ARCHIVE: PEOPLE 24 – LUO FAMILY


Luo family on a farm near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.

The backdrop is the painted wall of a wattle and daub hut, the smooth surface layer of which is starting to flake off on the far right.  Minor points, maybe that I’ve only really appreciated now, after all these years, are the Vicks poster and the kitten.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film, rated at 64 ISO.

UPDATE: The people in Kenya were in the main very friendly and hospitable.  I very much enjoyed my years in that country.  Again – once again – I wish that I had photographed more of the people that I met there.



ARCHIVE: PEOPLE 20 – BIRD RINGER


A german ornithologist extracts birds from mist nets at Ngulia Lodge, Tsavo West National Park, Kenya; November 1979.

In the autumn, millions of small birds migrate from Europe and Russia southwards into Africa to escape the harsh northern winter.  They fly at night for safety, and navigate by the moon and stars. A stream of these nocturnal migrants passes over Tsavo and, on moonless nights in the autumn, they become disorientated when caught in the fog and low cloud that often occurs in this area in the rainy season.

Ngulia Lodge is built high up on a ridge, and it has game viewing lights which are left on all night.  The migrants are attracted by the lights’ glow in the mist, and many tens of thousands of birds can descend on the lodge from out of the murky night skies.

The birds fail to see the very fine mist nets and fly into them, becoming entangled in the fine mesh. They are manually extracted from the nets and ringed (i.e. they have a small, engraved metal ring wrapped around one of their legs). Birds ringed at Ngulia have been found in many areas of eastern Europe and Russia, east to Siberia.

The mist nets’ fine mesh can be seen against the ringer’s red shirt; the bags around his waist contain birds already extracted from the nets and awaiting ringing.  The bird is some kind of warbler – but warbler identification was never one of my strengths!

This is a flash picture, but what did I know about using flash in those far off days?  But, as far as I remember, the OM-2 was unique at that time for setting the duration and intensity of the flash by monitoring the amount of light reaching the film during the flash – to which I can only say “Wow!!!”.  The OM-2 was as wonderful to use as its forebear, the OM-1, but whereas the OM-2 broke down during its use in Kenya, the OM-1 keep going.  I still have both of these two cameras, infected with mould now, in a display cabinet in our living room.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: OM-2 with 50mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film rated at 64 ISO; automatic flash.



ARCHIVE: PEOPLE 12 – HOUSE ON A FARM


 

House on a farm near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.

These are Luo people who live in the immensely fertile far west of Kenya, not far from Lake Victoria – a vast body of water that supplies them with vast quantities of fish, and with frequent thunder storms which keep their land totally green.

The structure consists of mud walls, above which a conical thatched roof is mounted on a great mass of wooden poles.  There is quite a gap between the roof and the walls but, in this hot, equatorial area, cold weather is not an issue.  This hut has at least two rooms: the doorway to a second room is to the left of the people.  The mud walls have decorations drawn straight onto them, and there is an oil lamp hanging up.  Notice how everything, including the chest of drawers and some of the pictures hanging on the walls, has cloth covers.

Food and water are not an issue for these people, they live in a wonderfully fecund landscape.  But there are diseases – it was here that malaria first got its claws into me, despite my using nets and prophylactics.

Click onto the image to see a slightly enlarged version – recommended.

Technique: OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film, rated at 64 ISO.



ARCHIVE: PEOPLE 8 – IN THE DIDA GALGALLA DESERT


Nomadic tribeswoman leading camels through the Dida Galgalla Desert in northern Kenya; June 1978.

This image is rather pale and insipid because I’ve lightened it to show more detail – it was taken in very harsh, overhead sunlight so that much of the subject matter is in shadow and silhouette.

This photo shows a person and her home on the move.  Amongst other things, the camels are carrying sections of the curved walls and supports of low huts, which will be erected at the new dwelling site.  A nomadic existence is essential in such dry areas – people follow rainfall, which is a source of water for man and animal alike, and also of greenery for the livestock.

