Anxiety can paralyze you

I haven’t blogged for a while, due to laziness mainly, but today I decided to post about photographer’s anxiety.

Now, think of an ideal set, with the best light, gorgeous people and horses, a landscape to die for.

There are 3 ways to approach your best shoot ever, and we have all been all three kinds:

1) you are calm, you have experience and you know you have to make a plan before you start. You calculate everything before you start, and you don’t indulge on that. A brainstorm has to last only a tiny lapse of time to be productive. You seldom chimp. You are in charge. You are focused. You know exactly what you are after. You stop for short intervals if you feel tired. You feel a bit overwhelmed because you have so many great expectations. You stick to your plan, but you may try to enhance it as you go. You shoot accordingly with the post processing you wish to use on your photos. You feel the need to make things happen in such a way you can be creative, you are always linked to the people/horses/other photographers as things develop. You feel that you could have done better, but you haven’t checked the images in camera. You are confident. You don’t feel tired, you feel that you are excited and with a lot of adrenaline. You talk to the models and relax until you feel calmer.

2) you start well, full of self confidence but then you kind of forget to give instructions and panic because things are not happening smoothly and everyone expects you to take decisions. You sort of create roots in the ground and never move from that same spot, missing lots of possible points of view. You feel comfortable with a certain situation and don’t dare to be creative, you stick to it. You just mentally quit every few minutes.  You chimp a lot, missing photo opportunities. You forget that there are people and horses looking for instructions. You started off with some kind of a plan, but it was too basic, not refined, not polished, just a rough plan of an obvious set up. You feel exhausted after the shoot, and you only get a few images that you like. You hardly talk with other people, models, etc, because you are worried deeply inside. You trust 100 percent what you see on the LCD. You are confident again, as you leave the set. You soon find out that you should never trust so much what you see in the back of your camera. You get some good photos, but you hoped to have more variety, more creative takes. You think that you didn’t have enough time.

3) you feel lost, anxiety takes over, you have no plan, you hurry from one place to another without a goal, you take thousands of frames of the very same situation, you fear that you don’t have enough of that set up, you lose all interaction with the people and horses, anxiety makes you feel NOT SOBER. You chimp continuously. You feel lost. Anxiety doesn’t let you think with calm, you are not able to focus on the scene. You forget to check the settings on your camera, you forget that you have more than one lens. You could make night there, because you will never feel that you have already gotten what you were looking for. Why? Because you didn’t really know what you were looking for. You had no plan.  You are completely disconnected from the other people around you.

Afterwards when you look at your photos you wonder why you didn’t do differently and you remember shooting them with a blurry brain feeling. You can’t understand why you didn’t “see” properly. Your photos are just nice, they are just obvious, they often have technical flaws, like wrong framing and not enough depth of field/shutter speed. You feel overwhelmed and lost.


Ok, so I wrote about the most frequent ways of behaving during a photographic shoot. So what? Well, my tips are, be aware, be prepared and keep an eye on your watch. Being part of a small group might put positive pressure on you and keep you more focused.

Post Scriptum: ah, just in case you wish to shoot with me, I can help you – but only if you have some self discipline to start with.

You sort of create roots in the ground and never move from that same spot, missing lots of possible points of view.

It is all about challenges

Traveling has became a challenge, even more than it always was, specially due to the new rules about TSA measures against terrorism and weight limitations on the cabin luggage for the flights.

Many of us photographers need to travel long distances to be able to shoot whatever our subjects are, so we take flights. Airports are hard on us. We always have to hope. We hope that the monopod is not seen as a weapon, we pray for them not to decide that our vests with bulging pockets are too similar to you-know-what. We wonder a hundred times if we have weighed the backpack properly or it risks to be sent to the hold, where all hell seems to break lose, considering the state our suitcases are when we land.


The 70-200mm lens is surely the one most of us use for horses. Shot in Tuscany, Italy.

We now ended up having to travel light as much as possible. We have to take decisions. Traveling light is frustrating, it puts our self confidence at risk. What if…? you keep asking yourself, previewing all sorts of complex situations.

