A Photo and Video Story – A Tiny Village in Togo

Collage of a visit to Akato Village in Togo

Collage of a visit to Akato Village in Togo. Click for prints


We recently visited the tiny village of Akato Viepe in the Aka Valley in Togo in west Africa. This village is about an hours drive from the main port of Lomé,  As a youth I collected stamps from all over the World, not realizing that I would actually be visiting most of those locations during my life time. Togo on the west coast of Africa is one of those countries.

From my 1960’s era stamp collection:

Togolese Natives Cooking

Togo Stamp:Togolese Natives Cooking circa 1960s

Celebrating the Young Olympics LA 1960

Togo Stamp: Celebrating the Young Olympics LA 1960


Anna and I were both escorting Oceania Cruise Lines shore excursions tours to this village. Instead of waiting on the benches with guests and before the start of the official ceremonies, I decided to wander the village with my usual serendipitous style with my camera and I was rewarded handsomely.  At the back of the village were several rustic huts with no one around (they were all at the ceremony in the village center) except for a very proud looking woman leaning against her front door. As always I approached her and asked permission to take her photo.I covered the subject of how to photograph people you don’t know in a previous post.  Without answering she whispered in broken English voice “come inside I have babies!” and she held my arm and we both went into her modest hut.  With a sweep of her hand she parted the mosquito netting and laid bare very tiny sleeping twins obviously born just a few days ago. With natural light flowing in from the open door I quickly grabbed two shots, mom with her twins and a closeup of the sleeping beauties. We both tiptoed back to the front door where I captured a simple portrait of this beautiful mother. She wanted nothing in return but I gave her some bills anyway “for her babies”. We smiled at each other while I said ” bella bambinos and thank you” as I shamefully did not know a word of her local ewe language but she knew what I meant. Striking a photo op gold medal I hadn’t even seen the ceremonies awaiting me as I strolled back to the village square with a joyful tear in my eye and the distinct feeling that I must be the luckiest photographer alive.

A Togolese mother with her twin babies

A Togolese mother with her twin babies



Enjoy the excited school children, colorful ethnic costumed villagers and a royal welcome ceremony with the village chief, his royal family and and west African drummers in this colorful 4 minute video:


Simple Objects Can Change the Viewer’s perception of a Scene

Sometimes the presence of a simple object will change the viewer’s perception of what an image is about. While visiting this village and during an amazing welcome ceremony by the Village Chief (actually a King), his royal family and the villagers  I came across what appeared to be a father and daughter leaning against a mud wall and wearing beautiful and colorful African fabrics. Having asked permission (see prior Blog post on How to Photograph People you do not know) I photographed the both of them and then a close-up of the young daughter. To get a good composition of the two I had to include an unusual object at the same wall- an empty gin bottle! I photo journalist would likely be fired for removing the gin bottle while a fine art photographer would likely remove it for aesthetic reason. Here are both versions of the scene and each conveys a totally different message – what would you do? Please comment below. The gin bottle can be easily removed in a few seconds with the often used clone stamp tool. I used some of the photographs from this village visit in my last post on Travel Photography Tip – Border Patrol and the section with those images is repeated below,

Compare the Two Images: With or without Gin Bottle? Click on Image for my Choice

Compare the two Images: With or without Gin Bottle? What would you choose? Click on the image for my choice

This is one of my favorite portraits. This image shows how the colors of the young girl’s fabric wrap dress match the colors of the earth in the mud wall exactly. The vivid blue in her wrap compliments the dominant orange-brown tones of this scene  and her beautiful white eyes shine like a beacon towards the viewer against her smooth silky dark face.  Do you get the sense that I love this image?

We also visited the local school where the children went ballistic with excitement as very few visitors come to their school. If you every get depressed just hang out with these wonderful kids, you will be uplifted forever. Watch the video in this post to see what I mean.  This was our second visit to this village and we hope to return soon.

Young girl in Akoto Village, Togo

Young girl in Akoto Village, Togo  Available as a fine art print. Click to view.


