Focusing on Texture

When taking photos while traveling, don't forget to look down! Sometimes great shots are under your feet, like this wooden door on a felucca sailing down the Nile in Cairo |

The other night we took a felucca ride down the Nile River in Cairo. Feluccas are Egyptian sailboats and sailing in them at sunset is a very popular pastime among locals and tourists alike. Along with all the wide landscape, sunset, and full boat shots I took, I also focused on some of the details. I like finding the small details or interesting colors or textures that make a site unique and help tell the story. The boat was partially blue and this door in the floor caught my eye. I love how it being all blue makes you focus on the texture of the wood.

Don’t forget to look down when taking photos! Sometimes great shots are under your feet.


A Taste of Islamic Cairo

A Taste of Islamic Cairo-Al Azhar Park | Photography Behind the Scenes and Tips |

I’ve spent the past few months getting ready for an international move, doing the move, and then settling in to our new home in Cairo, Egypt. But now I should be posting much more frequently again.

The above photo is from Al-Azhar Park in Islamic Cairo. This was taken on the Western end of the park by the Ayyubid Wall that was discovered during the excavation and creation of the park (open to the public in 2005). The Ayyubid Dynasty began in 1171 AD by Salah al-Din. He expanded Cairo’s fortifications, started the Citadel, and built the Ayyubid Wall between 1176 and 1183 AD.  The goal of the wall was to create a fortification as protection against invaders. However, over the centuries, the city expanded outside of the walls.

Back to the photo, one thing I like about this one in particular are the leading lines made by the path and the wall. It guides the eye to look at all the buildings. When you take photos, think about how lines can help guide your eye throughout the image.


Qutab Minar in Delhi


These are the stone screens (or arches) at Qutab Minar in Delhi, India. They were built by Qutbuddin Aibak, the first sultan in the Mamluk or Slave Dynasty, who reigned from 1206-1210. It’s called the Slave Dynasty because the sultans, including Aibak, were slaves prior to becoming sultans. Aibak only ruled for 4 years. He ended up dying during a polo match when his horse fell and the saddle impaled him! He also built the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque at the Qutab Minar and started the Minar itself.

These are giant (16 m high) stone arches that are intricately carved in patterns. Aibak (and the other Mamluk Dynasty sultans) was a Muslim and wanted these decorated in an Islamic style. However, the craftsmen working on them were Hindus and had no experience with carving more Islamic designs. These arches were more flowing, with lots of curves, vines, and elements of nature. Iltumish, a later sultan, brought in carvers from Iran when he expanded the arches, so that the designs would be Islamic (meaning more geometric) rather than Hindu in nature. Later, Alauddin planned to build even more arches, but never finished them.


A Little Hut in the RMI


Almost 10 years ago, I flew from Dulles, VA to Atlanta to Los Angeles to Honolulu to Majuro to teach for a year. How many of you are scratching your head going “Majuro???” Majuro is the capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, a teeny tiny nation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean just north of the equator and south of Hawaii made up of a bunch of atolls and islands. It’s very very flat and low lying. It’s very very tiny in terms of landmass (but big in term of ocean area). And the people are very very wonderful.

I went through a program called WorldTeach and joined a few dozen others who came to teach English and other subjects in the local schools. I moved to Lukoj, Arno–a tiny town on an atoll about an hour by boat from Majuro. We had no electricity except solar, no running water, and my host mother cooked over an open fire. That yellow house in the picture was mine for the year. It might look small, but I was actually very lucky as my host family had a similar sized place on the property that housed the two adults and 2 kids. And really, I spent most of my time outside the house anyway. I’d sit and bwebwenato (chat) with my students or host family, jambo (take a stroll), and make the villagers laugh hysterically as I tried to speak Marshallese or learn Marshallese skills.

I don’t actually have a ton of photos from my time in Lukoj as my electricity source (a car battery hooked up to a solar panel) tended to kill my batteries and so I went long periods without batteries. But I’ll be posting a few more as I reminisce about the 10 year anniversary approaching in July.


Clock Towers and the Do You Edit? Question


This clock tower is in the center of Sardar Market in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. It is about a century old and was built by Maharaja Sardar Singh in the early 1900s. Ghanta ghar, as it is called in Hindi, offers wonderful views of the market and city. It is definitely worth climbing up for photos. Jodhpur is known as the blue city and is home to Mehrangarh Fort.

This photo made me think about editing and how much one should or should not edit. With travel photos, I try to do minimal edits and keep it as close to what I saw as possible. I’ll adjust white balance to make the color more true to life (different lighting can add a color cast on a photo) and straighten or crop. My debate with this photo was whether or not to remove the wire stretching across the shot. I decided to keep it. What do you think? Is removing something from a travel photo ok or not? In what scenarios?



Ancient Ellora and Ajanta Caves, India


Just over a year ago, right before leaving India, my family took a trip to the Ellora and Ajanta Caves outside of Aurangabad. I had heard amazing things about the caves, and it definitely lived up it. The picture above is from the Ellora cave system. It shows the Kailasha, a monolithic rock cut temple. It was excavated from top to bottom and scooped out all through from outside to in. Signs at the site said it took 10 generations and 200 years to finish! It was started to the mid 700s AD.

