Travel Photography: Faces of 2013

A fisherman going home after a long day on the lake, Inle, Myamnar
These portraits are of just a few of the people I have been lucky enough and photograph on my travels throughout 2013. Once again it has been a fantastic year for ticking destinations off my (ever increasing) list, and I’m proud to share these images with you. I remember each face, each meeting and taking each shot, and I believe these memories are just as important as the photos you see here.

To see more visit my gallery here or see my Behance project here

A card reading in Havana, Cuba.

A young boy waiting in his classroom for the start of the lesson, Inle, Myanmar.

A boat repair worker chews betel leaf during a short break, Myanmar.
An old lady sitting in the winding alleys of the souks Marrakech, Morocco. Old tribal tattoos from the Sahara Region have faded with time.

Francesco rides across the Campo Imperatore in Abruzzo, Italy, on a cycle tour of the country.

A curious boy in the Sapa region of Vietnam strolls along and hums to himself through the rice fields.

Ly May Chan walks along with tourists and sells items she has hand made and crafted at home with her family. Some scarves and clothes are created with many hours of labours sewing and embroidering.

An old lady sits and sells old jars by the roadside, Cat Cat, Vietnam.

A young girl slowly wakes up from her afternoon nap, outskirts of Hanoi, Vietnam.

These six men sit in a alleyway of the souk and sing for their lunch, donations are met with a loud cheer.

Making a broom out of palm leaves.

A boy in a classroom arranges some lunch boxes on a window sill, Kerala, India.

Transporting palm logs along the backwaters of Kerala, India.

Fish stall along the water front, Kochi, Kerala.

Jose own a beautiful pearl white1953 Cadillac passed down from his grandfather and now uses it to taxi tourists around Havana, Cuba.

A old but very smiley lady waits for tourists and then jokes about with them for tips on the streets of  old Havana, Cuba.

Enjoying a western cigarette, Cienfuegos, Cuba.

Waiting for tips from tourists, Carlos sits on his donkey all day long and poses for photographs for 1 peso each, Trinidad, Cuba.

A painter refreshes the wall of a hostal, Trinidad, Cuba.

Sofia sits at home as she explains how she has recovered from an illness thanks to her taking up the syncretic religion of Santería and to her given Orisha (spirit), Havana, Cuba.

“Just bought some onions for  my soup” she said, and then asked if i wanted to stay and have some. Kind offer, but i had to decline. Vinales, Cuba.

Looking out the window waiting for the rains to stop, Vinales, Cuba.

A Little Travel…

Moroccan Berber in the dessert

As well as working regularly in London as a Corporate Photographer for businesses and company profiles, I am lucky enough to enjoy the opportunity to travel to some wonderful destinations and photograph spectacular scenery and fascinating people.
Rowing boat in Ha Long Bay
Have a read of the linked article to get a glimpse of what I get up to when leading photography holidays and workshops all over the world – Living The Dream
To see more please go my Travel Photography website – ExpeditionPhotos 
and  for more information on my Photography Workshops please contact

Marrakech Street Photography

The gentle approach

These are a few selected images from a recent rip to Marrakech, the Red City of Morocco. The winding alley ways in the souks, the bustle of the people and the traffic, and the splashes of colour everywhere you look, make this an incredible Travel Photography destination.

Beggar woman in the souk

Once you get used to avoiding motorbikes zooming down narrow cobbled streets, the challenge of photographing the locals, and the “Just later” from every shop, then you can start to concentrate on achieving some amazing shots. It takes a considered approach, either parting with some change, buying a gift, or just spending some time with someone tends to make them happier for you to take their photos. Maybe spend the first day wondering about, speaking to the locals and buying a few small items without a camera, show them you are not just there for a quick photo and make that initial connection.

I see this man every time I visit Marrakech, first photo shoot.

My experience of Marrakech has been that generally Arabs and Moroccans don’t like their photo being taken. As a photographer, this is a major obstacle you have to overcome. For beggars, street performers and sellers, a small tip is usually fine. What’s a few £’s to you if you manage to engage with an interesting character and get some great shots out of it? Be sensible, don’t flash too much money, but be respectful too..why should they let you take their photo if they don’t gain from it? Shop owners are much happier if you make a purchase from them first become more amenable to the idea of photography. This can be a challenge, but the more time, effort and respect you put into your approach, the stronger your photography will be and the less you will appear to be just another tourist with a camera. You will find you can get past the tough facade and closer to the heart of Marrakech.

