Tunisia is a sometimes troubled country. The last few years have been traumatic to say the least. It is nonetheless a fascinating place that provides plenty of photographic opportunities. It is also the home of the delectable shawarma and a liqueur called Boukha, a few shots of which could have downed one of Hannibal’s elephants. My French parents in law moved there in 2006 and as a result I’ve had many opportunities to photograph this varied and sometimes chaotic land. One one of my visits, I brought my newly purchased 10 ND stop filter with me. This filter allows you to set really long exposure times that permits you to capture motion blur effects that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. The Mediterranean coastline of this part of North Africa was to be my testing ground for my newest piece of equipment.

Fishing Boat on a Beach at Sunset - Hammamet

Fishing Boat on a Beach at Sunset – Hammamet  |  Buy Print

Aperture: f22  |  Shutter Speed: 120 sec  |  ISO: 100  |  Focal Length: 13 mm  | Lens: Sigma 10-20

The beach beside the Kasbah of Hammamet is a great photography location. The fishing boats scattered on the beach provide the perfect foreground interest to the Mediterranean sunsets beyond. Focusing is a challenge when using a 10 stop filter. The filter is so dark that auto focus is impossible. For all of the photos in this series, I focused by calculating the hyperfocal distance and manually setting the focus accordingly. It’s actually not as complicated as it sounds and there are plenty of apps that help you focus using this method. My tutorial called “How to Focus on Landscapes Using Hyperfocal Distance” explains it all in more detail. In the photo above, the filter enabled me to set super-long exposure time of 120 seconds. This requires a rock solid tripod and a shutter release cable.

Figuring out what shutter speed to set is made easier by using a chart. You can download one here. There is also an element of experimentation involved though. The long exposure time allowed me to capture the motion blur of the clouds as they moved across the sky. The setting sun did the rest, illuminating the underside of the clouds with attractive red and orange tones. It took a few attempts before I got it right.

 

Mediterranean Sunset - Hammamet

Mediterranean Sunset – Hammamet  |  Buy Print

Aperture: f22  |  Shutter Speed: 160 sec  |  ISO: 100  |  Focal Length: 11 mm  | Lens: Sigma 10-20

For this photo, I only had one chance to get it right. As soon as the exposure was made, the sun disappeared below the horizon. Thankfully, it worked and I rewarded myself with a delicious shawarma in the café by the Kasbah. I’d never really shot seascapes before so I was so pleased with my evening’s work I bought yet another stuffed camel in the souk along with a genuine “Cucci” handbag for my wife.

 

Bay of Hammamet at Dusk

Bay of Hammamet at Dusk   |  Buy Print

Aperture: f22  |  Shutter Speed: 50 sec  |  ISO: 100  |  Focal Length: 20 mm  | Lens: Sigma 10-20

I returned to the area beside the Kasbah the following evening and this time set up a shot overlooking some rocks and poles that mark the local lobster fishermen’s pots. The rocks provided the perfect foreground interest to dusk sky over the Bay of Hammamet. As I was leaving, a rather persistent stall owner tried to sell me a genuine “Billy Vuitton” bag that he insisted was made from the leather of his own beloved late camel.

 

Sunset over the Bay of Hammamet

Sunset over the Bay of Hammamet  |  Buy Print

Aperture: f22  |  Shutter Speed: 80 sec  |  ISO: 100  |  Focal Length: 16 mm  | Lens: Sigma 10-20

On my final evenung, I headed back out with camera, this time to a quiet, rocky beach near the town of Nabeul. This time I used the rocks on by the edge of the water as foreground interest and to add a sense of depth to the scene. The last rays of light from the setting sun painted the rocks a beautiful glowing red colour before disappearing below the horizon. The sea was actually quite agitated that evening with small waves crashing into the rocks. The long exposure of 80 seconds however turned the water into a calm haze swirling around the rocks.

With my last shot of the trip, I headed back to the café by the souk and had yet another tasty shawarma and a few glasses of boukha. I don’t really remember anything after that.

 


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