[Photography] I’m This Month’s PhotoPlus Magazine Apprentice – In the Shops NOW…!!!

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For those of you that are not aware my dream is to one day become a Professional Photographer travelling and photographing this amazing World we live in. I’ve been very fortunate to meet and speak to some great photographers along the way and I also subscribe to several photography magazines with PhotoPlus being my favourite. Why? Well not only is it 100% Canon (yes I’m a Canon man), but also because it’s unbiased and a damn good read.

One of my favourite features is “The Apprentice” whereby they take a reader who typically spends a day with a Professional in the chosen area of specialism. In order to become the Apprentice you need to submit your details, the area of specialism and what you’d like to learn.

Now I’ve submitted my application several times without any success and to be honest back in March last year I applied again and kind of forgot about it/ gave up at that point.

You can imagine my surprise when totally out of the blue I received an email at the end of April asking if I was still interested in being the Apprentice and available on the 8th May as I had been shortlisted.

Of course I immediately replied “YES” and was then shocked to receive an email to say I was the "Chosen One". If that was not amazing enough, being told we were off to Marrakech for 4 days just totally blew me away….!!!

So here’s what happened (I've only included some of the pages here, there's plenty more to see and read if you buy it ;-)


Saturday 8th May

Necy and I set off for Heathrow where we met up with Chris George the Editor of PhotoPlus, David Sutherland the Professional Photographer and Simon Lees the PhotoPlus’ photographer.

The flight to Casablanca was fine until we landed. Whereas we should have only had a stop off in Casablanca to drop-off/ pick-up passengers we were told we had to change planes. No explanation was given and the lack of information on what we needed to do was dire. After a good hour or so stuck in Casablanca we eventually got told to board the flight for the 25 minute trip to Marrakesh.

By the time we arrived at the hotel it was 2:30 AM Saturday morning and everyone was shattered. The guys decided we should forgo the sunrise shots planned for that day.

Sunday 9th May

Earlyish start and after breakfast in the hotel we got taxis to the Souk in Djemaa el Fna, the principle square in Marrakech.

What an AMAZING place with some fantastic diffused lighting and everything from different ages and cultures to Donkey’s, carts, barrows and all sorts of stuff you wouldn’t get in a UK market.

After spending a couple of hours meandering and shooting in the market we took a break in one of the Cafe’s overlooking the square and staked out the best place to setup the tripod for the sunset/ after dark shots. One table reservation later we wandered back into a different part of the Souk. The guys wanted to visit a tannery they had seen in a different photograph. We met a teenager who assured us he knew where it was so off we set wandering through literally narrow streets/ parts of the Souk that were just about wide enough to get a car through but with the addition of market stalls, foot traffic, bikes, mopeds and even cars trying to squeeze through it became very cramped and at times the fumes were a bit overpowering.

After what seemed like ages we finally arrived at the tannery which wasn’t the one we were looking for. Before we entered the owner gave us all a sprig of mint to help overcome the smell of ammonia and other chemicals coming off of the pits which were pretty overpowering. How on earth these guys work in these conditions day in day out with no gloves in the baking sun is beyond me and I have a new found respect for anything leather I either have now or will buy in the future.

After giving us a tour we were asked if we wanted to visit the shop and when we politely said “thanks but no thanks” and to go on our way things got a bit heated over paying for our guide’s time. One thing to watch to Marrakech is the old adage “nothing is free” is true. Even if people say they will help you/ show you where something is and make a point of saying no charge at the outset you can guarantee they will want something at the end and when you give them something you think is fair they will complain and demand more (to be honest that was one thing I felt uncomfortable about – the “in your face”/ “give me money” attitude of most people, but there WERE exceptions).

After surviving the tannery we ventured outside the city walls to suss out the location for the sunrise shots the next day and then got taxis back to the hotel. After resting we went back to Djemaa el Fna to shoot the food market (in the day the market square is full of various market stalls but in the evening most of this is taken down and replaced by various food stalls where you can sit and eat a variety of different foods).

Monday 10th May 

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Early start to do the sunrise pictures, although the location we had chosen to get pictures of the city walls wasn’t working as well as we had hoped. So we cut our losses and wandered back into the city and spent the morning exploring shooting away as we went including the shop fronts of the spice sellers which provided some great colours and variety.

We worked our way back to Djemaa el Fna for lunch where we met Necy. We rested a bit before venturing off to the Menara Gardens to take a picture of the pavilion with the Atlas mountains behind it. Typical on this day that you couldn’t see the mountains because of the cloud but David showed me how to “work” with what I had.

