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Editing Begins

The pre-edit checklist:

  • New burr grinder, for consistent, tasty quality
  • Slightly leaky but functional coffee machine
  • nearby coffee shop for emergencies
  • 7 terabytes of data neatly organized and backed up
  • Workstation set up and monitors calibrated
  • Post workflow researched and tested
  • Slide scanner prepped for distraction during long renders (yes! finally get to bring in some of my slide film from 2006)

… and I’m ready to start editing! Here’s where I’ll be spending the next six weeks:
Workstation

Not the greatest picture, I guess… ah well. I’ve finally been able to set up a standing editing workstation, something I had back at my old job. I had the maintenance guys find an old countertop and install it at standing height. It helps keep me alert for the long stretches… this isn’t quite as fancy (two cardboard boxes and a leftover shelf) but it’ll do the trick.

Editing is my favourite and least at the same time. I enjoy seeing the story form from the raw, but the long hours without fresh air get to me… and my attention span has decreased with my approach to old age :)

I’ve found a nearby river for some peace, and I’m within walking distance of an old heritage home with a coffee shop inside. I feel well prepared and I’m looking forward to tackling the story challenges ahead of me.

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Back Home

63 hours in transit coming home is enough to make me never want to fly again… OK maybe not :) This trip set my new record: 14 flights, including two aerial photography helicopters and six long-haul legs.

I’m so very glad to be back on firm soil in the cold Vancouver air. (Just in time to travel a bit more up to Silverstar :)

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Heading Back from Bulembu

7 days, 4000 photos, 8 more flights and many interesting stories later, I’m headed back to Vancouver. I think I’d call the trip to Bulembu, Swaziland a photographic success. I feel like I was able to get to know the story and the people, and capture them well.

The photographs are destined primarily for a calendar, which is a unique challenge. I was trying to capture multiple layers in each shot: the images need to be beautiful and truthful, and they need to be something people will hang on their wall. Bulembu is a broken community in the midst of redefining itself. There is extensive history as well as big ambitions for the future, with a lot of problems to overcome. The challenge is for each image to tell all that while being something you can look at for a month.

I’ve posted a wallpaper of one shot that I like. I’ve also got two galleries ready to go… at the moment I’m in Nairobi, where the bandwidth is minimal. I’ll upload them when I’m back in Vancouver.

Just two more long flights, and then a little R&R before diving into the todos that have been piling up for six weeks…

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In Bulembu

Just a few minutes to make a quick post… Kelly and I have arrived safely into Bulembu. I’ve been busy shooting since then… we’re now about to begin photography day 3. This place presents some unique photographic challenges – the usual transport and scheduling issues, the spread out nature of the town, and the high grade of image required for a calendar.

I’ll post more as I can, and perhaps a gallery of images shot so far. (Internet is faster here, but only available during the day when I’m working.) For now here’s a photo from the night we arrived.

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Shake & Rattle

This morning around 9:30, and again this afternoon, two earthquakes hit Rwanda. In Kigali they were minor… I noticed the first because the ceiling fan began to dance. Jeff & Jodi were outside and didn’t even feel it.

The second (and its aftershocks) were a little more noticeable because of the hanging tiles in the Kigali airport. I was wondering for a bit if I should make a dash for an early departure… but, no harm done. Apparently some other areas took it a bit harder.

In Nairobi now, catching some free wifi in the transit lounge before my flight to Joburg in a few hours…

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That’s a Wrap – Let the Show Begin

Bags are packed, gear checked, batteries charged, hard drives backed up (twice)… and with that Rwanda: Hope Rises is a wrap. I’ll sum up a few of the challenges and successes in a little while… It was a very difficult trip, but ultimately we came away with some incredible stories and images of Rwanda, pieces that I hope will do this place justice.

And with that, I’m on to my next big assignment – a calendar photo shoot in Swaziland. I’ll be taking photos in Bulembu, an ex-mining town for Teldon Community Foundation. I’ll post more as I go… but for now it’s time to get me, and all my gear, checked through via Nairobi and Johannesburg…

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Three Days

  1. Monkeys, rainforest, pizza, winding road, broken motor, cozy cabin, steak, long sleep…
  2. Fixed motor, fume-induced headache, swimming, cruise, negotiations, fishermen, evening light…
  3. Morning light, cleanup, three-hour pound, trees on the road and more on the way, bridge out, school field trip: hauling rocks, home.

