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.


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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