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Newsletter 60 - sent on the 28 October 2022
A World of interesting choices!
Our last trip of this year will be to the colourful Indian state of Rajasthan where we will be photographing two festivals: the Pushkar Camel Fair and the Kolayat Mela. Just to remind us that the World still has the ability to throw a spanner in the works, an outbreak of Lumpy Skin Disease means that the Camel Fair will probably be slightly short on camels and cattle. The good news though is that this disease is not zoonotic, so except for the mild inconvenience we shouldn't be at any risk of catching it! I will be posting pictures from this exciting trip to this gallery and to Instagram as we go.
With tours for 2022 all but over, our thoughts are turning to options for 2023. We are being asked to run a number of private tours, which are a great opportunity to create a bespoke itinerary with just your friends as travel companions, and to choose to go to absolutely any destination of your choice.
In May we will be running a return trip to the fascinating country of Uzbekistan, which sits at the crossroads of Central Asia; and when I get back from India we will be launching the first of a new series of group tours for the rest of the year and beyond.
We are also entering into the season of the Starling Murmurations, just down the road from me in the stunning Avalon Marshes. Last Winter I ran a number of private courses visiting the Marshes, and seeing the Murmurations both in the morning at sunrise and in the evening.
Our bespoke tours are a perfect way for you and a selection of your friends to head out on a private photography tour to a destination of your choice. I will work with you to establish a perfect itinerary, and then negotiate with Intrepid Travel to make it all a reality. You might want to head away for a long weekend, or for a full couple of weeks: the choice is up to you.
This gives you a World of possible destinations, depending only your own personal bucket list! Once the tour starts then I will be able to customise any photographic tuition to reflect the needs and interests of your individual group.
You can see more about our bespoke tours on this link.
Uzbekistan has been at the Crossroads of History for centuries. Lying on the so-called Silk Route between Europe and Asia, it was invaded by both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, and was where Babur, who founded the Mughal Empire which ruled Northern India, originated from.
Babur's Great Great Grandson, Shah Jahan, is famous for creating the Taj Mahal, and you can see the early origins of the classic Mughal style of building in the architecture of Uzbekistan. This is typified by the countless domes, and Islamic-inspired decoration.
In the 20th Century, Uzbekistan was a part of the former Soviet Union, and so there is a smattering of brutalist Soviet-era architecture mixed amongst the mosques and madrassas. The Soviet period can also be seen on market stalls, where trinkets from the period are still sold, as well as in the somewhat un-Islamic habit of serving bottles of vodka like wine in many restaurants.
Uzbekistan is home to Samarkand: one of the great iconic traveller's cities. It is a place that many people would dream of travelling to - even if they couldn't place that it is Uzbekistan. There are other great cities too, with evocative names conjouring images of often cruel Emirs, ruling with absolute power from formidable forts, and of camel trains plying the Silk Route.
In the cities of Bukhara and Khiva, you can still see the walls of their great fortifications. In Bukhara this is the impregnable Ark Fortress; in Khiva the city walls weave atmospherically around the old town, harkening back to the days when the soldiers of warring Emirates patrolled.
Of all of the influences on Uzbekistan, the greatest is Islam, and the quality and detail of Islamic architecture in Uzbekistan is unrivalled. The turquoise blue of the tiling and decoration is a memorable feature of many of the surviving buildings, and their minarets still tower over the cities, in a formal complex which is known as a Registan. This is a main square, which was used for civic and religious gatherings, and which was surrounded by Mosques and Islamic schools known as Madrassas.
I have travelled to Uzbekistan a number of times, and this will be our second photography tour to the country. True to form, I am breaking new ground with this trip. This includes travelling into the remote Fergana Valley and also into the Kyzylkum Desert, where we will explore two ancient forts that have been swallowed by the sands of time. We also hope to see some of the local Bactrian Camels, which are raised in the region.
Another new location is the traditional village of Darband, where we will be able to enjoy and witness a more rural existence, whilst staying in a local guesthouse. This will give us a great balance with some of the larger, and sometimes more modern cities.
The capital of Uzbekistan is Tashkent, which has modernised greatly since independence in 1991, when the country broke away from the crumbling Soviet Union. Tashkent still boasts a traditional Registan Square, but also government buildings, Soviet and post-Soviet statues and modern plazas with fountains. With many capital cities, there are times when you might struggle to realise exactly where you are, but in Uzbekistan, you will still find people in traditional dress in even the most contemporary locations.
It is the interaction between local people and architecture - whether traditional or modern - that can form some of the most iconic and striking images of the country, and this aspect of photography will be something that we will concentrate on. If nothing else, it is a fantastic way to add a human touch to your architectural photographs.
Markets are popular in Uzbekistan, and we will have plenty of opportunities to visit and photograph them. Some of these markets are in large, purpose built halls; others are more basic, local street markets. All boast an entrancing mix of spices, pulses, vegetables and dry goods - sold by remarkably enigmatic and friendly stall-holders.
The markets give you a sense of Uzbekistan cuisine. As befits a country in Central Asia, it is a mix of Asian, Middle Eastern and European influences. The staple are large bread loaves, that are freshly cooked daily. Every town and region seems to have their own local style, and some of them will be stamped or etched with traditional patterns.
More than anything on this trip, you will come back with many memories and engaging portraits of the people that you will meet. The Uzbekistan people are both friendly and photogenic - often with a propensity for the sort of gold teeth that would suit a Bond villain. The mix of civilisations, religions and cultures can be seen on many of their faces, and their warm welcome to strangers is a product of Islamic culture and being on the a crossroads where so many civilisations have passed through the country.
Impressions of Uzbekistan departs from Tashkent on 9 May 2022 for 13 days. Under our new variable pricing policy, the cost is from £2150 per person if 8 people travel to £1895 per person for the full 12 people. At the moment we only have a couple of places left, so if you are interested, please contact us as soon as you can. You can see more information on this link. You can see the full itineray on this link and download the pdf for the tour here.
Private local courses
Our private local courses allow you to treat yourself to some intensive one-to-one tuition in some of the most stunning and iconic landscapes in the country, or even to a private photography course with a group of friends. This is the perfect way to focus on the areas that interest you, and concentrate on the skills that you want to improve.
This time of year is the perfect time for shooting in the UK: not only can you enjoy the glowing Autumn colours, but sunrise and sunset are at a far more civilised times, and you can often see your subject with a dusting of morning mist.
Photographically, you can concentrate on photographing birdlife, brush up on technical skills like stacking images and shooting long exposures, or even learn how to shoot astro-photography.
Since Steve moved down to the West Country, he has been exploring his local area, and now has a range of options for photographic excursions. These include extensive photography tours on Dartmoor, explorations of Dorset and photographing the wildlife and landscapes of Somerset.
This can include the mass gatherings of tens of thousands of starlings. These can be photographed as they rise en masse just before sunset, and also they return to roost in the evening. This is often when they weave together in co-ordinated shapes and patterns known as murmurations. In between, you have the option of photographing the various bird and nature reserves that form the Avalon Marshes in Somerset, where Buzzards, Marsh Harriers and Great Egrets are common, and where Otters are sometimes seen.
You can see sample course itineraries on this link.
Better Travel Photography
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