Luxor's bad before good

Ah Luxor, one of the many true lands of the pharaohs. A beautiful city situated on the banks of the Nile and surrounded by pharaonic history and culture. The temples and tombs here truly are a sight to behold, comparable only to the stunning Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom temples in Cambodia.

Sadly, since the revolution in 2011 with the Arab spring Egypt has suffered an economic crisis and subsequently, many historical sites are being leased to richer Emirate states. Salehadin Castle in Alexandria is an example of such practices. The repercussions of such have affected Luxor in many ways but it is most apparent as a traveller in the prices that are demanded of you for various commodities. Many taxies harass to the point of exhaustion unless you adopt an aggressive tone. People will pretend to befriend you to help you with any task only to hold out their hand in anticipation of compensation at the end. For myself, even after haggling I was often left feeling disappointed in the knowledge that I was still being over charged. Sure, wherever you go there is always a ‘tourist price’ but the attitude here made me lose many moments of enjoyment because I was frustrated that even the simplest of tasks were elevated to unnecessary battles.

An example of the ‘tourist price’ occurred in the Valley of the Kings; an incredible spectacle in itself. However, your 200EGP ticket only buys you entry into three tombs with no photography allowed inside. However, if you pay 600EGP you’re allowed to take photos inside three tombs of your choice. I chose not to trust this and stuck with the normal priced entry ticket. Sure enough, outside the first tomb that I wanted to explore there was a plaque prohibiting photography within. Nevertheless, if you threw the guide 20-50EGP he was more than happy to turn a blind eye while you snapped away. I personally don’t use photography on old historical pictures because they get hammered day after day with flash. If the lighting is okay for a snap on my phone and something really stands out to me I’ll take a shot as a memento, but I don’t encourage the use of DSLR, photography equipment and especially not flash as it just ruins images over time.

In another post I will explore the mental checklist that I believe is essential when planning a trip to Egypt. Even as a seasoned traveller and someone who speaks basic Arabic I was pushed many times to the limit of my patience, so the post will provide useful tips to bear in mind. 

However, Luxor was not without its good bits, as with all adventures! The above are just a few simple things I struggled with in Luxor, especially because the Pharaonic history here is grand and under viewed because of this situation. But I will soon post about the best things I found with my time spent there.

Defining My Long Trip to you

My Long Trip is about many things…

First of all it’s a site that I started to get hired, I have a range of equipment and photography skills that I get contracted out for. But photography isn’t easy. It's a complicated market full of other keen hard working people and you need to stand out. And many have niches in areas I simply don’t and that’s okay. 

But Im different, just like everybody else. My niche though is my ability to travel, to willingly go anywhere I need to, and get you images. Be it volcanos, the vast ocean, arctic land scapes or scolding sun that. Combined with my passion for my work means contracts are there, I’d just like more of them.

I truly don’t think the world has been drowned by many like me, willing to go anywhere anytime in any circumstance just to capture the beautiful images our planet has to offer. And because of that I have been in many ‘hairy’ and fantastic situations. Like anything there’s high’s and lows.

Second half of My Long Trip is about inspiration, getting people out in the world again realising there’s more to it, more importantly more to traveling than a gap year party between college and University with your current or new travel buddies. 

Theres thousands of cultures across our globe and billions of people. This fact a lone means something out there is going to interest you, much more than that latest console, car or sofa. So set goals and realise you can get there and experience anything you want, if you do a bit of research it won’t even cost you an arm and leg either because hostels, tuk-tuks and rooftop train seats create stories and when you can’t do certain things anymore its these stories that you keep forever. I promise that.

Our Beginning in Cairo

My Long Trip makes it to Egypt!

So now, after a few months, I’m back in North Africa. My favourite childhood memories are saturated with fond recollections of visiting my family here as well as exploring the incredible things this land has to offer. Upon my return, I’m older, not much wiser, but vastly more hungry for culture and understanding.

I will be seeing as much as I can alongside reconnecting with my brothers out here - all four of them! So far, the plan consists of the following: pyramids & tombs, Egyptian beaches and a trip into the White Desert - all things I can sink my teeth into! I am most intrigued about taking a trip into the desert wilds where I hope to get some footage of sand dunes and all kinds of colours on the white stones in the famous desert.

Pyramids have always fascinated me, not only due to their size and timeless grandeur, but also because you can eat your KFC chicken wing while staring at some of the oldest and most majestic architecture the human race has to offer. I say this with admiration and heartbreak simultaneously. Some see this as a huge loss of the romantic notions that they imagined growing up from movies and such. However, for me, it creates a fascinating duality between the old world and the new.

Pictures of the Nile have always been something I wished to capture, especially sunsets with reflections on the water. And of course, the stereotypical charm of Arabic and African markets in the evening, full of colours and patterns that fill the viewer with awe and distract the eyes beautifully, lend themselves to be captured by the camera lens.

