Kids and the Camera

Photographing kids in many less developed countries is just fun.

Girl in Hammok
A young girl in a hammok on her family’s farm

Young children exhibit a certian innocence. Before the cultural and religious baggage of any society forces conformation. Before the struggles of life have ground away the hopes and dreams. Like so many I find this innocence captivating, a feeling that the world would be a better place if we all were a bit more childish.

Alas, we trudge through a world far darker, all we can do is marvel at those who still possess this childish innocence and maybe capture a fleeting glimpse in a photo to remind us of what could be.

This innocence seems to last longer in developing countries. Less exposure to media? Less access to technology? These things have negative aspects, but it is not all negative. Children just seem to remain children for a little while longer.

Students at the GSM near Masaka, Uganda
Students at the GSM school near Masaka, Uganda

And kids usually love to be photographed, in many places around the world they come running whenever a camera appears. Prepare to take a photo of a couple kids… In the first photo there are two… Take the next photo and there are four kids in the pic… Then six… Then twelve…

What? If this continues the 16th photo will have 65,536 kids… It is wise to stop taking photos before geometric progression leads to a massive overpopulation issue, or implodes the local space time continuum.

Shy
A child shyly posing for the camera in Tierra Amarilla, Nicaragua

Rule… You have to show them the resulting photos. Take a few photos then put the camera into preview mode and turn it about to show then the last photo you just took. Better if it is a phone or tablet with a big screen. The result is smiles and giggles all around.

Kids at Kazinga
Kids come to see what we are doing at the fishing village of Kazinga, Uganda

And then there are the poses. Posing for the camera is apparently required. Various hand signs and tilts of the head. Poses obviously learned from whatever media is available, perhaps music videos, or local satellite TV, many appear to be from anime.

Where did you learn that pose? Nevermind, I do not want to know… Modern media has begun the process of stealing away the innocence.

The Elephant’s Eye

Two days of safari had resulted in no good images of elephants. There were plenty of elephants around, it is simply that I had experienced no close encounters, those I had seen had remained distant, across the fields or on distant hillsides.

Elephant
An elephant visits the Kazinga Wilderness Safari Camp at Katunguru, Uganda

Well? There was one moment with elephants right on the road in front of us… But photos of an elephant’s bum disappearing into the brush? Not what I was hoping for.

Thus as safari day two ended I returned to the lodge with good lion photos, lots of hippo and antelopes, some nice birds… But no good elephant shots.

As I walked to dinner I noted one of the other guests on the dirt road in front of the lodge. Curious as to what had their attention I wandered out as well camera and telephoto lens in hand. I had taken the telephoto rig to dinner because you just did.

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Finding the Lions

Lions are a big deal around Queen Elizabeth National Park, one of the reliable places to see them. A couple well known prides maintian territories that are quite accessible to the safari tours, making the park a must for the usual package safari tours.

An older male lion (Panthera leo) in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
An older male lion (Panthera leo)

These typical tours advertise a three or five day tour of Uganda’s wildlife, making a whirlwind tour of western Uganda and the various parks. They may stop at Bwindi NP to view the gorillas, Kibale NP for the chipanzees, and Queen Elizabeth NP for the lions.

Perusing the many online safari advertisements it becomes apparent that top billing in Uganda goes to the gorillas, nearly every tour package highlighting the primates. Gorillas may be the goal of foreign travelers, but for local tourists, most from Uganda or other East African countries, it is the lions they come to see. For those who grew up here it is the lions that hold the fascination and mystique.

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Even the Starlings are Pretty

While the big game such as elephants, lions, and hippos, get the attention on an African safari, the birds deserve top billing as well.

Pied Kingfisher
A Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) on the shoreline of Lake George, Uganda

The birds are amazing. From large, dramatic species like crowned cranes and hamerkops, to the small colorful sunbirds, there is an amazing richness to encounter in the African wilds.

There is only so many times you can take a photo of a lion or hippo. Between those big game encounters there are half a dozen birds to be viewed and photographed. From the delicate pin-tailed whydah to a wheeling flock of white-backed vultures, check out the birds.

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Marabou

Imagine a bird…. A rather large bird…. That at once is both majestic and something that might populate a horror movie.

Marabou Stork
A Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus)

Look up just about any online list of the world’s ugliest birds and you will find the Marabou Stork listed. Deservedly so. This bird can be described as a very large, rather ill-tempered cross betwixt a stork, a vulture, and a burn victim.

The marabou stands about four feet tall and can have up to a three meter wingspan, though about two meters may be more typical. Large enough to intimidate nearly any other creature they may encounter, including people.

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To Cross the Equator

Despite numerous international trips… Europe, Central America, living in England for several years, or living on an island in the middle of the Pacific… I had never crossed the equator.

Equator
Fred and Andrew Cooper at the earth’s equator along the Masaka Road, Uganda

Unlike so many I would not cross the equator in an aircraft or ship… I would cross it by car. The Kampala Masaka road crosses the equator at a small town named Kayabwe.

The zero line does not pass by unremarked. Local businesses have turned zero latitude into a tourist stop with large concrete zeroes either side of the road. Gift shops and a cafe greet travelers looking for an excuse to pause during the four hour journey from Kampala to Masaka.

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