McKay Photography Academy’s adventure to Jordan!
For those that are not aware or know much about Jordan, this is a destination that should be on your bucket list! A reality of traveling sometimes is that even with the best images, it is not the same as being there. Jordan is like this. It is a place that has to be experienced to really understand and appreciate how amazing it is!Traveling to Jordan, the home of Petra is incredible. But there is SO MUCH more to Jordan than Petra.  Even Petra itself seems to be mostly known for the iconic Treasury building that is cut into the rock and made famous in Indiana Jones. But yet again, there is so much more to Petra than just that one iconic location.   

When traveling to Jordan, you immediately notice that the Jordanians are very friendly and welcoming. We started our tour by landing in Amman, a very clean and modern city that has ancient origins.

After a night at a lovely hotel, we made our way to the famous Petra. Our first stop was actually a much lesser-known area called “Little Petra” 

Here we walked into an area full of caves that the ancient Nabatean people lives in for centuries. This also gave us the opportunity to photograph a couple of locals. 

Photo Tip – Photographing Locals

The first and primary rule is NEVER photograph people unless you are sure that they are ok with it, AND it is totally acceptable in the culture you are in.  

Private moments such as prayer time and religious ceremonies, obvious moments within a group or family that are private in nature, and children, should only be photographed if approved to do so. 

I always like to say it like this. Imagine if a busload of tourists, came in front of your home without announcement, all got out with large cameras with long lenses and just started photographing you and your family. Would you feel good about that if it was your home and family? Probably not. 

However, what if your family was aware that tourists liked to photograph your culture, you were aware of it, people got out of the bus and politely smiled, offered your kids some small gifts such as stickers and crayons, and you asked if it was ok to photograph? Now how would you feel? 

Key point – Think about how you would feel if the situation was reversed before you lift up the camera. 

Key point – People are not objects. Treat them as fellow human beings and with a sense of cross-cultural learning and joy, and your images will reflect that!

Key point – In various locations around the world, the idea of tipping a local to photograph is varied on what is acceptable or not. If someone is selling items or purposely dressed knowing that people will want to photograph them, plan on a smile, asking permission, and tip.  


There are two entrances to get into Petra. 
The first and easiest way is from the entrance of the visitor area. To get to the iconic Treasury is just over a mile walk. The trail is smooth and it is easy for most people to do. It is also a slight downhill the entire way. But this means on the way back, it is uphill. 

For those that don’t feel they can do it or are very tired after a long day, there is a cart that will take you back for about $15.

The other option is for serious hikers. Of our group, half chose to do this. This is an extensive hike that brings you to the top of the Ancient Monastery. It is roughly a 10-mile hike up and down! It is no joke but an incredible hike. (so they tell me:)

It is important to understand that Petra is BIG! There are a lot of amazing buildings carved into the area, and there is so much to see and photograph and experience.

The treasury area of Petra is a busy area. It is easily the most visited site in all of Jordan. With that, we planned a sunrise session the following morning. 

Photo Tip-  Get up early and go ahead of the crowds. 

Our group left as early as we could to be the first ones in the area. This meant an early rise, but upon reaching the treasury area, we were treated with it all to ourselves! This area can easily have hundreds of tourists at most times. So being able to be there ahead of the crowds was awesome. 

When you first come into the viewing of the treasury building, it is special beyond words. 

As mentioned above, Petra is MUCH MORE Than just the treasury that is so famous. You can easily spend a week here and never see it all.

Besides the treasury, the other most famous building is the monastery.

The monastery coming from the main entrance is another mile past the treasury to get to the main steps that will lead you there. Along the way, there is much to see and photograph. Once you get to the first steps, you realize this is going to be strenuous.  Facing you are  900 steps UP for an entire mile that winds in and out of the rocks passing small market places drink stands and locals. 

Yes, Ally and I did this climb, but we chose to use a donkey to do so!  Yes, it’s easier than hiking, but not for the faint of heart. The donkey takes you up and up and up and although you have a handler with you, it is still quite an experience. The key is to simply relax your body, and just flow. These jackasses know what to do more than me. Also, known as a bit of a jack ass as I have been told by Toby. 🙂 

We spent two days at Petra and you could easily spend a week. It is truly awesome. 


Photo Tip- Create a sense of walking into a scene. 

In this image by Toby Gelston from Tour 2 that he led for MPA, you get an amazing sense of walking into the monastery area.  This is much more interesting to the viewer than just an image of the building without any sense of the area and what it is like to walk into such dramatic locations like this.