Here’s an Incredible Story – What I was doing in Tanzania

29 01 2011

I finished cutting the video that I shot last week in Tanzania for the School of St. Jude.  If you have 10min and want to see the most amazing accomplishment by an Aussie girl (Gemma Sisia), then I urge you to check out this video.  It really is an incredible story what she has accomplished in one of the poorest countries in the world.



If you want to find out more about St. Judes, click here to visit their web site.


Faces Of Tanzania – Portraits

25 01 2011

So this morning I got back from Tanzania.  What an incredible trip!  I was doing some charity work for a school over there called St. Judes.  This school was started by an Australian lady called Gemma Siske and what she has built there is nothing short of astonishing.  She has built a school that rivals the best private schools in Australia.  She is offering world class education to over 1500 under privileged kids in Tanzania absolutely free.   The schools mission is “Fighting Poverty Through Education”.  My job there was to shoot some photos for the school and to shoot a video to help them with their fund raising.

While I was there I wanted to really focus on refining my portrait work, so here are some of the portraits that I took along with some information about the individuals and the lighting used.

I recommend you click on each image to see the image at a half decent size if you really want to critique lighting etc.

This is Jonathan Ungusie.  He is the father of one of the girls that goes to St Judes.  I went to his house (well mud hut actually) and interviewed him on video.  He is 58 years old and is the father of 8 kids.  He and his wife raise the 8 kids in the small mud hut behind him which is about the size of a single-car garage.  Jonathan broke his wrist in a bad fall at the flour mill and when it healed it did not set properly, so he has pretty much lost the use of his right hand and can’t work.

His wife works as a contractor at the flour mill and gets paid just under US$2/day.   And they have to feed 8 kids with that.

I shot this with a softbox just outside of frame on camera right.  My SB900 was on full power as I was trying to overpower the sun.  This is what has created the light on his face.   I like this portrait alot as I really feel it captures Jonathan.

This is Seone Silervo. She is a Masai and lives with her family in a traditional Masai hut in a traditional village.   They decorate the interior walls with newspaper.  These huts are very dark and only have light coming in from the small doorway.

To make this portrait I initially shot with natural light and a fast lens (f1.4), however I wasn’t getting enough of the background exposed with natural light, so I used a softbox with SB900 flash about about 1/64 power aiming at Seone.  This provided enough scattered light to create a good exposure on the background.


This was a grab shot, but I really like it because of the expression and grittiness of the image.  They boy and his friends were following us back to the car after shooting in their village.  The kids in the background were laughing and giggling but this little boy was really checking me out.  I grabbed my camera and fired a couple of quick frames before his expression changed.

This was shot using natural lighting and a wide aperture (f2.8)

It was very dusty in the Masai village which coated all the kids in a covering of dust, however they didn’t seem to mind it at all and were  quite happy.


This old lady is amazing.  We were doing a tour of the local village around one of the St. Jude campuses when the group of Year 7 girls took us up to one very small mud hut and asked if we’d like to meet the old lady of the village.

These school girls regularly take food to the villagers to help them out and they know the villagers very well.  They bought out this lovely old lady.  She’s not sure how old she is, but we met her 72 year old daughter a bit later on, so she must be somewhere between 90 and 100 years old which is incredible for Africa.

This is a natural light portrait of the lady.    One thing is clear after this visit.  Growing old in Tanzania is not an easy life.



One thing I have noticed about photographing in Africa is the amazing difference in the quality of the light.  I’m not sure whether this is due to the pollution or dust in the air, but the light seems so soft.  Lovely soft colours and incredible light whenever you are shooting indoors.

I’ve got some lovely prints from this trip that I will enjoy hanging on my wall.

I’m definitely heading back to Africa later this year.

Off To Tanzania

17 01 2011

I’m sitting at Dubai airport on my way to Tanzania for a week.  Our company supports a number of charitable causes in both Australia and Africa and I’m on my way to The School of St Judes in Arusha to produce a fund raising video and some photographs for them.

It’s great to be able to use photography in this way, helping a school for the underprivileged raise money.  It’s an amazing story.  This school was started by an Australian lady, and she has built it up to over 1500 students and is providing them with world-class education.   Each year thousands of kids try to go to this school, but to qualify, you must

  • Be from an incredibly poor family (ie. no electricity or running water in your house)
  • Have the academic potential to succeed.

I’m going to be spending quite a bit of time out in the poor villages interviewing and photographing the parents and siblings of the kids that have been accepted to St. Judes.

I’m taking a very lightweight strobist setup

  • 2 X SB900 speedlights
  • 1 umbrella adapter
  • 1 28″ Apollo softbox (I love the control, speed of setup and simplicity of this modifier)
  • 1 Monopod
  • Set of triggers
  • Grid, snoot, and coloured gels

And my 14 year old son Tim as my camera assistant / lighting grip.

Hopefully I’ll get some interesting environmental portraits that I’ll post to this blog from Tanzania.

More to come


New Workshop Dates Announced

13 01 2011

Hey Folks

Just a quick note for those interested in attending the next workshops I’m running. Here are the dates for the next lot of workshops.

  • Seascape Workshop = 12 & 13 Feb 2011
  • Off Camera Flash workshop = 6th March 2011.