Shiva is the patron deity of the temple. It is a complex and has a number of shrines throughout.

I looked back on my journal from India and here is what I wrote in preparation for the trip:

“We are flying to Aurangabad in Maharashtra, a state in the central part of India. It is fairly near Mumbai.  Maharashtra is India’s third largest state and has 110 million inhabitants! Its capital is Mumbai with 18 million people. It is fairly wealthy and well-developed by Indian standards. Agriculture and industries (particularly chemical products, machinery, textiles and petroleum) play major economic roles. For more about the state, visit

Aurangabad was founded by Malik Ambar. It started as a town of Khadke in 1610 and then was renamed Aurangabad to honor the last Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, in 1653. It is the closest city to the Ellora Caves and Ajanta Caves and is also home to a mauseoleum called Bibi Ka Maqbara. For more on Aurangabad, visit,_Maharashtra.

Our two stops outside of Aurangabad are the Ellora Caves and the Ajanta Caves. The Ajanta caves are about 2.5 hours away by car and date to the 2nd century BC! They were rediscovered in 1819 by British officers hunting tigers. They had been abandoned since the late 7th century. The caves are covered in Buddhist sculptures and frescoes and tells of the life of Buddha and the lifestyle of Buddhist monks. They are particularly well preserved, probably as they were hidden by the jungle for hundreds of years. For more about the caves, visit

The Ellora Caves are about 1 hour from Aurangabad and are newer than the Ajanta ones (but still really old). They have 17 Hindu, 12 Buddhist, and 5 Jain caves dating from the 4th to 9th centuries AD. There are volcanic stone carvings and it is a fine example of rock-cut architecture. These caves were never “lost” like the Ajanta ones were and written records include mention of them since their creation. For more information, visit”

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Fun Fact Friday: Why is Jodhpur the “Blue City?

Jodhpur Houses Blue with Green

Fun Fact Friday: Why is Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India known as the “Blue City?” Aside from providing photographers with some great photographic opportunities, I was sure there was a better reason. However, finding an answer was harder than I thought. No one seems to know for sure, but there are definitely many theories.

  1. Brahmin (upper priestly caste) homeowners painted their houses blue to stand out and others ended up following suit
  2. The blue paint fights against termites and other bugs. Copper sulphate and other chemicals were added to the paint to cover up damage and prevent further damage and this made the paint blue. However, others say it is just natural indigo dye in the paint.
  3. The blue keeps away mosquitoes
  4. The blue represents water, important in a city located in the middle of a desert
  5. The blue keeps houses cool
  6. The blue has a calming affect

I personally think that #1 or 2 make the most sense. What do you think is the reason?


Safdarjung’s Tomb in Delhi

delhi_safdarjung's tomb wm

Safdarjung’s Tomb in Delhi, India was started in 1753 as a tribute to a man known as Safdarjung, who was a governor and then a Prime Minister to Muhammad Shah, a Mughal ruler.  It is built in the same style as Humayun’s Tomb (and therefore, the Taj Mahal) and you might see many similarities. Like most Mughal-era tombs, you have the charbagh style of garden. The tomb sits in the middle with one garden in each of four quadrants.  Also similar to other Mughal tombs, there is a water feature at the front that can provide nice reflections. This is the last monumental tomb garden of the Mughals.

In terms of visiting, it is a quieter tourist destination than many nearby stops and is perfect for a picnic or some quiet reflection. It is in the middle of the city near the much more popular Lodi Gardens. Flowers are gorgeous in the spring.


Amber Fort, Jaipur, India

Jaipur_Amber Fort wm

The approach to the Amber Fort (also called Amer Fort) in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India is a gorgeous one. Leaving the city of Jaipur, you head towards Amer and are greeted by this stunning fort rising over the water. If you’re lucky in terms of sunshine, like I was, you can catch its reflection in the water. Amer/Amber derives its name from either the Ambikeshwar Temple (the local temple to the Hindu God Shiva) or from Amba, the Hindu Mother Goddess Durga. Originally built by Raja Man Singh in the late 900s, it was expanded on by other rulers including Jai Singh.  To enter the fort, you can ride an elephant up or can drive up most of the way and walk the remaining distance.


Travel Tip Tuesday: Toiletry Bag

tughlaqabad fort wm

Want to save a few minutes packing? Keep your toiletry bag stocked with your essentials in travel sizes. I have a zippered bag that I keep packed with a travel toothbrush, travel sized toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, contact lens solution and body wash, a small loofah, and some basic medicine/first aid items (bandaids, neosporin, anti-itch cream for mosquito bites, acetaminophen, ibuprophen, allergy meds, cold meds, cough drops, etc.). Some medicine comes handily in individual containers like the cold meds I use. I also have a small divided container where I put a few doses of medicines that come in bigger bottles. Now that I travel with kids, I also keep the bag stocked with a thermometer, baby acetaminophen, the preschooler’s travel tooth brush and paste and saline drops for colds. When I pack, I just toss in my make up and night lotion and I’m good to go.

Pictured above: Tughlaqabad Fort in Delhi, India.