Capture the Same Scene at Different Times of Day V2.0

By Ralph Velasco

This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture a series of images showing the before, during and after of an iconic location in Fès, Morocco.

In my most recent blog post I talked about the importance of capturing the same scene, but at different times of day, or over the course of a week if you’re in a place for a period of time.  My example showed my results from a single week in Havana, Cuba.

In this post, however, I wanted to discuss how you can use this technique but instead of over the course of a single day, week, month or even year, over the course of several years.

Chouara tannery on diagonal in Fés, Morocco by Ralph Velasco
Chouara tannery in Fés the first time I saw it in 2013.

One Man Gathers What Another Man Spills

As of this writing I’ve been traveling to Morocco for the past 7 or 8 years, and although it took me a while to get there, needless to say I was fascinated with this unique and colorful country, one with an amazing history I was very anxious to explore.

Back in 2013 I was asked to lead a tour to Morocco by another travel company who I’d begun running some trips for.  One of their tour leaders had to drop out of a trip at the last minute due to personal reasons and so they were looking for a replacement to head up the trip and offer photography instruction to the participants, and I was lucky enough to get the call (and have a window of free time in my already busy travel schedule).

Overview of Chouara tannery vats in Fés, Morocco by Ralph Velasco
Overview of Chouara tannery vats in Fés, Morocco - 2014

Morocco is Such a Fascinating Place

Of course I jumped at the opportunity to get to a place I’d always wanted to go and we had an absolutely amazing experience on that first trip (and truth be told, on each one after).

It was a trip that this other tour leader had scouted and put together, which is what I do all the time for my tours, and so I appreciated the hard work that when into making it a great itinerary.  It was one that covered the majority of the main highlights of a country that is steeped in history and has a unique and wonderful culture, plus food that is simply out of this world. 

The Moroccan people are so warm and welcoming that I felt at home from the minute I landed.

Chouara tannery during construction by UNESCO in Fès, Morocco by Ralph Velasco
Chouara tannery during a much-needed upgrade - 2015

Just a Quick Overview of the Trip

Now, this post isn’t meant to be about the actual trip itself and the incredible places we visited, although while we’re on that topic we took in the highlights:

  • Casablanca (very under-rated with one of my favorite markets anywhere),
  • Rabat (many don’t realize it’s the capital of Morocco),
  • Chefchaouen (also known as the “blue city” and one of my favorites),
  • Fès (said to have upwards of over 10,000 streets, most of which will have you stepping back in time),
  • Marrakech (the city most people long to visit, especially Jemaa el-Fnaa, the famous square and marketplace),
  • Essaouira (a beautiful seaside town known for consistent breezes perfect for kite surfing and a place that I just fell in love with. In good company, Jimi Hendrix is said to have been fond of it, too, and visited in 1969).
Chouara tannery in the Fès medina just a week before reopening in Fés, Morocco by Ralph Velasco
Chouara tannery like it won't be seen again, just a week before reopening - 2016

Alright, Let’s Get Down to It

What I really want to discuss in this post is how over the course of 8 years I had the opportunity to visit the centuries-old Chouara Tannery (it dates from the 11th century), hidden in the middle of Fès el Bali, the oldest medina quarter in the city.  Best part is this was during a very unique window of time.


Scroll Through the Images in this Post

If you scroll down this post, you’ll see a series of images I made between 2013 to 2018, a period of time when the Chouara Tannery was undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime transformation.  One of three tanneries operating in this city of approximately 1.2 million, Chouara was in obvious need of a serious upgrade as its waste, although mostly natural and not chemical (unlike the many modern tanneries that have popped up over the years) is directed into the city’s Sebou River.  This had been for many years a serious environmental issue that sorely needed to be addressed.

“Most of the raw materials we use here are natural products, quicklime, grenadine, pigeon droppings, wheatbran, or tree bark.”

Chouara tannery shot of vats just after opening in Fes, Morocco by Ralph Velasco
Here's a shot of the tannery not too long after reopening - 2017

This Series Was Made Over Years

I’m fortunate to have been able to visit this same tannery and to photograph it mostly from the same perspective, over the course of 7 or 8 years, and that resulted in the series of images you see here.

Because of my job as a travel photographer and international tour organizer I’m lucky to go back to many places over long periods of times.  I’m able to see them in many different seasons, weather and light conditions, various states of repair, and to witness other noticeable changes, often over years.

Final overall view of Chouara tannery in Fes, Morocco by Ralph Velasco
And finally, here's the most recent image I have of this same scene - 2018

You Don’t Have to Look Far

I’d venture to guess that there are places you travel to year after year where you can do the same.  And if not, how about in your own hometown, or literally in your own backyard? 

Perhaps you can photograph the same tree that stands in the local park over the course of four seasons, from the exact same perspective and with the exact or similar composition.

At first sprouting with buds to declare that spring has sprung, then full of healthy green leaves at the height of summer, next boasting a fiery display of yellow, orange and red leaves in fall, and finally empty of leaves and naked, or better yet covered with a layer of freshly fallen snow, in the dead of winter. 

These four very distinct yet similar images could certainly make for an interesting display on your wall showing the same scene, at different times of year.

Be on the lookout for this type of opportunity wherever you go, or wherever you are.  It’s an easy exercise that is fun to do and the results can be truly outstanding.

Have you ever done this?  Can you go back into your photographic archives and find a series of images of the same scene at different times of day, week, month, season, year or even years, a series you perhaps didn’t even know you were making?

Click the time-lapse video above for a sense of the workers at Chouara Tannery.


Please Be Sure to Comment Below


Are you fortunate enough to have visited the Chouara Tannery in Fès in person?  If so, what was your experience and in what year did you visit?


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Finally, don’t forget to let me know in the comments below what your thoughts are, and be sure to let me know what it is you’d like to learn more about.


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