After shooting there we got a taxi back to Djemaa el Fna to take more pictures of the food market. We decided to stake out a different rooftop restaurant this time to get a different view of the square, snake charmers and performing monkeys.


Tuesday 11th May

We were meant to be flying home. Arriving at the airport we heard that Casablanca and large parts of Moroccan/ Spanish airspace were closed thanks to the volcanic ash cloud. Air Maroc finally cancelled the flight. We were given the option of going to Paris so we opted for that as thought at least it would get us closer to home and give us more options for getting back to the UK such as the Eurostar or even the ferries. So after giving our names for the Paris list we waited, and waited. When the flight was announced it was a mad rush. Then we were told we had to sign a disclaimer and by the time we had done this the flight was full. Still at least I had the opportunity to shoot the external Terminal roof which was very interesting (pics to follow).

After waiting a couple more hours the next Paris flight opened for check-in. But we soon discovered we were going nowhere as our tickets were still for London and if we wanted to try going to Paris we’d need to go downtown to rebook our flights. In the end we gave up and the team booked us into a hotel for the night. The hotel was very posh and I could have spent a day there just shooting the building, decoration and furnishings but by this time the mind was willing but the body was just shattered (as was everybody else).

Rather than mess about with the flight to Heathrow via Casablanca the PhotoPlus Team decided to switch us to the direct flight to Gatwick. So early to bed as we needed to be up in the dark the next morning to get to the airport but our room was AMAZING (taking a shower in the dark in the “cave” in the corner was interesting – ask me about it sometime).

Wednesday 12th May

Arrived at the airport at 6AM for check-in and everything went smoothly. Surprisingly the flight wasn’t full so we could all spread out. On arrival at Gatwick we collected the Hire Car and Simon very kindly dropped us back to our car at Heathrow.


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WOW what an experience. More of a dream than reality and still can’t believe that I was even chosen let alone to spend a four days with a top Pro like David and even better in an amazing place such as Marrakesh.

My tips for Marrakech would be (both from friends and personal experience):

  1. You need to be polite but firm in saying “No”. If you’re not firm enough they’ll just keep bugging you.
  2. If you get asked about someone showing you round you can bet a) they want paying and b) they’ll take you on a tour of their family/ friends businesses who’ll try to sell you stuff.
  3. If you don’t like crowds get to the Souk’s early as in the afternoon they get very cramped.
  4. I wouldn’t be too sure about wandering round the Souk’s at night as it is like a maze of streets some not lit very well, very narrow and you never know who is lurking round the corner.
  5. If you’re not a great snake lover then when you visit Djemaa el Fna stay well clear of snake charmers/ anyone playing a drum as they do wander round with the snakes in their hands offering to drape you over them (we gave them a wide berth and didn’t have any problems).
  6. Some people don’t like having their picture taken and will protest very verbally. I don’t have a problem with this and respect it. But sometimes they shout and hollow at you for taking their picture when they’re not even in the frame until they come striding towards you and put themselves in the frame (yes I had this experience).
  7. If you’re in Djemaa el Fna taking pictures prepared for people to ask you for money as they expect it. Pleading ignorance of French/ Arabic is one option or just walk on your way. This was even an issue for tourists with their point and click cameras (this is the worst place I’ve been for this – most other places they just let you get on with it).

I don’t want to paint a scary picture of Marrakesh or put anyone off. It is HUGELY different culturally so I just want to forewarn you what to expect. Are we glad we went? Definitely. Would we go back again? Yes although the world is a big place and there are plenty of other places we want to see so a return visit may have to wait unless another opportunity presents itself.

Thank you SO much PhotoPlus for a wonderful, once in a lifetime experience. The guys were amazing and nothing was too much trouble for the team. To learn more about David Sutherland visit his site:


David is a very nice man who not only taught me a lot on location we’ve also spoken and spent time together since arriving back in the UK.

This was definitely the highlight of my photography career to date and I hope that I can make a go of this fulltime eventually. If there are any Pros “out there” looking for a keen Assistant please get in touch.

Cliff & Necy – Lifetime PhotoPlus subscribers ;-)

PS – If you want to read/ see ALL of the article pop along to your nearest newsagents, I'm off to get my website sorted so I can showcase my work ;-)

Read the complete post at http://wmug.co.uk/blogs/cliffs_blog/archive/2010/07/19/photography-i-m-this-month-s-photoplus-magazine-apprentice-in-the-shops-now.aspx

Published Monday, July 19, 2010 1:46 PM by Cliff Hobbs - FAQShop.com and Microsoft MVP ConfigMgr/ SMS
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