Northletters - The Snow Dancing in the Wind

I'm honoured to be contributing to NORTHLETTERS' first print issue! It will be available for purchase this autumn.

In the meantime, an excerpt of the article has been published on their website, along with some of the shots that will be in the magazine. Follow this link to have a read!

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Monthly Story 7

Jack Johnson - Never Know

Nestled on the slopes of the Dades Valley sits Kelaat M’Gouna. Close to this inconspicuous little town flows the Dadès river, which enables farmers to plant nuts, vegetable and fruit in the area. However, it’s the culture and harvest of the Dadès rose that draw visitors to the Valley every month of May for the rose festival. 

Harvesting season lasts for three weeks - while the roses are in full bloom - and everyone gives a hand. 

At dawn, the women start roaming the fields and picking the lush roses full of dew, before the burning sun gets too high in the sky. They shy away from us, even though they know our guide and we are trying to make ourselves as discreet as possible. We hide the camera and keep a respectful distance, slowly following them among the bushes. 

The women then bring their huge loads to one of the distilleries dotting the town. 

It’s a cooperative effort; while the women strain under the heat and their precious bundles up and down the mountain, the men have to patiently extract litres of rose water and rose oil out of kilos of petals. Rosebuds are also collected and dried on huge metal trays for decorative purposes. 

The people’s joint enterprise culminates with the festival. Every year, the rich and inimitable fragrance of the rose welcomes more than 300.000 visitors in May, where locals celebrate the end of the harvest and the most beautiful rose of all – Miss Rose. 

Tradition is paramount in rural Morocco; it permeates daily life to its core –culturally, financially, sociologically. If the dreamy look in the eyes of locals just before the festivities and the palpable atmosphere of relief and anticipation are any indication, this occasion is extremely precious on so many levels for the inhabitants of the valley.



Monthly Story 6

Moby - Honey

A stop at Antelope Canyon is probably planned during every single Western USA road trip. The numerous photographs available online and their enticing purple and pink hues are reason enough for a detour - if only to figure out for yourself whether these are real or created in Lightroom.

We had been awaiting our time in Page with much impatience. I had researched tours, considered going on the one offered to photographers, hesitated some more, then decided against it. The rule is fairly simple: if you want to bring your tripod and have a bit more time in the canyons, you have no choice but to pay for the photographers' tour.

Now problems arise when you are traveling with people (and I'm not even talking about the cost of this tour; owners and tour companies make money however they want - I can either comply or look somewhere else). Every single participant has to have a tripod, otherwise they can't accompany you. No assistant, no spouse, no-one without a tripod (and who backpacks with two tripods?). Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that was reason enough for me to go on the regular tour. As much as I like spending time with photographers, the beauty of traveling also resides in sharing it with loved ones. Don't get me wrong; I love spending time on my own, but I really would have disliked seeing Doug in passing in the canyon and have him wait outside for an hour. Besides, by that time I had found myself too many times at very popular spots with 20 other photographers and was fed up with having to fight for a few feet of space and unobstructed views. 

Something else to add (yes, I may be ranting here) is that the regular tour guide was, probably fairly, quite annoyed that I was there. She pushed me to go faster and faster, which is extremely annoying when you are lining up a precious shot (on film! Come on, have a bit of compassion), but justified when there are about 50 tourists elbowing each other in a narrow canyon.

Outside of these logistics, the canyon is otherworldly beautiful. We didn't visit Upper Antelope Canyon, and I have to say I still regret it. Lower Antelope was still stunning though, even without rays of light.

I had packed a roll of Portra 800 for the occasion, knowing I could very well end up with underexposed shots. It was a risk, but it paid off; most were surprisingly bright and useable.

If you find yourself in the area, prepare yourself to the huge number of people, but also to be dazzled. Even with all the hassle, it was certainly worth it.