Photography and travelling go hand in hand, so we think it’s important that you capture the memories you make in the places you explore. Rosa Frei is a commercial and fine art photographer based in Morocco who takes incredible photos of extraordinary locations. We spoke to Rosa about her photography, the wonders of Morocco and her fascination with the desert.
Rosa was born in Switzerland and resided there until 2004. From a young age, she dreamed of living abroad and experiencing new cultures. In 2005, Rosa made the decision to move away from Switzerland and relocated to India. After two years of exploring India, she moved on in search of a new inspiration and found the beautiful Morocco.
My goal to become a photographer was born in India but it was in Morocco where I found the courage to pursue it full-time.
Rosa decided to take a different approach to photography and focus on a niche. Morocco was where she had planted her roots and found great inspiration. This stimulus helped her to create a deep body of work in a small subject matter, therefore becoming an expert in what inspired her. In terms of photography style, Rosa’s fascination lies in nature and she always aims to convey emotion through her photos.
“I love to capture nature in a simplistic, minimalist form. My photography is not so much about what I see, but what I feel. Photography for me is more than a job; it’s a way of life. Even without a camera, my eyes always view things as a photographer would. I’m constantly fascinated by the play of light and shadows, soft movements or hidden emotions. Photography has definitely enhanced my perception of life and my ability to mindfully connect to my environment.”
Her interest in photography was apparent from an early age but came to fruition as a hobby during her extensive travelling. Rosa refers to a time when she lived in India and watched a documentary film about Henri Cartier Bresson, which touched her deeply. She believes that this fascination came from his presence in the moment and his ability to capture the intimacy of life.
Rosa’s passion for Morocco is evident in everything she photographs. She loves the desert for dramatic landscapes, but also for its simple, rural clay architecture and the hospitality of the locals. Rosa describes the blue city of Chefchaouen with its blue houses, magnificent colours and cats. She mentions how Essaouira is famous for its blue fishing boats and the sunset images with kite surfers, camels and horses at the beach.
“My inspiration comes from everywhere – I am often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of inspiration we have access to! I am always inspired by nature, art in all its forms, great movies, cinematographers and a good book. Instagram is also a good source of inspiration.”
Morocco Travel Photography Tips
After years of hands-on experience, we asked Rosa to talk us through what she has learnt about photography in Morocco.
“Morocco invites you to slow down and cherish the moment. For example, it’s difficult to photograph people, but if you slow down and spend time with locals, everything becomes possible. Not only do opportunities arise but slowing down will make your image so much stronger as you now also have a story to tell.”
Allow Yourself Time
“A lot of photographers will come to Morocco once and want to see everything worthwhile in one tour. Unfortunately, they will only end up with basic images of lots of places. For example, if you’d like to achieve some quality sand dune images, one day in the desert is just not enough! Schedule fewer places but fully indulge in each of them.”
Balance Preparation with Spontaneity
“Obviously, preparation is good! Still, it’s beneficial to stay open minded, spontaneous and to enjoy getting lost from time to time.”
“Take notes, scribble away, or sketch. It makes your travelling experience and photography much more creative.”
“Watch the body language of the locals. If somebody doesn’t like to be photographed, then accept their decision graciously and with a smile.”
Things to Do (and Photograph!)
Morocco is considered a paradise for photographers and one of the main reasons for this is its authenticity. Morocco boasts traditionally dressed people, ancient architecture, colourful markets and an exotic culture. As well as this, there are, of course, the beautiful diverse landscapes and cityscapes, from magnificent mountains and magical desert sand dunes to seascapes, exotic cities and small laid-back villages.
Explore a Sand Dune
There are lots of different sand dune areas so make sure you do your research and educate yourself beforehand. Rosa recommends “choosing a smaller area where there are not too many tourists so that you avoid having the dunes covered with tracks and footprints.”
If you’re looking for something on a larger scale, the Erg Chebbi is one of Morocco’s largest dunes that has been formed by wind-blown sand. Here you can enjoy truly beautiful views that you’ll rush to capture on camera. However, you’ll need to set aside a whole afternoon to enjoy it to to the fullest.
