Iran – Top 5 places I saw – Hardest list I’ve had to make

I’ve tried to cut the number down to 5 to keep the article size manageable but there is so much more to see in Iran. I might have to make a part 2 ūüôā

In no particular order, here are the top 5 places I went to during my stay in Iran:



Yazd is a 5000 year old city of just over 1 million people that is located in the middle of Iran. It is a fascinating and beautiful city, famous for its confectionery, gardens and very strenuous strength training techniques. I loved to wander around the city’s bazaar and all the little winding streets.


I spent a while just sitting in a park watching kids play football. At first they were a bit shy but after a while their natural curiosity took over. ¬†These 2 walked away with a print of their picture. ūüôā


I also loved the Dowlat Abad gardens. The engineering required to channel water from the far mountains into the city is amazing. Small qanats (channels) were dug by hand ¬†by men who wore white shrouds in case they were buried alive. I’m struck by a mixture of awe and terror at the work they did.




Isfahan is a city in which I wish I’d spent more time. It is a city of around 2 million people and is home to the¬†Naghsh-e Jahan Square¬†which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The square with the mosques, bazaar and palace that surround it are enough¬†to spend at least a day or two visiting.


Once you have seen that, you have barely scratched the surface of the city. One highly recommended place to see is the¬†Khaju Bridge. Local people gather under this bridge at sunset to sing and relax after the day’s work. I would highly recommend it.


If you want to see something a little less typical, you can head to one of the city’s many pigeon towers. Pigeon guano used to be a very important source of fertiliser for the fields around Isfahan. The importance of the pigeons has decreased but some of the towers are still open and have been restored to their full glory. Worth a trip.




Ah, Shiraz, I will admit this is my favourite place in Iran and I don’t really know why. It has a certain vibe that makes me feel right at home as well as some pretty stunning architecture.


This is the city where you can spend an evening in a coffee shop talking to the singer of an Iranian heavy metal band. It’s a place where the police ask if you need help finding your hotel and end up having a bite of your meal because you insist it’s really good.


I feel like they are the Spaniards of Iran and that is one of the highest compliments I can give them.




Persepolis, home of Cyrus the great and Xerxes, this was probably the highlight of my trip. I have always loved the tales and stories of ancient greece. To think I was standing in the same spot where Xerxes probably planned the attack on greece.


I walked around the site flabbergasted, having a hard tome taking it all in. It was also empty of other tourists which still amazes me to this day.


And then when the sun was setting I was in the right place and I think I had a little nerdgasm.


The Desert


The city of Yazd is somewhat remote and you can go out and spend a night at one of the old caravanserais. These were the small forts where the caravans would stop to spend the night, water the camels and try to sell some of their wares.


The setting is beautiful but what is stunning is the night sky out in the desert. Even with clouds it takes my breath away!


Here it comes! – 5 reasons I will end up getting the X-Pro 2

As I mentioned in my previous article, the X-Pro 2 is on its way. I’ve decided that I will take the plunge and get it. After thinking about it for a good while and reading some online first impressions, I’ve come to the conclusion that the X-Pro 2 covers most of the X-Pro 1 quirks that made me stop shooting with it.

Here are 5¬†reasons why I’ll be getting the X-Pro 2.

Improved AF

After I bought the X100S, my biggest gripe whenever I picked up the X-Pro 1 was the speed of the autofocus. I do admittedly have one of the slower AF lenses (35mm 1.4) and the amount of hunting it does is frustrating, especially in low light.

From everything I have read, the AF has greatly improved and I’m looking forward to enjoying using a snappy camera again ūüôā

Would have loved to get the focus on the eyes in this one!
Would have loved to get the focus on the eyes in this one!

Improved ISO

The new sensor has an improved sensitivity of 1 stop. That is huge!

OVF with manual focus

This is the one feature that has me really excited. The X-Pro 2, like the X100T, has a small window that can be enabled in the Optical Viewfinder (OVF) to allow you to see the focus through the EVF.


This allows you to check manual focus while still seeing through the Optical viewfinder. This is a game changer for me and I am very excited to try this out!

Weather Sealing

I’m happy the the X-Pro 2 is finally weather sealed. I’ve never had an issue with my X-Pro 1 but the added peace of mind is great, especially living in a country as wet as Ireland.

Wifi connectivity

I know alsmost all cameras have Wifi nowadays but my cameras do not. I use a eye-fi MOBI card on my x100s to transfer pictures to my phone for posting on instagram (@photolographer) and sending to my Instax printer to give as a gift¬†to people. It’s a nice little token¬†that people really appreciate. Being able to quickly select pictures to send to my phone, or be able to take pictures while looking at my phone will open a lot of candid photography moments.

I could go on for another 5 more but I think I’ve covered the major aspects. Overall I’m very excited for this new camera. My next question is do I ditch my X100S to get a 23mm 1.4?