About the Author. David Smith of Vancouver, BC is a World travel & fine art photographer and is published worldwide. As a Blogger, photography workshop leader, key note speaker and cruise ship guest lecturer, he and his wife Anna have visited over 120 countries on 6 continents. They just returned from assignments in Africa and South America and will be visiting the South Pacific, Mexico and Central America next. Their motto: Capturing the World one smiling face at a time!  

Social Networks:.  

Web Sites:


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

David Smith on Travel Photography – a Podcast Interview by Rick Shetty of Digital Nomad Mastery

Rick Shetty a good friend and online entrepreneur master with Digital Nomad Mastery who is travelling the world with his family. He recently interviewed David Smith of Interface Images on the subject of World travel photography and his travel stories. This interview is about an hour long but some may find this interesting. Enjoy!

Digital Nomad Mastery Podcast Interview about World Travel Photography with David Smith

Check out David’s Smith website and links below:




Thank you for watching our video.

Connect with Rick Shetty’s Digital Nomad Mastery. 

GET EMAIL UPDATES on his website:


LIKE us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/daddyblogger

SUBSCRIBE to us on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/tokyoricky

FOLLOW us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tokyoricky

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Travel Photography Tip -Taking Photos of People You Don’t Know

© 2011, David/Anna Smith. For copyright permissons


Glamour, Dress, Vertical, Looking At Camera, Outdoors, 2024 Years, 2530 Years, Ethnic, Cheerful, Indonesia, Asian Ethnicity, Standing, Sitting, Smiling, Holding, Traditional Culture, Day, Bali, Padang Bai, Cruise ship. destination, travel, Traditional Clothing, Mid Adult, 20s, 30s, Color Image, Ornate, Three People, Women, Young Women, Portrait, Photography, Adults Only, inba011 Close-up portraits of young Bali women wearing traditonal costumes at Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia, Asia

Local people add color and excitement to travel pictures so photograph them…an intimidating idea to many of us. Flowers, animals and mountain lakes don’t talk back to you but it is people who make the world colorful, friendly and more interesting (IMHO).  Be aware that different cultures react differently to foreigners and photographers.  Don’t violate cultural or religious taboos on photo taking – research this before you arrive.

To start: Experiment with people you know, Use telephoto lenses. Try children first ….they are much easier with few hang-ups. On Location:  Relax, study your site for interesting subjects, get people to be used to you and that you are a photographer with a camera and using it!  When you arrive at a scene for the first time  you are like a rock in a still pond causing huge  ripples everywhere.  If you have the time, hang out, relax, sip a latte, let the “ripples” subside and others will soon get used to you.

Shoot around your subject, then move closer & SMILE.  Engage in friendly conversation “I love your hat” “you have a beautiful village”  “Can you help me find —?”  Learn a few words of the local language, people always appreciate your efforts. After establishing any type of relationship with your subject ask “may I take your picture?” or if there is no common language, point to your camera then your subject with  a “may I?” gesture.  If there is a negative response – move on, there are billions of people in the world left to photograph.   The first poses are often stilted or unnatural – get your subject to hold and show you something or interact with others and plan on taking several shots to get a good one.  Come back later and try again, the second time your subject will be more natural and relaxed.

Don’t feel obligated to tip unless your really want. Bring home town pins, flags, mementos to hand out. In high traffic tourist locales tips can attract amazing subjects dressed in local costumes for better images. Some of your subjects rely on tips for their livelihood so carry lots of small bills to hand out, particularly in high traffic popular sites.

In a photo rich setting, watch and prepare for candid shots and practice your camera technique at home to be ready for that once in a life time opportunity, like this one of women fruit sellers in Antigua, Guatamala. David had 2 seconds to grab 2 shots before they turned down a lane.


