trainride in sri lanka

Photography Tours Sri Lanka - August 2017

Ahh Sri Lanka. A country of lush jungle and paddy fields. Of misty hill country carpeted with the vivid green manicured tea gardens. Of white beaches and impossibly blue sea. It’s really rather perfect.

From enjoying one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys across lush carpeted plantations, to scouting leopards by fast Jeep, interiors in thousand year old caves, and more than one delicious curry, we weaved our way through country and beach to shoot the highlights of this wonderful place.

 Thanks again for all of you who came on our Sri Lanka photography tours – Rebecca truly had an amazing time with you all.

Creative Escapes Sri Lanka
photo tours sri lanka
Perahera 2017
Temple of the Tooth
sri lanka photography tours
sri lanka photography tours 2017

If you’re after variation, this is the trip for you. We start with the basics in Colombo, the garden city of the east, and quickly get up to speed with our apertures and shutter speeds – it’s easy when you know how.

We toured some local villages, then headed up to hill country, to Kandy, the cultural centre, and in time for Perahera, one of the most famous Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka. Once there, we got behind the scenes and shot some candid portraits of the performers, took some stunning low light shots of the party procession, even got some interiors of a thousand year old UNESCO Heritage site.

Then it was onto the incredible train journey, weaving our way across the spine of the island, observing endless undulating tea carpeted landscapes, meeting local monks travelling between stops, and into some fabulous weather. We hit the jeeps in Yala National Park, drank the world’s most expensive tea and of course, shot the famous stilt fishermen at sunset.

Here our are shots of the week from our Sri Lanka Photography Tours …

Shot of the Week – Rebecca

Our nicknamed ‘2.8’ photographer! Having shot for a while and a previous Creative Escapes traveller – Rebecca had a natural eye for light and story! Always finding the perfect angle and shooting with such clarity, this image was taken (at f2.8) on our day at the local fish market in Negombo! Magnificent image!

rebecca danby creative escapes

Shot of the Week – Felicity

Felicity captured this gorgeous image of a tea picker working at a tea plantation, as they work and move very fast through the tea plants. Felicity did a good job to capture her portrait with such pose. Great composition, strong narrative and capturing colours!

Tea Picker Photography Tour Sri Lanka

Shot of the Week – Jane

Jane was grinning so much when she showed this one to the group! A magical Shot taken on the amazing train ride from Kandy to Ella, We were lucky enough to be surrounded by young monks on the last few stops of the trip, his calm stare, composition and eye-catching glowing light makes this one a real winner! Well done Jane!

Jane Savage Creative Escapes

Shot of the Week – John

Wanting to explore Black and white imagery during his trip in Sri Lanka, John spent time mixing natural and flash light in his work. A truly clever social documentary photographer always ready for that moment, the decisive moment! This image was part of 3 black and white images presented to the group on our final evening. John portrayal of Sri Lankan people and their connection with the ocean was a stunner. So energetic and striking! You should be very proud!

Photography tours sri lanka

Shot of the Week – Julie

After proclaiming her husband was the real photographer and she just set it to Auto – Julie really excelled from beginner to full manual confident portrait photographer in only 10 days. Always finding stories and connecting with her subjects – and was nicknamed by the group our ‘emotional’ photographer. This photograph was taken at a local food market in Colombo. Beautiful.

Creative Escapes Sri Lanka 2017

Shot of the Week – Louise

After conquering her fear of taking portraits of strangers, Louise found this gentlemen down the backstreets of Galle, he told her his story and she created this superb image. Such a strong Portrait with atmospheric light. Awesome shot and great story to tell along with it!

sri lanka photo tours creative escapes

Shot of the Week – Varsha

Our very own abstract photographer, always taking one step back to view the situation before finding her unusual angle and perspective. Varsha always shoots with a strong narrative that’s isn’t always obvious at first. This shot was taken on our safari day in Yala national park. An impactful black and white shot that fills the screen with beautiful detail.

sri lanka tourism photos

So which one was your favourite. Let us know below!


cuba creative escapes header

Cuba Photography Tour June 2017 Highlights

Timeworn yet magnificent, dilapidated but dignified, fun and full of energy – our fifth year in Cuba – and still a country of indefinable magic.

