We feature some of the brightest Instagram storytellers in the Passion Passport community through our Instagram Spotlight series. This week, Erol Ahmed (@erol.is) tells us the stories behind some of his most intriguing shots.


I’ve never been to Iceland, but when I saw the lava-formed coastline of Salina, I thought, “This is what a Mediterranean Iceland would look like.” The charcoal gray of the rocks against the unmistakable turquoise was too wonderful of a color combination to miss. On the island, I felt disconnected from the real world, and I wanted the photo of the island itself to embody that — cut-off and secluded from the rest of the planet.


It was on this trip to Salina that I finally learned to swim. Our boat dropped anchor, and I jumped into the water (there was a lot of practice before that). I took the picture after returning to the boat, was drawn to the mix of rocks, people, and buildings. There is something beautiful about our knack for building dwellings in the harshest of places.




I think we’ve all experienced that feeling when, while taking a photo of a never-before visited location, your brain goes off in all directions. This was one of those times. I was pumped with adrenaline because only a metal chain was keeping me from plummeting to the ground. The landscape of Zion National Park was making my eyes dart back and forth and the setting sun was bathing everything in a warm glow. I fumbled to get my camera out of my backpack for a shot. Why? The National Parks never fail to stop me in my path with their beauty.


The man navigating our boat was narrating the story behind this building: a man, woman, and their 12 children all lived in this lighthouse when it was active. Now, it was unused and boarded-up. From a distance, I tried to capture the stillness and emptiness in the building through the symmetry of the shot. It’s a quiet photo for a quiet place.




A few friends and I only had a few hours in Palermo before catching our flight: so it was a typical dance of luggage, sweat, and confusion as we wandered through the city. Even though we were all looking at the same viewpoint, I knew the people to the left and right of me would each take something special home with them. I planned to take back the colors. I wish I could have brought the sun, crowds, and sounds, too.


I set myself up to photograph this beautiful facade in Marseille. I framed my shot and, at that exact moment, a group of kids ran across my frame. Click. Click. Click. The interruption of life I captured was rousing. I love that cities are living, breathing places. Their meaning comes not from the landmarks and things within them, but directly from the people who live inside them.




Marseille is where my great-grandfather set off for America by boat in 1912. When I took this photo, I thought that he must have seen a similar sunset when he embarked. But other than the sunset, the reason and meaning were completely different for why I was there. Travel has changed a lot since my grandfather’s time. Today, we criss-cross so easily around the globe, but what hasn’t changed is the profound leap that goes hand-in-hand with travel.




This is how everyone envisions France. When I walked past this cafe, it reminded me of our trip through Aix-en-Provence. I fell in love with the long days spent outside under the umbrellas, talking about nothing until the sun set. It was the perfect way to spend the time.