Closeup. portrait, ethnic, Viet Nam, Viet Namese, Asian, Asia, Da Nang, Hoi An, village, historic, looking at camera, old, man, 70 to 80 years, 80 to 90 years, ancient, rotten, teeth, no teeth, toothless, straw, hat, wearing, smiling, backlight, tooth, toothy smile, blind, backlit, back light, water, boat, canoe, fishermna, fishing, fisher, posing, staring, People, Contemplation, Dress, Hat, Outdoors, War, Vietnam, Traditional Culture, Day, Hue, Traditional Clothing, One Person, Vietnamese Culture, Adult, Young Adult, Color Image, South Vietnam, Old man, Photography, Vietnamese Ethnicity, David Smith, Interface Images, Close-up of a Vietnamese man wearing a straw hat in a fishing boat in Hoi An village, Viet Nam

Close-up of a Vietnamese man wearing a straw hat in a fishing boat in Hoi An village, Viet Nam

A few tricks:

  • Let children pose themselves – they’re natural; Say “Touch heads” and you will always get a smile and a laugh.  Want a friend for life? – exchange contact info, send/email photos.
  • Using a digital Camera? The BIGGEST icebreaker by far is to show them the picture you took.  Everybody likes to look at themselves. Capture yourselves with your new friends by using Dave’s Smile Circle ä effect, a technique which will be explored in detail in a future post.











teenage, girl, young, model, beautiful, attractive, Karen, hill, tribe, Chiang Rai, Thailand, brass, neck, long, ring, neck, longneck, village, villagers, ancient, historic, medical abnormality, ethnic, portrait, tribal, custom, smile, smiling, photographers, adventure, travel, outdoors, Asia, Asian, culture, Thai, ethnicity, culture, David Smith, Interface Images, Teenage girl in the Long Neck village of the Karen hill tribe near Chiang Rai, northern Thailand

Teenage girl in the Long Neck village of the Karen hill tribe near Chiang Rai, northern Thailand


















No need to travel afar, watch for local festivals and special events.  When people get dressed up for parades and cultural festivals, they are really saying “take my picture”  Don’t get there just for the parade – get there for setting up and post parade interaction. If you are on a tour be sure to photograph your traveling companions doing things, your tour guide and any local hosts or entertainment events.

gay, pride, pryde, parade, Vancouver, rights, festival, lesbian, bisexual, homsexual, public, nudity, celebration, event, day, editorial, procession, gay rights, movement, transvestite, out of the closet, David Smith, Interface Images, Image by Interface, gayp019 Participants in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Vancouver, BC, Canada on August 5, 2007

Participants in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Vancouver, BC, Canada


















Remember -A memorable portrait is really a moment in time between a photographer and a subject and is an effective  tool to get to know, experience & appreciate people around the world.

Please share some of your favorite photos and stories of people you didn’t know.















Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Brand New and Better Apps for Travel Photographers

Brand new and better apps for photographers are being released every day. Here are some of the new ones which will make your travel images better.  In fact some of these news apps add important camera features previously available only on higher end cameras to your newer smartphones. Be sure to update your device’s operating system or getting a newer device as some of these news apps need the latest and greatest. These new apps are so good that you might reconsider a new smart device purchase instead of getting a new or camera upgrade. (Wow, I though I would never say this!). The convenience of a smart phone in your pocket while travelling beats the clunking cameras and heavy camera bags and back breaking back packs. The quality of the bigger lenses in cameras is much higher than the tiny lenses in smart devices but watch for new technology solutions to narrow the lens quality gap between the two.

New Apps to make your device’s camera act like a good one

  • Cogitap Software has released a series of individual $1.99 apps for the iPhone and iPad each of which gives a highly creative tool for capturing amazing travel photography just like a sophisticated camera does. The tools include slow shutter cam, burst mode-high speed and night modes; and for the iPhone only an HDR Fusion and Bracket Mode apps. To access these apps open iTunes and search for them by name or Cogitap.
New apps from Cogitap Software

New apps from Cogitap Software

The Cogitap Night Modes app slows down your shutter speed and increases the ISO (sensor sensitivity to light as shown in the following screen shots. Be sure to rest your device on a firm surface for a sharp image.

Night Modes App by Cogitap

Night Modes App by Cogitap








TheCogitap  Slow Shutter Cam app gives you slow shutter speeds for highly creative effects.