Sweet stall, sweet guy.

One way to explore a different side of the city is to see it at a different/strange time of day. Getting up before dawn, wondering the empty streets, and seeing the city wake up and come to life is a magical experience and can make for some great photo opportunities.

The homeless sleeping on the cold, dark streets.
Deserted alleys at 5am.
A city asleep
On the way to the Mosque
This city, it’s people and the stunning locations never cease to inspire me, to push me to further photographic styles and techniques, to challenge myself, step outside of my comfort zone and still deliver images that I am proud of and stand up by themselves.

The grand Koutoubia Mosque
Stalks at the el Badi Palace.
Rooftop Palm, Berb Halfoui
For more information on my Photography Tours and Workshops please visit Frui Holidays on or contact me direct on

 All photography © Filip Gierlinski

Ta Phin Games

A ‘Push of War’ takes place in front of the cheering crowd.
      As London gets itself ready for the 2012 Olympics this summer, in the northern province of Lao Cai, Vietnam, the locals have their own version of the Games.  In the small village of Ta Phin, about 30 minutes from the market town of Sapa, villagers take part in a variety of sports, challenges and events. Day to day it is a small hillside village, humming with the  bustle of trade between the local tribes and traders from the bigger towns. But in late January, people from the surrounding hills and tribes all come together to celebrate the end of the Tet festival. Over 150 people came to watch and compete in the various games undertaken in the rice fields surrounding the village. In this region, the two main ethnic tribes are the Black Hmong, and the Red Dao. Each with their distinctive, traditional clothes, they add a flare of colour to the games as the hills and valley are shrouded in fog. 
A prize awaits the boy as he climbs to the top of the bamboo – the only one that day to reach the goal.

     The Tet, or Lunar New Year, is the most important festival of the Vietnamese year, and usually starts in late January, depending on the Lunar calendar. During this time, many people who have moved away to the big cities travel long distances to come back to the hillside villages, and the communities swell again as everyone returns home for the festive period to eat, drink and be merry. As families sit together and share meals and stories from the past year, even the deceased ancestors are welcomed back to join the family in the festive fun.  

A Black Hmong archer who won this years competition, proudly displaying his bow.

     The atmosphere is playful, everyone watching the games and the whole community seems to be in attendance. From snotty nosed and sticky fingered babies, to village elders, all have turned out to see the fun. I met a group of Red Dao women who were five generations of one family, all cheering on their men who took part in the sports. Goat chasing proved very popular, and a cheer went up from the whole crowd as a young boy shimmed up a bamboo pole to reach a bag of sweets at the top.  Bamboo arrow archery, tug of war and ‘push of war’, bamboo balance, target throwing and many more games are organised on small patches of muddy ground.  Children in bare feet or sandals run amongst the adults watching the games, and even some Vietnamese ‘tourists’ from Hanoi try not to get their high heels stuck in the mud.

A line of Red Dao women, with their baskets full of goods to trade after the games.

     Some games are for selected athletes, and some a free-for-all as the crowds participate in the fun. Throwing beanbags at a flag, dancing and singing, and even the stilt race all take place in the rice fields surrounding the village, and the crowds are maintained by one local policeman with his truncheon.
A group of Hmong girls stand by and watch the muddy pole balance from a distance.
     There is a simplicity to these games which is a lovely thing to see.  It’s about being together, having fun and joining in the celebrations. As a Red Dao lady sings in the main arena, boys try their hand at the bamboo balancing pole with slippery, muddy feet, and the goat chasing pen is alive with laughter and excitement. People are enjoying good, clean (but muddy) fun, from simple games and activities – many of which help practice important hunting and survival techniques. There is a calm order to the proceedings, no one seems to be in charge, but everyone knows what’s going on when and where and crowds move from one area to another to watch a new game. Spectators cheer on the challengers, little food stalls sell hot potatoes and drinks, and it all seems to flow smoothly.
Two Black Hmong girls watch the archery from a small hill.
     After a few hours, the final of the bamboo stilt race, marks the end of the festivities.  People slowly disperse back to their homes and surrounding villages. 
“This year was a lot of fun” says one passer by, “Maybe next year you will play too?” I laugh at the prospect of a westerner trying to catch a goat in the muddy pen. Well I guess it’d be entertaining for the locals at least.
It’s mostly the small boys who challenge themselves on the bamboo balance.  The mud certainly made it entertaining.