These are but a few of my photography goals this trip, having always been a fan of historians who contemplate Egyptian and megalithic structures linking into the rest of our species, studying how much our cultures do go back. As always contact me and throw suggestions my way! I am always interested.

The Brecon Beacons

The hills of South Wales

I recently took a trip to the Brecon Beacons and was lucky enough to have a few friends join me on my adventures: Nick, who had previously accompanied me on the successful trek up Snowdon, his partner Grace, and our friend Henry.

Exploring the Brecon Beacons was a great experience and I was immediately struck by the stark contrast between this area of Wales and Snowdonia; their natural beauties presented themselves so differently. Snowdonia was picturesque – a landscape that would not look out of place in a film with vivid shades of greens, scenic mountains, inviting lakes and striking remnants of mines. The Brecon Beacons were also green but lacked texture as a landscape. It was flat and quite barren yet was beautiful in its own way. The landscape was divided by an old Roman road which captivated the mind and left you speculating how on earth it was built all that time ago and the difficulties that must have been faced. Even as a modern hiker you are still completely vulnerable to the elements. Luckily for us, as you can see from the photos, the landscape was finally starting to enjoy spring temperatures after a very recent snowy week that hit Wales. Sadly, this meant that the snow had disappeared just in time for our arrival which left me still in pursuit of the illusive snowy mountain pictures that I find myself forever hunting for. However, I remain optimistic - there is always next year!

We decided to embark on a three peak walk that would encompass Corn Du, Pen - y - Fan and Cribyn. In total, this was roughly a 12-13km trek and easily done in a late morning to afternoon walk. The hike took us roughly 6 after plenty of photography stops and snack breaks. From the pictures the terrain isn’t immediately obvious but be aware that the paths get steep in places! The route we took was east to west with Corn Du being our first the peak. The Roman road starts with a steep incline which left us needing a break and a refuel half way up. After that the hike was filled with beautiful views of an open landscape and plenty of laughing in the strong wind as we weren’t quite sure whether we were about to be blown away at any moment!

It ended up being a fantastic hike across only two of the peaks due to time pressures but for anyone who wants a good day out hiking and maybe even practice for other mountains the UK has to offer this is definitely worth your time!

Just a quick note as to where we stayed in the Brecon Beacons - we camped at a site named Cwmdu. It was in a fantastic and easy location and contained everything you could need except hot drinking hot water. My advice would be to bring a kettle if you’re a tea or coffee maniac like me! As always links below;

As always thanks for reading! Questions are always welcome and you can hit me up via any of the social media links.

A Day With Hannah Couzens

Introduction to Lighting by Hannah Couzens

A brief history of my humble beginnings as a photographer: I jumped straight into shooting anything and everything once my Fujifilm x100f was in my hands, be it streets, portraits, wildlife and of course scenery, with a little abstract and food on the side. I quickly learnt where my passions and weaknesses lay and from there I discovered where I wished to excel. Subsequently, I set out and looked for a variety of photographers known and unknown but all equally excellent at their craft in their own way. That way I could learn from them and practice what skills I felt I needed to be on a higher level of photoraphy.

This is where I found a well-known photographer named Hannah Couzens on Instagram. Hannah was posting stories with tricks and tips, exploring behind the scenes of what it’s like to be a photographer primarily in London, and sometimes all around the UK for portraits, courses and events. I did some research into her history as a photographer which was as impressive as can be. Following this, I jumped straight onto a lighting course.

The course was great, ideal for someone like myself. Hannah split the day into two parts, the first comprising of her imparting vital amounts of theory explanation but by no means overloading us with information. We had a break around 12:00 for lunch. The studio then became our playground where we were tasked to take the best pictures we could with the light provided. We were fortunate enough to have a beautiful model named Natasha as our muse. She was experienced with learners and very happy to pose for us while we relentlessly took photos, putting into practice what we had learnt - how she survives the constant flashes is beyond me! 

In an attempt to direct, I asked Natasha to try different expressions in the light or hold a pose that she was executing. It was a real relief to discover how professional Natasha was as I personally felt there was going to be quite a lot of pressure working with a model, but Natasha couldn’t have been a more perfect model for the course.

There were four of us on the course, varying in age and ability, which to be fair was probably a small class for Hannah, but I think 5-6 people in total is the perfect count with this kind of course as a student. Hannah explained what to look for and what to avoid. I experimented against what Hannah suggested a few times, trying different F numbers etc, and I was surprised that Hannah encouraged the experimentation. It was nice to see a teacher encouraging exploration for yourself just to see different results and in the end combining the two to make your own style.

Consequently, I would highly recommend this course. Whether you are vastly experienced but lacking light knowledge or a beginner who wants to garner such knowledge from a real photographer whose everyday obsession is her work and exploration of light in photography. Hannah has inspired and motivated me to take up more portrait work and stick to bettering my abilities in different areas of photography. Hannah was ideal for me as a teacher and I will definitely be looking for another course soon. 

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