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Old September 22nd, 2007, 08:58 PM   #1
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Shooting in Africa

I have just been given a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Niger and shoot a video for a non-profit. I have done a variety of other projects, but all of them here in the US. I am really excited but also a little anxious. What do I expect in terms of conditions? How do I transport equipment? What do I even take? I am looking for any and all advice, insight, information, etc...

Thanks
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Old October 13th, 2007, 12:47 PM   #2
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I just Got back

I Just got back from West Africa so I can tell you about what I had to deal with Here are some Photos

http://www.shadoahstudio.com/tourist.html

As far as equipment, take everything you can possibly think you may need Im not sure exactly what you want to hear so if you have specific questions I will give you my advice.

Miguel
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Old November 12th, 2007, 10:32 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Kenyon Gerbrandt View Post
I have just been given a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Niger and shoot a video for a non-profit. I have done a variety of other projects, but all of them here in the US. I am really excited but also a little anxious. What do I expect in terms of conditions? How do I transport equipment? What do I even take? I am looking for any and all advice, insight, information, etc...

Thanks
One thing is invest in Pelican Cases they travel well. Take a lot of batteries or a solar charger. I shot in Mosambique and had access to a generator for several hours a day. If it wasn't for that genie I would have been tight on batteries. Be careful and have fun.
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 12:21 AM   #4
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One thing is invest in Pelican Cases they travel well. Take a lot of batteries or a solar charger. I shot in Mosambique and had access to a generator for several hours a day. If it wasn't for that genie I would have been tight on batteries. Be careful and have fun.
Allen, how did you find the people when you were shooting? Did you ever feel like they were threatened with you and your equipment?

What about theft, was that a major concern for you in a 3rd world country?

I'm going to Africa (Malawi) in July 2008 so am preparing now. Cheers.
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Old December 9th, 2007, 10:31 AM   #5
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Just to add a bit to this, I shot in some remote parts of Kenya earlier this year.

With hindsight I took more than I needed and I could happily have lost items including radio mics, big Beyer 'phones (could have got away with small folding pair as quality audio was being recorded by a separate team for a CD of African music and therefore my monitoring was not vital), stills camera and accessories (everyone else had cameras and I was too busy shooting video anyway!), matte box and filters (nice to have but the stock XL2 shade was sufficient-ish and I had screw-in grad ND, CP, UV etc.

On the battery front, I took 7 batteries which I estimated were sufficient for three days. Every few days we visited somewhere that had power and charged overnight. I also had a car charger just n case. I could have got away with four batteries and never used the car charger but this is one area where you don't want to take a chance.

The people were phenomenally friendly (even the police who stopped us regularly for bribes - they were very charming). Some older people were unsettled by the camera, as were some very young children but for the most part if you ask first people are happy to be filmed. If you're shooting any villagers dancing or singing, make sure they aren't going to expect paying for it afterwards. Perhaps best, from a dignity viewpoint, to refrain from filming anyone with disabilities or obviously living in very poor conditions, unless that's what your film is about.

I had a few things stolen - my iPod being the most upsetting. If flying internally and you have to check any equipment that could be easily stolen, ask to walk it to the plane and WAIT UNTIL THEY CLOSE THE CARGO HOLD DOOR! I didn't actually realise my iPod was in the bag but in the space of about fifteen seconds they had opened it, removed it and closed it up again. Not happy.

Best advice, see if you can hire a minder - a local who knows people, the language etc, and can deal with the authorities if you get stopped (which you will).

It's a wonderful place, Africa, and I met many wonderful and warm people. I'm looking forward to a return trip hopefully early in the New Year. Oh, don't give out your cell number - they will call you constantly (one ring and hang up, hoping you'll call them back). My number was on the business cards that I gave to people I was shooting. Big mistake. Still, I got the email address of a genuine Masai warrior. Yup. His email address.

Have a fantastic time.
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Old December 16th, 2007, 11:46 AM   #6
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Ethiopia

I spent the month of October in Ethiopia shooting a documentary. We spent about 9 months preparing. We developed our equipment list over about 2 months. We used almost everything that we brought.

