Welcome to the November 2021 newsletter.
Autumn is well and truly here and it feels like winter is just kicking in as well. Here in France the temperature gauge seems to be plunging quite rapidly.
Since the last newsletter I’ve been out and about again traveling from France into Italy. Had car troubles and had to be rescued by the brake-down services twice which isn’t fun when you’re in the middle of nowhere.
The subject of travel seems to be one that divides people. Should you or should you not travel? Personally I think that now we are being the given the means again and with the necessary precautions in place that we should.
So let’s get up to speed with trip reports and future workshop dates for those that are interested.
Recent trip report – Puglia
From the 5 to 12 October 2021 I was commissioned to photograph the region of Puglia in southern Italy. When I was first offered the job back in March this year I jumped at the chance as it gave me an opportunity to go south of Rome.
The point of entry for me was the city of Bari. A smooth flight from Paris to the southern port city went off without a hitch. And once you arrive at the airport there is an easy rail connection to the main train station in the city.
Therein followed seven nights of discovering this beautiful corner of Italy. A corner that I was wondering why I hadn’t been before as there is much to offer.
Each day was a different city and in some cases two cities. A whistle stop tour of the region saw me driving from one end of it to the other. But this commission was different to others and was giving me opportunities to get to places that others don’t.
The theme for my commission was to photograph Puglia from unknown angles. Angles that the public can’t necessarily get to but the images are there to inspire you the viewers to visit.
This meant a lot of stairs and dusty bell towers. Rickety staircases and in one case a construction site within a cathedral.
The image below is from the roof of Ostuni cathedral. The area is completely out of bounds to the public and if you climb the stairs you’ll understand why. There are very old and worn stone steps. There is little protection offered as you climb up and there is nothing but a void to your side as you go higher up.
Personally I had two places that I wanted to photograph before going. The city of Lecce with its stunning Baroque architecture and the coastal city of Trani with its cathedral perched on the edge of the coastline.
In Lecce they are currently creating a lift so that tourists can freely go up to the near top of the bell tower. The lift isn’t ready yet for a number of months so I had the privilege of going up there and seeing the view across the city before other people.
There are two sections at the top of the tower. The tourists are going to be at the lower level but my guide asked if I wanted to go to the very top. Yes, was the easy reply. But it’s dangerous. OK, well let’s see just how dangerous it is.
At the very top there was a narrow walkway around the tower where you could just about walk around. Was it dangerous? No but you certainly have to be below a certain girth in order to make your way around the top as it was a squeeze.
Coming back down from the tower I asked if it was possible to photograph the nave of the cathedral from the organ loft. To my delight they said yes! They even asked if people would mind moving out of the way as I was capturing photos for the region.
My second to last day was to be spent in the city of Foggia. Before I made the journey up there I had been given access to a small, intimate view overlooking a church in Lecce. The Doctor whose apartment I was in questioned why on earth I was going to Foggia. No idea, was my reply. I’m given an itinerary and work to that.
So what was his concern? Well I found out afterwards that there isn’t really a lot in Foggia at all. That people in Puglia never really go to the city unless they really have to. My brief was to stay overnight then photograph the city at sunrise from the top of the city hall. Sadly though it wasn’t to be as it was raining.
Not to be outdone I made my way to the city’s cathedral. I thought that if it was going to be a wet weather day then I could at least photograph the inside of the cathedral.
In a lot of Italy’s cathedrals and churches you find guardians who take care of the place. Foggia was no exception and upon asking in my broken Italian I was led through to see the Father of the church.
When I explained what I wanted he briefly went into another room and I heard him say my name. What’s so odd about that? I hadn’t addressed myself to him but it turns out that he’d seen a news report on me the previous evening on RAI Television which is the equivalent of the BBC.
He happily agreed but said I needed to be quick as there was a service starting soon.
My last day in Puglia was in the beautiful coastal town of Trani. A few years ago I had seen a photograph of the cathedral here and vowed to one day get there to see it and photograph it for myself.
This day was to be one of mixed feelings. Sheer joy in the morning as the sunrise was exceptional and the most beautiful I’ve seen in a while. And frustration as in the afternoon I became ill and was hardly able to do anything. It seems I’d picked up a bout of food poisoning somewhere along the line.
But Trani is definitely a highlight of any itinerary to Puglia and absolutely worth spending time here wandering its narrow streets.
The Italian Dolomites – A Magnificent Autumn
Three days after getting back from southern Italy it was time to pack the suitcase again and head back. This time flying into Venice to meet clients for my annual autumn workshop in the Dolomites.
When it comes to capturing autumn colour I usually advise people to go to the Lake District up in England’s north west then once they’ve had their fill there then go to the Dolomites.
The Lake District is pretty as we all know but in the Dolomites the mountains are bigger and more jagged. Add in the stunning colours that the larch trees offer up and also in the central part the vineyards then you have a recipe of amazing photographic opportunities. And if you’re a foodie then this place will definitely outdo the Lakes!
The tour is split into two halves. I do this so that people get to experience the more agricultural side of the Dolomites with the vineyards and orchards then head over to the Cortina area to experience the larch trees and even more jagged mountains.
During our first full day it was evident that in some places we weren’t going to be alone. The Dolomites has some notable hotspots and as such a number of people want their “Instagram” shot so you have to exercise some patience.
