How to make the best out of a 15 minute photo-walk

Have you ever had that desperate wish of having more time to explore a certain location, but it was impossible to make it happen no matter how hard you tried. And that made you sulk for the rest of your day or even the rest of your trip.

Al Balad, Jeddah

May be the weather is just about to change, or you don't have the best of travel companions, or maybe even your battery is dying. Well, worry not, it happens to all of us.


I am writing this blog after my experience in one of the oldest towns to have seen civilization and having not more than 15 minutes to walk around, breathe in the air of that beautiful locale, and also click photographs of the place WITHOUT even scouting the location ever before. WHAT? Only 15 minutes to do everything, you ask, well YES.


I have you sorted, don't you worry. You will not only click some decent photographs, but will have this supreme level of satisfaction after you leave the place, because believe me, the following tips will make sure of that.



Research, research, research


No, I am not asking you to read digests and books and many volumes of books. But investing in time in looking up the place is as essential as exploring it first hand after reaching there. If you know you are going to be short of time, put in as much time into the research of the place.


  • Find out the best spots to visit, and by best I mean according to your interests of course, because if you ask me, I like the abandoned buildings and natural wildlife more than a public plaza or a museum for wildlife (respectively) any day. So listen to your gut, always. The gut never lies !

  • You may not have all the resources at your expense while travelling but make the most of what you have. Utilize every minute of waiting for a friend or a taxi ride into reading blogs and websites for recommendations. Look up hashtags and location tags on Instagram because these are probably the most honest, local, non-commercial recommendations and perspectives you will possibly get. Be a little aware of your surroundings too, don't just be on your phone all the time. Pick the right moments to do your little researches, you little researcher.

  • Another good option is to ask around locals, but only take into consideration the objective recommendations and not the ones that are experience based. Someone who fell in love with a woman on Champs-Élysées would not be the best person to recommend you natural parks in France, no, I don't know, maybe? As for me, everyone I met in Jeddah recommended visiting Al Balad ONLY after I made it clear that I am not interested in malls and fountains! Clear communication always helps.

  • Coming to the photography aspect of research, have a general idea what lens, gear, and settings might come in handy. You don't want to miss a perfect sunset because you were busy changing your lens now, do you? Those moments haunt you forever (believe me, I have had plenty), so just be prepared before hand.


Stay ahead of the crowd


  • When I say, stay ahead, I literally mean walk ahead of everyone who might come into your frame but don't even go berserk and push people away. Walking faster and being polite helps in most places.

  • When the others are busy chatting and loitering (if you are travelling with a group or your family), use that time to walk faster and finish a quick scout of the location to have an upper hand of deciding what's worthy of your frame and what's not. But don't miss the moments in action while doing this, a perfect parkour stunt won't repeat itself for you to return and capture it perfectly, so as Ross said it, UNAGI 😌👈 is your way to go!

People interacting on a crossroad in Al Balad, Jeddah

  • If it is a large area, like the one in the pictures of the Al Balad town, which is probably multiple sq. kms of area. Be practical and accept the fact that you cannot see all of it in a short time. And this is all about making the most of what you've got. Which is where research comes in handy. You already know what's your best bet if you have done a decent amount of research, so you have no reason to regret anymore. Focus on the area you chose and enjoy and take it all in. You may even make a second trip to the city in the future, and at least then you can cross off one thing off your list because you cannot possibly have experienced it better.


PREPAREDNESS and gratefulness


If you ask me, I am a sucker for being prepared, but I also absolutely love some unexpected surprises the universe presents me with. Isn't that life in general? Do your best and leave the rest to fate. When I first step foot in this old town, I had certain expectations from the place, but I for once never imagined I would see ruins of buildings and fancy designer boutiques almost facing each other. Oh and, I also never would have imagined I would have the perfect contrail in the indigo blue sky making every scene look almost surreal!


Al Balad, Jeddah

  • Be prepared to climb a wonky staircase, lie down on the road or lean against a moldy door if you want that perfect shot. It will all be worth it.

