Creative: Albanian Experiment

I’ve kept something from you, a secret. I’ve been in Albania for the last two weeks. Upon arrival in Tirana, I turned off my phone, placed it in my suitcase and never looked back. Off the grid. Heaven. No social, no email, no contact with the “outside” world, which in Albania might be viewed as ironic. (The country was totally isolated under dictatorial rule for forty years.)

Valbona, Albania

In addition, I was not alone. My wife was along, as were three others, and we were officially part of a photographic workshop program called “Wide Angle Tours.” Now, is this something I normally do? No. I’ve taught international photography workshops but I’ve never been the student. You know me, I’m a loner, best and most talented when left alone wallowing in the despair of my own thoughts. However, this organization is run by a friend who is of Albanian descent and someone who is a very successful and talented photographer who approached my wife and me and said: “Albania is opening up fast if you want to go, go now.”

Americans know next to nothing about Albania. Myself included. The first person I told about the trip asked where in South America Albania was located. The next few people asked why I wanted to go to Russia. My Italian friends said it was one hundred percent certain I would be killed by the Albanian mafia. Exactly ONE person said, “Cool, The Balkans.” When people would ask “Why go there?” or “What’s in Albania?” my answer was simple. “To look around,” or “Probably a lot of Albanians.”

The Albanian Alps, also known as The Cursed Mountains. Incredible place. We did a ten mile out and back that ended near the Montenegro border just above the snow line.

I suck at tourism and I REALLY suck at Instagram tourism. Man, I would rather eat lightbulbs than go anywhere that is considered “hot.” Like Croatia. Albania isn’t considered hot unless you are talking weather. It was stifling. Upper 90’s with high humidity. Luckily, I like this but were I working the entire time, or on assignment, it would have been a bit more challenging.

But I don’t write this post as a travelogue. I write this because I’m going to be sharing A LOT more about this trip and my philosophy and technique behind what I made and how I made it. Hint, I’ve already got 90-pages of Blurb Premium Magazine ready to go.

I think this is Kosovo. Can’t remember city name. I had just soaked my buff in the public fountain because it was damn hot. I ate like a White Shark the entire trip but still lost weight.

I made exactly ONE decision about my work before I left. This decision was based on history. And I’m glad I took the time to do the research because making this decision was hugely important in being able to create the work I did.

Much more on this. Stay tuned for a barrage of posts about photography, Albania, editing and creating a cohesive, personal print piece.

Oddly enough, I was not the only Fuji shooter. I used the XT2 and 35mm(50mm) the entire time. Never once used a second lens. I’m lazy. So nice to not have to impress anyone. My wife used my second XT2 and 23mm. She had never used mirrorless and immediately fell in love with it. She was making plans to sell her DSLR even before we left Albania.

11 Comments on “Creative: Albanian Experiment”

    1. C,
      The next post will fill in real details of the concept, experimentation, technique and what worked and what didn’t. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

  1. This is why I keep coming back to this blog – “You know me, I’m a loner, best and most talented when left alone wallowing in the despair of my own thoughts.” Something I’ve been trying to emulate for years. Looking forward to future content and learning more about Albania.

    Last weekend I went high up into the Japanese Alps alone*. Now all I can think about is going there again (possibly with my wife) and getting off the grid for a week or so.

    *It’s crowded little Japan so just like my native U.K., you’re never really alone, not like you can be in the USA or Australia anyway. There are always a few hikers, villages, or wild boar nearby.

    1. Sean,
      The Albanian Alps had hikers but considering how incredible the place is the numbers were very low. Most of the day we were alone. Back in NM so we have some hikes in our future.

  2. I am shocked that most people suck at geographic! Haha…! By the way it’s only a bit over 2.000 km to Hamburg. Haha…!

    1. Wim,
      It’s alarming how bad Americans are with geography. There are some classic vids online of people being asked simple things like “What countries border the US,” and they can’t name one. Or, “find the US on the map,” and they point to Russia.

  3. Where is Albania? Easy! It’s sandwiched between North Macedonia and Montenegro. Everyone knows that…

  4. I think it’s great that you didn’t tell any of us and just went off-grid, good for you! I hope you had a great time and I look forward to reading more about it.

    Interesting to see the Kosovo photo. On the last flight I took to Dallas back in December, I was sat next to the political advisor to the President of Kosovo. A really nice guy and the 10.5 hr flight literally flew by as we were chatting too much. He gave me his card and told me “If you’re ever in the Balkans region, give me a shout”. We still email now. Had I known you were in the area I would of put you in touch

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