Photography Workshop in Peru – A Guest Post

Kate MulliganGuest Post, Peru, workshopLeave a Comment

Jay Guerra joined us in Peru in 2013. We were blown away by Jay’s optimism, his genuine interactions with the kids of Picaflor House, and his passion for photography. Also, his uncanny ability to look like James Bond (Pierce Brosnan era).

We asked Jay to share about his experience, even though it can be hard to put into words. You can find his work here and here. And if you’re ever in Puerto Rico, we recommend his workshops!

– We recently had a drop out from our Peru team and are actively seeking another participant. If this post interests you, and you’re available in May, send us an email! – 


My Experience With The Giving Lens in Peru


Lucky. I just consider myself lucky to have had found The Giving Lens to serve as the perfect vehicle to give, to take, to learn and to dig deep into my emotions all the while doing what I like the most; composing, creating and experiencing photography.

In 2004 I had watched a documentary titled Born into Brothels and subsequently bought the book which superseded the documentary Kids with Cameras. It just resonated with me and I never forgot the cravings that realizing what a perfect marriage photography and self-empowerment could create. While reading the digital magazine Extraordinary Vision I came across an article whose subject was Colby Brown. Colby went into the details of his organization, The Giving Lens (TGL).

In all honesty, I don’t think I even finished reading the rest of the magazine before linking to TGL’s website. I was hooked! So much so that I even filled out the application form for a workshop that had already taken place. Kate Siobhan, TGL’s Operations Manager, relayed this sad news to me. I was not discouraged; I simply registered for the next one.


I was lucky, perhaps too lucky, that the next workshop would be held in Peru. As Spanish is my first language, my experience with the kids and the NGO staff was unique. At times I would have wished that a language barrier existed between what I was experiencing and my emotions as I did live not only my experiences but also my fellow volunteer photographers since I had to translate every once in a while for them what the kids where saying. Innocence and gratitude in generous amounts from a small child is a powerful thing.

 Innocence and gratitude in generous amounts from a small child is a powerful thing.



These trips cater to a niche group of individuals. I’ve participated in workshops in Santa Fe and I happen to teach workshops in a classroom environment. TGL’s approach to the “teaching” aspect of the trip is very unique and effective. It’s all “In the Field”/ Hands On Learning (also called Collaborative Learning) with very experienced and empathetic leaders. There was always time to help someone out on a one to one basis, no matter what the circumstances were. Also, the degree of experience amongst the participants was broad but not noticeable. The camaraderie among all of us is completely transparent to your skill levels. Where does that take you? To an environment where you are constantly learning without noticing it.

The camaraderie among all of us is completely transparent to your skill levels. Where does that take you? To an environment where you are constantly learning without noticing it.


Remember, this is a photography trip that happens to share its resources with an NGO. There is A LOT of photography to be done. It’s photography non-stop and you’ll love it. After all, if you are reading this post you are a photography enthusiast wishing for a pot of luck. TGL is your chance to win.


I haven’t looked back on my decision; rather, I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to give, to take, to learn but most of all, to feel alive with my camera while empowering someone else.

– Jay

Editor’s Note: We’re thrilled to say that Jay will be joining us again in Tanzania, s umber 2014. 

Travel Photography Workshop in Thailand – Everything We Hoped!

Kate MulliganFrom the Road, thailand, Trips, workshopLeave a Comment

travel photography workshops with a purpose - volunteer doing what you love today!

The Giving Lens trave Photography Workshop Trip to Thailand was a Massive Success.

The Giving Lens: Thailand has sadly come to a close. But really, how sad can it be when you look at all these beautiful smiling faces? We were so honoured to we welcomed into COSA‘s world, where girls are not victims but are champions, and where they work hard to prevent trafficking, educating families and providing other options. Mickey, Stephen, and the volunteers are pouring their hearts out for these girls and it doesn’t take more than a minute to see why. If you followed #TGLthailand on social media, then you saw how amazing our time was. If you haven’t I encourage you to follow our team of 9 amazing women and search #tglthailand on Facebook, g+, twitter, or especially instagram!  This travel photography workshop was all about anti-sex-trafficking, girl and women empowerment, and using photography to have a positive impact on the world.