You think about an internal flight on some small plane to some remote place in Asia or in Africa ( or in Iceland) and you are allowed 6Kg or 12 lbs in the cabin. Your camera body + your small laptop already weigh that much. You are forced to put at risk part of your expensive equipment by placing  it in your suitcase ( which can be smashed, stolen, etc).

With small lenses, you can fit them in your pockets, hoping that airport people don’t think you are carrying something else.

That is when the word detachment started to make a sense to me. My way of shooting changed a little bit too. It took me two years to just go with the flow and forget the times when I could take all the necessary equipment labeled “just in case”, but I find that I am happy just the same when I travel. I don’t feel like I am missing photo opportunities and I became must more “flexible” in my way of seeing the world.


Portugal, shot with a 50mm

I have since given up on big laptops and now I travel with a 13″ one, I have only been traveling with 3 lenses in the last two years and an endless number of fun gadgets are now staying safely at home, waiting for the times I travel by car.

A tiny tripod thing which clings to the trees 😉 has taken the place of my good tripod.

I have realized that some “important” gadgets I had were not important at all and I can perfectly do without them.

Two images shot at a market in Morocco:


With the 50mm you are sure of your “lines” are respected, and things look like your eyes see them


Same place and situation with my crazy 16mm, and you get a different interpretation of the world around us 😉 You have a choice, though, you can also correct the distortion if you like. I prefer to leave it as it is, as much as possible,  when I like it ( it has to make sense for me). Here I wish there were no people, only animals, because people are “vertical” and make the whole scene a bit crazy.

I have been challenging myself for many years to use my short lenses, it was very hard at the beginning because of being a photographer specialized in horses, and them being so fast and so big made it much more comfortable to shoot with my 70-200mm. Not so much leg work, much more chances of being able to switch from a general view to a small detail. It took some time but I started to love more and more my 50mm and also my crazy 16mm with it’s strong will and it’s curvy world.


The fisheye forces you to some sort of “intimacy” which most of us ( horse photographers) are not used to endure. Here Abdul talking to another man, in Morocco.

Lately I decided that I was more and more in love with my shorts lenses, and while traveling I give priority to them, sometimes even to shoot equines. I feel it is a different approach, a different way to communicate. We must dare. We must experiment. When you stop experimenting your creativity is dying.


Training for endurance, shot with my 16mm. Yes. It can be done, you just need to use your creativity to find a way to do it and get a nice result. Obviously this is an extreme situation to use a fisheye like the 16mm Nikon


Shot from the car window in Morocco. Impossible to do it with a 70-200mm. This is a screenshot from my site.

Do you want to travel with me? I organize photo trips in several countries, with small groups of maximum 5 people, average being 3 photographers and myself. If you like my way of traveling and my photography, just contact me and we can see about it.



Sicily On Focus

Sicily on Focus was something I had envisioned as similar to Lusitanus on Focus: nice horses, nice clothing and nice backgrounds. And the skies in the island are to die for…


The complete team that helped us at Corleone

My idea was to have a small group of 5 or 6 people with open minds and good traveling experience, to share together the Sicilian culture and art as well. Sicily is close to Africa, so close that a good swimmer can cross to the other continent, and yet Sicily is in Europe, no vaccinations needed, no traveling virus, no weird currencies.

I had made a budget calculation for 2.500 to 3000 euros, all included, even the wine, the clothes, the minivan, the driver, just everything. A nice proposal, for 12 days in Sicily.

The food here is yummy, homemade pasta with seafood and creamy goat cheese

I am often afraid to advertise my shared-trips because I am rather selective about who I travel with, so when some people of those choosen 5 backed off , I decided that the project was so interesting that I would do it just for the three of us: Margreet Schouren, Elly and myself. It was a great idea 🙂

The fact that there were only 3 of us enjoying the trip had a great POSITIVE impact on the real budget, as we didn’t need anymore a van nor a driver and we were invited to stay at the farms and houses nearly everywhere. And some great hosts we are having ( we are still traveling in Sicily, now driving to Aidone). We even got to shoot in some places where a bigger group wouldn’t be allowed.

