Monday, August 2

Watering hole at Chemiril

This is, by far, one of my favorite photographs. As the woman opens her fuchsia kanga, a spot of brilliance against the encroaching aridity, to tighten it against her waist, there is a sense of eternity. Caught at a natural pause in the motion, it is appropriate and still. I like, too, that the sparseness of the picture is evocative of Pokot as a whole. Only three people stand in it. The sky is largely clear. The shrubs along the ridge are dry. There are nice layers, as well. Beginning at the top and working down, the sky is clear, before coming to the clouds always just on the horizon. Then it is interrupted by the couple and shrubs on the ridge before coming to the yellow sand on the bottom.

I was lucky to take this. I shot just five pictures of the scenery outside Chemiril before turning my attention to the Famine Feed, and this was one of them. I don't believe I ever managed to shoot another better in all of the following trips.

Chemiril, the third station of the four where we delivered maize flour and cabbage quarters in Pokot, was unique among them in that a watering hole stood only a short distance away. This was a big deal. Even after the drought broke around January, I never saw any other constant masses of water. We drove over and through dry creek and river beds to reach the last station, Riongo, and Demetra tells me the truck got caught in mud on one of her trips, but I never saw any water in them. At one time there was a massive river passing by Ng'yang where the Monday animal market took place.

You can see where they gave up on building a bridge halfway across when they realized it was not worth the time and money to finish it when anyone could drive across below it.

The watering hole offered a variety of intriguing photographic possibilities. First, as the only major, dependable source of water for who knows how far, it is where all the herders brought their goats and camels to drink. My rather intense distaste for goats is documented on this blog, and after shooting hundreds of pictures of them for donors to the Survival Program, my preference would be to never take another one, but seeing the herds rush to water is kind of cool. I needed proof, too, that I had actually seen camels in the wild. That's not so terribly common.

You can see how I attempted to recapture some of what that first picture so special. The composition is very nearly the same, and the location is the same, just a little to the left of the original. I would say these shots lack the same vibrancy in how small the animals are. This is of little matter in the original where the energy comes from the colors of the people's clothes, but goats and camels are the same color as the sand. They don't stand out as much.

In the flats of Pokot, Chemiril was unique, too, in that there were shifts in elevation. I could find a high point and shoot at a distance. People could layer themselves as they walked from the village on the opposite side of the watering hole.

Another picture with the original clearly in mind in setting the levels, it also fails to achieve the same energy, for the same reasons as those of the goats and camels, I believe. The people are too small and lack the color to give the picture the same energy as the woman with her open kanga.

I downloaded Picasa immediately after I bought my Nikon D60 and use the program exclusively to organize and present my pictures. I also make frequent use of its editing features. I try to limit this to lightening a dark picture or increasing contrast, but I am certainly not immune to modifying a picture a bit more. Above you can see the original of my favorite, before the colors were edited. I cannot honestly say which I prefer. This lacks the intensity of the latter, but its colors are much closer to those found in Pokot. I am curious. What is your own preference?

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