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A year of Africa in pictures – with tips on photography Part 1

Jan 5, 2020 | Africa, Blog, Mauritania, Morocco, Photography, Senegal, Western Sahara

A review of the year in pictures.

 

Before continuing with the reports about my experiences in Africa, I would like to present some of my most beautiful visual moments of the past 365 days in Africa.

For interested photographers, there is also the information what lenses and which camera settings I used for each situation. I also explain a little bit about the story behind the pictures and what I look out for in my photography to get good results.

My photographs are taken with an Olympus OM-D EM 10 Mark II. I use a small Manfrotto Pixi tripod. The pictures are processed with Lightroom or IrfanView, and I only adjust the brightness or saturation, I do not manipulate any of my images.

I say thank you for a very exciting, although not always easy year!

 

Morocco 

 

Probably the most beautiful full moon night of the year. I pushed my bike for some kilometers through the deep sand and while I was looking for a place to pitch my tent, I discovered this brilliant scene in the moonlight behind me.

It was not easy to hold the bike, kneel in the sand and take a good picture while being careful to avoid my own shadow and footprints.

The track Taouz to Oumjrane along the Algerian border

f3.5 – 1/13 sec – ISO 1600
Oly 17mm F1.8

This handsome Moroccan was very proud to have his portrait taken. I took my time connecting with him. Building rapport and gaining people’s trust allows them to relax and act naturally when I raise my camera to my eye.

Foum Zguid

f2.8 – 1/100 sec – ISO 640
Oly 45mm F1.8

A quick shot. I saw the scene, asked the men if I could photograph them and seconds later took the picture.

Erg Chebbi

f2.2 – 1/60 sec – ISO 400
Oly 17mm F1.8

I was allowed to spend two days with this lovely woman and her family. After only a few minutes together she lost her shyness in front of the camera, and was happy about every picture I took of her.

Small village near Missour

f3.5 – 1/250 sec – ISO 200
Oly 45mm F1.8

Selfies are sometimes a bit hectic and it often takes many attempts until the picture is the way it should be.

This was also the case here; I must have taken at least 50 long exposures before getting one without motion blur and where I was in the right spot.

The trail from Boudnib to Erfoud

f2 – 10sec – ISO400
Oly 17mm F1.8
Self-timer, tripod

Photographing a starry sky including another light source in the foreground can be difficult. You have to tinker with it until the desired result is as it should be. Make sure you don’t expose it for too long, otherwise the movement of earth will result in stars which are no longer spots but rather lines.

Jbel Saghro

f2 – 40sec – ISO 1600 – Livetime
Oly 17mm F1.8
tripod

Selfies are not always easy with weak light source. Again, I sprinted back and forth several times until I had it the way I wanted it.

Auberge – Jbel Saghro

f2.5 – 4 sec – ISO 400
Oly 45mm F1.8
Self-timer, tripod

At the end of the trail I set up my tent with nomads. It was a starry night, the next morning curious children watched me while I cooked.

With this quite normal evening light situation creating a good picture is pretty easy, anyone can do it especially if the landscape is great. Photography becomes difficult when the landscape or setting is dull and you have to search for good motives for making a photo which may not always be visible for everyone.

Jebel Saghro

f3.2 – 500sec – ISO 200
Oly 17mm F1.8

B/W pictures often reduce the picture to the essential. This technique is especially popular for portraits.

Small village near Missour

f1.8 – 1/40sec – ISO 1250
Oly 45mm F1.8

Photography means art. And art is often a matter of taste. For me, the board and the pieces were the art that I simply “stole” with my camera.

Oumjrane

f2.8 – 1/30 sec – ISO 640
Oly 45mm F1.8

The most beautiful sand dune in Morocco. The landscape was fantastic. My mood was terrific. The depth in the picture creates the excitement.

The trail between Taouz and Oumjrane along the Algerian border

f3.2 – 1/1600 sec – ISO 100
Oly 75mm F1.8
tripod

The evening with the best music in Africa. The picture wouldn’t be as interesting in color as it is in Black and White.

N’Kob

f2 – 1/13 sec – ISO 2000
Oly 17mm F1.8

Selfies are mostly annoying and time consuming. Here I almost ran out of fire, because I could hardly concentrate on cooking. I make selfies mainly because my readers want to see me in the world, I am in. Of course, they show the adventurous scenes best.