We chose early June to land, with fewer tourists, great weather and no hurricanes in sight.  We based ourselves in a 5* hotel overlooking the sea, and slowly worked our way behind the scenes far from tourists to get a unique insight into what makes this country tick.

We shot sunsets from the back of a 50’s Buick, got private access to the Ballet, rolled up some passable cigars in a place Arnie buys his, even stopped in for tea to see Roberto Salas, Fidel’s personal photographer. In sleepy Trinidad, we shot classic B&W street photography in this UNESCO-listed site, had more mojitos than we should have, and ate some of the most delicious food in Cuba.

Thanks again for all of you who participated, it was one to remember.

Cuba photographic workshop june 2017
Client Image : Sanjay
photographic tours of cuba
Client Image : Sanjay
photo tours cuba
Client image : Sanjay

We began where every great trip should start. At the bar. And not just any bar, one where Al Capone used to meet all the mafia bosses in the twenties, still with comfy leather club chairs, a rum selection to die for and a cigar room haunted by celebs.

Steering clear of the few tourists that were around in this low season, we ducked through the graffiti-laced backstreets to see the real Cuba, heading west in old Buicks to see Roberto Salas, and shot scapes of the city from our private teaching space. A quick detour out to the tobacco fields of Vinales, shoot some candid portraits of farmers (and roll a few) plus enjoy a spectacular lunch of organic food with jaw dropping views of the valley.

Then honey cocktails in Trinidad (yum), got very tanned, and discovered perfect conditions aboard our bar/train out to Valle de los Ingenios. A quick portrait shoot with some horses, we were back in Havana at the ballet, shooting graffiti, boxers in training, and candids inside locals houses. We shot in a school, a nearby artists community, and even more portraits inside houses. A stunning, lively, and 100% fun 11 days in the tropics!

Here our are shots of the week from our Cuba Photography Tour

Shot of the Week – Mette

Like all Creative Escapers, Mette loves to travel. She wanted to become more proficient as a photographer so she can enjoy making pictures when exploring the globe. Mette had little experience shooting manually, but got to grips with the technical aspects of photography quickly – which gave her plenty of time to make more creative work. 

Mette is very a considerate photographer and responded really well to our recommended approach of of shooting fewer images of higher quality. Mette had no interest in shooting cliche and as we kept shooting, we realised she had a particular interest in photographing how women and children fit into Cuban culture. Feeling relaxed about her technical skills, she took some very strong portraits in Trinidad – like this one – and on our return to Havana, nailed it at the ballet and the boxing gym. Great fun to be with, top time and lovely work. Super well done!

cuba photography workshop june 2017

Shot of the Week – Ian

Ian was a complete newcomer to manual photography and used the Escape to firmly get to grips with his camera. With guided tuition was making consistently accurate manual exposures within a day. And, although he didn’t realise it at first, he also has a good instinct for composition and this together with observations of colour and light, his confidence grew quickly.

On the first day Ian was less sure about what to photograph, but it the aid of a variety of practical briefs, he quickly got his eye in and used each photographic assignment to explore and experience Cuba further. Initially less interested in photographing people, Ian got great results when shooting the portraiture, in both Havana and Trinidad, where he shot this cracker of a boy playing in the street. Well done you. 

cuba photography tour june 2017 highlights

Shot of the Week – Søren

Søren is a Cuba regular and has been making images for some time – but enjoyed getting back to basics and refreshing his technical skills before being set loose to make pictures. 

He set himself some tough challenges, such as making his own location backdrop and hanging it in the town square! Shoot after shoot, he started to see a marked development in his approach to documentary, street and portrait photography and came back with an amazing portfolio of work. In fact, come the end, he began to collate an emerging body of work exploring his passion about Cuba – which we hope to see as a book in the near future. Good luck Søren. 

photography holidays cuba

Shot of the Week – Sanjay

Sanjay is passionate about photography, with a particular interest in portraiture. He is pretty confident approaching people – and probably photographed half the population of Trinidad and visited most of them at home! 