But this shouldn’t be a barrier as when you start going around the place and getting to know it like I’ve done over the last 5 years then you can very easily lose the people.
Over three nights in the Val Gardena area we took in some of the popular sights as well as the lesser visited sights to mix things up.
The Sella Pass is one such place that we headed to. It is easily accessed and you would think that because of this that you’d be hard pressed to find space to move around. In fact each time we went there we were mostly on our own so we could work freely at capturing the surrounding landscapes.
But it was when we headed over to the Cortina side and started exploring further that we really hit gold. Gold in the form of stunning views across the mountains topped with those aforementioned larch trees paving the valleys beneath us.
Photography technique wise this absolutely the place to panoramas. The vistas that are laid out in front of you beg to be captured in something other than 2×3 or 4×3. The mountains are jagged and the colours truly saturated. It is a photographer’s playground in this stunning part of northern Italy.
One of the highlights for the group was watching the clouds literally roll across the Passo Giau. Like a huge serpent the cloud came through the valleys and gave a stunning end to the day whilst the sun set to the south west.
The photography to the Dolomites tour is being run again in 2022 and 2023 so if you’re interested in seeing for yourself the majestic mountains and stunning vistas that the area has to offer then let me know.
Traveling in 2021
In 2021 I think we would all agree that travel in its current form is a little more challenging than back in 2019. The keyword here is that it’s challenging but absolutely not impossible.
The challenges that you now face are in reality quite simple to overcome. As long as you have the requisite paperwork then getting from home to your chosen destination is in fact quite easy. There’s the usual frustrations at times with airports but then there’s nothing new there. Just have your paperwork and you’ll be fine.
For any overseas tour that I run I make sure that my clients are fully up to speed with what is required of them. Specific country’s government websites are checked frequently to ensure you know what you need.
So what do you need before getting out there and going back into the wild blue yonder?
A number of countries are issuing these to prove that you’ve been vaccinated. Some people have an issue with them but personally I don’t. If it facilitates travel being easier getting from one country to another then so be it.
However what I would say is that it’s also best to keep a copy of your vaccinations in paper form. One of the group had an issue getting into a restaurant in Cortina. He had his COVID pass from the UK but it wasn’t recognized by the waitress’ app that scanned it. However, in another restaurant it was fine.
So what was the issue? In the first restaurant the problem likely stemmed from the waitress’ app being out of date. So make sure you’ve got your paper copy with you just in case.
Lateral flow; PCR; PC-LAMP tests and whatever else that they throw at us. Depending on the country will depend on what you need to enter or return home. Be sure to check what it is you need in order to facilitate your travel. And also make sure of the timeframes between getting the results and being allowed to travel. Some countries ask for a test result 72 hours beforehand and some ask for one 96 hours.
Initially there seemed to be a slow response from insurance companies in how to deal with travellers who get caught up in things. If a border suddenly closed then you were pretty much left to your own devices. But this has now changed and insurance companies are offering specific policies that will cover you should something untoward happen in terms of a pandemic. And note that I said “pandemic” rather than COVID.
Last month I renewed my own travel insurance. The specific wording that covers me in the event that something should happen is “pandemic” rather than COVID.
Before traveling to ANY country see if they specifically require insurance that will cover you. Some countries such as Chile are asking for this before you travel. There is also a specific amount that you need to be covered for too so make sure you’re covered!
From the arrival at the airport to the arrival at your destination then be prepared to wear a mask. Airlines are demanding it and some countries such as Germany require that you were a specific type of mask. Make sure you check the requirements before getting on the plane.
Depending on the length of your flight and also the airline you may gets yours swapped out. When I traveled to Uzbekistan back in August I used Aeroflot for both flights. Each flight was 4 hours long and after 2 hours the staff came along and gave us new masks.
Country Specific Tracking Apps
Certain countries are asking that as part of entry onto their territory that you download their tracking app. Again, make sure you are aware of any apps that need to be installed on your phone before traveling.
So, yes it is a bit of a game and maybe it’s too much stress for some. But if you take a step back and work things through then you’ll find that in reality it’s pretty simple.
What you normally find is that getting your country specific vaccination QR code is the hardest part. Everything else is relatively simple in comparison.
I suspect that these restrictions are likely to be with us for a while so better get used to them now rather than later.
Borders opening up!
At the time of writing a number of countries have either opened up or they are in the early stages of doing so.
Because of some of the places that I run tours to I have to keep a watchful eye on what’s going on along with any entry restrictions that may be imposed on travellers into the country.
Out of all the places that I run tours to the ones that have been slower to open to us are Norway; Mongolia and Vietnam.
Norway has, from what I understand, recently opened up to most travellers. Looking on the government website it shows that if you’ve been vaccinated with one of the approved vaccines and can prove it then you should be fine. If you’re arriving from a specific country that is under one of their coloured restrictions then you’ll have to take a test on arrival.
Mongolia has just opened up. It’s been a long wait and I’ve been especially keen to see the country open as a number of people have asked me about the eagle hunter tour that I run. At the time of writing flights into the country are quite specific but as of the 1st December 2021 that is due to change again.
Vietnam is another one that has been slow to get tourism running again. But finally this week the country welcomed the first batch of sightseers back onto its soil. Initially they are only allowing organized trips but in the new year this is to get easier and easier. The timeline is that by the middle of 2022 that we are going to be free to enjoy the delights that this beautiful south-east Asian country has to offer.