It was a cold desert evening and my beloved lentils were served for dinner. I still enjoy cooking on the fire the most.

Near Missouri

f1.8 – 1/60 sec – ISO 1000
Oly 17mm F1.8
Self-timer, tripod

Picture by coincidence. I actually wanted to put the bike in the scene, when this man with his robe suddenly came through the door and I just had to press the shutter.

Auberge – Jbel Saghro

f2 – 1/40 sec – ISO 1250
Oly 45mm F1.8

At the campfire. A great evening. The fire creates the colors.

Auberge – Jbel Saghro
f2 – 1/60 sec – ISO 1000
Oly 45mm F1.8

Quick shot. There was no time for staging or deliberation here. Sometimes you have to get it right the first time.

Boumalne Dades
f2.2 – 1/60 sec – ISO 200
Oly 45mm F1.8

 

West Sahara 

 

All the sand in the air created this enchanting mystical sunset.

Tan-Tan
f14 – 1/250 sec – ISO 200
Oly 45mm F1.8

Depth of field is always important to consider.

Rest Sahara West
f5.6 – 1/125 sec – ISO 200
Oly 45mm F1.8

Mauritania

 

After a night in the tent, at the remote train station in Choum, I heard someone creeping around the tent, unzipping the door I was surprised to see this gentleman peering in.

My camera ready at hand, I didn’t hesitate, and immediately pressed the shutter, allowing me to capture him before he was gone and lost forever. Sometimes you have to be fast.

Choum

f1.8 – 1/320 sec – ISO 200
Oly 17mm F1.8

It was brutally windy that day. I set up my camera in the opposite ruin, protected in the window frame and ran back and forth a few times.

Between Atar and Akjouit

f5 – 1/1600 sec – ISO 200
Oly 17mm F1.8
Self-timer, tripod

Here the street lamp provided the necessary light for the scene. Motion blur can sometimes be used as a stylistic device.

Atar

f1.8 – 1/25 sec – ISO 1600
Oly 75mm F1.8

During the blue hour colors become most intense.

Akjouit – Oasenstadt

f2.5 – 1/40 sec – ISO 1000
Oly 45mm F1.8

This Senegalese man sat across from me while I was eating in a restaurant. I fought with myself if I should ask him if he would allow me to photograph him. Often this is an inhibition threshold, but also often the start of a conversation.

Sexier is hardly possible.

Atar

f2 – 1/60 sec – ISO 1250
Oly 45mm F1.8

Between Atar and Akjouit

f5 – 1/1600 sec – ISO 200
Oly 45mm F1.8

I love night shots. Just using the available light is not always easy. But with digital technology you can adjust the brightness with Lightroom or other programs to compensate for possible mistakes during the shooting.

Atar

f1.8 – 1/60 sec – ISO 1600
Oly 75mm F1.8

The contrast of bright light and shadow in a picture makes for difficult lighting situations. This is especially true for pictures taken at midday when the light is intense because the sun is high.

Nouadhibou
f3.5 – 1/1000 sec – ISO 200
Oly 45mm F1.8

Details are often more meaningful than whole portraits. The view is reduced to a very specific point.

Atar
f2.5 – 1/80 sec – ISO 400
Oly 45mm F1.8

Mauritania was fierce regarding the huge amount of wind and sand that constantly blew around my ears. I often hesitated to unpack my camera at all, because I was afraid that it would be damaged. Sand and saltwater are two of the camera’s worst enemies.

In the direction of Atar

f6.3 – 1/1600 sec – ISO 200
Oly 45mm F1.8

Senegal

 

Difficulties often arose in my portrait photography because people always sat in the shade to avoid the intense heat of the sun. Black skin and shadows and the background on the other hand very bright, are of course difficult to combine. The only thing that helps is overexposure, because I do not want to use a flash.

Mboune N7

f2.2 – 1/320 sec – ISO 200
Oly 75mm F1.8

It does not always have to be sunny, most of time the pictures are more interesting if the sun is missing.

Mboune N7

f2.2 – 1/250 sec – ISO 1600
Oly 25mm F1.8

I usually try to include the background as a stylistic element. But sometimes a portrait can be more meaningful if the background is bright or even white.

Ndioum

f2.5 – 1/640 sec – ISO 250
Oly 45mm F1.8

Disturbing lines are annoying. Power lines can ruin the whole picture. In this case I can live with the lines and find the mood of the picture is still good. Digital removal of power lines is not my thing. I do not change my pictures artificially.