Although having already developed an approach to making a successful photographs, he was less experienced at making images containing narrative and also needed guidance building photographs into a series. During the holiday, we worked on broadening his stylistic repertoire, and considered different approaches to working in series. Sanjay has the ability to be a bit of a chameleon aesthetically so we also worked on strengthening his ‘visual voice’ as a photographer by shooting around a concise theme. And from that, some lovely images flowed.

photography tour cuba june 2017

So which one was your favourite. Let us know below!


Cambodia Two Boys

Cambodia February 2017

Once again, we ventured east last month – to the wonder of the world at Angkor Wat in exotic Cambodia. We captured the silk cotton trees growing through the ancient ramparts at dawn, shot hundreds of monks chanting in hypnotic unison at sunset, took portraits of sea gypsies on a community fronting Cambodia’s largest lake, plus indulged in a spot of fish nibbling (don’t ask), snoozed in a super stylish boutique hotel – and came home with some amazing new images – and new found friends.

Thanks to you all who made the trip so special.

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 FCC
FCC Angkor Hotel

And what a warm return to one of our fave hotels – the FCC Angkor. A former governors mansion at the front; and behind – chic modern, floor to ceiling glass rooms, opening out onto the lap pool (and a stones throw from the luxe spa – nice!). This is our base for the next ten days and we couldn’t think of anywhere more relaxing to spend it. What really makes this hotel is the staff – we’re upgraded on arrival and our bags are already in our rooms and a welcome cocktail in our hands. Yum!

First day, we’re running through our exposure, explaining the essential functions of the camera (in non-techy language, of course) and slowly get to grips with our cameras, so before long we’re moving the dials and working our camera manually, without even really realising it. Along the way, the staff provide us with chilled milkshakes to keep our energies up!

Then it’s out to Angkor Wat, a 200 square kilometer complex of temples, wild animals and lakes – simply stunning. It’s easy to understand why Angkor is talked of as the eighth wonder of the world – the largest religious building on earth – and voted by Lonely Planet as the world’s number one sight. Here, our guide escorts us around the central temple, shooting scores of ornate apsara dancers, the light trickling through the ancient monuments.

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Bayon

Great images seem to come quite easily here, everywhere you turn there is something beautiful to shoot. Later, we’re out to taste some Cambodian food – Amok Trey, steamed local river fish in coconut milk  – delicious – and Lap Khmer, seared beef in lime, chilli, cucumber and tomato – fresh and perfect for hot weather. In fact, Siem Reap has become a bit of a foodie place these last ten years, every type of cuisine is here, and cheap too. Super high quality Italian, Thai, and more for a fraction of the price back home. The ice cream at the Blue Pumpkin is also too good and we wish it was harder to get to from our hotel.

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Sea Gypsy

This morning, we head west to Tonle Sap lake, Cambodia’s largest expanse of open water, and to visit the sea gypsies, who reside along the lake. A short boat trip later, we’re into small hand made carved wooden canoes, for a trip through the mangroves, then to visit the myriad stilted houses where the gypsies live. Fabulous portraiture opportunities here, and miles away from all the tourists.

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Temple

The next day we’re out to the local temple, where 100 young monks from all over the country reside – each night praying in hypnotic rhythm and an incredible sight; they are also more than happy to have their pictures taken too – giggling to each other as they see the shot on the back of the screen.

After too many cocktails in Miss Wong’s, we’re up early to meet up with Lim, our guide into a rural village, chance to see the impact foreign aid has had on the people living here. Lim points out new water wells, stamped with UN markings, as evidence of change, a new local school – then an open canopied pagoda where we learn how to cook some Cambodian classics, before exploring deep into the village, taking rice along to those in need (and taking some pictures too).

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Cook
Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Helicopter

Another early start, and on board a helicopter, chance to see the early light coming over the temples of Angkor. Then after a quick snooze and some well deserved R&R, we’re backstage at Phare, the Cambodian circus formed in 2013, a not-for-profit school designed to train some of the poorest children in the art of acrobatics, dance and performance. Our unique access gets us behind the scenes, chance to put together some of the lessons learned on portraiture to good measure, then it’s into the stands to watch the show.

Our final days are spent bringing together all the skills you’ve learned, and with 1-to-1 guidance from our tutor, shoot a final show ready for our pop-up exhibition in the grounds of the FCC. A stunning ten days spent in the tropics!

