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No-effort photography places
Old 03-21-2014   #1
Phantomas
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No-effort photography places

I just got back from 2 week trip to Cuba. The place is amazing, well known fact of course. One thing that occurred to me is how easy it is to get good photos in Havana. You don't need to think, you don't need to observe (of course these things should not be ignored, but) just point and shoot - you'll get great results, guaranteed.
Surprisingly I did just the opposite I didn't shoot at all. I had a 5-months old baby strapped to me and we were travailing across the country, so I decided to go easy on myself, forget the camera and just soak up the views, atmosphere and the wonderful mojitos. No regrets, I'll be back and this this time will be fully ready to photograph.
So like I said, Havana is by far the most "no-effort required" photographic jewel I have visited, and I have certainly traveled my share. If I am to think hard than the next in line would be Shatila refugee camp, and Nouruz celebration, both in Beirut, that I just went mental photographing just because there was so much "photographic energy" coming from those places. But Havana still stands above.

What are the places you've been to that provided such easy-pickings photographic opportunities?
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Old 03-21-2014   #2
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Depends on your type of photography. My brother does macro work, so we have completely different interests.
For landscape, that would be Rainier National Park. Any day with unusual weather, or just as the sun starts to go down, and you have something worth framing for the mantle, or at least sending as a postcard.
As for street and architecture? My favorites have always been Chinatown in Boston or SF, and lower Manhattan, especially around Canal street. That's kind of a no-brainer. As is Tokyo. Essentially anywhere there's lots of people and lots of texture to the urban landscape. I've always wanted to visit your city for the same reason as well!

I hear you on taking a real vacation from photography. I posted a thread last week about my camera breaking on day two of a weeklong trip to San Francisco, but I spent a lot of time sunbathing, sightseeing, and museum-hopping. All the stuff I wouldn't have thought to do while out searching for photographs.
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Old 03-21-2014   #3
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For a start:

Countries: India, Malta (see http://www.rogerandfrances.com/subsc...t%20malta.html ), Greece, Bermuda (though of course there are a few dull bits in all of them, as I'm sure there are in Cuba)

Parts of: Slovakia, most of Slovenia (especially for landscapes), Switzerland (for pretty-pretty landscapes), California (especially Pacific Coast Highway and Gold Country, though as Frances said, they soon get a bit samey), most American historical parks, especially Civil War

Cities/towns (usually just the old parts): Arles, Beijing (lots of dull bits too), Dharamsala (or any Tibetan refugee colony), Guanajuato, Istanbul, Lijiang, Lisbon, New York, Paris marginally, St. Petersburg (the real one), San Francisco, Venice

Specific subjects:Hungary for castles and spas, Spain for castles and abandoned villages, Brittany for prehistoric megaliths, Cornwall for fishing villages and coves... Mountains just about anywhere, especially the Pyrenees and Himalayas: somehow not the Alps for me, though I don't know why.

Of course a lot depends on when you're there. The first time I saw Koper (Capodistria) it was great. A decade later, after an excess of modernization: dull & overpriced, also crawling with Italian tourists. And I've not been to Bermuda in well over 40 years.

Even more depends on what interests you. Including photography. I genuinely cannot understand the idea of "a real vacation from photography". Without my camera, it wouldn't be much of a vacation.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 03-21-2014   #4
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I would concur with Cuba, no effort and a lot of keepers. However when I was there it was a with SLR i didn't have my RF camera at that time.
Other places that are pretty good "no-effort" photography places are found all over my own country of Ireland and Dublin - Quebec and Peru too.
Dublin is quite fascinating - its a world onto itself, and a photographic wonderland.
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Old 03-21-2014   #5
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Closest one I can think of is The Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia. I used my 4x5, but I could have used anything really. Point at subject, get the horizon straight, take picture, hang on wall.

Coastline of Hawai'i too.
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Old 03-21-2014   #6
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It's not supposed to be easy...

Unless of course you want the standard photos of, like, Havana, old cars along the Malecón etc, the deteriorating blgs, etc.

You think Ernesto Bazán would say it was easy?
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Old 03-21-2014   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
I genuinely cannot understand the idea of "a real vacation from photography". Without my camera, it wouldn't be much of a vacation.
I generally hold exactly the same sentiment. Photography enhances my travels enormously and makes me go further and deeper to discover things. That's why I often prefer to do such travels on my own, not to burden my company with my sudden fascination with what might look like an uninteresting place from a touristic perspective.
I actually initially was planning to travel to Ethiopia, to photograph of course. But, realisation that I now have a little son who even at 5 months looks like ready to hit the road (and he did!) I made last minute change to Cuba. No stroller (too cumbersome for island-wide trips) I had him strapped to me, making logistics slightly more difficult. Of course I took pictures! (In some cases he was a good assistant commanding good predisposition of bystanders) just not exactly in the manner and intensity I'm accustomed to so I didn't exactly considered it a "serious photography" trip. That will come once he's old enough to be my lens-carrying assistant
I do, however, agree that there are situations where letting go of camera helps with different interaction on new terrains. I did have one such case, keeping the camera in the bag for a wonderful opportunity. But I bet it would develop differently if I did pull it out. That's a whole different story though.
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Old 03-21-2014   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pablito View Post
It's not supposed to be easy...