This was a hurried photograph – soon after I raised the camera, rocks were flying my way.  Which reminds me of the roving packs of feral – and no doubt rabies-ridden – dogs in the Sultanate of Oman.  They were so used to having rocks thrown at them that there was no need to actually throw anything – all that was required was to momentarily stoop towards the ground as if about to pick up a rock – of which, as here, there was an inexhaustible supply – and the canines were heading quickly for the hills.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: OM-1 with 75-150 Zuiko lens at 150mm; Agfa CT18 colour side film rated at 64 ISO.



ARCHIVE KENYA 124 – THE FINAL IMAGE IN THIS SERIES

 

 


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I’ve been re-posting film photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago, and this is the final image in this series.  I have hundreds more colour slides from Kenya but I doubt that I will get around to scanning or re-photographing them now.  So here is the final image – and its my reflection in the enormous light on the front of one of the steam locomotives stored in Nairobi’s railway yards – my late cousin was a steam railway fanatic, and so I and a lady friend wangled our way into the railway yards and had a delightfully Health And Safety-free day clambering all over these metal monsters.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Here is the text for the original post:

A selfie –  taken in an age before selfies were ever called that –  in the railway yards at Nairobi, Kenya; probably 1979..

Kenya has a great history of steam railways, because the British colonial authorities decided to open up the interior of the country, and Uganda too, by building a railway from the Indian Ocean coast at Mombasa, up through Kenya to Nairobi, and thence westwards to Kampala, in Uganda.  And many will have heard of the Man-Eaters of Tsavo, two lions who took to dragging off and devouring railway workers, as the line pushed its way inland across Tsavo’s arid bush country, in 1898.

My cousin has had a passion for steam railways all his life so that, when I mentioned that the marshalling yards in Nairobi held large numbers of old steam engines, he urged me to photograph them.  As often happened in Kenya, knowing someone did the trick, open access to the railway yards was agreed, and my girlfriend and I spent a baking day clambering about over the old engines and other derelict ironwork there.

And, as opposed to the nanny state that cossets and suffocates me today, Kenya had (and no doubt still has) a refreshing absence of Health & Safety regulations – everyone was simply expected to use their common sense –  so that the two of us were left free to scramble over whatever derelict ironwork structures we could find, with not a thought for our safety – wonderful!  Oh, irresponsible, yes, but what a breath of fresh air!  My Kenyan years have certainly affected many of my attitudes to life in general, for which I am very grateful.

Anyway, I climbed these hulks with my girlfriend, which makes her sound rather like a grappling hook I suppose, but that’s unintended, tho I have to admit that she was instrumental in getting my already portly person up and over some of the steeper bits.  She was a farmer’s daughter, used to manhandling livestock.

And so what does the picture show?  Well, its a reflection in one of the large lamps that were mounted on the front of the steam engines, to help the driver see large animals – anything up to the size of hippo, elephants and giraffe –  on the tracks at night.  Bare armed and bronzed(!), I’m wearing a safari shirt along with Photographic Hat, and levelling my wonderful OM-1 at my reflection.  Another big engine looms behind me, and either side of that there are nicely converging buildings and railway tracks, all baking in the glare of the equatorial midday.

Photographic Hat was an accessory I’d originally used in Arabia, where it had been severely scorched and bleached to not far off white.  Its crown had given up the ghost and disintegrated, so I crudely sewed a patch of old blue denim in its place.  I was of course wearing a rag on my head, but the endearing thing about it, as can be seen in this photo, was that its floppy brim came down over the gaps between my face, my glasses and the OM-1’s viewfinder, to provide shade which was extremely useful in overhead glare like this.

And what was an OM-1???  It was a truly revolutionary 35mm camera, small, easy to carry, and a masterpiece of Minimalist design – and it was supported by a veritable horde of similarly small, and excellent, lenses – Zuiko lenses!  In an old military gasmask bag, I could carry an OM-1, and three diminutive lenses – 28mm, 50mm, and 75mm-150mm – and these were my basic photographic kit in Kenya, they went everywhere with me.

