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One Year of Africa in Pictures – Tips for Travel Photography Part II

Jun 12, 2020 | Africa, Blog, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Photography, Sierra Leone

The second part (click here for part 1) of my photo series “One year of Africa in pictures”.

Again, I will give you the technical data of the photos, as well as little stories about how the pictures were taken and how to get better results for your own photos.

I took these pictures with an Olympus OM-D EM10 Mark II. The lenses are listed as well.

I would like to point out again that today, almost every camera takes good pictures. Much more important than the camera are good lenses.

But in the end, the technology is secondary, because it is the photographer who takes the pictures and not the camera.

This time I have added a few quotes, often from well-known photographers, because they say a lot with just a few sentences!

Have fun 🙂


f2.5 – 1/320 sec – ISO 200
Oly 75mm F1.8 = corresponds to 150 mm in 35mm format

There are people who do not like heads or hats being cut off when taking a portrait. You can argue a lot about that, because as always, a lot is a matter of taste.

It makes it possible to look the person right in the eyes. Nobody is distracted by anything unimportant. The face and especially the eyes come into their own. Particularly because I blur out the background.

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst”
– Henri Cartier-Bresson –


f5.6 – 1/800 sec – ISO 200
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90mm in 35mm format

If you cycle around the world like I do and want to entertain your followers, you have to keep coming up with new ideas on how to put yourself or the bike in the best possible light.

It is one of the tasks during my several year-long “one-woman show”. After all, it’s not supposed to be the same old same old.

But it’s not that easy and at some point, you run out of ideas or you get bored taking so many pictures of yourself or the bike.

This is probably one of the reasons why I hardly took any shots of myself in West Africa and because I found the Africans far more fascinating to photograph.

The modern and the rustic goes well together in this picture. A contemporary traveler visiting a small village in Morocco.

I saw the shop out of the corner of my eye and had to stop immediately and put my bike in front of it.

The sky was dark, it was raining slightly, perfect light and great warm colors. Everything fitted together, less than two minutes later the light was gone, the picture was over, but I had captured it in time. Sometimes you just have to move fast.

Buying a Nikon doesn’t make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner.
– Author Unknown –

Sierra Leone

f1.8 – 1/15 sec – ISO 2500
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90 mm in 35mm format

I love nighttime photography. Capturing a scene with only the available light, without artificially influencing it. Staging and illuminating a scene with additional light is not really my thing. I never use a flash.

Modern cameras allow us to take handheld shots with long exposure times and high ISO. I only use a tripod when there is no other way. Tripods limit my range of movement way too much and I cannot react fast enough.

I accept the noise caused by the high ISO and enjoy my candid night scenes.

The most important part of a camera is the 12 inches behind the viewfinder. I really hate it when someone looks at my pictures and says: “Wow, you have a really great camera!”
– Ansel Adams –


f1.8 – 1/200 sec – ISO 500
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90 mm in 35mm format

As always, it’s a game of depth of field. Blurred in the foreground, the cup rim sharp, saucer and table blurred again. The lower your f-stop, the smaller your depth of field.

If the whole picture was sharp, it would be boring. The blur brings tension into the picture and guides the viewer to the cup and its contents.

Some may wonder how I get close to people. Often, I gain their confidence very quickly and people let me photograph unhindered.

I am extremely exotic and interesting to them in such remote countries and therefore good entertainment rather than a disturbance with a camera.

On the contrary, people are usually proud and happy when I take pictures of them.

The photograph was captured with a single shot, if it had taken longer, both his coffee and my food would have been cold.

Anyone who ignores the design rules of photography as a beginner has no brains. But if you cling to it for the rest of your life, you have no imagination.
– Detlev Motz –


f5.6 – 15 sec – ISO 400 – Livetime
Oly 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 = corresponds to 18 – 36 mm in 35mm format

My most beautiful camping spot of the year 2019. The baboons came to the tent in the morning and looked curiously at what I was doing.

To have less equipment weight I use a 15 cm small table-top tripod instead of a big one. So, it can be difficult sometimes not to have plants in the foreground with all the undergrowth.

But normally it works with a little tinkering in the end, like in this picture. Often it takes a few attempts until I have cleared all the plants out of the way.

With night time photography I only see any unwanted foliage after the picture has been taken. This is because in darkness the viewfinder or screen is almost dark. Only after the picture develops can you check out the final and detailed results.

The only other option you have is using a flashlight to light up the foliage while looking at the screen. It also helps to get the focus right.

In general you have to check your picture again and again in all four corners, both during the shot itself and afterwards. Many people concentrate on the center of the picture and forget the important edges. A photo is always the whole picture.

My headlamp is in the tent, so that the tent can be highlighted.

