In focus: photographer Rachel Sarah talks us through her recent Turkey trip

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My career in photography started accidentally. I was living on my sister’s sofa for a while, trying to work out what to do with my life. I’ve always loved telling stories, so I went freelance as a writer and then I slowly started taking on photography jobs, too. 

I learnt both photography and videography from YouTube tutorials, building my skills bit by bit. It was daft, really: I had no savings, I had nothing. But I threw myself into it, and upgraded my kit as I went.

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On assignment in Turkey, I arrived early to meet people

Nowadays, my Rachel Sarah studio involves a lot of work for outdoor and adventure brands. It’s unusual to do photography and videography in the same assignment as it’s a challenge, but that’s what I do for Flash Pack – and I love it. The adventures are irresistible and I get to try experiences I would never think of doing on my own. 

The group dynamic is everything, too. I always try to arrive early on a trip and meet people without my camera. That way I can build a connection first without putting a lens in their face. That’s exactly what I did on my recent assignment in Turkey

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It was great to have space to explore Fethiye solo

I arrived in Fethiye, the port city on the southwestern Turquoise Coast, before everyone else, which was really nice. I wandered the city by myself and built a sense of place. As an extroverted introvert, I’m a big bubbly personality but I do also love my alone time. It was great to have that space to explore before the trip began. 

I spotted a colorful spice stall and decided to frame it with the foreground of palms. This kind of shot would be hard to do once a Flash Pack trip gets going because the pace is fast and I’m always with the group. It’s important to have these little pockets of quietness to capture the setting; the calm before the storm, if you like. 

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The second day involved paragliding

Once we’d met up as a group, the second day involved paragliding. One Flashpacker, Sarah, was terrified. It’s an optional activity in which you travel in tandem with a trainer. It’s a little hairy because you have to take a running start off a slope. If you’re not going fast enough at the point you drop off, you have to bail. 

Sarah was going back and forth; “I’m not sure, maybe I will, maybe I won’t.” Everyone egged her on and, in the end, she was one of the first people to jump. I was so stoked for her because it’s a massive thing to face your fear like that. At the bottom she said, “I’m never doing that again, but it was amazing.”

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I loved getting the drone up

On other days, I loved getting the drone up because you can capture a perspective that people can’t usually see. Like at Nişanyan Hotel, for example, a beautiful little boutique property in the historical mountain village of Şirince. 

It’s perched above tiny little buildings and fringed by trees. The pool is tucked away in this thick, almost tropical valley. Going up high allowed me to showcase the hideaway aspect of Nişanyan well; it’s a true retreat. 

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At some points, the lens turned on me

At some points, the lens turned on me. I gave my camera to fellow Flashpacker, Orlando, who was my unofficial assistant – he loved helping me throughout the trip. We were given stew in a pot and we had to use a little mallet to tap the lid off. 

I was given mine first and, me being me, I ended up whacking it way too hard. The stew went on my lap, on the floor, everywhere… It was embarrassing but also hilarious.

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It felt like we had the place to ourselves 

On day six, we did a group hike through the honeycombed hills of Göreme Historical National Park, Cappadocia. It was beautiful weather and a great way to get a grip on the magnitude of the vast array of ancient, pinnacled rockscapes. It was so remote, it felt like we had the place to ourselves. 

We were dropped off at the top of the valley and ended up winding our way down, eventually weaving into the mountains. Our Pack Leader and guide, Suley, led us to an incredible cafe in the middle of nowhere. As a local, he knew everyone – even though the owner wasn’t there, we were able to just turn up and help ourselves to freshly squeezed orange juice. 

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Sunsets in Cappadocia are pretty amazing

Sunsets in Cappadocia – and Turkey generally – are pretty amazing. There’s a real energy to the evenings. We were in the Anatolian mountains in these incredible lavender thickets. I remember making my way around clusters of little bees to get the best shots. 

Flashpackers, Jessie and Laura, were sitting at these little tables on the crest of the hill, set up with wine and cheese. We’d been hot-air ballooning earlier in the day, so everyone was tired; the good kind of tired you feel having just had one of the best days of your life. Everyone was in such a nice mood, it was a really great vibe.

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Getting out of your comfort zone is part of the experience

Getting out of your comfort zone is really part of the Flash Pack experience – I think Jessie felt that benefit the most on the Turkey trip. She told me the whole adventure – meeting awesome people and having these bucket-list experiences – had fueled her; it was just what she needed. 

I think the sunrise hot-air balloon ride over Göreme was the peak of that feeling. The weather was perfect and everyone was so excited. Jessie and I were in a section of the basket together and you could see the pure joy on her face. It was an intimate moment that was so real and genuine.

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We met one of the best potters in Turkey. He looked like Einstein

Interacting with locals was also a highlight. Like meeting Galip Korukcu – one of the greatest potters in Turkey. He gave us a demonstration of how he makes his pots and it was so cool to watch him at work at the wheel. 

I’ve watched The Great Pottery Throw Down; it was like that in real life. Everyone stood by saying, “Oooh! Aaah!” like they were at a fireworks display. Galip told us the background to his story, too. It was fascinating to get that sense of his craftsmanship. Everyone said he looked like Einstein, which was definitely a little bit true. 

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A beautiful ruin like Ephesus never gets old

Of course, Turkey also has some pretty rockstar attractions. At the ancient city of Ephesus, Kirsten stood in the foreground. She was one of my golden models during the trip; she just knew where to stand to frame a shot. I didn’t have to tell her anything. 

I think my photo of that moment emphasized how a beautiful ruin like Ephesus never gets old. There’s so much history. Having a guide like Suley, who can tell you all the background because he knows it so well, was so interesting. The older I get, the more nerdy I’ve become about historical stuff.

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Flash Pack adventures are accessible to all

The sunset quad-bike drive in Cappadocia was really memorable. I remember looking back thinking, “Ooh, look at the sun!” Every time I see the photo I took, I laugh because I’m driving with one hand, shooting with the other. I’d only just got on the ATV half an hour earlier. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing as I’d never been on one before. Soon enough, I was driving like a pro. It shows that Flash Pack adventures are accessible to all – and the light was insane, too. 

Rachel Sarah is a professional photographer who recently shot Flash Pack’s Turkey adventure

Got a story or adventure that could inspire a solo traveler like you? Tag @flashpack on social or email [email protected] to be featured.

Images: Rachel Sarah 

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