Travel Photography with a Difference

These girls are amazing. Their smiles, their hearts, their stories, their hopes and dreams – they are the face of a changing Thailand. We were each so fortunate to find ourselves able to be in this particular place, at this particular time, with a team of particularly incredible women alongside us. Our trip started on the International Day to End Trafficking (#enditmovement) and finished on International Day of Women (#IDW2014). As a team of all women, it would just barely suffice to say each of us was moved deeply. This is not the last you’ve heard from #TGLThailand. Stay tuned for all our epic stories!

In the meantime we have open travel photography workshops to Peru, and Tanzania!! Please find the workshops on our site by clicking on “Workshops”!

Our photography workshops to Jordan and Nicaragua are sold out. Thanks to everyone who applied!

Travel photography workshops with a purpose - The Giving Lens Thailand seeks to combine photography and giving back!

The Giving Lens Thailand

Photography Workshop in Jordan Changed My Life – Guest Post!

Kate MulliganFrom the Road, Guest Post, Jordan1 Comment

Travel Photography in Jordan Can Change Lives

Kathy Vick is proof! Kathy joined us in 2012 for our first trip to Jordan, alongside Ken Kamimesky and Colby Brown. It was, to say lightly, a life-changing experience for her. She took some time to write about her experience and share her favourite photos. You can see more of her images (and her other work) on her Smugmug website. Enjoy!

Our TGL Jordan 2014 trip is almost full, but we had two spaces open up last minute. If this post piques your interest, let us know!



My The Giving Lens: Jordan Story

 First, a little bit about me: I’m married, our kids are all grown (I’m a grandma!), I love to travel but my husband hates it. I have loved photography since I was in junior high school, but never thought I was good enough to do it for a living. I also work a pretty technical job, but have this creative side that just needs to be satisfied. In summer of 2012, I was very unhappy with my job and needed a big escape. I saw a tweet for the workshop on Twitter, and was immediately intrigued. Getting to meet a photographer I really admired AND traveling to a place I’d never go on my own AND working with women learning arts and crafts?? It was like someone planned this trip just for me! But I was really nervous – would I get along with everyone? Was I a good enough photographer? Was I too old for this sh*t?? 


And most important – was it dangerous to travel to Jordan? At the time I actually travelled, there was still bombing activity in Tel Aviv and the West Bank. My family thought I was nuts, but I decided to apply, and after an awesome conversation with Kate – I was in! 

You hear people talk about “life changing” experiences, and generally I think “yea right”, but in my case it is true. After my trip with The Giving Lens, I came home so inspired that I realized I needed some big changes in my life. I had just spent almost two weeks with the most awesome people having the most awesome experience, and I wanted more. When New Year’s rolled around, I had found three quotes that I loved, and I decided to use them to inspire my life in 2013. As a result of all of this, I changed jobs and am way happier with what I do for a living, and I worked hard on my photography skills as a way of feeding that creative monster inside of me. My life in 2013 was a bit scary, and full of change, but overall one of the best years I have ever had, and it all started with this trip to Jordan at the end of 2012.

Here are the three quotes (not resolutions!) I used for 2013 and how my Jordan trip inspired each of them.




“Life’s not the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away”

Probably my most favorite quote. I had so many breathless moments on that trip, it’s hard to know where to start. But I will share my most breathless moment. One of the coolest things we did was climb to the top of the monuments in Petra to the “Place of High Sacrifice”. This is a relatively easy climb for people not afraid of heights, but for me this was a huge scary thing. I’m not in the best shape physically for something like this, and adding an almost-panic-attack on top had my heart pounding every step. Technically, I’m not afraid of heights, but I’m terrified of anything I can fall off of. This climb was not that dangerous but it scared me a lot. I almost backed down every step of the way because of the heights, but the encouragement I got from my new friends was just amazing. I couldn’t believe I actually made it all the way to the top, but I know I never would have made it without all of the support from the team. They were with me every step, and went as slow as I needed to go. I will never forget that moment when I got to the top and realizing I had done something I never thought I could do. I was definitely breathless!!! But in the best way – it was a breathtaking site, and an incredible feeling of success for me. That’s when I realized I need to do more things that scared me, and that take my breath away. Oh and by the way – the other thing I learned was that going up was not even HALF as scary as going down!!!!!!!! But I survived that experience and learned I can do a lot more than I think I can with the right group of people around me.