It would have been even better if the tent and the moon had not been in one line, but unfortunately, I could not make that happen.

I chose Livetime as a setting. This is very practical in such extreme light conditions. You can see on the screen how the picture is slowly developing and you can stop the exposure process at any time when the picture has developed in a way that suits you.

This setting can save important time in the end, which you might not have available in some situations. There are often moments when nature does not wait for you to get the exposure right. Often the moment is quickly over.

In any case, people think far too much about techniques and not enough about seeing.
– Henri Cartier-Bresson –


f2 – 1/40 sec – ISO 1600
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90 mm in 35mm format

When I go out in the evening, I often have only one lens in my backpack. My fast lenses are all prime lenses, so I decide before I leave which lens I will use that evening. Fast lenses make taking pictures at night much easier.

Having only one fixed focal length available trains the eye. I have to think about the angle of the lens and choose my shots accordingly. It trains my vision and often helps me to concentrate on the essentials.

Sometimes I get frustrated when I can’t shoot a scene the way I want to because I lack the lens, but it doesn’t happen often.

Having only one prime lens is really freeing. Like my life motto, the less you own the less you worry.

First rule to be a photographer, you have to be invisible
– Sameh Talhamy –


f4.5 – 1/125 sec – ISO 200
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90 mm in 35mm format

I sat comfortably in a nomad’s tent and enjoyed the tea that the two Berbers served me. At some point they stood up and I had only seconds to take this picture.

Backlit shots often have that certain something extra. The light intensifies the contours and sets the object apart from the background.

However, it is a bit more difficult to get the right exposure with the camera’s auto setting. Because you often have to overexpose the shot.

It is always important to use a lens hood when taking backlit shots. If you don’t have one, you have to use your hand to keep the light away from the lens. Otherwise you cannot avoid the lens flare in your shot and this will ruin your picture.

Set your camera on manual if you are interested in getting into photography. You will learn much more that way.

The automatic setting is as good as a talented beginner. It does nothing quite wrong, but it does nothing quite right either.
– Alexander Borell –


f2.5 – 1/80 sec – ISO 200
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90 mm in 35mm format

Frames and lines are horrible for some. In this case I see the colored door, which is blurred in the foreground, focusing your eyes on the subject.

One is really drawn into the picture and you can look at the man without being distracted, and yet it has that certain something because of the blur and the green colors at the edges.

It takes time to take pictures. If you don’t have time, you can take snapshots.
– Author unknown – 


f1.8 – 1/40 sec – ISO 1600
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90 mm in 35mm format

As I mentioned before, I love to be on the road at night. In the small villages in Morocco there was always something going on in the streets.

I was never afraid, because the people were extremely friendly. So, I could live my art to the fullest. I often spent hours in the alleys and took pictures of village life.

Different light sources produce different shades of color. I like my pictures to be very colorful.

The men in conversation framed by the colorful house facade gives the viewer a lot of information.

The men are at the bottom left in the picture, not in the middle. The blue structure to the left helps add color and depth. The colorful light on the building adds interest. It all works in harmony.

If I had only photographed the men without the surroundings, the picture would not have been nearly as interesting.

Of course the equipment was expensive and I don’t take better pictures with it. But I have more fun with my bad pictures now.
– Heiko Kanzler –


f5.6 – 1/1000 sec – ISO 200
Oly 17mm F1.8 = corresponds to 34 mm in 35mm format

Would the picture have been more impressive if the cart had gone in the other direction and you could have seen the men from the front?

Are the men driving off into the distance just like me? Or are they rather on their way home?

Does the picture always have to make a statement?

I had just found the two baobabs as a location for a cycling selfie, when I saw the cart rolling in from a distance and changed my picture idea at short notice.

In no time at all I screwed my wide angle lens onto the camera, positioned myself and only had to press the shutter when the men passed by.

A quick shot as they say.

Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop
– Ansel Adams –


f2.5 – 1/200 sec – ISO 200
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90 mm in 35mm format

The photo has symbolic value. There is no distraction in the picture, no lines or colors that divert your attention from the subject. The focus lies exactly on the thumb and the prayer beads, the rest disappears in the blur.

One look is enough and everyone knows exactly which religion it is. Sometimes it is important to make a clear statement.

Learning to visualize the picture is important. Picking one detail out of the whole scene and dismissing everything else can turn a bland picture into something interesting.

In the end, visualizing your shot is the most difficult task in photography. The technique is only a tool.

Don’t forget, it is not the camera that takes the pictures, but the photographer.

Pictures you have taken have an influence on those that you are going to make. That’s life!”
– John Sexton –


f2.5 – 1/15 sec – ISO 640
Oly 17mm F1.8 = corresponds to 34 mm in 35mm format

Selfie in silhouette. The frog perspective comes from using my little tripod. Perfect for this shot because I could gather more of the sunset into the picture.