Iran, things are going to change

Since I travelled to Iran last year, a lot of things have changed in the US-Iran relationship. As of the 17th January the US and EU have officially lifted oil sanctions on Iran. This has prompted a whole host of other nations to begin the process of lifting the sanctions as well.

This will have a huge impact on Iran and its economy. Iran has a population of 80 million people which are highly educated and ready to grow. It has a good infrastructure, a stable government and loads of oil. Oil may not be the great commodity it once was but it’s still worth quite a bit of cash and not something that we’ll stop needing any time soon.


On the other hand, travelling to Iran now is much more inconvenient as the US has decided¬†all those with dual Iranians citizenship, as well as people that have visited Iran since 2011, can no longer travel to the US under the visa waiver program. This has the perverse effect that¬†travel to Iran for an EU businessman now has the negative cost of having to get visas to travel to the US. It is yet to be seen whether this will ¬†also be put into effect by the EU but as things stand, the Iranian market is a lot more open for US businessmen than for the EU. It is also a deterrent for journalists, tourists, volunteers, etc. but that’s another story.

I am generally delighted that the wonderful people of Iran are going to be able to have a better life now. I hope that the opening up of their economy will increase their quality of life. I am a little bit sad in a selfish way as I fear that this marks the beginning of the end of the Iran I saw.


Iran has the feeling of a place hidden away in time, where everyone is¬†open and welcoming and the foreigner is¬†seen as an exciting opportunity for exchanging knowledge. I dread to think of the main square of Isfahan taken over by droves of tourists, forcing the men playing volleyball to stop their game and take it elsewhere. I shudder at the thought of tourists jostling to get a selfie in front of the “Down with USA” sign.


I am sure that this will not happen overnight but I feel it is coming, On the one hand this will allow the amazing people of Iran to make money and with that increase their quality of life. On the other hand, it will make it a lot harder to simply spend an hour sitting in a carpet shop talking about Ibiza and how George Michael is a lesbian.

None of this please!
None of this please!

I am happy for them and sad for me is probably the best way I can describe it.


Enter the X-Pro 2, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the x100s

I’ve been shooting Fujifilm cameras since 2012. At that time I got a good deal on a second hand X-Pro 1 with the 18mm and 35mm lenses so I took the plunge. I was looking to step away from my Nikon gear as I rarely used it any more due to its size and had been originally looking into a second-hand M9.

I will admit the rangefinder look was appealing to me and one of the reasons I went for the Fuji. It had a certain classic design that made it stand out from the other cameras on the market.

I bought the camera with a little bit of hesitation as Fujifilm X cameras were not the established brand they are today. The X-Pro 1 had just come out with the first 3 Fuji primes (18mm, 35mm and 60mm). Also, Lightroom did not support Fuji RAW files at that time so I needed to change my workflow. All of these worries went away when I took my first picture.


I can’t really explain what it was about these images but they had a certain quality to them that my Nikon files did not have. I’d like to say that I immediately ditched my Nikon but that would be a lie.¬†I had built up a respectable selection of glass for my Nikon and felt I might need¬†it for some future magical day. In the meantime I shot more and more with my Fuji and less (if at all) with my Nikon.

I finally sold my Nikon and was perfectly happy with my 2 new primes and my X-Pro 1¬†which kept on getting better every year thanks to Fuji’s new firmwares. It still had some issues but I was happy to use it exclusively to travel to Nepal and Thailand.


In 2014 I stumbled upon a very reasonably priced x100s and decided to take the leap. I was curious about the 23mm focal length and was also looking for a camera that would fit in my jacket pocket.  This was also love at first shot. The much improved AF of this new camera, together with the 23mm field of view, made it my new favourite.


As I could carry it with me every day, I came to really understand the focal length and became able to see pictures in my head before I took out my camera.  Over the last 2 years I have come to realise that this camera is good enough for 80% of my photography. So much so that I have travelled to China, Hong Kong, Japan and Iran with only this camera. I have acquired the WCL-X100 wide angle converter to give me some more flexibility but I rarely use it.


So this brings us to January 2016 and the announcement of the X-Pro 2…


I will start off by saying that I will probably buy this camera but it’s not triggering my G.A.S. as badly as I thought it would. I’ve been thinking why and I’ve come up with 3 reasons why my x100s¬†¬†is probably a better choice for me than the new X-Pro 2:

1. Size

The x100s is a small¬†camera that punches way above its size. I have big hands and tend to wear jackets with big pockets so it’s well within my pocketable size range at¬†127 x 74 x 54 mm (5 x 2.91 x 2.13‚Ä≥).

Taken while waiting for the bus to work
Taken while waiting for the bus to work

Having it in my pocket at all times has allowed me to capture moments that I would have regretted missing. This is probably my biggest hesitation in getting the X-Pro 2 as even with the 18mm it is not really a pocketable camera.

Much easier to capture candids too!
Much easier to capture candids too!

