every weekend (!), we thought it was time to get back to basics. Or maybe not basics, but learn some cool tricks from somebody who knows what they are talking about…

One of Jon’s colleagues’ husband just happens to be a person who knows what they are talking about as he is a professional photographer. So with a few other colleagues we decided to organise a weekend of photography lessons with him. And what better place to do this than on Zanzibar, a magical place with photogenic opportunities around every corner.

Think beautiful dhows sailing past the old Stone Town, young guys jumping from the harbour walls, crumpling old buildings, delicious food, delicately renovated old buildings and of course the narrow winding streets and the people of Stone Town itself. There are so many opportunities for photos we never had to wander far from our hotel to try new techniques, perfect some old styles or look for different angles.

We flew over to Zanzibar on Saturday morning, and after a short taxi ride we checked in to our waterfront hotel. You pay a bit of a premium, but it means you can shoot the passing dhows straight from your balcony. And of course the added luxury of a swimming pool was appreciated too…

Jon, Tom, Jude, Carl and Karl in the taxi from the airport to the hotel

Jon, Tom, Jude, Carl and Karl in the taxi from the airport to the hotel

We dumped our bags in the rooms and headed out straight away with the cameras casually slung around our shoulders. Opposite the hotel, the narrow, winding streets of Stone Town started straight away and within minutes we were discussing apertures, exposures and composition whilst testing all our new knowledge on an old archway with colourful clothes hanging behind it in the alleyway.

Jon taking a few shots of this archway just after arriving

Jon taking a few shots of this archway just after arriving

Tom explaining something to Carl, Jon and Jude

Tom explaining something to Carl, Jon and Jude

The slow walk continued with lots of stops to take photos until we reached the Zanzibar Coffee House for a smoothie. Even there we didn’t stop taking photos and talked about a lot of camera and photo related stuff.

morning tea at the Zanzibar Coffee House - Carl, Tom and Karl

morning tea at the Zanzibar Coffee House – Carl, Tom and Karl

We continued our loop through the old town until lunchtime. We found a roof top terrace that served lunch, before heading back to the hotel for a little break. Some of us jumped into the pool for a quick swim before we headed into the library of the hotel to talk through some of the photos we had taken, and to discuss some other topics. One of our favourites was multi-exposures.

Jon, Carl, Karl and Tom comparing photos and learning in the library

Jon, Carl, Karl and Tom comparing photos and learning in the library

Remembering this can be done from the film days, it was great to hear this is also possible on the digital cameras. Unfortunately not on our old SLR, but the new one does have the option. We took it in turns to play around with it, trying to understand its options. Definitely something to try again in the future!

Jude playing around with multi exposure shots

Jude playing around with multi exposure shots

And then it was time to head out again. As we walked to the Forodhani gardens we passed the young guys jumping off the harbour’s walls, all fully dressed! With the setting sun behind them it was a great place to try to capture the perfect shot. Many of them just launch themselves straight of the wall, without even looking if anybody is beneath them. Then climb back up before taking another run up and flying past again, into the cooling waters of the ocean.

Jon getting an impressive shot from one of the guys jumping into the ocean from the Stone Town harbour walls

Jon getting an impressive shot from one of the guys jumping into the ocean from the Stone Town harbour walls

Jon was finding an opportunity to take photos everywhere, as well as many others and progress often was just a crawl. Jude discovered she prefers to take photos of something that’s alive, a person, an animal or even a plant. Maybe she is still trying to find her style in the abstract or artistic photos.

Jude trying to be artistic

Jude trying to be artistic

Jon, Carl and Karl seeking photo opportunities in the narrow streets of Stone Town

Jon, Carl and Karl seeking photo opportunities in the narrow streets of Stone Town

Jude prefers to take photos of people

Jude prefers to take photos of people

We had dinner on the roof top terrace from Emerson on Spice and left the cameras hanging off our chairs for a few hours whilst enjoying an interesting Swahilu influenced degustation menu. We love the fact they try to include the local produce wherever they can, like the bungo ceviche (a local fruit that looks like an orange on the outside).

dinner at Emerson on Spice - Karl, Jude, Heidi, Paul, Tom and Carl (Jon taking the picture)

dinner at Emerson on Spice – Karl, Jude, Heidi, Paul, Tom and Carl (Jon taking the picture)

The biggest challenge of the weekend was yet to come, and it came straight after our sumptuous dinner. Night photography! Something that is always incredibly challenging, and walking through windy streets with sparse lighting certainly didn’t make it easier. But, Tom came to the rescue and showed us how much fun you can have with a zoom burst… the lack of light making the photos even more interesting. It certainly entertained most of us on the way back.

one of Jude's zoom bursts

one of Jude’s zoom bursts

We sat down for a drink back at the hotel, but the mozzies were out in attack mode, so Jude went to bed quickly whilst the others stayed for one more drink. That extra drink probably didn’t help getting up the next morning at 5.30 for our 6am start. But most of us made it and we only had one piker.

We loved the early morning. It was quiet, not a lot of people around yet and the light was tentative at first, getting more intense every minute. Again Jude was drawn by people and managed to get permission a few times to take their photograph. Jon was exploring his artistic view at every corner and loved the unusual shapes and windows of Stone Town.

one of Jon's windows

one of Jon’s windows

Jon working the camera on the beach in Stone Town

Jon working the camera on the beach in Stone Town

Jude expanding horizons by taking still life

Jude expanding horizons by taking still life

After another get-together in the library to discuss and look at everybody’s favourite photos, we decided to have lunch at 6 degrees south, conveniently located just around the corner. As we had the later flight we managed another swim after lunch before jumping in the taxi to the airport. Unfortunately when we got there, the others were also still there. Both our flights had been delayed, and we only just managed to get home that night, as these little planes are not allowed to fly in the dark…

We all agreed to select our favourite 10 photos of the weekend, edit them to our liking and show them in a slideshow to each other one evening. This allowed constructive feedback, not only from Tom but from everybody else as well, it was another good night.

using the presidential suite terrace we can take pictures of the dhows and beach life below

using the presidential suite terrace we can take pictures of the dhows and beach life below

Jon takes this stunning shot of two Maasai walking on the beach from the terrace of the presidential suite at the Hyatt

Jon takes this stunning shot of two Maasai walking on the beach from the terrace of the presidential suite at the Hyatt

2 Comments

  1. Some great shots in there. Looking forward to seeing more soon.

    • Thanks! We just took over 1500 in just 4 days…. oops!!!

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