Be Blown Away by the Blues of Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen is famous for its abundance of blue buildings and alleyways which will always provide you with an opportunity for a stunning photograph. If you’ve got your sights on capturing that dreamy, colourful shot, then head to Bab El Sor where you’ll find lots of blue houses in the surrounding area. Fascinated by the origin of the blue? There are a few theories that try to explain why. Many locals believe that the practice of painting the walls blue first began as a way to keep the mosquitoes away. Another theory is that the walls were painted by Jewish refugees in the 1930s. In Jewish beliefs, the colour blue represents the sky, which in turn reminds people of heaven and God. Some say that the blue hue keeps their homes cooler in the warmer months. Whichever story you prefer, there’s no denying the beauty of this unique city. Across the whole of Chefchaouen, you’ll notice the famous blue doors too, so make sure you make the most of the photo opportunity!
A local spot to Chefchaouen that provides a stunning panoramic view is the city walls outside of the medina. You’ll probably find yourself bumping into a few friendly goats, dogs and sheep too…
Enjoy a Mosque in Marrakesh
Marrakesh is over 1000 years old, so there is a lot of history that you can photograph on your travels. Marrakesh enjoyed periods of great magnificence that were unfortunately interrupted by political struggle, military disorder and social disharmony. Thankfully, Marrakesh but was mostly rebuilt in the 19th century and is just as beautiful today.
If you’re on the hunt for an impressive photography location in Marrakesh, head to the Ben Youssef Mosque. The courtyard is home to thousands of intricate tiles and there are several floors for you to explore. The Koutoubia Mosque is also beautiful and will provide a striking yet unique shot. To avoid traffic ruining your photograph, head to the gardens, just behind the mosque, for a calmer view – and you’ll see some palm trees too.
Visit a Kasbah
The South is home to small, laid-back villages and people in traditional dress. It is also home to the Kasbahs and fortified villages which have their own picturesque and exotic architecture. The most popular Kasbah in Morocco is Ait Ben Haddou which has been described as ‘one of the best buildings that shows the beauty of the architecture of ancient Morocco’. Home to movies such as Gladiator and Prince of Persia plus cult TV series Game of Thrones, you’re sure to find a view that you’ll want to capture forever. Ait Ben Haddou is also a UNESCO World Heritage site so you know you’re in the presence of something extraordinary.
Fish for Photos in Essaouira
Essaouira is home to an impressive fishing market and port that is guaranteed to provide you with a plethora of photo opportunities. As fishing is such an important trade in Essaouira, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the culture while putting your camera to good use.
The scenery is stunning and has lots of small boats that form an unending wave of bright, luscious blues. If you’ve photographed to your heart’s content, head further away from the port and you’ll spot plenty of fisherman selling their fresh fish. There, you can relax and enjoy a freshly cooked catch of the day.
Explore the Medinas & Local Markets
The medinas are a prominent part of Morocco’s major cities, but even if you’re staying in a more remote location, you’re likely to find a local market. While the medinas are open 7 days a week, local markets tend to be held on Sundays.
The medina of any city is always attractive for photography, with plenty of small alleyways, arches and warm street light as well as long shadows during the golden hour. The intricate patterns, textures and bright colours of the traditional handicraft provide excellent photo opportunities and street photographers are always intrigued by the people working with traditional tools in their tiny workshops.
Even though it’s not easy to photograph locals, it’s always good to include them into your compositions if you can. Locals don’t tend to enjoy being photographed and may ask for money. There’s no need to give them much but you do need to ask for permission.
When discussing kit recommendations for photography in Morocco, Rosa believes that ‘the best camera is the one you have – whatever that may be’. She does, however, add that it’s beneficial to have a good lens range that will support your ideas and creativity. If you’re photographing a city, a medina or an indoor historical monument, then any wide angle to middle range lens is ideal. For example, something between 16-105 mm. For landscapes, the desert and photographing people, then anything from 70-200 mm or 300 mm.
There are many ways to explore Morocco, but if you’re serious about photography and want to maximise the time you have, then you might want to consider a photography holiday. Rosa Frei offers a selection of tours and workshops that vary in length from a single day to 15 nights.
“I’ve been based in Morocco since 2007. As I live in this country as a foreigner, and because I focus only on photographing Morocco, my knowledge of the country, its people and culture is deep and fundamental. My focus is my client and I love to create unique and unforgettable travel and photography experiences for those who attend my tours and workshops”
Projects On The Horizon
Rosa is fascinated by interior design and aims to work closely with the interior world to create abstract and modern wall pictures. She is currently working on a series of abstract and creative interpretations of sand dune images.