It was still bright enough to be able to take pictures with a reasonably short exposure time, which means I didn’t have to strain myself to not create a blur of movement when the picture was taken.

With such pictures you always have to tinker a little bit, give yourself a bit of time. Keep in mind that the closer you are to the equator, the less twilight you have.

The camera’s only job is to get out of the way of making photographs
– Ernst Haas –


f1.8 – 1/50 sec – ISO 1250
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90 mm in 35mm format

I was shopping at a store. While I was paying, the carpets were being rolled out and men were lining up.

I sat down in front of the shop and ate some of the cookies I had bought, enjoyed the atmosphere of the evening and couldn’t resist the scene I was presented with and secretly pressed the shutter.

Sometimes you just have to make yourself invisible or hide the camera.

There will be times when you will be in the field without a camera. And, you will see the most glorious sunset or the most beautiful scene that you have ever witnessed.

Don’t be bitter because you can’t record it. Sit down, drink it in and enjoy it for what it is!
– DeGriff –


f5 – 90 sec – ISO 400 – Livetime
Oly 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 = corresponds to 18-36 mm in 35mm format

This picture took some time. Children sat curiously around me and stood up again and again or new ones came, while I tried to take my picture with a long exposure.

Unfortunately, the children often cast a shadow on the bike, because the light source behind me was relatively low and the little ones always placed themselves unintentionally in front of it. So, I had to start over again and again.

I had placed my headlamp in the hut in front of the tent to illuminate not only the tent but also the ceiling of the hut a bit. If the lamp would have been visible, it would have been overexposed.

As already mentioned, different light sources have different color tones. This often makes the interesting color mix at night. Therefore, bluish outside and reddish inside.

You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.
– Joan Miro –


f1.8 – 1/160 sec – ISO 500
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90 mm in 35mm format

I was starving when I came to a small village and bought some food from this lady. As usual in West Africa, it was the standard meal, of course: rice and sauce.

I made some small talk with the lady, praised her food, her dress, admired her jewelry and was very impressed by her beauty.

I was also very pleased when she gave me permission to do a portrait of her.

In this picture I made sure that the background was blurred. I also placed the head in such a way that the vertical lines do not disturb, but provide a stylistic device.

I also pay a lot of attention to the colors. If I had taken the picture from further to the right, too much of the brown colored door would have moved into the picture. And would have destroyed the brown-green-white line background on the right side.

If you can see, you can also take pictures. However learning to see takes time.
– Leica –


f5 – 1/8 sec – ISO 1250
Oly 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 = corresponds to 18-36 mm in 35mm format

It was important to me to include the moldy ceiling and the dirt on the floor into the picture. It should give an overall impression of what it looks like in the schools in Guinea.

Sometimes the art in photography is secondary; in this case only documenting the scene counts. You have to ask yourself again and again, what do I want to say with the picture?

A photographer should never underestimate how much influence he or she has on the viewer. You also have a responsibility that I personally take very seriously.

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.
– Ansel Adams –


f2.5 – 1/160 sec – ISO 640
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90 mm in 35mm format

Sometimes you just get lucky and three attractive ladies play for the camera of their own accord. I had only a few seconds to take a picture of this scene, because only moments later the three charming ladies disappeared again.

West Africa impressed me greatly with the colorful dresses of the women. Often the people live in excessive poverty. But the women always manage to dress very chic and extravagant despite everything.

What impresses me most is how they manage to wear such clean clothes under these often-difficult living conditions.

In the few seconds I had, I managed to place the three ladies in a three-way constellation.

You might think that the picture is staged, but it is not.

Photography is a wonderful invention. A science that employs the cleverest minds – and can be used by any fool. What cannot be taught, however, is the feeling for it.
– Nadar –


f3,2 – 1/250 sec – ISO 500
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90 mm in 35mm format

There is the saying: “This is Africa” and that is exactly what fits this picture. Good-humored, colorfully dressed women eating rice out of a plastic bowl and showing interest in a white traveler.

Portraits succeed when I respond to people. When I talk to them, appreciate them, praise them or engage with them in some way.

Only then do they lose their shyness in front of the camera, open up to me, gain security and trust. In the end, they are often very happy that I photograph them.

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.
– Dorothea Lange –

Sierra Leone

f3,5 – 1/400 sec – ISO 200
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90 mm in 35mm format

Depth of field. The blurred log in the foreground brings depth to the picture. Depth always brings excitement and should be part of any image if possible.