We’re back from Kumbya, on the beautiful shores of Kivu and through the Nyungwe forest. Photo gallery coming shortly…

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Bourbon, Nyungwe & Kivu

Today we visited Bourbon Coffee to shoot some b-roll and interview Amy Karuletwa (Arthur’s wife). Bourbon is a bustling place, with the best lattes I’ve had anywhere (except maybe for JJ Bean in Vancouver… maybe). It’s a first rate coffee shop, smack in the middle of Kigali – and they’ll be opening a second location soon.

The coffee shop is part of their holistic vision, “Naturally Rwandan, from Crop to Cup.” They work with the farmers to maximize quality and pay them a premium for their coffee. They are also helping develop a coffee culture within Rwanda, and exporting Rwandan coffee as a premium product around the world.

Amy’s a firecracker and a lot of fun. Everything I’ve seen of her and Arthur’s work is first-rate quality, and I expect they’ll have a lot of success with their vision of exporting Rwandan coffee as a premium product around the world.

Tomorrow, Lyn, Jesse, Jeff and I head South to a little hideaway on Lake Kivu. We’ll be passing through the Nyungwe Forest, a place full of beauty and history. We’re hoping to get some shots of the lake, the forest and the tea & coffee fields along the way. We’ll be back late Friday; I suspect we’ll have no chance to update until Saturday.

So until then…

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Rwanda Filming

Filming continues to go well here in Rwanda. Today we loaded up a little Robinson R-44 helicopter, and took a flight around Kigali and the surrounding area. We shot like mad – me with a 5D and my 70-200, Lyn with a 5D and 24-70, and Jesse on the RED. In the 60 minutes flying time we encountered three rainstorms, lots of sun, overcast, dense city, sparse farmland and a rainy, windy airport to welcome us home. Total damage: about 20GB of stills and moving images.

Gladly everyone’s back to healthy again. Lyn, Richard and I had to improvise without Jesse on our shoot in Eastern Rwanda on Tuesday – me on camera, Lyn as the eyeline as well as audio and Richard working out his arms on the bounce. We took Elsie to visit the land where she grew up, and where most of her family was killed. She has become friends again with many of her neighbours – the ones involved in the killing. It’s hard to describe how I felt, filming a portrait of them smiling and laughing together. Childhood friends, torn apart by ignorance and slaughter, and reunited after a long process of taking responsibility and forgiveness. I can’t ignore what these people were a part of… and equally I’m moved by Elsie’s desire to reunite and help these people to whom she lost so much.

I’m feeling at home, enjoying the work. It’s great to get behind the camera again. Directing each shot to adhere closely to the theme is a great challenge, especially considering three years of prior work on this film. But I’m enjoying it, and the freedom to be creative with it.

Tomorrow is a big day, interviewing Arthur Karuletwa. He’s recently moved to Kigali from Seattle (he was running a coffee import business). He has recently opened Rwanda’s first coffee shop, and soon will open a second. I’ve enjoyed a latte at the first location – they are great coffee shops, better than most I’ve been to in the West.

I’ll sign off with a photo gallery of our trip so far… (click the image below to see the gallery).

Rwanda 2008 Gallery 1

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Down but Not Out

After the razor-thin success of our first day, we’ve hit our first major roadblock. Last night Richard and Jesse both caught a serious bout of food poisoning. Richard is up and feeling better; Jesse is still down (as of half-six, he’s still resting in bed). Needless to say, we lost most of our shooting day today.

I was able to pick up a few shots on my own after the morning’s long rain abated, testing out the timelapse feature of the camera and nabbing a few golden-hour images. The RED continues to impress – with little effort it produces images of beauty. We’re still learning to work around the unique challenges that come with a big camera (with a large sensor, and thus shallow depth of field). In the documentary context, these issues reduce mobility and the speed at which you can pick up shots.

Despite the disappointment of getting sick, Jesse seems to be on the mend. We made up for some of the lost time meeting together and going over the story. Tomorrow we head to the East of Rwanda, to visit Elsie’s home town. Hopefully by then everyone will be back and feeling better.