Unless of course you want the standard photos of, like, Havana, old cars along the Malecón etc, the deteriorating blgs, etc.

You think Ernesto Bazán would say it was easy?
No. But Havana Centro (not even the popular Vieja) provided plenty for the eye to find without looking too hard. Beautifully energetic urban life. Full-on life on the streets. And while not aiming for the typical cliches of old cars and crumbling yet colourful facades, I'm also realistic enough to know my place in comparison to Bazan I just felt a click, I knew how and what I would shoot there.
(For example, I went to Costa Rica a couple of years ago, and while certainly a wonderful country, I just couldn't find my photographic angle on it. So I gave up, went into the jungle and enjoyed all the fine things country could provide).
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Old 03-21-2014   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pablito View Post
It's not supposed to be easy...

Unless of course you want the standard photos of, like, Havana, old cars along the Malecón etc, the deteriorating blgs, etc.

You think Ernesto Bazán would say it was easy?
Why can't it be easy sometimes? Sometimes a game of golf, snooker, tennis can be won with an easy shot, sometimes a hard one.

Are pictures of old cars bad photos just because they are popular? How many times does a subject have to be photographed before it becomes uninteresting?

I like the idea of putting in a lot of effort and getting the reward at the end, but sometimes it's just not required.
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Old 03-21-2014   #10
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Old 03-21-2014   #11
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Cuba certainly is not easy for me but then no where is. I have spent somewhere around 250 days in Cuba with about 180 of those devoted exclusively to photography. I have been the length of the island and 13 of the 15 municipalities in Havana Cuidad. And photographing there is not easy, either physically or mentally. I have found myself physically exhausted from walking 7-8 hours a day and mentally drained from looking constantly for unique photos plus spending days in areas where no one speaks English and my Spanish is not good. You can see what I captured at my website.
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Old 03-21-2014   #12
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Old 03-21-2014   #13
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Photography is never easy, but some places are easier than others. In my own neighborhood, there's a small business district, not a lot of people out and about at all hours, and people are generally warier of cameras. When I go downtown, there's always something to see. Not necessarily portfolio-worthy, but something worth pointing the camera at.

I'll also politely disagree about vacations without photography: searching for photographs often leads me down offbeat paths, like exploring the northern reaches of Philadelphia last month. But at the same time, not focusing on photography allows me to enjoy time with people I'm visiting with, or lingering in museums without worrying about missing light, as I did on the same trip.
My grandfather was a very competent landscape photographer, and my mother often talks about how on the transcontinental road trips her family took he was often absent, or too tired from carrying around an 8x10 monorail everywhere. Sometimes it pays to take a break, at least for part of a trip.
That said, I'm definitely going back to California in the summer, now that I've scoped out where I want to photograph.
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Old 03-21-2014   #14
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The more unfamiliar, the easier for me.

Its only difficult to shoot the environment which you see every single day.
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Old 03-22-2014   #15
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The more unfamiliar, the easier for me.

Its only difficult to shoot the environment which you see every single day.
I think that is too true, and a shame. I suffer from the same thing.

In my experience, living near Washington, DC, where there are many wonderful opportunities for photography, I don't do much there.

But in the 70s and 80s, I really enjoyed Korea. From city to country it was very picturesque. I enjoyed the USA Great West on an arduous trip some years ago. Plains, mountains, desert, cliff dwellings, Grand Canyon, what great shots to be taken.
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Old 03-22-2014   #16
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Why can't it be easy sometimes? Sometimes a game of golf, snooker, tennis can be won with an easy shot, sometimes a hard one.

Are pictures of old cars bad photos just because they are popular? How many times does a subject have to be photographed before it becomes uninteresting?

I like the idea of putting in a lot of effort and getting the reward at the end, but sometimes it's just not required.
Very true. Strategy 3 (of 8) from Gurus and why to avoid them, http://www.rogerandfrances.com/subsc...e%20gurus.html

3 The purpose of photography is to enjoy yourself and make good pictures. It is not to purify the soul through suffering. Too many believe that if something is more difficult or expensive or obscure, it must necessarily be better, which is patent nonsense. A lot of photography is easy as well as enjoyable, and you can make superb pictures without ever venturing into the obscure.

Cheers,

R
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Old 03-22-2014   #17
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Originally Posted by Harry S. View Post
The more unfamiliar, the easier for me.

