Category: Tunisia

Even History Changes


This is a picture that I made while in Tunisia a few years back.  It is the Roman amphitheater of El Jem.  Click on El Jem to learn about it.  It was a marvelous sight to visit.  Seeing this picture while looking back through my older pictures, it reminded me of something about history in general.

History is remembered and written by people, often with agendas.   Over the years it gets brought up over and over again in various text books, movies, historical novels, etc.  As the stories are told, they are changed little by little until the true facts are lost to time, if they were ever known.  And we cannot even rely upon science to get it correct.  The archeologists unearth details but are forced to place them into a context based on other aspects of the culture of the time that are believed to be true, or on other estimates of time based on surrounding artifacts, soil, etc.  Over time these other factors are refined and estimates change.

If we study history today, it isn’t the same history that earlier generations learned.  It makes me stop and wonder about everything we learn or think we know.  What we believe, or know, changes with time, and with cultural changes.

Tunisian Commerce

While I am waiting for it to warm up and our snow to melt here, I went back and looked at some of my pictures that I took in Tunisia in 2010 and decided to share a few with you.  It helps to remind us of others who live in a warmer climate.

Don’t be fooled by their dress.  For us it was hot but for them it was cool and that is why they are wearing jackets, etc.  It is all relative.



This is why we went to Tunisia … to see Roman ruins.  Dougga is probably one of the best preserved of all the old Roman cities.  You can see more of my pictures from Tunisia by selecting Tunisia under categories on the top right of the page.  That will bring up just the articles about Tunisia.  After you have done that just scroll down the articles.   There are quite a few different articles, including YouTube videos of our daily tour of the country.  The videos will be in reverse order.  You will see the last day first, so if you wish to look at them in-order, continue scrolling down to the first day, April 13.  But there were even more articles about Tunisia that I posted before I put the videos up, so you can continue scrolling back in time to also see them.

The above picture has been redeveloped as a “Film Noir” look-alike using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.  I like this effect with the old ruins.

Tunisian Salt Flats & Desert

Click on any picture and cycle through the set.

I have been working on some pictures that I took in Tunisia in April 2010 so I thought that I would show you some to give you a little variety.  These pictures were taken as jpeg files and then tweaked in LR4 and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.  Even though the light was strong and harsh and they were jpeg pictures, they still turned out to make nice B&Ws.  I’m still experimenting with different development settings and haven’t decided on a preferred setting but these are close.

BTW, if you take any pictures in the Sahara desert in Tunisia, protect your camera from the very fine sand which gets into everything and can ruin a camera.  Zoom lenses do not function well for long if you get caught in even a minor sand storm.  I also coughed for weeks after returning.

Down the Road

(click on picture to see larger version)

Taken in Tunisia while crossing salt flats on the way to the Sahara desert.  The overcast is not due to rain clouds … it’s sand in the air.  As we approached this area we could see what looked like storm clouds on the horizon ahead of us, but they turned out to be clouds of blowing, real fine sand.

Are Security Concerns Influencing the Art of Photography?

As I indicated earlier in previous articles, I have been thinking about taking different pictures since I probably won’t be traveling as much overseas.  Some of my old-time favorite photographers have been referred to as “street photographers”.  Photographers like Robert Doisneau and Henri Cartier-Bresson are well-known for capturing the real lives of typical people.  Since these types of shots are very similar to many of the street shots that I have most enjoyed while traveling internationally, I have been considering doing street photography (or at least the equivalent for today) around where I live; but, now I’m concerned.  In the first 11 days of 2011 we have had 11 homicides in the county where I live … many out and on the streets.

I am not sure that there is much to photograph out and on the streets in the suburbs like where I live.  I try to take frequent walks through our neighborhood when the weather is nice and I always take a camera and rarely see anything remarkable to photograph.  As an alternative I have been thinking about driving to other areas where there is a lot more life occurring out on the streets and where the houses and buildings are older with more character, but these are the areas where crime and homicides are on the rise … some of them getting quite close to our neighborhood.  One of the problems is that you never know how someone is going to react to being photographed.  He could have just committed a crime around the corner and doesn’t want a record of his being in the neighborhood, and he might be packing a gun.

Another type of photography that I appreciate is landscape photography … natural landscapes.  Since street photography doesn’t look very promising, I started trying to find locations not too far away where I could do landscape photography.  But, since I had found that street photography wasn’t too safe, I decided to investigate the safety of landscape photography.  I found that it can be equally bad.  One of my current favorite photographers (who I won’t name here for obvious reasons) told about one of his experiences of being followed back to his car by two guys with the intent to rob him while he was out taking landscape photographs.  He surprised me when he mentioned that he now carries a gun when out taking pictures.