Shot with my phone, one of our locations

I am sure that this happened for a good reason, and the three of us are returning here soon to continue a project we have in mind, inshallah, and probably next year there will be another project in The Netherlands 🙂

For the moment I have decided that three is a good number for my shared trips, except India where we will be five.

I love sharing my trips with other photographers but it is a privilege not a commercial business, so I select carefully my traveling companions, now even more strictly than ever ;-).

Clothing, make up and good mood can make a difference. Giuseppe  Cimarosa collecting the clothes for the shoot while Noemi checks her make up

Sharing knowledge, skills and ideas is what I love in this kind of trips. Developing concepts, having good food, being free to think outside the box, discussing together a story or a whole shoot.. not babysitting tourists with a camera.

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Studying three classical painters was one of the challenges, it took us three days to complete the project, long discussions till late at night, long tests for the best moment to shoot (natural light), good wine to help the creativity and good mood to help us be confident and creative

We even did a sèance of boudoir indoors, with a medium zoom (70/200) and a few other situations like a sort of “engagement” shoot, inside a XVII century house, only natural light, only one short lens to be used. Big challenges when only one lens is allowed, but nice results.

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Designer and stylist: Elly Schraven, model Giulia Arancio




A treat

That afternoon in Maremma I was with my friends Simona and Raffa, and Renzo guiding us, he knew the area very well and he was a great guide.

We left the car at the top of the hill, and carrying the (heavy) equipment backpacks we started walking down to the river to see the light there and to take some photos of two riders. Renzo is a real gentleman and offered himself to take my backpack. The path was narrow and stony.


At the fountain. SCreenshot of my monitor.

Well, it was quite a difficult walk, specially returning to the car. On our way back we stopped ten minutes to shoot a few photos of a couple on horse back, before the sun left and the night covered the hills, then we loaded everything and we started driving back “home”.

Suddendly at the very top of the next hill we saw the most beautiful sunset, and two horses by some Roman ruins. It was there for us. The whole thing could’ve happened only once in a lifetime, the film Director up above had set everything so perfectly.


Luck is a very big component of our kind of photography, and we believe it was kind of a reward for the long, tiring walk we had done before. We felt blessed. We went silent the rest of the way to Renzo’s house, as we were moved by such a treat.


screenshot of the FB page a few minutes ago

A pie sitting on the anvil

Maremma, in Italy,  is a country of strong emotions. My scouting trip there was full of great moments, and we were quite a team: my friend Simona, who was born there and knows everyone and everywhere, fellow photographer Luca, who only joined us for the first day, and Raffaella, our problem solver for everything big and small that needed to be fixed somehow.


A fruit pie made by Simona, sitting on the anvil after a photo session, like a sort of treat for the models and us.

We worked a lot, walked a lot, shot a lot and laughed quite a lot. Our days started at 4 a.m and ended at 11 p.m, because I needed to do as much as possible in two and a half days. The weather was great, the light perfect, and the temperature acceptable ( quite cold in the early morning but nice and warm during the day).

We met lots of “butteri”, people who are keeping alive the traditions of cattle work from horseback. We had different people and horses modeling for us every day, I will not mention names because there were many of them and I would forget someone.


Group of butteri moving from one location to the next

I advise you to check this site, where you can find the whole story about the horses and the men, the land and the traditions.



Fake-Macho man

I believe that one of the most disgusting things for me to witness is a guy showing off by abusing or mistreating an animal. Unfortunately that can often be seen in the horse world and I am surely not very popular in some equestrian environments, because I can’t keep quiet and watch a poor horse or any other animal being mistreated.

If you are one of those photographers who think that we are in this world to document and not to judge, believe me, you are ethically an accomplice.


Macho man thinks this is a heroic example of courage

BTW, the above photo was found in the Internet, no idea of who is the author or the rider on it.

