Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule of Thirds

Straw hats

I find that the Rule of Thirds is one of the most handy techniques to have on hand when composing a photograph. I use it all the time and quite instinctively when I’m not looking to fill the frame. There’s something quite appealing in an asymmetric image. These are some mood pictures taken on a long weekend in Marrakech, where the subject is placed on a “third”-ish.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule of Thirds

~ Spotted Cow

Moroccan woman on streetFlowers. Yves St Laurent house.

Travel photography. Obliging objects

Ginger cat

In Marrakech, I encountered lots of beautiful tiles, doorways, and terracotta walls and my photo library is full of stills to record the details.

In atmospheric places like Marrakech, where you have lots of architectural detail, you need an obliging object to make your travel photograph that little bit more interesting. It could be a ginger cat, a donkey, a man in a traditional djellaba – something, anything, to give your picture a focal point but still bring out the cultural elements you intended to capture. It requires some patience and alertness. Cats and donkeys don’t conjure up out of nowhere.

Here are some examples. I think the images would’ve been serviceable without the said obliging objects. But they would’ve been less interesting and less personal. Everyone can shoot the tile image, but not everyone will have the ginger cat. That one thing will make it your picture.

~ Spotted Cow

Tiles and ginger catMan in djellaba through doorwayTerracotta wall with donkey and motorcyclist

Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

Makeshift workshop

At the Saadian tombs in Marrakech, while the other tourists stood in the hour-long queue to view the marble and gold tombs of the Sultan, I spied this man who had set up his “workshop” in an easily-missed corner of the garden, wedged between two walls, cutting geometric patterns from discarded coloured tiles. He sold them for 10 dirham (a bit less than £1 and a bit more than $1).

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge theme is Between.

Pictures below of his lovely cut-outs from the tiles.

~ Spotted Cow

Cutting tilesColoured tile cut-outs

Yves Saint Laurent’s house

The Yves Saint Laurent movie reminded me that I’ve been to his Marrakech house, the Jardin Majorelle. It was designed by the artist Jacques Majorelle, but the grounds fell to ruin after his death, until YSL and his partner Pierre Berge rescued and restored it. The house was their retreat and sanctuary, which was played out vividly in the movie.  When he died, his ashes were scattered here.

It was raining on the day we visited and I took fewer photos than usual, juggling both umbrella and camera. Nevertheless, the rain emphasised how lush the gardens were and I loved the coloured pots and walls, and the calming water features.  I liked how the vivid blue – which came to be known as Majorelle blue – sits next to the terracotta and the greenery. My favourite bit though, as always, was the large cactus garden. In the film, the gardeners walk back and forth among the succulents, going about their jobs. It is remarkably tranquil.

~ Spotted Cow

Jardin Majorelle pondflowers Jardin Majorelle bright yellow pot Jardin Majorelle cactus close up cactus Jardin Majorelle Jardin Majorelle visitIn memory of YSL

Moroccan lamp

I would have loved to have brought back one of these Moroccan lamps from my Marrakech jaunt. The lamps are sold in a great many shops in the market, but you don’t appreciate it until you see it lit in a dark corridor.  It extends its patterns onto the surrounding walls and ceiling, transforming it into Aladdin’s cave.

The thing is, I only liked the BIG ones and I don’t possess a cosy nook with a high enough ceiling for it not to impale an unsuspecting guest in the head.

~ Spotted Cow

Morrocan lamp

Marrakech taxis

The standard taxi fare advice is to agree your fare before you set foot in the car. This is doubly true in Marrakech where the drivers don’t run the meter and fare suggestions are suspiciously touristy. There is a fare schedule on the inside of the windscreen, in Arabic. You mayn’t be able to read it but you’ll notice that the numbers are multiples lower than you’ve agreed to pay.

A useful tip if you want to query the fare is not to get wound up. Your wily taxi driver has a ready answer for everything.

“Oh yes, those fares are for the petite taxi but there’s four of you, so we are in a grand taxi and it’s double.  Then, when I drop you off at the Menara, I might not get passengers so I have to come back and you have to pay my return fare, so it’s double again.”

Your blood rises at this perverted logic, but treat it as good-natured sparring banter.

“So if I find you a return fare, will you give me a discount?”

“Hahaha.  Oh no no no.” And without skipping a beat, the taxi driver continues “where do you want to do after the Menara? For you, my friend, I will do Special Price.”

You may yet come off with a decent deal, although I’ll contend that it’s still not what the locals pay.

We had these conversations each of the three days we were in Marrakech. You learn to play the game. There will be “surcharges” for busy hours, using the boot, parking, an extra person … the list goes on. Or you could be dropped off 20 metres from your destination because “coincidentally” you are right in front of the best spice shops in town.

My advice – be firm and don’t lose your rag.

~ Spotted Cow

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