OK, what about in Washington D.C. around the monuments and government buildings?  Well, this type of photography has another aspect of concern, and that is restrictions on photographing certain buildings and areas.  Ever since the rise in terrorist attacks, many major cities have cracked down on photographers so one has to be careful of what he shoots, even if it is only a building.  You can see a summary of this situation if you click here.

The above security concerns are affecting photography equipment.  In the current photography blogs and forums, I now find that many photographers have new constraints on their camera bags.  It used to be that it only had to be big enough to hold their gear and be padded, water-repellent, etc. for the protection of their gear.  Now it needs to not look like a camera bag since they don’t want to draw attention to the fact that they are photographers and that they are carrying $1000s of gear.  This concern is also now spilling over to the actual cameras themselves … the smaller it is, the easier it is to conceal.

A bigger concern, other than my security concerns, is the impact that the above changes might be having on the art of photography.  I am getting concerned that the nature of photography is being influenced by security concerns.  I believe that the nature of what people photograph is changing and that future historians will not have a rich collection of today’s equivalent of street photographs to look at to see what life was like in our neighborhoods.  The only thing they will have are the newspaper crime scene photos.  While there is a preponderance of cameras and people taking family pictures today with their phones, etc. very few of those photographs will be preserved for posterity.  The true photographers are changing their subject matter.  We now have large collections of natural landscapes as they occur within our park systems, and we have more and more fashion shots, and we have plenty of wildlife shots.  What we don’t have are large collections of photos about the normal lives of people as it occurs within our towns and cities where the majority live.  We also still have a large number of photographs being taken in tourist locations around the world, well at least outside the U.S. … but that might be changing, note the last paragraph.

While the above may only be a concern of mine and be difficult to prove, I would like to use just one photographer as an example.  I have not communicated with him about this but take a look at his web site, Boxed Light.  He is what I consider to be an excellent photographer, who is not a pro.  He professes to enjoy shooting everything and says that he cannot be labeled as to type of photography.  But, look at his opening page which is a good collection of many of his excellent photographs.  What do you notice?  Yes, he shoots quite a variety of subjects … but they are all safe subjects.  I contend that his web site is an example that photographers are shifting to artsy and safe subjects.   Another source for watching the changing nature of photography subjects is to look at the New York Times pictures as shown on Lens over a period of time.  While they still continue to show the horrors from around the world, their pictures from within the U.S. are changing … just an opinion of mine.

What about you?  Do you shy away from certain subjects?  I know that it is a concern of mine and that I’m still searching for safe future photographic venues of interest where I can go and take pictures for the fun of it.

PS, for those of you who recently toured in Tunisia with me, all is not well in Tunisia … there have been riots and demonstrations in various areas with many killed.  Click here.

Travel Photography While Touring with a Group

Tunisia, April 2010

If you do a little research about how to take great pictures, you will find many references which make great claims on the values of using a tripod, of taking the picture during the optimum time, like during the golden hours, or when the sun angle is just right, of having a pro camera, etc.  These are all very good recommendations if you are a professional and/or have all of the time and money necessary, but I usually don’t; so I am going to share some of what I have learned while traveling with groups.

I like to travel, or tour, with small groups where someone else arranges all of the transportation, stops, meals, lodging, etc. so that I can concentrate on seeing the country and taking pictures.  I find that the travel companies who conduct adventure travels to foreign lands with small groups of 16 or less to be ideal.  There are several companies doing that but I have only utilized Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) so while my experiences might be a little biased, I have found OAT does a great job and I have never been disappointed traveling with them in over 8 countries.  The advantages, relative to photography while traveling with small groups, are:

  • The tour companies know the most interesting places.
  • You can concentrate on taking pictures rather than trip logistics.
  • Small groups usually manage to get to heavily visited sites either early or late when there are no crowds.
  • They can take you to places that the larger groups can’t due to vehicle sizes, etc.
  • They are more flexible in making stops … for example, if I’m interested in getting particular types of pictures, the tour leaders usually will make special stops so I can get them.

The disadvantages are:

  • Location and timing are as arranged by the tour company.
  • You have to move along with the group and your fellow travelers can get in the way.
  • There is no time, or space, for using tripods.

While traveling with a small group is better than with a large group, there are still things that you want to do if you wish to make the most of the pictorial opportunities.