1 – Get to know the location

Spend some time just wandering and looking at your location. Get lost down some small streets or paths, explore the area and understand what happens there. Where do the local people go? Where do they shop? eat etc. This will give you a better understanding of what happens in this location, how to approach the photography, and what instances to look out for.

2 – Equipment 

Consider the camera equipment carefully, do you really need all your lenses? Although tere are some good range lenses out there and you could cover 24-200mm easily in just one lens, for greater control and clarity/quality a fixed or shorter range lenses are better. But are there some items you could leave behind? Planning what to take can be hard, as you want to cover all bases of photography, but think how you can get the most out of a few select lenses. If you’re taking a few, then consider a wide for landscapes, 17-40mm, a fixed 50mm for portraits and street scenes, and a telephoto zoom, 70-200mm for those moments when you can’t or don’t want to get too close. You’ll have to carry all you take, so slim down you kit and travel light.

3 – When is best to shoot?

Once at location, and particularly if you have a few days there, look at where the sun is at different parts of the day. Avoid mid day shooting as the shadows can be very harsh. A sunrise shoot may be atmospheric, with mists appearing as dawn approaches, or dusk as the light fades and leaves a soft glow. Figure out when it’s the best time to photograph the location and from which spots at different times of the day, as the sun moves round.

4 – Cover all angles

Depending if you have a specific style or look in mind, it’s useful to cover all angles of the location photographically. Go for some landscapes or city shots, look for portraits and people going about their everyday lives and work..shoot the place, the people and the culture.

5 – Look for the unusual

The web and stock libraries are saturated with images from popular destination, and it’s up to you to make your travel photography stand out. So try to seek out different views, unusual angles and also maybe try to shoot at times of day that aren’t too obvious, such as a very early start at 4am as the city wakes up. This could add an edge to your photography and show a different side of the location where you are.

6 – Shooting in Raw and Jpeg 

When out shooting make sure you shoot the biggest files size you can, and better still shoot in Raw and then Jpeg as well. This will give you a lot more flexibility to use you images later on, and if you are going to be doing any post production it’s always best to start off with the largest files sizes. If you have a laptop with you make sure you back up your files before deleting the photos off the camera cards. Better still, use on online cloud back up solution if you can get wifi, and then you know your images are safe. Avoid keeping camera cards and cameras together. If you fill a card, put it in another location away from the camera. I have had personal experience of my camera being stolen towards the end of a trip, and all 10 films were in the bag and I lost not only my camera (replaceable with insurance) but all my films from that trip (gone forever and never to be replaced!)

7 – Take it in 

Take a note book with you to write down details of the location, the people, and ideas for shoots. If you can make notes of what is happening, who and where, that will help a lot for keywording you images later on. If you cover a lot of locations it’s easy to forget and get mixed up.

8 – Don’t be shy

The joy of travel is meeting the locals and people along the way. So keep this in mind for your photography, and don’t be too shy to ask if you can take someone’s photograph. They may say no, or gesture you away, but in many cases they don’t mind and you can achieve some great results and environmental portraits with the right attitude. getting in close to a subject really narrows down the viewpoint and focuses the photograph, and a portrait of an interesting face can speak volumes about the people and culture in that location.

9 – Ask a local

As you don’t know they locations all that well, it’s a good thing to do some research before the trip. Find the interesting spots, off the beaten track and explore the area to get the most out of where you are. A good idea is to hire a guide, or local, or simply ask around where there’s a interesting view point, or temple of space for some never know what may be just behind those trees you were going to walk past.

10 – Preparation 

If you can check the weather forecast before you arrive somewhere so you can get ready for either sunny, cloudy or wet weather shooting. This may have a big effect on the gear you take out that day, where you go, and the subjects you would shoot. If you can plan your route, and the kind of photos you’ll take then you’re focused and will achieve a bit more than just wandering around all day. Both are good, but planning you days shoot, with the ability to react and change direction if something interesting comes up, is a good strategy to follow.
All photography © Filip Gierlinski