Town at the Senegal River

f2.8 – 1/640 sec – ISO 200
Oly 75mm F1.8

These men were also sitting in the shade and as mentioned before, with the high contrast of black skin in the shade and bright background it was almost impossible to take a picture which looks natural.

Mboune N7

f6.3 – 1/60 sec – ISO 200
Oly 75mm F1.8

Sometimes the message of a picture is more important than the quality of the shot.

Mboune N7

f2.8 – 1/320 sec – ISO 640
Oly 45mm F1.8

Although I like this picture, the separation of the two people by the door in the background bothers me. Normally I avoid such things, but in this case, it was unfortunately not possible.

Mboune N7

f2 – 1/320 sec – ISO 1600
Oly 75mm F1.8

To look into the camera or not? Eyes have a strong expressiveness.

Mboune N7

f2.8 – 1/160 sec – ISO 320
Oly 75mm F1.8

The television was the only light source that evening. As mentioned before, documentary pictures are not always the best, but sometimes the message of the picture is more important.

Ndioum

f1.8 – 1.6 sec – ISO 1000
Oly 17mm F1.8

Portrait and lines in the background, in this case the lines do not distract from the picture. But often this is the case. I pay a lot of attention to lines.

Ndioum

f2.5 – 1/400 sec – ISO 400
Oly 45mm F1.8

 

Do you have any questions or suggestions? I would be happy to receive feedback.

Soon to be continued with part 2…..

43 Comments

  1. Thanks you so much Hike for your photography tips. Your photography is second to none and I am always looking forward to see your new work. Your pictures are unique, they have a style, they tell the story, they are often very contrasty, grainy, harsh, but vivid colours and this is no coincident. It appears that you are a master in LightRoom too, perhaps you could share some tips.

    Reply
    • Absolutely stunning images, thanks for posting throughout the year and good luck for 2020.

      Reply
      • Big thanks Dick….enjoy 2020….Heike

      • Just wow for everything. Your pictures, your commentary, your personal trip. I am speechless with awe.

      • Thanks for the big compliment!
        Much appreciated!
        Best greetings Heike

    • Big thank you Lori…always nice to receive such great compliments….thanks for your idea for further articles….
      Best greetings Heike

      Reply
  2. Wonderful photos, as always. Thanks for sharing the details – it shows how much effort you put in to making great photos.
    Happy 2020!

    Reply
    • Thanks very much Wendy….yes photography is not only art it is also work.
      Cheers Heike

      Reply
    • Wunder wunderschön! Wir haben auch viel in Afrika fotografiert aber Deine Bilder gefallen mir um ein zigfaches! Ich denke es liegt an der eingeholten Erlaubnis, der Zeit und Muße gepaart mit unglaublicher Kreativität! Danke! Sichere Weiterreise!

      Reply
      • Lieben DANK 🙂 Auch Euch gute Fahrt….
        LG Heike

  3. Truly amazing photos. Thank you for sharing your art with us.

    Reply
      • A very beautiful collection of pictures – I love the details, angles and especially the colours you have skilfully captured. I can’t wait to see the rest!

      • Big thank you Hana,

        best greetings to South America…

        Heike

  4. Fantastic shots, Heike! You really know how to capture the mood. The capture explanations are very helpful. I appreciate the tips! Enjoy 2020 and cycle strong.

    Reply
    • Amaya, how are you?
      I thought of you lately and wondered where you are?
      Thanks for the big compliment!
      Enjoy 2020 ….
      Cheers Heike

      Reply
  5. What to say Heike, your eye, your skill with the camera and with people are unique. I know poeple tell you often “do a book”, I would go a step further, and would love to see your art Huge and on the wall of a NY or London or Chicago gallery.
    Cheers

    Reply
  6. Fascinating and world class images. I will try to implement your methods. Thank you.

    Reply
  7. As usual wonderful and stunning pictures Heike and some really great tips and background info on how you shoot. That makes the pictures even more interesting. I was wondering how and where you store your camera and lenses on your bike. How many lenses do you carry? I know from experience that easy access is often crucial if you don’t want to miss your shot when cycling.
    Do you always ask for permission when taking foto’s of people you meet on the road?
    Wishing you a great, safe and healthy 2020 and lots of tailwind.