And I suppose that it says something about my visual tastes, that the vast majority of my Kenyan photographs were taken at either 28mm or 150mm – I was always working at the boundaries of what I had.  Now I’m luckier, with 12mm-400mm to hand – but this would have been of little use in Kenya, as it would have been far too heavy and bulky to easily carry around, especially when on foot

Technique: OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film rated at 64 ISO.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 123 – PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG LUO GIRL (MONO)

 

 


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Young Luo girl on a farm near Akala in western Kenya;  Apr 1979.

Click onto the image to open a larger version on a separate window.

Technique: OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film, rated at 64 ISO; mono conversion and vignetting in Silver Efex Pro.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 122 – THE LUSH FARMLANDS OF THE WEST

 

 


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Farms between Kisumu and Kakamega in the lush and fertile, far west of Kenya; April 1979.

This western part of Kenya lies just to the east of Lake Victoria, and benefits from the big storms that form over the lake and then drift eastwards, bringing plentiful rain.  Add all this water to fertile soils and high, year-round temperatures, and this is wonderfully productive farming country.  But on the downside there is malaria here, and this is where it first got its claws into me.

The tall plants in the foreground are bananas – there were many varieties of bananas of all sizes and colours here, including simply delicious ones used for cooking.  It may be more a dish from Uganda, but I simply adored cooked banana – matoke, I think it was called – with groundnut sauce.

Some of the local people can just be seen, up to the left of the two houses with metal roofs in the foreground.

This image is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film, rated at 64 ISO; Lightroom.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 121 – WARBLER AMONGST ACACIA THORNS

 

 


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Small warbler – perhaps a Cisticola – amongst fearsome Acacia thorns, any one of which could so easily transfix it; probably in Nairobi National Park, in the late 1970s.

The Cisticolas are a group of small warblers that that all look very similar to each other; they are the archetypal “small brown birds”.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: OM-1 with a Vivitar 400mm telephoto; Agfa CT18 colour slide film rated at 64 ISO; Lightroom.  This would have been taken from the window of my car, from one of the tracks in the National Park.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 120 – MT KENYA: NELION AT SUNRISE

 

 


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Looking up at sunrise from Top Hut on Mt Kenya towards Nelion, one of the twin peaks of Mt Kenya; August 1978.

Almost the roof of Africa!  Nelion stands at 17,021 feet, while the other peak, Batian, rises to 17,057 feet.  These two peaks are separated by the wonderfully named Gate of the Mists, and they are the tallest peaks in Africa second only to Mt Kilimanjaro, which is nearby in neighbouring Tanzania, and which soars to over 19,000 feet.

What was it like being up there on Mt Kenya?  Well, taking this photo, it was extremely cold – I remember having trouble changing the lenses on my Olympus OM-1 SLR; they were very stiff to twist off, presumably due to the intense cold having slightly contracted the metal.  Getting up to this altitude on the mountain required no rock climbing skills, it was simply a long walk, made more strenuous in its later stages by the decreasing oxygen content of the air – but after a day or so at these altitudes, breathing became easier.  We were up there for several nights, sleeping in the various mountaineering huts around the peaks; and my abiding memories of those huts concern the rats which ran over and around us every night as we slept!

Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours of the day.

Click onto the image to open another copy in a separate window.

Technique: OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film, rated at 64 ISO; Lightroom.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 119 – FISHERMAN AT LAMU

 

 


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Fisherman, with the last of his catch for sale, on Lamu Island, Kenya; July 1978.

I wondered about using black and white here, but the colours of the man’s clothes really jump out of this image’s otherwise quite muted palette.  Not that a muted palette is necessarily a bad thing – I’ve often thought that some of the more successful colour images are those with the least colour – but here I like the contrast between the shock and glow of those clothes and the rest of the shot.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film, rated at 64 ISO.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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