Photography is not difficult as long as you don’t understand it.
– Author unknown –

Sierra Leone

f5 – 1/500 sec – ISO 200
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90 mm in 35mm format

Rainy season. Three months of continuous rain in West Africa. Darkness, almost never light and shadow. Grey tones and the problem of not being able to take the camera out of the bag, because it would break down in the humidity. I don’t have an umbrella with me due to lack of space.

Under these extreme travel conditions, which I was exposed to as a touring cyclist, I didn’t always have the patience for taking pictures – although photography gives me a lot and I can often compensate for difficult moments.

Photography needs time. You also have to be in a good mood, otherwise you are blocked inside.

Of coursethere will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how,’ while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why.’
Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information
Man Ray – 


f2.2 – 1/60 sec – ISO 1000
Oly 75mm F1.8 = corresponds to 150 mm in 35mm format

The world has already seen enough sunset pictures and still we love the warm colors and the reflections in the water. Sometimes it’s worth waiting a little longer, namely until the sun has already completely disappeared and only the colors are still visible in the clouds.

I was traveling on a ferry and had no chance to use my tripod. Using a long exposure time with the ferry and the moving boat as a subject wasn’t possible. Therefore, I had to use a high ISO.

The noise becomes visible in the picture, one could see it as a stylistic device. In art everything is possible 🙂

We don’t take pictures with cameras – we take them with our hearts and minds.
– Arnold Newman –


f3.2 – 1/80 sec – ISO 1000
Oly 17mm F1.8 = corresponds to 34mm in 35mm format

I had spent the night in a church and even before I was really awake, the first school children had already begun showing up and looking in through the windows.

It can be annoying sometimes, when due to a high population density I can never avoid people. But I can also see it positively and use the time to have fun with the children.

The small windows gave me the right frame to put the kids in the right light. The window and the cobweb make the picture interesting.

Background and foreground are important tools to turn a normal situation into an interesting one.

Photography is a way of shouting, of freeing oneself … It’s a way to live.
– Henri Cartier-Bresson –


f2.8 – 1/400 sec – ISO 800
Oly 45mm F1.8 = corresponds to 90 mm in 35mm format

Focus on what’s possible.

Here, some men were sitting around the board game, but the people watching the game sat too chaotically around the players. It just didn’t make for a good picture, so I concentrated only on the game and the men’s hands.

Sometimes details are just better and also easier to realize. You also have to accept that not every situation you see and want to capture will bring a good result. Reducing oneself to details often makes sense and is easier in the end.

It is no accident that the photographer becomes a photographer any more than the lion tamer becomes a lion tamer.
– Dorothea Lange –


f3.5 – 1/400 sec – ISO 200
Oly 25mm F1.8 = corresponds to 50 mm in 35mm format

I’ve had shit weather in West Africa for a long time. Taking pictures of bad weather is not always easy.

To depict raindrops needs some practice. You have to play with the exposure time. Too long or too short exposure times won’t show the raindrops.

I entrenched myself under a roof and was therefore able to photograph the rainy scene in front of me.

The most unnecessary question about a photograph:
What camera did you take this with?

Should I post more photography articles in the future? Are my explanations interesting, too simple or too difficult?

I would like to concentrate on the composition of the pictures and not in depth explanation concerning the technique.

Are you interested?

So come on – give me your thoughts, wishes and suggestions for the next photo article. ?

By the way, would you like to receive a picture postcard from my travels?

If you appreciate my work as a blogger and would like to support me, just click on the campfire picture. Big thank you 🙂

Your friends might like this article too – thanks for sharing! 


  1. Enjoyed your pictures to the fullest. And your explanations about how they were made, may help me in the future. May be I’ll bring my Canon on my next bicycle trip instead of my cellphone.

  2. Impressive photos and work describing them. It helps a lot to learn how to make photos. For me, the most important to make portraits is the relationship with people, as you pointed. All matters in photography but for me, what it’s more interesting, is the composition of the photo. Not so much the technical data

  3. I would love to see more of this type of post – I find you comments on the photos very interesting and helpful for my own photography. I also love the quotes you have included!

  4. Good blog episode. The technicalities are very helpful for those that want to improve in photography. Thanks!

  5. I enjoyed reading this blog. Your photos are fantastic and was inspired by your thoughts on composition and simplicity, with good results. I follow you avidly, and your travels and insights are riveting.

  6. Hi! Excellent pictures and your story felling too! It is inspiring for us who travel a lot. It is extra inspiring because we use Olympus too and even severel of the lenses you use! You dare using the 45mm not only for portraits! Congrats!

  7. I always love how you frame you pictures and the colours you capture,,,draws me in to the story they are telling

  8. To me one of the best blogs and read it several times and love to hear the background of your pictures. Best of luck with your walking trip, hope you will be passing many national parks


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