Before visiting the country for the first time last month, I knew very little about Bulgaria. Embarking on our only family holiday since I was eight years old, we chose a beautiful 5-star resort in the village of Sveti Vlas, overlooking the Black Sea.

I like a taste of the luxurious as much as the next girl, but sunning myself by the pool or the ocean all day gets tedious quite quickly. I have to be out and about doing things, seeing things and meeting people. It was this realisation that led me out on a couple of organized day trips to explore the surrounding area. What followed were interesting journeys that provided much insight into the country and its culture.

Bulgarians as a nationality are a friendly, happy and humble bunch. The history of the country is carved into the faces of the oldest living generation of Bulgarians, as I found out by venturing into rural and mountain communities. A morning spent exploring the villages of the Blue Mountain region near Sliven was the perfect way to meet some interesting folks with wonderful expressive faces.

Whenever I have the opportunity to photograph new friends when I’m travelling, I try to be very respectful. There are many cultures and religions in the world that object to being photographed. Once upon a time, Native Americans believed that the process could actually steal a person’s soul. Even if you don’t share the same language, it’s easy enough to point at your camera and indicate thumbs up or thumbs down. Basic communication is very simple if you try!

The woman who is seated in the first photograph above got very excited when I asked to take her picture, but wanted her friend to be in the shot too. I was respectful of this and agreed to it, and with both of them looking natural and at ease, the end result was exactly what I was looking for. After taking some photos of the singing accordion player, I made sure to leave a small tip in his pot to say thank you.

Cats are everywhere in Bulgaria, and even the feral ones are excitable and tame. The image above, which was one of the first that I took, remains my favourite – I love using photography to catch natural poses like this. I find taking lots of shots and relying a little bit on good luck is the key to capturing animals in action!

After a busy day of meeting locals and making friends, the final activity before heading back to my resort was a chairlift ride down one of the mountains. Floating high in the air, my toes brushing the treetops below, it was a seamless opportunity to sit back and snap shots of everything I could see.

In my opinion, there aren’t many tricks or tips for photographing landscapes. Just make sure the scene you’ve chosen is a good one and that you take as many photographs from as many different angles as possible. Focus your mind and think creatively and you’ll have some excellent images to frame when you get home!

Originally published by Manfrotto Imagine More. Images above by Lauren Razavi (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).