First, and foremost, go with the flow, take an interest in all around you, and take pictures.  Having your eyes open and having a good eye for pictures are more important than having the ideal equipment.  Having the right frame of mind while being flexible and enjoying everything around you, even if it is pouring rain or others are griping, is far more conducive to enjoying your trip and will result in far better pictures than if you spend all of your time complaining about the need to change schedules, etc.

There are generally two types of travel photographers … those who take pictures of everything and hope that at least some of the pictures are great … and those who continually look for the perfect shot and only take a few shots.  I contend that the ideal falls in between these two styles.  I generally tend to take lots of pictures but I always try and visualize the end result before taking most pictures.  There have been many cases where I took multiple photos and didn’t know whether or not any of them would work until I got back home and reviewed and tweaked them on my computer.  I recommend taking the picture when you have the chance, but when you get home review them all and try to learn from your mistakes.  I never delete a picture while traveling … I do it from my computer after I get home and have analyzed what went wrong.  If you do this, the quality of your pictures will improve with each trip.

Another recommendation is to always look behind you as you walk through the villages, markets, etc.  You will get many excellent pictures that others in your group will probably miss since they weren’t looking.

Also learn to hold the camera as still as you can.  Modern cameras with image stabilization are a big help for “walk-abouts” without tripods, but they are not perfect … you still need to hold the camera still and squeeze the shutter softly.  If there is something available that you can rest the camera against, like a door frame, etc., take advantage of it.

Another good idea is to take spares of everything. Take extra memory cards, extra batteries, extra charger for the batteries, and an extra camera and/or lenses.  See my earlier posting for additional thoughts:  How to Safely and Easily Carry a Camera You might quibble about having an extra charger but I have been on two trips where someone’s charger quit working.

Also travel light.  Don’t burden yourself down with heavy, large camera bags with all of the possible gear that you might need.   I generally choose my cameras and lenses depending upon the kind of trip I’m taking.  See:  How to Safely and Easily Carry a Camera for more.  The best camera is the one you have with you so I try to always have a camera on my body, even if just going to a restaurant in the hotel.

Another good idea is to be considerate of your fellow photographers in your group.  It’s often good to include shots of your fellow travelers in your pictures, but you don’t want to always be the one rushing out front so that you are always in everyone else’s pictures or are always blocking their view.

Finally, share your pictures with others.  There are many ways to do that.  One way that has worked well for me in the past was to make a video show after I got home and then either mail out DVDs or place the show on the web.  I use ProShow Gold or Producer to make my shows, but there are dozens of different software packages available.  Some of my earlier shows are on my share site that photodex maintains.  Go to the, select “Share”, go to “Browse Member”, and type “jholmes7405” for Member Galleries.  Lately I utilized ProShow Producer to prepare my show and then saved it as a YouTube video and inserted it in my blog article.  You can see all of my shows from my trip to Tunisia that way.  I also occasionally show individual photos in different blog articles.  You can go to Categories at the top right section of my home page and select travel articles under the category “travel” or by country.

In my shows you will note that I usually organize them by day.  There are many different ways to organize a show but I have found that those who were on the trip, or were interested in taking the trip, found that this format works well.  I refer to my shows as “memory joggers” since when I look back at them they bring up many additional memories that weren’t recorded in a picture.

While my older shows were shot with simple point & shoot or travel zoom cameras, lately I have been using an Olympus E-P1 micro 4/3 camera (on the trip to Tunisia) and a Pentax K-7 DSLR with multiple lenses (trips to WV).  I have other articles in my blog relative to cameras and lenses (and will be having more relative to this style of photography).  You will be able to find these articles under the category “photography”.

Tunisia : 25 April, 2010 … Djerba

After breakfast, we departed Tataouine and headed for the island of Djerba.  While there we visited a Jewish Synagogue, visited the waterfront, and had lunch.  Later we flew to Tunis for our last overnight stay in Tunisia before returning to the U. S. the next day.

It was the end of another great, successful trip with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) … our eighth trip with OAT.

Tunisia : 24 April, 2010 … Ksar Route

After breakfast we headed out to see more of the castle-like fortified villages known as ksars.  They are centuries old redoubts with beehive-like ghorfas … vaulted granaries once used by the Berber tribes for storing their grain and protecting it from their enemies.

We first went to Ksar Chenini where we walked up and saw the home of a lady who still lives there, then to Ksar Hadada, which was another Star Wars movie location, and then on to Tataouine and Ksar Oueld Soltane.

We ended the day with our first farewell dinner.