Morocco trip report

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SamNC Contributing Member • Posts: 533
Morocco trip report
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The real story here is what happened to my camera....see under the Open forum the "Lost Camera" thread.  It is quite entertaining.  the tl;dr version is that despite me thinking I left my $2500 D500 and 16-80 lens at a restaurant in the Newark Airport, security footage indicated that I indeed walked out with my camera.  I am not sure where I left it in the intervening 30 minutes before I boarded my flight, but the camera is being sent to me.  There are a ton of lessons learned...see the post.  All is well that ends well.

Since I am posting this on Wednesday, Jan 17, and my camera will be sent to me on Thursday, January 18, I won't be able to comment about how high quality my shots were or what worked and what didn't...that will be for a later post once I have time to review everything.  I will also post some shots, since you all helped me get the camera back...so thanks.

A LITTLE ABOUT ME AND MY EQUIPMENT AND WHAT I LIKE TO SHOOT

I am almost 40 years old, and I like to take a big trip once every 12-18 months or so.  I went to Myanmar last Christmas, and 18 months prior to that, I was in the Indian Himalayas.  Prior to that, I traveled down the east spine of India on a different trip.  I try to have a stop over at a city in a third country, giving me a little bonus city, such as Hong Kong.

At any rate, I like to shoot people shots (more on this later) architecture, landscapes, and abstract stuff. When I am not traveling, I like photographing my son with his sports.  I have a Nikon D500 and a Panasonic LX100.  For my lenses, I took my 16-80, 35mm, 85mm, 80-200, Rokinon fisheye, and my 11-16 Tokina.  I also took a flash.  As an aside, on my trip to Myanmar, I never really used the 80-200 and used the 85mm very often, but I had the inverse for this trip.  Not really sure how that happened, but just wanted to pass that on.

WHAT I SAW WHEN

Arrived:  Casablanca.  Not really much to see there.  The mosque is really worth seeing, and is one of the few mosques you can enter.  Really great from a photography perspective.  There is a medina (ye olde towne) near the medina, which is worth a stroll. Some interesting street art in the medina.

Tetouan:  City I visited on the way to Chefchaouen.  Was a 3-hour stopover basically.  Not touristed, worth seeing.  Interesting Medina, but only really worth seeing if you are going to another destination and the town is on your way.  Glad I saw it.

Chefchaouen:  The blue city. Absolutely great.  The only problem is that this is the kind of town I would like to sit back and have a few relaxing beers in during the afternoon and you can't really do that in Morocco easily, or not the way I want to.  (more on this in the non-photography section).  Really good for photography and a good city to chill out in.

Fes:  The best medina.  Literally a thousand years old, and does not look like it changed much.  markets in medina (but note that people do not like to be photographed at all....and the markets are much less interesting/colorful than in other countries).  Really great for architecture and abstract stuff.   You can visit the tanneries.  I hope my photos turned out well.  A great city to shoot in.

Fes to Desert: I booked a 4-day tour in Fes which took me to the desert.  1 night in hotel in desert, 1 night in the desert itself, 1 night on way to Marrakesh.  The towns outside of the desert are OK, but not really worth a dedicated trip...but the desert was great.  Good shots of the sand dunes, sunset, sunrise, etc...  Also good to see the desert since most of what I shot were old things in towns and cities...so, the contrast was nice.  On the way back, I went to Todra Gorges.  I had fun with my fisheye there.  It looked a bit like a cross between the Grand Canyon and Half Dome.

Marrakesh:  interesting city, but I thought underwhelming for photography.  Street performers want to charge you about US$10 for shooting, so be careful.

Essouria:  Took a day trip here from Marrakesh.  A great down for photography from the medina to the beach to the rocky coast to the fish market.

BREAKDOWN OF EQUIPMENT USED

I got the LX100 for the trip, as I never had a real compact before. It is very liberating having a compact camera when I wanted to leave the D500 at the hotel. Of course, I usually wanted to carry the D500 with me, as I went for photography, but the LX100 was good if I was going out in the evening and wanted to casually shoot, or if I wanted to walk around in a tourist mode in a town and not in a photography mode.  IQ seems good from what I saw so far.  I think the more I use the camera, the more I will get better at it.  I will also get good use out the camera when I want to shoot, but want to enjoy a family trip and need something less intrusive than my D500.

D500:  We all know how good it is, but it is heavy and large with the grip and flash.