Slow Shutter Can app by Cogitap

Slow Shutter Can app by Cogitap












  • A highly rated photo editing app
  • create collages, write on a photo
  • High end portrait processing (eg. glamor style)
  • free

One of our favorite photographers is Luana Oliveri a destinations services manager with Oceania Cruise Lines. She does incredibly amazing self portraits with her smart phone and gives them a glamor boost using the Picarts app. Check out her Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lulu.oliveri where she regularly posts here artistic jaw dropping portrait images as she travels the world. Thanks Luana for giving us permission to mention your body of work and Facebook link. You rock! Here is a sample of one of her beautiful self-portraits using Picsart:

Luana Oliveri cell phone self portrait using the Picsart app

Luana Oliveri beautiful cell phone self portrait using the Picsart app














Must have and Superior Photo Apps for your smart device

  • The $3.39 “Manual” App by Little Pixels gives high end camera functionality for your iPhone 5 and up, iPad or iPad touch..  This includes Control of shutter speed, ISO, White Balance and amazingly  exposure compensation as well.  You need to update your IOS operating system and search the app store under iPhone apps.
  • The Camera FV-5 for  Android devices costs $3.90 and provides many higher end camera features such as exposure compensation, ISO, light metering mode, focus mode, white balance, program mode, Exposure bracketing and the option to shoot Raw files (as DNG format).  These are ground breaking features for a smart phone with one app. Why pay hundreds of dollars for a new camera when you can spend just $4? Perhaps poorer cell phone/tablet lens quality and image resolution/size is a factor?



Here are some other photography apps that have been around some time and are still worth considering.


Snapseed – for all devices, a Google company

  • Single tap Auto Correct
  • Tweak your photo with Tune Image
  • enhance specific objects in your photos
  • filters: Drama, Vintage, Grunge, & Tilt-Shift
  • Add Image Borders
  • Easy online sharing tools.




  • A top photography app: Respected smartphone photographers would not be shooting every day if not for Instagram’s vibrant and supportive community, and having a place to share everything they shoot.
  • It continues to change the world’s relationship with photography.  Comment feedback and likes are immediate.








  • For tablets either Mac or Pc
  • produce collages
  • cool filters
  • Free





  • Include high-quality presets by well-known smartphone photographers
  • Frames
  • Textures
  • a “clarify” tool for equalizing an image’s exposure
  • editing tools with precise controls












  • A great camera replacement app @ $2.99





  • All hardware but Windows phone





DSLR Remote Control App

  • from OnOne Software
  • To fire some Nikon/Canon SLR’s remotely from iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad





Don’t have GPS on your Camera?

  • Use the Android/Iphone app: GPS4CAM fFor geotagging without a camera GPS
  • Lite/Free or Pro/$4  www.gps4cam.com





If our readers use and recommend apps suitable for travel photographers please include the app details in the comments section below so others can share and use your joy!

About the Authors. David and Anna Smith are World travel & fine art photographers, Bloggers, workshop leaders, key note speakers and cruise ship guest lecturers, Their world image archive: Interface Images, fine art gallery: Celebrate the World, on line photo courses  and Blog: Images-Connecting the World.  

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Better Photography Techniques For Tours and Shore Excursions

© David Smith  www.interfaceimages.com

Tour, Guide, Nina, Kazarina, in, front, of, an, Oceania, Cruise, Lines, tour, bus, and, holding, a, tour, bus, "popsicle", in St. Petersburg, Russia, Petersburg, tour, guide, Oceania, 001 Tour Guide, Nina Kazarina, Oceania Cruise Lines. Cruises, tour bus,"popsicle St. Petersburg, Russia, shore excursion, destination, services, port of call, Russian, smiling, ahppy, friiendly, face, 20 to 24 years, intelligent, outgoing, travel, David Smith, Interface Images

Tour Guide Nina Kazarina in St. Petersburg,


Many guided tours and cruise ship shore excursions provide excellent travel photography opportunities that are frequently missed.  As frequent guest lecturers and  invited escorts on tours organized by Holland America, Seabourn Cruises, Oceania Cruise Lines and Regent Seven Seas,  Anna and I have toured most world ports of call in the their amazing Mediterranean, Baltic, Atlantic, Caribbean, South American, SE Asian and South Pacific and Australian/NZ itineraries.

