Libya opens Leptis Magna to the world

Herb Schmitz is a well travelled professional photographer with an impressive array of cameras, including his trusty Nikon D-3. Click the image to skip down to the video.London-based photographer Herb Schmitz spends most of his time away travelling and photographing political figures, landscapes and fashion. It’s more of a hobby now, but Herb has had a long and successful career in photography. Little more then a year ago, while working for a shipping company, Herb had a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to visit Libya’s Roman city Leptis Magna. I met Herb Schmitz in his studio to create this video interview, shot by film-maker Samantha Newton, in which he describes his experience photographing this amazing site, and his cameras of choice.

Archaeologists from the University of Hamburg were excavating along the Libyan coast just outside the ruins of Leptis Magna in 2000 when they discovered one of North Africa’s best preserved Roman cities, complete with ancient Roman ruins, roman baths, and gladiator ring. The finds were made public in 2005.

He would only be allowed to travel to Tripoli if he left his professional camera equipment and, most importantly, his American wife Pat Doyle, behind

As the country celebrates 40 years of Gaddafi rule, and the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, is welcomed back in his country as a hero, Libya is hot news these days. The country has only recently opened its doors to foreign tourists, but Herb had a vague idea what was waiting for him and his wife when they took the opportunity to visit one of the Roman Empire’s most beautiful cities. Herb Schmitz, a German national, has travelled to much of the Middle East, so he was used to the culture and restrictions of the Arab World as a western photographer.

But as he faced the local authorities at customs he found out that he would only be allowed to travel to Tripoli if he left his professional camera equipment and, most importantly, his American wife Pat Doyle, behind as she had no visa to enter Libya.

Herb took his compact Canon G-10 Powershot with him, and left for a quick tour of the city’s ruins.

Canon PowerShot G10: 15MP & 28mm Wide – The Must-Have Snapper

When Herb showed me the camera I was quite impressed by its vintage look, and how it feels like traditional old cameras. It has endless exposure settings and can take high-quality video, and the large LCDdisplay is wonderful. The third-generation PowerShot G10 is a stunning little camera, and loaded with superb specs, like 14.7 megapixels and a 28mm wide-angle lens. It has a endless amounts of shooting and recording modes. It will definitely be on my Christmas list this year!

Nikon D-3 : The Professional Choice

Herb has taken some beautiful photos of the Roman baths, The Arch of Septimius Severus and Medusa’s head all with the compact little wonder – Canon G-10. If he were to return, however, he would take his impressive Nikon D-3 and his wide-angle lens. It’s amazing to watch him click through the camera so naturally; he creates wonders and you can’t even keep up with him. Herb is an amazing photographer with any of his equipment, but I must say he adores his Nikon D-3. The camera and all the lenses look like diamonds nestled in the steel carrier bag he has designed.

As we go through different equipment Herb picks up a toy-like camera with a sparkle in his eyes. He shows it to us in detail: the pen-shaped device, a Minox B, sub-miniature Camera from 1968, looks like something from a James Bond film. We agree that it’s a must-have gadget for any aspiring detective.

Libya Travel Advice

One can spend hours in Herb’s studio going through everything, from old Leica cameras to all sorts of new digital models: once you get into years of work in the slides it’s hard to get out. Before we finish our interview we talk a bit more about Leptis Magna and travelling to Libya in general. Based on years of experience going to many different cultures, Herb advises that you keep your cool as you face the authorities. He points out that once you actually pass through the red tape and mix with locals its actually a wonderfully warm experience.

In Libya’s case he managed to get some wonderful shots of some local families visiting – and they were extremely friendly towards him. As you plan your travel please check you’ve got all the necessary documents. Once there keep calm, pack light, bring along a compact camera and enjoy the wonders of the ancient world with fewer tourists.

HD Video: Herb Schmitz on shooting the Roman ruins at Leptis Magna, Libya

(Transcription of this video.)

For more advice on photographing ancient sites, check out Mary Harrsch’s practical guide. Heritage Key has a growing collection of video interviews on a wide range of heritage issues, such as the Great Cities in History, featuring Lord Norwich, and the Search for the Tomb of Cleopatra, featuring Dr Kathleen Martinez.