My advice is to educate yourself as much as possible about the locations you will be shooting in advance. We brought enough batteries in the event of a major power outage. Make sure you have power adaptors and converters so you can recharge.

Also, it is important to know the group you will be traveling with and who your hosts are. We happened to have hosts that were well networked and we were given a lot of support. The time I spent in correspondence prior to the trip was well worth the effort. Each person I was in contact with prior to the trip seemed more connected with me than the rest of the group I traveled with.

Each country in Africa is different. Ethiopia was very welcoming and warm. We did not have anything stolen and only lost a pair of glasses. Be prepared for a lot of begging. If you are going to hire a tour guide get a recommendation from your host. Inquire about film permit requirements BEFORE you travel. In most rural areas it is not a problem, but in the large cities where there is a larger police and/or government presents you might face some challenges.

We bought two 1650 pelican cases. Be aware of your carrier's luggage rules. Some airlines can refuse luggage over 70 pounds. Most will charge a fee for luggage over 50 pounds. Most will charge for more than 2 check in pieces. You cannot lock your gear during the flight, so do not put locks on your cases until you arrive at your destination. We brought enough locks and cable to tie down our cases when ever we had to leave gear behind.

Otherwise, keep an open mind, keep an eye on all of your possessions and have fun.

Oh, if you are in a malaria zone, make sure you take your prescription as advised. And learn about the local food before you eat it. Most uncooked foods will have some sort of bacteria that will not agree with you. Visit your local travel clinic to get all of your vaccines. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

Good luck.
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Old February 8th, 2008, 08:49 AM   #7
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Allen, how did you find the people when you were shooting? Did you ever feel like they were threatened with you and your equipment?

What about theft, was that a major concern for you in a 3rd world country?

I'm going to Africa (Malawi) in July 2008 so am preparing now. Cheers.
Matt,
I was working with Americans (talent) but most people we came across didn't mind being photographed. I highly recommend traveling with a guide that speaks the lang. and knows the customs and culture that you are working in. I did have one moment that could have gone wrong. We drove into Mozambique from South Africa and we were exchanging money and I noticed a woman carrying firewood on here head and her daughter prob. 5 or 6 yrs old I pulled out the camera (XL-1) and started to shoot. A uniformed guard (armed with an AK-47) protested my shooting so I put away the camera and backed off instantly and got back into the truck. The guide told me he (the guard) thought I was taking pictures of the bank, for the purpose of planning a robbery. So we had a communication issue. I could have tried to tell him what I was doing but the shot wasn't worth it. I recommend always keeping your eyes open and backing off if asked. We are visiting their country. Observe and listen to your guide and you'll have a great shoot.
good luck
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Old February 8th, 2008, 12:11 PM   #8
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Ghana

I'm an anthropologist, have spent a total of about 3 years in Ghana. I'm just getting started with filmmaking; but I can give some general advice about travelling in West Africa.

1. Learn basic greetings and phrases in the local language, wherever you will be. In Niger, you can use French but many villagers and disadvantaged urban people may not speak French. So just spend a few hours picking up some basic phrases...the mere attempt will show respect to local people and they will be more likely to show interest in your work there.

2. Be extremely patient. Don't lose your temper if you encounter delays and obstacles. Be friendly and show faith and goodwill in order to overcome difficulties. This is a generality, but West Africa societies tend to avoid direct confrontation and conflict, preferring to diffuse and deflect disagreements, "talk around" problems, hear all sides, hash things out in a friendly and unhurried way. If you "lose it" and start making threats and demands, you'll look like a bratty foreigner and people will be less likely to help you.

3. Be careful of your health. Absolutely take your anti-malarials, do not skip a dose. Avoid drinking water from small villages, if you can. You may feel silly, but bottled water could save you several days of bathroom agony.

4. Unfortunately, crime is on the increase in many parts of Africa. Pay attention to your gut feelings about people and situations. Pick good hotels when you can. Keep your gear out of site when you aren't using it.

