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Seven of the Best: Travel Photographer Steve Davey’s Favourite Photos

Star trails in the Arctic
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Travel photographer and writer Steve Davey has been lucky enough to visit some incredible locations, and as you’d expect he has built quite a collection of impressive images during his travels. He also runs his own photography courses in London and leads travel photography tours to destinations far and wide.

From the 2nd to the 5th February, Steve will be at Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show, running a series of travel photography masterclasses. Before the show kicks off, we caught up with him to discover more about some of his personal favourites from his photo collection. Here are seven of his best.

The coldest photo I’ve taken

I have been lucky enough to head to the Arctic on a number of occasions, but most of the time this has been during the long summers when the sun never sets, and the temperature hovers around freezing for much of the time.

The coldest that I have ever been though was probably shooting star trails at night on the top of the ski-lift at Diavolezza. There is a small guesthouse at the summit, and I was staying there for a couple of nights. One was fairly clear and so I decided to shoot in the middle of the night. The exposure time was around 15 minutes. I managed to shoot a few shots before the cloud crept in. As I was using long exposure noise reduction, the camera needed another 15 minutes of processing time. I was at 2,978 m, in the middle of the night in the dead of winter. It was hell!

Star trails in the Arctic

The hottest photo I’ve taken

Being in the Sahara Desert in the middle of the Moroccan Summer was pretty hot. Luckily though I had a very early start from a desert camp in order to climb to the summit of a nearby sand dune. I had slept out under the stars – I usually do in the desert – and so had a light covering of sand all over me when I started off.

I shot some very atmospheric shots from the top as the sun rose, picking out a passing tourist camel train. Walking back across the dunes, the temperature rose greatly. By midday it was all but unbearable, but the best photographs were from earlier in the day when the light was better.

Sahara Desert

The most nerve-wracking photo I’ve taken

I really don’t like snakes, but have photographed snake-charmers, such as those in Marrakech, Morocco on many occasions! The last time, I decided that I wanted to try something different, and so used a 14mm lens at ground level.

A 14mm is very wideangle and so I had to get very close to shoot. I had the camera on the end of a monopod, and was using a remote release, but my hand was under a foot from the lens – and the snakes of course. The snake-charmers quite enjoyed the process – one was encouraging me to get closer so that the snake tried to strike the camera.

Snake charmers in Marrakech

The most exciting photo I’ve taken

I was photographing the Taunggyi Balloon Festival in Myanmar. This involves paper balloons being floated into the night sky, carrying a vast basket of fireworks. The fireworks were supposed to be timed to go off once the balloon was at a safe distance.

As one of the balloons rose into the sky the basket dropped into the crowd, resulting in a massive explosion. I happened to be up on a small tower less than a hundred metres away, and kept shooting as everyone fled. The explosion was massive, and rockets flew past on either side of me! I kept shooting – but my heart was racing afterwards!

Taunggyi Balloon Festival in Myanmar

The most memorable photo I’ve taken

One of the most memorable shots I have ever taken is of the man who feeds wild hyenas in the ancient walled city of Harar in Ethiopia. This is a tradition that has been going on for generations. It truly is an amazing sight and I was captivated.

They are totally wild – just used to be being fed by the one family. After a while the man asked if I wanted to have a go, and so there is one shot of the hyena almost jumping on my back, and another one of me feeding one a bit of meat with a stick in my teeth.

Someone in my group took a shot of this, which I emailed to my daughter back home, and for the first time she was impressed by something I have done – largely because Steve Backshall has fed them but didn’t use his teeth!

Man feeding wild hyenas in Ethiopia

The most recent photo I’ve taken

One of the most recent photographs travel shots was also shot in Myanmar – on Inle Lake. I was leading a photography tour and the group wanted that classic shot taken through a fishing net. It is a bit of a cliche, but I managed to organise it. We were 12 people in three boats, so I hired a fisherman for each and we met them on the lake. It is pretty tricky, but we all managed it, more or less! Not all pictures on the road happen by chance!

Fisherman in Myanmar

The best photo I’ve taken

What I consider to be my best shot changes a lot, as I get a real rush from looking at my new work – especially pictures that have been very difficult to take or have taken a bunch of planning to achieve.

One that fits both of these categories is this shot, taken at the Burning Barrels festival in Ottery St Mary. This is a traditional ritual which commemorates Guy Fawkes Night. Wooden barrels are soaked in tar for days, set alight and then carried through the town by the locals. There is no set route: they just storm through the crowd.

I was shooting with a yellow gel on the flash to balance it with the firelight, and a slow shutter speed to record the ambient light. I had to estimate where the runner was going to go, and then stand there as all of the other people jumped out of the way until I got a clear shot – remembering to jump out of the way in time!

Burning Barrels festival

Steve Davey is running a series of Travel Photography Masterclasses at the Destinations Show at London Olympia from the 2nd – 5th February. You can find more details here.

Steve also runs travel photography tours to some of the most exotic and photogenic parts of the world. For more information, head to www.bettertravelphotography.com.

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