16-80: worked very well for me as a general lens

85 f/1.8 af-s:  I didnt use this lens that much, much to my surprise.  I used the 80-200 much more, which is odd since usually when I travel, I use the 85 more than the 80-200.  I am really not sure why this worked out, but as you all know, both the 85 f/1.8 AF-S and the (now old) 80-200 AF-D are both good lenses.

11-16:  very useful wide angle.  You will need this in Morocco, or really anytime you travel.

Fisheye:  I used it just a few times, but I think I will be happy I used it, once i see my images. One of my 20x30s from Myanmar was taken with the fisheye

35 f/1.8 DX:  Used on occasion, when I wanted something small and/or f/1.8.  As an aside, I really, really, really wish Nikon would give me a 16 f/1.8 DX.  It would be so nice for travel photography and would round out my 35 f/1.8, 50 f/1.8 (which I didn't bring) and my 85 f/1.8.

SB-700 flash:  used it as needed

PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS:

1.  the locals do not like getting photographed..,this was a surprise to me since generally when people are hesitant, I am able to show them the camera, take a photo of me, or do whatever, and after 30 seconds, they are totally OK with being photographed.  I never felt comfortable covertly doing candid shots in markets or whatever in Morocco.  I got some really good shots in Myanmar of that, but couldn't do that in Morocco.  Also, if you want to photograph something like a street performer, they want about US$10!  So, be careful when doing people photos.  India on the other hand is at the opposite end of the spectrum where people always want their photo taken, or their photo taken with you, as you are basically the tourist attraction.

2. you can't enter mosques, but most of them from the quick peeks I took, seem very simple and not really compelling for photography.

3. I might have been around too many countries, but the markets didn't seem really photogenic.  Might have been due to ugly backgrounds (the cities outside to the old towns are not really photogenic) or the fact that the people don't want to be photographed or that it doesn't really look "traditional", whatever you subjectively think that is.

4. I had a really good time doing abstract and architectural shots.

5. the desert is really good to shoot...very worthwhile.  You will like it, if you are even remotely into landscapes.

6.  It is a diverse country.  Has beaches, mountains, snow, small villages, big cities.

SO DID I LIKE IT?

yes and no.  I guess the short answer is YES.  I did like it.  But, I doubt I will ever return to Morocco.  And, this is a pretty big inditement I think.  You could say it is because Morocco is a relatively small country, and I shot what I needed to shoot.  But, I visited Myanmar, and if I get to Thailand, I could easily see myself going to a different part of Myanmar for a side trip.  I went to India 4x already....I love the place.  I want to go back to see a different part of the country, and I want to see Rajasthan again, this time as a more experienced photographer.  But, with Morocco......well.....I kind of see it now as a "been there, done that' kind of place.  Also, India and Myanmar are cheaper than Morocco.

For this trip, it was between SE Asia again or Morocco.  I funded the flight via frequent flier miles, and Morocco was slightly easier for me to get to on the days I needed to travel as opposed to Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia.  Plus, I thought since i already saw Myanmar last year, I should see something different.

Another thing which bothered me a bit about Morocco (which I knew coming into it) was the beer situation.  I really like to travel and then in the afternoon relax with a beer and then rest up and do late afternoon/evening shooting, and then maybe have another beer after that.  Morocco kind of messed that up since it is hard to get beer at a restaurant, and when you do, it is expensive, or it is set up in a place where you don't just want to lounge around there for an hour or two, talking to other tourists and locals over a beer.  So, that kind of threw me off some since something I like to do when I travel I could not do.  However, I have to say that the food over there is really, really, really good.  Especially if you like meat.  Oranges are superb over there.

IMHO, people are not really likable in Morocco.  In India, they are certainly scammers, but I guess they are nicer scammers?  Or, there might just be some kind of irrational affinity I have towards India which make them seem charming or not hostile even though they are a pain to deal with...I dunno.  The people in India seem to really like Americans. Ditto in Myanmar and China.  The people in Morocco tell me they do like Americans and the USA, but I guess (perhaps it is cultural) they don't seem as warm as people in other countries I visited.  I can't really put my finger on it.

Once I get my camera back, I will be going through my images, I can give you a better idea with what worked and what didn't work and why.  I took about 3000 images.  Generally, I try to select about 100 of them and print them into 4x6s.  Then, I try to get one or two of my absolute favorites framed in a 20x30 or something similar.  Hopefully I will have to debate very hard over which are the final 5 or 10 I want to consider for the one or two I get framed and hung up.  We shall see!

Nikon D500 Panasonic LX100
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