Saturday, April 7, 2007

I'm going to Kenya

I'm very fortunate to have been invited as a photographer on a trip to Kenya with the International Humanity Foundation, a true non-profit group who has been helping a tribe of people in Kenya called the Pokot (just one of many of their projects). I won't summarize here everything they've done and are doing; for that you can visit their website. However suffice it to say the generous work of everyone involved with IHF, from the founder Carol Sasaki to the volunteers who answer their phones, are greatly appreciated by the Pokot people and others around the world. I've been invited to document the culture of the Pokot people and the work of the IHF. My photographs will be used as preservation of their culture and heritage, as well as used by the IHF for fundraising for current and future projects.

I nearly went on this trip in January, but other obligations got in the way and I couldn't do it. Fortunately the opportunity came up again, and I leave on April 22, returning May 6. It's quite the journey out there; I fly from San Jose, CA to Chicago to Brussels to Nairobi, where I'll be met and driven to the final destination. The nearest city is Nakuru, and the location of the Pokot orphanage is approximately 0°50'16.00"N 36°1'14.00"E (the link will open Google maps). My return flight is Nairobi to London to Los Angeles to San Jose. I hope to visit friends on the 5 hour layover in London.

This is a massively important project for me; since my return to photography I've dreamed of doing a project like this, and certainly didn't expect this to come along so soon. I'm scrambling to prepare for it, while of course maintaining my current work commitments. Those who know me and know my day job know that I'm extremely busy right now leading up to NAB, the big broadcast show in Las Vegas. I leave for that show in less than a week, and return two days before leaving for Kenya. So I'm trying to get everything together now.

I'm going to blog about this trip, every step of the way, including preparation. Internet coverage is essentially nonexistent where I'll be (they don't even have electricity, so I guess asking for a broadband connection is a bit much!). I could of course connect via satphone but what I'm doing isn't urgent enough to require the expense, so all my writing and blogging will happen offline and get posted when I can.

Since I'm currently two weeks out, I'll talk about some of the prep going into this. Of course I'm throwing every bit of technology I can at this, because, well, it's me ;-)

** TRAVEL **

I booked on American Airlines with expectations of using my miles to upgrade to business class, at least for the return flight. But of course there were no upgrade seats left, and... get this... American now charges a $300 co-pay each direction for a points upgrade! So, it's economy all the way. SJC-ORD-BRU-NBO, then home NBO-LHR-LAX-SJC. Thanks to seatguru I should have power points at each seat.


For power, there is a solar supply out there and I'm also bringing a little one called, originally, the Portable Solar Power System from the informative and helpful folks at which will primarily be for charging camera batteries. I'll be relying on their power to charge the laptop.


My primary purpose in going is of course photography, so I'm bringing all the toys. I'll be carrying one each of a 5D, 20D and 30D bodies. My lenses include a 14mm Aspherical, 24-70mm f/2.8, 85mm f/1.2, 100mm macro, 70-200mm f/4, and a 400mm f/4. I'm hoping to do some kind of safari while there, but am not sure if that will or won't happen. I'll carry a Gitzo tripod with Manfrotto tracker joystick head, and my Gorillapod, and loads of little goodies to go with.

In case I can't get my laptops charged, I'm brining an Epson P-5000 photo storage viewer to store digital photos on.


My primary computer is a MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo 17", with a 15" Core Duo as backup. The 17" will be in a custom built case (which I'm still working on) inspired by this Chase Jarvis blog entry. I'll post pics or video of it when it's done. All photo management will be done in Aperture (more on that below).


One thing I really wanted to do on this trip was geotag my photos. All the pieces have come together for this trip (or are about to!) and I think this will really work. The workflow is a bit convoluted and tedious, but I think worth it in the end. So here's how that works...

I have a Sony GPSCS1KA which logs GPS position every 15 seconds. Plug this into the Mac and you can copy off the GPS .log file. Then using LoadMyTracks, convert the .log to a .GPX file. Now the GPS data is ready to be merged with the photos. (Apparently this can be automated with a perl scrip in an Automator action, according to this website. I haven't tried it yet but definitely will)

Whenever I'm ready to capture photos of the CF cards, instead of capturing straight to Aperture I'll first copy the files to the Finder. Then I'll add GPS data to the pictures using the HoudahGeo software. Basically it looks at the timestamp on the photo, looks for the closest time stamp from the GPS log file, and adds the appropriate coordinates to the image file.

Then I import the geotagged images into Aperture, and proceed as normal. When I'm ready to put pictures on the web, I'll use the Connected Flow's flickr plug-in to upload to my flickr account (click here for a map test from Hawaii; these aren't properly geotagged, but the approximate data was added later). This plug-in passes through the GPS data, and then flickr automatically places them on a map.

Cool, huh?

** MISC **

I'm bringing a Kata rain cover for one camera. I have it in my head that I'll set up the camera for some long term (i.e. all day) auto-triggered exposures, perhaps to catch animals at a watering hole, or a full-days excitement at the village. Should be fun.


I'm already taking Neem tablets and have 34% Deet bug repellant, and a mosquito net to sleep in. Wish me luck.


It's been hard to get a picture of what to really expect. Currently it's only 85º in Nakuru, but I'm told it gets a lot hotter the 80 miles away in the Pokot village. We'll be in the Rift valley. I don't know about humidity, but I do know it's dusty and dirty. Should be fun.


Those that know me will find this part shocking - I'll be shaving my head right before I go. Probably a tad unnecessary, but it's for the heat, to make it easier to keep clean(er), and frankly because it's a great excuse to do it. Don't worry, there will be pictures (and yes mom, I'll wear a hat and plenty of sunblock!)

OK that's a good start to all this. Again I'll do video and text blogs, but not much will be posted in real-time.


fishpatrol said...

Congrats on a very exciting trip coming up! I lived about 10 minutes off the route you'll be traveling from Nairobi; it's a beautiful place in so many ways. Altitude was high enough that we didn't have to worry about mosquitoes, but I certainly won't advise against any health precautions. Mosquito netting is a drag to sleep under, but, ditto.

Nakuru's game park is fairly small, not nearly as lush as Mt. Kenya, but full of animals. Saw lions, lots of rhinos, giraffe, baboons, flamingos by the tens of thousands, and a leopard. Great for a day-trip safari.

For more restful viewing, I'd head uphill to the Aberderes. Lush vegetation means animals are a bit more difficult to spot, but with lots of elephants and buffalo, The Ark and Treetops offer amazing seats for quiet observation.

Lots of wonderful things to see, but I'm always sad when people summarize their trips to Kenya with photos of animals. It's understandable--animal photos are safe, easy to relate to and enjoy. Photos of poverty and need easily overwhelm. You've got a healthy challenge in front of you, but absolutely one that's worth taking on. Looking forward to updates! Cheers

Joseph said...

Fishpatrol, thanks for the encouragement! I'm looking forward to this challenge in every way. And thank you for the photo tips, I'll take those with me. Not sure how much opportunity I'll have to step away from the Pokot to shoot other things, but certainly will if I can.