Macho man believes that nobody is able to spot his spurs digging on the horse’s side while pretending to hold the horse still by pulling up the horses mouth in a wry smile from eye to eye . The poor horse has no idea of what to do: the spurs ask it to go forward, the rough hands on the reins ask it to stand still or to stop. The horse gets nervous, throws its head up, and the photographer gets a whole series of images of the inside of the horses throat, while terrified equine eyes ask for mercy. MERCY! Macho man has no idea of the meaning of that word.

“I am powerful, I can teach this horse manners, I am macho man the one who can ride this difficult horse” – he thinks

Dear Macho man, you are an idiot. You are not a good rider, in fact you would not be able to ride a REALLY difficult horse. If it was for me you would be sitting on your a… in the ground and not allowed to ride a horse ever again.

Macho men believes that the “rodeo-kind-of-training” of young horses is a sign of courage and good riding. Dear idiot, wake up, a century has gone since REAL MEN were forced to ride REALLY DIFFICULT horses.  Those were men without any education, men who didn’t have any idea of a different way of doing things, men who had to put together the two meals a day,  working in extremely hard working conditions. YOU ARE NOT THAT MAN, dear Macho Man, you are a degenerated fearful idiot, and you ride horses as a hobby, you went to school even if your vocabulary is very restricted and you misspell 1 in every 5 words, and you only dare riding the easiest horses, which you turn into nervous wrecks to be able to show off to other ignorant people. You should know better.

No, you don’t deserve to have any photos of you riding, because other stupid people might emulate you.

You don’t deserve a single LIKE in your Facebook photos, because “liking” your misdemeanors is a sign of lack of love for animals and ethical blindness.

You are not a macho, you are a FAKE MACHO, on a horse. That horse puts up with you because it is a good horse, and it  has a heart. You don’t.





Sicily, can’t wait to go back (Margreet Schouren)

Last september I fell in love with Sicily, taken by the beautiful landscape and the familiar smell of Italy, but a somehow different culture . I loved the food and the rough nature of this beautiful island.

Makes that I am counting the days to go back and take full advantage of the place and the scenery.

I hadn’t realized how different Sicily was from Italy. To me that Island is THE place to be and to experiment some photographic ideas we struggle  with for a long time but never take the time to truly explore all the possibilities. It is a place for creatives and for visual artists.

When we traveled in Brazil for example the driving between our locations was a challenge I enjoyed a lot, but the downside was that there was not a lot of time to think and plan some shoots and ideas. The lovely thing about Sicily is that it gives the adventurous feeling without the long  drives, so it leaves us a lot of time to explore our minds and abilities.

As we grow in photography and age we realize there is so much more to explore, and so many challenges to create for our selves in order to make us grow as photographers.


I am looking forward to work in Sicily on more themed photography with expositions and publications on mind. How to create a series of pictures to be able to use in many different ways. Being able to travel with other experienced professional photographers makes it so much fun to explore and trigger each other to think out of the box stimulate to even bigger creativity.

In Sicily we will be shooting the lovely Sicilian horses and people but we also have time to visit the lovely UNESCO places and catch the real Island historic mood, the melting pot of cultures, and be so close to Africa and at the same time so European


Sicily On Focus will be held in the end of April, for a small group of 4 selected photographers and it will last 10 days. Paula da Silva will lead the photographic tour of one of the most beautiful places in Europe: Sicily.

The people who traveled with me


2016 is nearly over, and I wish to thank all the people who traveled with me to Morocco, Sicily, Iceland and India.

It was a wonderful year, also thanks to each one of you.

I learned a lot, I dared a lot of times out of my comfort box, and I laughed a lot. I made some photos that I am very proud of. I made new friends, I enjoyed the company of old friends who I don’t meet often, and I really enjoyed traveling, with all pros and cons.

We  stayed at an ecolodge to respect the environment, at a secret bay and it took us hours to find it, so secret the bay was, ahaha. We walked naked in a hammam full of other women. We danced in the car at the sound of berber music. We bought carpets, we bought drums, we bought spices.