Its only difficult to shoot the environment which you see every single day.
Dear Harry,

Same here. Well, unless you're somewhere REALLY dull.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 03-22-2014   #18
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Originally Posted by Phantomas View Post
I generally hold exactly the same sentiment. Photography enhances my travels enormously and makes me go further and deeper to discover things. That's why I often prefer to do such travels on my own, not to burden my company with my sudden fascination with what might look like an uninteresting place from a touristic perspective.
I actually initially was planning to travel to Ethiopia, to photograph of course. But, realisation that I now have a little son who even at 5 months looks like ready to hit the road (and he did!) I made last minute change to Cuba. No stroller (too cumbersome for island-wide trips) I had him strapped to me, making logistics slightly more difficult. Of course I took pictures! (In some cases he was a good assistant commanding good predisposition of bystanders) just not exactly in the manner and intensity I'm accustomed to so I didn't exactly considered it a "serious photography" trip. That will come once he's old enough to be my lens-carrying assistant
I do, however, agree that there are situations where letting go of camera helps with different interaction on new terrains. I did have one such case, keeping the camera in the bag for a wonderful opportunity. But I bet it would develop differently if I did pull it out. That's a whole different story though.
I understand your point, but equally I'd say (as you point out) that you don't HAVE to get your camera out. Quite often I don't. But unless I have it with me, I CAN'T take it out -- and I don't like that.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 03-22-2014   #19
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See something, point camera, press shutter release; repeat as required.
Which bit are you having difficulty with?
Agree totally, for better results I usually skip the first two steps.
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Old 03-22-2014   #20
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You're a brave man to sun bathe in San Francisco. I was always freezing when I lived there.

For me, junk yards, classic car meets, and most any big public event (where people are not concerned about being photographed and seldom even notice you) are good fishin opportunities. If I can drag myself out of bed early enough, the beautiful light gives everyday objects a special look, at least for a brief period of time. 4 PM and a little after are good too. You get that side lighting, and there's still enough sun to get good contrast. Boats and their reflections in the water usually work, and lately I've been shooting B&W stuff at the beach where it's really difficult to get something worthwhile. When you do it's pretty neat. I always have a camera w/ me when I step outside. Always. There's a bad memory of a once in a lifetime shot that wasn't taken due to having no camera. My philosophy is not just for cameras....it's better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it.

For what it's worth, galleries seldom seem to want journalistic shots, or portraits of people who are not famous. They don't sell. I'll still include a portrait or two if it's truly exceptional when approaching new opportunities to show, but I've slowly learned to go after more of an "art" look, whatever that is, when approaching art galleries, which is really why I shoot. They like experimental stuff too. B&W photos are a tough sell to most galleries anyway. No matter how good the work, when placed next to a painting w/ juicy colors it goes pretty much unnoticed. The photo usually involves going slower, and getting up close to see what's going on. The painting gets your attention w/ just a short look from afar, and you can process all the information very quickly. Which is why I go for a more painterly look now. Simple composition, large print size, dark blacks, lots of contrast. A Leica lens usually solves all that nicely :] Of course, unlike the painting, I need the right subject in front of me first, which is not that easy. B&W photography is harder than I ever imagined it would be, compared to painting anyway.
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Old 03-22-2014   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry S. View Post
The more unfamiliar, the easier for me.

Its only difficult to shoot the environment which you see every single day.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear Harry,

Same here. Well, unless you're somewhere REALLY dull.

Cheers,

R.
... David Bailey said the same the other month on the wireless ... I find I use progressively fewer films in places that I return to regularly, but I like to think the quality of the photos improve as the quantity decreases.
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Old 03-22-2014   #22
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The Yorkshire Dales lend themselves easily to my eye.

Quote:
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The more unfamiliar, the easier for me.

Its only difficult to shoot the environment which you see every single day.
I find it difficult to find much more to say photographically about the desperately dull London suburb I live in, but I still try. Similarly, the walk to work is boring, and hard to extract anything of interest. I often find myself taking photos I've taken before.
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Old 03-22-2014   #23
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The Yorkshire Dales lend themselves easily to my eye.



I find it difficult to find much more to say photographically about the desperately dull London suburb I live in, but I still try. Similarly, the walk to work is boring, and hard to extract anything of interest. I often find myself taking photos I've taken before.
... however if one lives there they pass unnoticed much of the time
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Old 03-22-2014   #24
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I lived there for a portion of my life. But not as a photographer, sadly.
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Old 03-22-2014   #25
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Back on topic: the north west coast of Scotland.

Regards, David

PS Re: boring walks to work. Mundane shots are never taken and then years later you realise it's all changed and you can't show a picture of it. People think you're daft as a brush when you take them but they gain in value over the years.
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Old 03-22-2014   #26
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Quote:
What are the places you've been to that provided such easy-pickings photographic opportunities?
Mongolia; ho-lee crap, talk about a target rich environment for your camera!!