And here our are shots of the week …

Shot of the Week – Neil

Who says a leopard can’t change it’s spots? Our landscape photographer turned portrait shooter Neil came alive during our portrait day –  and with his signature 20mm lens, Neil makes this shot a stunner!

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Neil

Shot of the Week – Paddy

Our very own Cartier-Bresson! Throughout the week, Paddy was the photographer standing back and observing, very much the social doc photographer he excelled in our documentary day! Improving his technical skills daily and using what we had learnt – Paddy got this great shot on burst! Brilliant!

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Paddy

Shot of the Week – Sheila

Only on the second day, after cracking her exposures, Sheila shot this beautiful portrait of a food seller outside the temple. She had a natural ability to connect with her subjects and produce real and honest shots, which we all enjoyed throughout the week!

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Sheila

Private photography tour bespoke itinerary

Staff picks

Once again, we’ve toured the world, had some fabulous adventures, made some new found friends and taken some images we never thought we could take. Thanks once again to all of you for your continued support, your great humour, adventurous spirit and presence that has made each Creative Escape in 2016 truly one to remember.

Before we start on our annual Staff Picks – our fave shots of the year from all our trips in 2016 – first we just wanted to make a special mention to Alan O’Riordan, who scooped first prize in the 2016 National Geographic Traveller Photography Competition. His portfolio of images taken on one of our trips to Cuba scythed through thousands of other entries to attain top spot – his reward, an exhibition with his images on show, features in National Geographic Magazine and an all-expenses-paid trip to Vietnam to boot. Huge congratulations again.

Alan O Riordan

“Alan’s outstanding series of portraits are as much about the backdrop as the subject being photographed, but in a good way. As a group, the photographs immediately let us know we’re in Cuba. The striking, colourful settings and revealing details enhance the photographs rather than distracting from the subject. Each image invites you to study the surroundings — a shop with old radios, a market with meagre supplies, and intricate window grates on deteriorating buildings. With a straightforward style, the photographer’s subjects are conscious of the camera but appear natural and relaxed in their environment.”

Carol Enquist, Senior Photo Editor, National Geographic Traveler (US)

Staff Pick No 1 – Irrm Sattar

Back in March, Irrm’s black-and-white shot of an artisan deep in the souks of Marrakech had more views on our Facebook page than any other shot we’ve ever shown. And for a good reason; one of the hardest things to do in a portrait is to get that connection between subject and photographer – Irrm’s patient, gracious style achieved that perfectly, don’t you think?

And the best bit? She took delivery of her first digital SLR the night before the trip started. From complete beginner to accomplished portrait photographer. Now, that’s something to celebrate.

Irrm Sattar

Staff Pick No 2 – Media Eghbal

A month later, we were back in Cuba, still one of the best shooting locations on the planet, and actually quite untouched by the US invasion, despite the reporting by the Daily Mail. The beauty of this shot is not just it’s execution; it’s the fact we were on our way out of town, and Media spotted this retro carwash through the window, and charmed the driver into stopping on a near-freeway to get out.

Shooting into the light is really tricky; you’ve got to get everything spot on to balance off the flare with enough detail; this is truly perfect. In fact, you could easily see this image gracing the inner pages of a high-end travel magazine. Great positioning, top colours, and plenty of patience to wait for just the right moment. A cracker.

Car Wash

Staff Pick No 3 – Nat Hayden

Still in Cuba, we ducked out of bustling Havana for the day, to take a trip into the rolling tobacco fields in Vinales, first a spectacular lunch in an eco-lodge, before a guided tour to meet some farmers. We bypassed the tourist farm and headed to a hilltop casa, where a bunch of young artisans were growing oh-so-wonderful coffee, so we stopped for a cup. Whilst the black liquor brewed, Nat ducked out and found this guy on his break, sitting on the verandah akin to ‘Little House on the Prairie’.

Great position, intense connection to the subject and great decision to pull back and reveal other elements which strengthens the story (and the shot).

Nat Hayden

Staff Pick No 4 – Shakira Cassidy

June we headed out to California, for our quintessential photography road trip, a tour through art-deco Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, Pioneer – a Wild West film set, then Death Valley and Yosemite.