There are some travel photos and videos in this post to help illustrate some of the following suggestions for getting better travel images while on tour:

  1.  Research your tour itinerary by reading the detailed tour descriptions and attend shore excursion presentations on board to learn planned visit locations in advance to help prepare your photography strategy and a shot list. Local tour operators can move you around quickly so always have your camera ready for those one in a lifetime photo opportunities. Practice your camera techniques before touring to avoid fumbling with your camera on site.  David’s  online Travel Photography Tips and Techniques  course  will help.
Melanesia, Kanak, natives, New Caledonia, South Pacific, Ocean, tribal, ethnic, costume, cannabal, tribal, tradition, island, culture, grass. skirt, straw, fierce, dangerous, local, travel, David Smith, Interface Images, fine art, ilse, pines, newcaledonia, native, 001 Kanak natives in Ile de Pines, New Caledoniawearing etnic tribal costume

Kanak natives in Ile de Pines, New Caledonia wearing ethnic tribal costume


Locate yourself for uncluttered shots. If there is live entertainment or a cultural demonstration sit in the front or side of the audience to get unfettered action images.  Consider walking about during the show to get different angles and distances from the action. All entertainers and presenters are willing to have their photographs taken You paid for the tour and presenters are paid by the tour operator as well so get your cameras out and ask.  Be sure to capture locals in ethnic dress. Visit a previous Blog post about photography of people you don’t know for more.

  1. Create a photo story of the tour to create more interest when you share your photography later. Capture the your guide, the sign on the front of the bus, flags, icons and symbols as well as the typical shots. Get establishing shots (the most common type), medium range shots and close-ups to keep interest.  Review a prior post Travel Photography Tips for Cruisers – Part 1 for more hints. This collage summarizes a recent visit to the twice a week fresh market in Kusadasi, Turkey.
collage, Kusadasi, Turkey, local, culture, ethnic, fresh, produce, market, vendors, life, life style, people, many, Turkish, Muslim, Tuesday, traavel, fine art, David Smith, Interface Images, FreshMarketKusadasiTurkey A photo story of the fresh market in Kusadasi, Turkey as a collage

A photo story of the fresh market in Kusadasi, Turkey as a collage

David’s photos of his recent  shore excursion tour of the newly opened Titanic Belfast Museum.  (Our tour guide Ed Boyd  is a professional actor as well and he made the tour fascinating by acting out the major players as they decided on the number of lifeboats to put on board)

Multiple values, cruise ship. shore excursion, port of call, tour, Titanic, Museum, Belfast, 022 null

The NEW Titanic Museum in Belfast

When you come across an excellent tour guide or fabulous entertainers a tip is always appreciated and use that opportunity to get portraits of your guide and hosts  with and without your travelling companions and be sure to hand your camera to someone to get yourself included in the fun and excitement of your tour photo story. Exchange contact information, be Facebook friends and send your photos to your new friends. Revisiting those magical ports of call and have new friends waiting for you makes travelling with your camera a must while on tour and on shore excursions.

Florence, Italy, Tuscany, Firenze, historic place, travel, port of call, shore excursion, cruise ship, destination, tour guide, David Smith, Interface Images, Oceania, Cruises, Florence, Italy, tour, 001 Lisa of StepIntoFlorence is an excellent tour guide!

Lisa of StepIntoFlorence is an excellent tour guide!

David has just published a new online Travel Photography – Amazing Tips and Techniques course.

About the Authors. David and Anna Smith are World travel & fine art photographers, Bloggers, workshop leaders, key note speakers and cruise ship guest lecturers, Their world image archive: Interface Images, fine art gallery: Celebrate the World and Blog: Images-Connecting the World

Permission to post this in its entirety on other Blogs and web sites is granted subject retaining all links in this Blog and  providing your info and a link to dave@interfaceimages.com and credit to “David/Anna Smith of Interface Images www.interfaceimages.com

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Travel Photography Story: Creating the Around the World Quilt in 180 Days

Our Anna Smith served as the Around the World Quilt co-coordinator for this first time and amazing creative fabric arts project. Here is her photo story….