5. Officials may hint or ask outright for bribes. I generally pay the small, routine ones, talk myself out of big requests. Generally, it's a good idea to rely on your African companions to know what to pay and how do it (often bribes are given in a very subtle way). Some foreigners refuse on principle to pay bribes, but I think this just adds trouble to your life.

Pardon me if you know all of this. I've seen quite a few foreigners in dicey situations in West Africa because they just didn't know what to anticipate.

Best of Luck, hope all goes well!

MJ
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Old May 26th, 2008, 10:25 AM   #9
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Only 3 weeks to go!

Well, I just thought I would let you guys know that I'm heading into Malawi (Central Africa) in 3 weeks time.

I have now purchased a Sony HVR-Z7, which I will be shooting a doco on. I am following a group of volunteers from Australia. We will be doing a reality type doco, of what they are doing as well as how they are impacted along the way. We are expecting some huge shocks, such as in hospitals and orphanages.

I will have a guide which is great. He can also help carry some of the gear as I'm the main person in the group doing the doco, everyone else has their own roles.

So any last minute tips would be great, besides what has already been said. I was planning on taking some copies of a release form for the main interview (all the group will sign,) it won't be always possible I guess with some of the villagers but I assume it is better to have than not.

For those that have already done their trips would be great to hear one or two points of something you wish you took but didn't, and something you wish you shot while you were over there but didn't and regretted it later. OR anything else, I'm just after as much info as I finalise preparations etc.

Thanks again for those that have already commented.

Cheers,
Matt
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Old May 28th, 2008, 01:28 AM   #10
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I think everybody here stated everything well. I shot many times in africa and it is home for me. One thing you will need the most is a good light stick and also a monopad. Also watch out for sand and bring some extra filters. Good luck (*___*)
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Old November 6th, 2008, 05:41 AM   #11
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Uganda

If i could just bump this thread in case anyone can add current or specific info relating to Uganda.
In 10 days i go to Gulu to shoot for a charity trying to get displaced kids back into education. I have 4 days in the zone with 2 other people who have other responsibilities so the most help i can expect is they carry a mid weight bag on their shoulder for me.
I'm concerned about hindering my productivity with the burden of being over-equipped and normally simple decisions such as between a monopod or tripod are playing on my mind. Im even thinking i should downgrade from a z1 to a hv30.
Im looking to shoot general scenes of life and talking heads(where decent sound matters as much as the image).
Any wisdom appreciated as im really dithering over my kit list.
Thanks.
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Old November 7th, 2008, 05:26 PM   #12
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I worked on a similar project in Kenya last year and I certainly went over-equipped. In fact, a great deal of the 'essentials' stayed in the van or locked up at the hotel we used as a base every few days.

I took a Manfrotto 525/501 combination, not least because they were donated by Manfrotto in return for some shots in use in the bush. I found the size and weight to be pretty much fine, even when walking around for hours at a time. I kept the camera (XL2) on the legs and carried it everywhere over the shoulder. Just about do-able. Dust protection was vital, although as can be seen in the pic, I didn't realise this until a few days in. I used a small on-board light for a couple of interiors (could easly have shot outside and left this at home) and a shotgun mic with windcutter jammed into the mounting for the XL2 standard mic. Oh yes, and a pair of DT100 cans, which I eventually swapped for the noise cancelling headphones I used on the plane - smaller, lighter and acceptable performance. Each day I took 3 large capacity BP945 batteries which gave me up to 8 or 9 hours, plus about six tapes and a cleaning kit. I wore the world least attractive hunting jerkin (great word) which has about 7,236 pockets, enough to hold all the odds and ends.

All in all a great experience. I had to decline a return trip earlier this year because of project commitments here but I hope to go back next year.

Funnily enough I am going to the States to shoot some segments for a corporate next week and I am in more of a dilemma about what to take there!

Enjoy your trip, Michael. Fascinating place to shoot.

Ian . . .
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