You are very fortunate having had the opportunity to travel to Cuba. It is on my top five "must see" list.
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Old 03-22-2014   #27
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Back on topic: the north west coast of Scotland.

Regards, David

PS Re: boring walks to work. Mundane shots are never taken and then years later you realise it's all changed and you can't show a picture of it. People think you're daft as a brush when you take them but they gain in value over the years.
This, more than almost anything else in the thread.

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Old 03-23-2014   #28
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I lived there for a portion of my life. But not as a photographer, sadly.

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Old 03-23-2014   #29
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Great shot list, Roger. Now, where was that passport...
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Old 03-23-2014   #30
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Absolutely! For example, a boring mundane picture of a railway platform...



...but put it together with a boring mundane picture of the same platform, a few years later...



...and you have history!

Yup. Exactly why it should be done. You'll miss the fire in the waiting room too...

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Old 03-23-2014   #31
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Yes, Cuba is a living library. And I also find this to be the case with any other country that has a strong cultural history mixed with colonial influences which has been preserved to some degree: the mix of the really old-school and unique cultures with that of the "newer" cultures of the west. Not just Havana/Cuba, but Burma (Rangoon in particular), Mumbai - Laos -and the Hill Tribes there are fascinating. I think Buenes Aires would be fascinating too, but haven't been there yet (yet!).
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Old 03-27-2014   #32
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The more unfamiliar, the easier for me.

Its only difficult to shoot the environment which you see every single day.
It's funny, but I'm the opposite. I only get better as I get more familiar with an area.
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Old 03-27-2014   #33
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It's funny, but I'm the opposite. I only get better as I get more familiar with an area.
I am increasingly convinced that there are two major groups of photographers: those like me who prefer novelty and those like you who prefer familiarity. I wish I could feel the way you do, but I can't. The trouble is that surprisingly many on each side feel the need to put the other side down. Odd, that.

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Old 03-27-2014   #34
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I am increasingly convinced that there are two major groups of photographers: those like me who prefer novelty and those like you who prefer familiarity. I wish I could feel the way you do, but I can't. The trouble is that surprisingly many on each side feel the need to put the other side down. Odd, that.

Cheers,

R.
I guess there is a third group that prefers neither. Those that do not avoid the novel or dramatic scene, but also happily photograph the banal as well. They accept that a good photograph could happen just about anywhere.

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Old 03-27-2014   #35
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I guess there is a third group that prefers neither. Those that do not avoid the novel or dramatic scene, but also happily photograph the banal as well. They accept that a good photograph could happen just about anywhere.

Gary
... or that, in fact the latter are just a subgroup of the former?
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Old 03-27-2014   #36
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I guess there is a third group that prefers neither. Those that do not avoid the novel or dramatic scene, but also happily photograph the banal as well. They accept that a good photograph could happen just about anywhere.

Gary
Dear Gary,

Of course a good photograph can happen just about anywhere. That was not how I understood the discussion though. I understood it as a matter of which you find more stimulating, the familiar or the unfamiliar. This is why I'm not sure there's a "third group".

Also, "banal" and "familiar" are not quite the same.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 03-28-2014   #37
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Dear Gary,

Of course a good photograph can happen just about anywhere. That was not how I understood the discussion though. I understood it as a matter of which you find more stimulating, the familiar or the unfamiliar. This is why I'm not sure there's a "third group".

Also, "banal" and "familiar" are not quite the same.

Cheers,

R.
I have meet many photographers who say they simply work wherever they are and have equal results whether in a familiar or unfamiliar place.

Actually, the original topic was more, places in which one can't help but get good photographs (you suggested several). Obviously, it is not that simple. If it were, we'd all go there and come back famous photographers. What really happens is that (most) everyone goes to these places and come back with the same pictures.

It seems to me, that the good photographers get the good pictures wherever, and the "Good" places tend to yield a lot of boring pictures from the rest of us.
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Old 03-28-2014   #38
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Old 03-28-2014   #39
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Surprised nobody has mentioned Morocco yet. Probably as colorful and photogenic as Cuba. The medina of Fes, the ocean port of Essaouira. Can't fail there with a camera on you.
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Old 04-14-2014   #40
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just a quick note. Last time I was in Peru you had to declare the second camera and they would hold some percentage of the value of that camera until you left, whereby you collected that money back. Now you're allowed to bring two cameras, no hassles. Just indicate on the form (in Spanish) that you have two items (in this case cameras.) That's it.

however, they do run your luggage through scanners, including carry-ons, after claiming your luggage and before being allowed to leave the airport. I did bring some fast film, and so asked that they hand check just that film. At first they were resistant, but then obliged. That scanning before leaving is something new.
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