Around the World (ATW) quilters aboard the Oceania Insignia 2016 World Cruise have reason to celebrate. Their ATW quilt creation is a stunning work of fabric arts and has just been completed! 35 ATW guests and entertainment staff from beginners who have never sewed before to expert quilters contributed a total of 72 8×8 in. blocks depicting ports of call and activities during the 180 day around the world cruise adventure on Insignia. Each block was uniquely created on board using a wide variety of fabric arts techniques from simple embroidery sewing, elaborate fabric painting, needlepoint, photo transfer to crazy quilting, chain and applique stitching. ATW quilters gathered each sea day in the Horizons lounge where natural light, peaceful background music and a welcoming ambiance enabled block creation, quilt design and story telling creative juices to flow. The 4pm high tea awaiting the quilters was an added bonus.

Around the World Quilters with their finished quillt

Around the World Quilters with their finished quilt



At the beginning of the voyage fabric artist and frequent Oceania Artist In Residence Anna Smith coordinated the design, production and assembly of the ATW Quilt and aided by AWT Hostess Trica Walsh. Anna taught beginners embroidery and various quilting and stitchery techniques and offered suggestions on fabrics and materials to obtain during ports of call visits. Each quilter shopped for, designed and assembled their blocks with anticipation and excitement. The multicolored ATW quilt backing purchased by Anna in Luanda Angola contributed to the quilting frenzy on board. Teamwork, a sense of pride and creativity was abound. When Anna left for home in Capetown she stated “I shall return – with sewing machine, quilt borders colored to match the guest’ block colors and needed quilting supplies” and she did just that in Tahiti. Using a self standing design wall, the quilters carefully laid out each block and carefully experimented with the quilt design until ready for final assembly.

Guest Sukey created a map of the final quilt showing the name of guest who made that block. The team busily stitched borders to each block. Anna’s sewing machine and guest Joan’s sewing machines worked overtime to add sashings, piping, borders and bindings and final quilting of the ATW quilt. A fun quilting bee atmosphere was shared in what is affectionately known as “It takes a Village” while the team stitched the quilt batts and quilt back to the quilt front in a huge circle while the quilters shared travel stories and fun times.

When Insignia General Manager Victor Conceicao initiated the ATW quilt project with Anna Smith at the beginning of the World cruise in January 2016, no one expected the high number of participants, number of blocks created and especially the creativity, passion, pride and teamwork that ensued. The first public showing of the completed quilt at an ATW reception near the end of the World Cruise was packed. The quilt will be on public display on board and ATW quilt raffle proceeds of over $4500 will go the to Insignia crew welfare fund.

Anna and husband David Smith (travel photography guest lecturer) just published a digital photo story book about the ATW quilt project and here it is!  You can browse the pages by clicking the front cover of the book below


The book is available as a high quality Blurb hard cover book or an instantly downloadable eBook. Order your copy by selecting the appropriate link below:

ATW Quilt Book on Amazon (available about July25) : $59.00 plus shipping: bit.ly/QuiltBook
ATW Quilt eBook (available now) $9.99: bit.ly/QuilteBook

Anna Smith resides in West Vancouver, BC where she instructs fabric arts, quilting and photo transfer classes at art galleries and quilting guilds. She has served as a fabric Artist in Residence on the Insignia, Marina and Riviera ships and has lectured on exotic fabrics of the World on cruise ships worldwide. Her works have been have exhibited in art galleries, offices, stores and museums. Her husband David Smith is a frequent cruise ship guest lecturer and workshop leader on travel photography. For more information contact Anna Smith via their web site www.interfaceimages.com.

About the Authors. David and Anna Smith are World travel & fine art photographers, Bloggers, photography and fabric arts workshop leaders, key note speakers and cruise ship guest lecturers, Their world image archive: Interface Images and Celebrate the World fine art gallery.  David has just published a brand new series of online travel and general photography courses, visit their blog Travel Photography Tips & Adventures for more. Please share our Blog posts on your social networks.  

Print Friendly, PDF & Email