2. Focal Length

This one is the one surprises me the most. Looking back on my evolution as a photographer I’ve gone from a photographer obsessed with covering every focal length, to one that is worried about having to change focal length.


The truth is I love the 23mm focal length of the x100s. I find that my 35mm lens is not wide enough and the 18mm is too wide at times. I had considered selling my x100s to finance buying the 23mm f1.4 but I’m afraid that setup may be too big to carry around everyday. (see point above)

It’s a strange problem to have and I’m sure I just need to force myself to shoot with the 35mm for a couple of months and I’ll adapt to that too. ūüôā

3. Familiarity

This is the weakest of the arguments but I have to admit that I really don’t feel like forcing myself to learn a new focal length or a new camera. The x100s is a great camera and using it has become second nature to me. I can change setting without bringing the camera to my eye¬†and I already know what will be covered by the lens before I even take the picture.

I know that with a few months of use, I’ll feel the same way about the X-Pro 2, but I’m lazy…

Hey, 35mm is good too!

So I guess you could consider that the “Cons” list of my X-Pro 2 purchase. I’m working on a “Pros” list too so stay tuned for more. Please leave a comment below if you have any other reasons you can think of to stop me from buying the X-Pro 2!

Iran – It’s where it’s at! – 5 reasons to go to Iran now!

Iran is without a doubt the best travel destination for 2016. I say that with 0 doubts. If you want to visit a country that has 2 thousand years of history; incredible architecture; a warm, hospitable, friendly people and small amounts of tourists, then Iran is the place for you.

I have been struggling to write this blog post as I came back overwhelmed with how great a travel experience I had. I previously wrote about how overwhelming the one-sided discourse of the media regarding Iran can be. I thought I had kept a healthy scepticism. I did not believe that things there were as bad as the media would lead me to believe, yet I still felt I was going to come face to face with a generally repressive, closed society. I could not have been more mistaken.


The people of Iran are open and welcoming to a fault. Everywhere I went I was greeted with a smile and genuine curiosity as to my opinion. I discussed subjects I did not think would be easy to bring up and though I did not always agree with everyone, I found that I learned with every interaction I had. I never had any problems wandering around or taking pictures and was often a little embarrassed at the lengths that complete strangers would go to to make me feel at home.

It was a strange feeling sometimes to have to stop and remind yourself that you were in Iran. I think the most profound moments during the trip were those in which you looked around and realised that the surrounding could be confused with part of Madrid or Paris or London. It was shocking to stop and think how impossible you thought a scene like this would be inside Iran.

As I think you need to get there ASAP, I’m going to try to give you 5 reasons you need to go to Iran and end with a recommendation of a great way to get there.

1. The architecture


Iran has been a great local power for the last 2500 years and this can be seen in the magnificence of its architecture. Another of the shocking things about Iranian monuments is the fact that they are so well preserved and still in use. Many of the great mosques we visited were still used mainly as places of worship with a few tourists meandering about between prayers. It made you feel more in awe as the buildings came to life with their true purpose. They were not museum pieces, they were living parts of the community.

Iranian architecture has also embraced the modern and Tehran is full of modern bridges and monuments that rival anything I have seen elsewhere.


2. The people


My good friend David Harden said: “The beauty of the Iranian people is the absolute lack of suspicion in their eyes.” I think this is the best way you can describe my experience of them. They are amongst the most open, welcoming and kind people I have met.


They will also make you love tea. And sugar. Mostly sugar.

3. The desert

20151029-DSCF4272The desert is intricately tied to the history of Iran. The silk road ran through this country and it is possible to spend night in reformed caravanserais, pit stops for the old caravans taking spices and silk to the west.


A night out in the desert under the light of the stars and the full moon is something that you will not easily forget.

4. The history


Iran is the heir of the tradition of the great Persian Empire, stretching all the way back to 550 BC. It has been a centre of culture and knowledge for almost all that time. They proud remains of Persepolis are a reminder of the magnificence of a culture that was great when my ancestors were still living in huts.

5. The lack of tourists20151101-DSCF5057

Iran is one the verge of becoming a huge touristic destination. Hotel prices are starting to increase and most big sites have the occasional bus of tourists. This is nowhere near what you will see at any major tourist destination but is a huge increase compared to a couple of years ago.


It is still a privilege to be able to spot the tourists and not have them be anywhere close to the majority. I do have a feeling though that with the the lifting of the sanctions, it’s on the brink of exploding. So get there before everybody else does.

How to get  there?

I went with an Yomadic Un-tour. I would highly recommend booking a seat as they sell out fast, are really small and there’s not a lot of them. You’ll be treated well and get to see stuff you don’t normally see on any other tour.

If you’re not from the US¬†or¬†UK, you can just get a visa at the airport. Not sure of the situation for Israeli citizens. It’s honestly really easy to get around. I say just go!

Edit: Corrected information regarding AU visas.