A photographer on an assignment is the complete opposite of a diva on a ramp walk.
  • You have got to set your priorities straight right from the beginning. If you want to be a selfie queen or someone who wants a picture in front of every window and door possible, which is of course not bad if that's your thing. By all means do it, nobody is stopping you. BUT if your aim is to photograph a certain location in the best way you can, then you cannot possibly be cribbing about stepping into puddles or getting your clothes dirty or feeling hot all the time, my friend. Your shoes are going to be just fine later, but you will certainly miss that one moment you failed to capture forever.

This is one of the best things travel teaches you, PATIENCE and PERSEVERANCE.



  • Lastly, have all your 6 senses alert. You may just hear that bird you were wanting to look at, or people are just about to break into a flash mob. You never know what might happen around you for your camera to capture, so just be everywhere and be present and be mindful.



  • Always keep an eye out for interesting subjects and frames. Oh and yes, keep that phone away for a while honey, that crush of yours isn't going anywhere. 😜


Camera tips and tricks

Get creative with your perspective

Now, I would love to go on and on about this particular one, but I would have reached my self imposed word limit for this post. If I had to shortlist a few and give them right away, these would probably top that list -


No tripod? No worries.


First of all, you don't need one unless you are shooting long exposures while traveling. And regardless, you are free to use any chair or fire hydrant or boulder or even the ground for that matter if nothing else works. Get the low - angle shots by placing the camera on the ground or lie down yourself and take a head on view of the sky. You have a beautiful long exposure, and you also got an amazing new perspective. Thank me later!



The sun is setting, everything is dark, what should I do?

Well, don't go flashing about, for one. All of the photographs in this post are clicked in a 15 minute window right at the time of sunset until it got completely dark. So you know that it isn't impossible. Again I am speaking to those wanting to up their photography game and not click on Auto mode with extremely grainy pictures or a flash glare.

A low ISO night view captured using a bollard as a tripod

Another creative idea is shooting light trails using long exposure in the night time, but you can do a decent job ONLY if you have something very stable to keep your camera on. (no, your friend's shoulder won't help 🙄 )


Already short of time and wanting the perfect shot?

Use the burst shot option. Now, I wouldn't recommend doing this in places without any action involved where every millisecond the action and impact of the photograph is completely different.


Following are some of the photographs of one such scene. I was trying to get a low-angle photograph of this street with the chair in focus ( I told you keeping the camera on the ground helps in low-light conditions ) and a car was about to pass, and I happened to get just the right shot before it passed without waiting for it to be gone out of the frame, and it was when the light hitting the chair was the strongest.



Multiple photos (not burst shot) would also help to capture scenes where there is a lot of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. You can stack and layer them in Photoshop later using Image Stack technique later.


I do not know the right exposure or do not have the time to figure it out.

Use bracketing. It's easy, just instead of capturing one picture, you have to capture 3, or sometimes 5 depending on your knowledge about light. All you have to do is keep the one image on an exposure that resembles the brightness of the scene in reality, and under expose and over expose the others. Meaning, click darker and lighter versions of the same scene.

Here, look at these images -

These were the 3 photographs of the same frame, and the resulting image using Photo merge or HDR, is as seen below. Although, PLEASE don't go overboard with using this for everything. Pick your moments where it actually seems logical. For eg. here I did not want to lose that beautiful contrast of the contrail in the sky, but also wanted to capture the details of the foreground.


HDR result of above photographs with different exposures

With this, I would love to conclude this little 15 minute photo walk tips and tricks. I hope this helps you calm yourself when you feel helpless with less time on your hand. Don't upset yourself or curse others, learn to take it up as a challenge and try out new things.


If you have something to add or share an anecdote of yours, I am listening, so are our other readers, so go ahead and comment away. 😋


Until next time amigo. Stay safe, stay sane, and take care! ❤


One look at photographs of this town would bear a significant testimony to a specific culture and to a living civilization that existed centuries ago. As deserted as these streets may look today, the city of Al Balad, otherwise known as Old Jeddah or downtown Jeddah exists since more than 400 years and has been witness to some major historical events.


#photowalk #tipsandtricks #albalad #jeddah

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