So on one of our secret add-on locations we like to throw in every now and again, Shakira pulled his fab documentary portrait out of the bag. Like all the best shots, Shakira has left something to our imagination, which only strengthens the impact of the shot. Lovely work.

Shakira Cassidy

Staff Pick No 5 – Eve Watson

Mid-summer, we were out in Sri Lanka, touring the cultural centre of Kandy, taking shots on board of the world’s finest train journeys, and drinking the world’s most expensive tea in Galle.

This shot, by Eve, taken on the 2nd day at a local fish market close to Colombo, is staggeringly beautiful; perfect exposure, lovely positioning and a connection that just lights up the photograph. It has an almost timeless feel to it – stunning black and white image Eve, you should be truly proud of that one.

Eve Watson

Staff Pick No 6 – Camilla Field

When this was first shown, projected on our cinema screen on the review after the second day shooting of our Kerala trip – everyone gasped. Our tour took us out of town, to a locals village, who have barely seen any tourists there. We were warmly welcomed, and headed down to the beach, where the whole village seemed to be, to watch the catch come in.

Camilla had other ideas, she skipped the market looking for scenes that stood out, and after quickly taking a few test shots on her new (and prized X-Pro 2) took this beauty. Again, it’s quite timeless, cinematically lit with a stillness that characterises it’s feeling. Be good to see this in the 2017 Nat Geo comp no?

Camilla Field

Staff Pick No 6 – Sara Cooksley

After shooting tea pickers in the world’s highest tea plantation, we took some rest aboard our luxe houseboat for a few days, cruising the backwaters, and getting treated like kings and queens. Our trip goes beyond the normal tourist route, deeper into the backwaters for a more authentic experience.

So each morning, we’d get up early to catch the life around the waterways in soft light, fabulous chance to meet some locals and immerse yourself in their way of life. This one from Sara really encapsulates how it feels out there; the high amount of coconut in Keralan’s diet means their skin and eyes glow; they are also the most calm and welcoming people we’ve ever come across and their simplicity of life is truly something to admire.

Knocking off another great shot with her new nifty fifty, the Canon 50mm lens we recommend in the other blog post, Sara captured a great moment, lovely connection, fabulous aperture blur and colours to die for. This is right out of the camera; no retouching has been done.

Sarah Cooksley

Staff Pick No 7 – Lynne Owen

Lynne was literally grinning from ear to ear when she came back with this one. Shot in the final days of our trip to Kerala, this cinematic documentary portrait reminds you of a time gone by, and the presence of the girl shines through to create enormous impact.

From the framing, to the lighting, to the positioning of the subject and herself, it’s all perfectly done and what a fabulous image to end the trip on. Super super well done.

Lynne Owen

Staff Pick No 8 – Lynne Honour

The light was going, and the nature of the nomads living deep in the Sahara desert, is, well, nomadic. They are hard to find. We turned up to our final camp just as this beautiful soft light was laying itself over the desert landscape – and Lynne worked quickly to craft this shot.

Like many of the people we shoot, the guy was nervous. He wasn’t used to a troupe of photographers turning up in 4×4’s asking for models. Just as the light started to fade, she picked up his binoculars, handed them to him and he modelled them perfectly.

Classic shot, beautifully framed. An absolute stunner.

Lynne Honour

Staff Pick No 9 – Anabel Barker

Anabel’s third trip and her confidence behind the camera had grown and grown each time. Our Sahara trip was time to step it up a level – to leave behind the comfort of her (incredible) still life work, and look for pastures new.

In the desert, she found her rhythm, so by the time she’d gotten back to the souks of Marrakech, confidence was high. On the last day of our journey, she shot this classic black-and-white, steps from the Madersa. It has everything a classic B&W image should have, strong blacks and whites, and mid-tones to deliver the story.

It is inch perfect in every way.

Horror Photography

Staff Pick No 10 – Sandy Wood

Despite being still in the process of recovering from a debilitating injury, Sandy was back on the photography trail with a bang. This one, in the backstreets, was cleverly constructed – shot made easier by her buying a packet of pellets for the willing shooters.

Lovely composition, great placement and strong narrative, this is a lovely lovely shot.

Sandy Wood