“When trying to pick between two evils, I usually like the pick the one I haven’t tried before” – Mae West


Another favorite quote. To me, this doesn’t mean do bad things, but when I have a choice of risks, pick the risk I haven’t taken before. Try something new. Pick a path I haven’t travelled. Do something I haven’t done before. In so many ways, this described my entire Jordan experience. I went to the Middle East, somewhere I had never been before, where I didn’t know the language and couldn’t read the letters, with a bunch of people I had never met before. I went to places that required a lot of physical activity and climbing – something I’m definitely not good at. The entire trip was a big risk for me, but in the end I’m so happy I did it. Jordan is a very western (and female!) friendly area of the Middle East, and because we were treated so warmly by everyone, I’d actually like to go back and see more of it. When it comes time for vacation now, instead of just thinking of beach resorts, I’m seeing adventure travel and exploration as a part of how I plan my trips. I’m figuring out how to try something new instead of revisit different versions of the same trips I’ve done before. This trip to Jordan really opened my eyes to exciting travel opportunities, and convinced me that I need to try more new things.



“If you want to take better pictures, go stand in front of better things”


My first thought when I typed that was “It doesn’t get much better than Petra”, but then I realized it did. Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, made famous recently by “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” And it was spectacular – but so was the Wadi Rum Desert. The place where “Lawrence of Arabia” was filmed. The place where for thousands of years, civilization has travelled. But so was Wadi Feynan – a nature preserve, with animals and local Bedouins who have lived there for longer than my country has existed. And so was Mount Nebo – the place where Moses stood and first looked over to see the Promised Land (although I suspect his view was less smoggy than mine!!). And so was the Dead Sea – which could disappear in a few decades. All of these places were amazing to see, and I can’t imagine picking one as more important than another. I have been to Southwest United States, and have seen the Grand Canyon – but to see the sunset over Wadi Rum, how incredibly HUGE it is – it takes your breath away (hey, my first quote again!) and makes you feel very insignificant. Everywhere we went was an opportunity to stand in front of something amazing.  After returning from this trip, I have started looking for that “better thing” to stand in front of to take great images. I’ve started looking at my home state of Washington and finding beautiful things to see when I can’t travel. And I’ve started looking for the beauty – landscape, architecture or people – in everywhere I go. I am seeing the world with new eyes, and that is a direct result of my travel to Jordan with TGL.


I could probably write for days about how awesome the trip was, how much fun I had laughing and learning with everyone, but you kind of had to be there to


appreciate some of it. There are some things only the 16 of us will be able to share, like

Michael’s lost and found sunglasses… Ken’s donkey ride … who could forget Chicken Stripes(not a typo!) and hamburgers without cheese… and I still smile each time Hummus is on a menu. These are the moments you bring back from a trip like this that are hard to explain but impossible to forget. But they all inspired my new outlook on life, and I relive them all in my three guiding quotes for 2013.

I can’t thank Kate, Colby, Ken, Michael and Mohmmad for planning the trip and leading us all on such an awesome adventure. Thanks to everyone on the trip for sharing their experiences, their photography skills, and their friendship (Laura, Heidi, Kristal, Julie, Mike, Linda, Jenny, Andy, Mitch, Laila, and Saleh, you’re the best!!!). It’s over a year since our trip, but I still can relive almost every moment in my head as if it were last week. And thanks to the wonderful country of Jordan and their friendly people for making us all feel so welcome. I hope this inspires you to do something that takes your breath away, to take a risk you haven’t taken before, and to stand in front of better things.


If you want to see more of my images from Jordan, I have a SmugMug gallery here:

Oh and if you are still on the fence about visiting Jordan – ping me, I’ll push you off 😉

Travel Humanitarian and Documentary Photography Workshops Abroad, with a purpose!


Travel Photography Tip: Shooting Sunrise with Tomasz Huczek

Kate MulliganGuest Post, travel photography tip3 Comments

Travel Photography Tip: Shooting Sunrise!