    Reply
    • Hi Johan, thanks very much for your feedback….
      I hope it is okay if I answer those questions in the upcoming posts……
      Tailwind for you too – happy 2020
      Heike

      Reply
      • Thanks! Looking forward to your next post!
        Johan

  8. A wonderful selection of photographs from an amazing trip. You are truly hard-core!

    Joshua Trees in Africa?

    Reply
    • Thank you Dave 🙂
      Haha….no there are no Joshua trees in Africa….the Happy 2020 picture was taken in California sometime in 2017.

      Cheers Heike

      Reply
  9. Really beautiful!
    Wish I could make pictures like this!

    Reply
  10. Well, obviously the photos are amazing! I understand you’re only using one of those little mirrorless cameras?
    I’m lugging around a big DSLR, quite a nice camera with a zoom lens, but the results, though not bad, are lacking that certain something. Clearly you have a bit more know how than me, to get results of this standard!
    Out of interest, you’ve been in Africa a year….but it didn’t take a year to reach Senegal did it?!

    thanks

    Reply
  11. Beautiful pictures. I’d like to learn more about the situations and stories behind the beautiful pictures.
    What countries did you go through?
    Were you ever worried traveling as a solo cyclist?

    Thanks

    Reply
  12. Superb Photos, congratulations! Wishing you all the best for your future rides.

    Reply
  13. You travel very light, and without front paniers. The weight seems unecessarily high up for ridingbon rough roads. And yes, less IS further, AND its definitely not the camera that takes the picture…

    I wish i had words for the skills you have in capturing and engaging with your subject, weather its a person or a landscape. If a picture is worth a thousand words, each of yours is a best selling novel of humanity and light. Yet you don’t rely on light or drama, you create it in the image through the story it tells. It helps that your camera somehow doesn’t mind high ISO. I obviously have relied too much on using sunshine and light for visual effect and not enough on the story. The backstory to your pics is magic. It makes me want to stop you and ask a 1000 questions. Ha ha your pictures are worth a thousind questions. Im going to have to look over everything you have done, every image. I wish i was riding with you… If i can learn a single unit of how to see what you see, bring out in a scene what you bring out, and embrace the world like you do, my life would be complete. If you ever ride in Australia, id love to tag along…

    Reply
  14. Hey Heike, you are great

    Reply
  15. L E G E N D

    Absolute. Legend.

    I hope to meet you on the road one day. Would be a true honor.

    Reply
  16. Thank you for the tips. I appreciate your photography a lot and see why it’s so nice. You put a lot of work in it and it shows! I am planning a trip this spring in Morocco and may invest in a real camera to get better pictures of my trip.

    Reply
  17. Finally caught up reading all your blogs and kept being astounded by your photos. You having been a camerawoman must definitely be a great advantage in spotting good/ brilliant situations to take a photo (or more than one) of.
    Just like you I always travel alone and have been on the lookout for a tripod a long time – I never (well hardly ever) have myself in photos – so brilliant tip you gave on the tripod you use. I never got myself one for finding them too heavy. The pixi you are using is nice and light and should just support my camera (panny fz 2500).
    Keep up the brilliant photography – you often make clear a lot more in a photo than in thousand words 🙂
    Am wondering where your path will take you next and would love to meet you somewhere on the road.
    So far I am still dreaming about a trip like yours…

    Take care, stay safe and happy cycling.

    Reply
  18. Hey heike,

    I am preparing a bike trip in Africa , owns the same camera and lenses as yours ( E_M10, zuiko 45mm and 17mm). But each time I try to use Lightroom on my laptop, it is very , very slow ( core i3 processor).

    What is your secret ? powerful laptop ? … irfanview most of the time? … ?

    Bravo for these images, your website and , above all, your courage.

    Reply
    • THank you Gilles,

      There is no secret. It seems like my processor has indeed enough power to use Lightroom.
      Best greetings Heike

      Reply
  19. Thankyou Heike,
    I have looked over these images so many times. I needed to again today. I’m so looking forward to the day when we can travel internationally again and the world is a healthy place. Well healthy er place.

    So many lovely images, compassion, shy smiles, feeling from these shots.
    So much beauty in the monochrome images.
    Thankyou. I needed an uplift. 🙂
    Les.

    Reply
    • sorry i have my website wrong on the first post.
      Ps. hope puppy and you are well.

      Reply
    • Big thank you Les!

      Your compliments made my day!

      Best greetings from the “Walk across America”

      Heike

      Reply

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