Some of us ate rotten shark in Iceland, some of us were attacked by Artic terns, and we all enjoyed those long days with no nights. There was not much contact with the locals, but we were there for the landscapes and the horses.

In Sicily we had the best wines, ever. We got to shoot historical reenactments, we slept at the base of a volcano, we learned how to shoot stories that we created ourselves, we drove through closed roads where no cars are allowed because we got lost, we fought the GPS lack of logic in the mountains. We made lots of friends.

We helped a cats and dogs NGO in Morocco, we held a workshop for donkeys owners, we visited several international charities. We stayed at women’s cooperatives for a few days, we visited schools, we had meals using our fingers instead of forks and knives, we walked in beaches that have changed since due to the extreme power of nature. We loved every single moment.


We are again collecting medicines for a charity in Morocco, please let me know if you can help

In India we stayed at beautiful heritage hotels, we had tea in a remote village in the dark, while women fed the water buffaloes and we sat there, sipping the tea and enjoying the moment. We were invited to visit houses, we laughed with our guide Shiv, we felt overwhelmed at the Taj Mahal, we talked with camel owners, we got surrounded by cattle in the road, we shot from the top of a water cistern and from the roof of our bus; we walked over a dam’s narrow wall for miles, we visited Old Delhi in the back of a rickshaw.

We are still in contact with many of the people we met, models, guides, drivers, hosts…

I will hopefully meet some of you again next year, 2017, in Sicily ( April), Morocco (April)  or Iceland (September).

My next photo trip to India will be in February 2018.



Body jewelry

Piercing and the use of body jewelry is a practice that has a very long story. It is believed that in India it started from the time of the Mughal emperors in the 16th century. Many married hindu women wear a nose stud in the left nostril, due to the association in the Ayurvedic medicine of the nostril’s with the reproductive organs.


quoting Wiki about anklets: ” Rajasthani women wear the heaviest type of anklets, which are silver and signify tribal adherence. The women wear these as costume jewelry, but also to show their bravery as a tribe against other rival tribes. The fashion for heavy anklets is declining in India now, but is still common in rural areas.

In the eastern Indian state of Odisha, which is famous for its traditional jewelry, there are varieties of anklets known as Paunji Nupur, which are worn by women. Another variety, which covers the entire foot, is known as Padapadma. In ancient times men also wore anklets. Traditionally, only Kshatriya (Royal/Warrior caste) people can wear gold anklets, and other castes wear silver anklets.


Also men wear jewelry, for instance earrings. I did a search to understand more about it, and it seems that Designer Ana Singh said “Earrings in India have long been associated with the Rajput clan and royalty in general. If you happen to go to any one of the parties in Jaipur, you will see many Rajput men wearing a bandhgala with big earrings. Since Rajputs have been warriors, earrings make them look all the more macho and handsome, so it depends how well you are able to carry it off,” she explains.



Surprising sights

In Rajasthan we were always surrounded by exoticism and there were surprises for us every day. Let me show you the photos and the story of some surprising sights

This particular day had started with monkeys (langur) which we hadn’t seen the previous days. They were everywhere, sitting on the road side and playing in the roof of our bedrooms. They were not shy but they didn’t also seem to search for contact with the people.

After lunch we rested a bit, we had gotten a sort-0f-cold from the dust and the pollution in Delhi, we were coughing and we needed some rest to recover. When I woke up I went looking for the others and I saw this beautiful sight, in front of Beate’s room.


They also were not shy and they were not concerned with the shutter clicking. Kind of cool surprise 🙂

The other surprising sight, at least for me, were the goats, some were really interesting, judge by yourself. Next time I will surely take better photos of this breed of goats, they are beautiful, some are quite big, and there are some very unique color patterns to be seen.


Young billy goat at sunset, he was rather friendly and didn’t stink, so probably he was really young:

_pds8090Cows were “decorated” for Dewali, the Festival of Lights, and we were there during Dewali, so we saw plenty of decorated animals, like this cow


… and a mother with her baby water buffaloes, swimming in the river


Even camels were painted and decorated, what a sight!


India is a beautiful, complex, colorful country!