 Finishing off May’s theme of Shooting Sunrises, we’re thrilled to have Tomasz Huczek here to run us through his tips for getting the best results. Enjoy!

Rich landscapes and boisterous seas are the main subjects of Tomasz Huczek’s photographs. He presents a vibrant world showcasing nature at its most beautiful. His passion for photography was discovered after moving to the sunny Cyprus where exotic environment gave him an impulse to creatively capture the beauty of surroundings. He believes that the best photographs happen only at the right place and time and he is always patiently waiting for that moment. Although he works in works in software engineering, he cannot imagine life without his camera.

You can find Tomasc on Google Plus, Facebook, and his Website.

Determination and Consistency

For me going out shooting is like going hunting. I never know what will happen, and many times I won’t even take the camera out of my bag. Getting up very early, reaching the location with all the equipment, waiting for the sun to appear, only to discover that the weather is hopeless, the sky is colourless or the rain makes it impossible to shoot might be very discouraging. The only solution to finally get the shot of your dreams is to keep on trying.

As well, getting to the same location over and over again also presents the same place in a variety of light situations that make each sunrise a unique experience. All the pictures below have been taken almost at the same spot:

Travel photography tip - shooting sunrise with The Giving Lens!

Travel photography tip - shooting sunrise with The Giving Lens!

Travel photography tip - shooting sunrise with The Giving Lens!

Here is what can be done to improve our chances of getting the ideal shot on the day you show up and conditions are perfect. 

Photography Equipment for Sunrise

  1. Tripod
    This one is a must. Without a stable setup it’s close to impossible to take a decent, good quality shot without noise. Especially when the light is soft and we need longer shutter speeds to expose the picture correctly.

  2. Filters
    Filters are not required but very useful. Polarisers increase saturation and make colours richer and also remove all sorts of reflections. ND filters help to achieve dreamy blurred look by extending the exposure to even a few minutes. My very long exposures were taken with times up to 10 minutes using 10 stop ND filter.

  3. Cable release
    Another very handy tool. Required for long exposures above 30 seconds as most of the cameras have an exposure limit controlled by internal timer. To overcome that, **bulb** mode needs to be used and with cable release the exposure time can be precisely controlled. However, it’s a good practice to use it for all kinds of shots as it helps to reduce vibrations and camera movement.

  4. Viewfinder cover
    This one is particularly needed when taking long exposures with strong filters. When the light is limited from the lens side using NDs, it’s crucial to make sure it won’t come from anywhere else. Uncovered viewfinder during 40-second exposure will most likely ruin the shot.

Proper settings

  1. Manual mode
    This one is particularly important for early hours, when it’s still relatively dark and light metering system might give the wrong values. For the long exposures, manual mode is inevitable – camera won’t be able to help us out with internal metering system.

  2. Manual white balance
    If the photo is taken in RAW then the white balance might be corrected in post-process, but it’s a good idea to set it to manual. All the pictures will be consistent and it certainly helps with the merging of different shots for high dynamic range photographs.

  3. Disabled AF during a shot
    This has happened to me so many times and I still forget about it from time to time. After framing a picture and setting the focus, disable AF. In the low light or with the ND filter on the lens, the focusing system of the camera will get confused when you half-press the shutter or use a cable release.

  4. No VR, IS
    All the stabilisation systems are meant to be used for handheld situations. When the camera is on a tripod it won’t help, additionally it can engage the system to kick in when something moves within the frame ruining the shot.


Weather is very important but often times very unpredictable. Clouds make a huge difference because they reflect the light, make it softer and that is where all the colour is absorbed. I usually check the forecast when I plan to go out for a sunrise. If the location is close and it doesn’t take much time to get there I always look through the window in the morning to see the sky. If it’s completely clean I will stay at home – the sunrise will most likely be dull and colourless. Even the smallest clouds make a difference – have a look at the photo below:

Both pictures were taken the same morning. The clouds on the left side make a huge difference.


When we have done everything we could, there is one last factor that comes into play – luck. Unfortunately we cannot do much about that. We just need to be in the right place at the right time, which takes us right back to the beginning: determination, and consistency.