A corporate photography shoot in Turkana country, Kenya - with a difference

It’s 5.30 am in Nairobi and time to go.  It’s still dark outside, but in a short while the car will come and pick me up and take me to Wilson Airport for the first flight out to Kapese in the Turkana region of Northern Kenya.  I’m excited. I am on a great assignment, a  corporate shoot for an oil company that is also going to allow me to discover the region, get up close to the local communities, photograph them as well as the many local contractors working for the company.  I will also get to take aerials of this lesser known area.

On arrival at Wilson airport there is a hub of activity.  Dawn is beginning to break and I take out a camera and start taking pictures of all the rig workers checking in.  The plane eventually takes off and as we fly over the Rift Valley I try to imagine what it must have been like all those thousands of years ago when man took his first steps.  On the approach to Kapese, looking out of the window, I see that the terrain is semi arid desert scrub.  There are mountains in the distance and on closer inspection there are groups of circular huts dotted around.  Many Turkana are nomadic herdsmen who move from place to place.

The days go by quickly.  There is so much to photograph.  The camps, the rigs, the workers, people from the local communities who work with and for the oil companies.  There are also the many projects the company sets up to help these local communities.  It is boiling hot and the light in the middle of the day ferocious.  I’m shooting a local company preparing the terrain for a new rig, sweat pouring off their faces.  The earth is red, they are in blue and its dazzling. We visit the schools and the numerous wells that the company has set up to help the nomadic tribes living in these harsh conditions.

Whilst driving around on bumpy unmade roads, herdsmen with their goats and camels cross our path.  Amidst the scrub are extraordinary formations of anthills.  We come across groups of women carrying plastic water containers.   I’m constantly shouting ‘stop!’, as I see so many photo opportunities.  The people are beautiful.  They shave their heads but leave a piece of hair in the centreand they wear wonderful colourful beads similar to the Masai.  As we stop the children rush out to meet us.  Some of the adults are happy to be photographed and others not at all.  I talk to them, show them my camera, the pictures I’ve taken and explain why I’m here and doing this. Most of the drivers are Turkana and are happy to help with translating and eventual persuasion if needed!

The flyover in the chopper is set at 11.00 am.  The light is poor, it’s hazy, there is no contrast but I’ve no choice.  I make a few changes to the camera settings and pump up the contrast and the colour, set the camera at 1000th of a second.  Sand flies all over the place as we take off.  I’m strapped in a seat but once we reach our various destinations I will be sitting on the floor, leaning out but well attached.  It’s awesome from the air.

Time is almost up, I’ve taken thousands of photos, downloaded them on various hard drives at least twice to make sure that the pictures are safe.  I’ve made several friends and feel I would like to stay longer and get more pictures.  Back home the work isn’t finished, a hefty job of post production begins.