Click: Africa

image by mutua matheka

If you look for images of Africa online you’ll find an overabundance of wildlife or urban poverty. And, while these are part of our narrative, the vast quantity of these pictures would lead you to believe that this is the main story. Maybe it is for people who don’t live here, but why are we letting others own that?

This was brought up by Mutua Matheka, a friend of mine who is one of Kenya’s great photographers, as he was describing what drove him to get into photography. Mutua was annoyed by the fact that the images that he found online didn’t represent the country and continent that he knew. With a degree in architecture, he set out to capture the Africa he knows, not just Kenya, but the cities, buildings and people across the continent.

In Africa in particular, the world tells stories about us, other people create the imagery.

When the world isn’t the way you would like it to be, you have a choice to do something, or not. Mutua has clearly chosen to do something; he’s chosen to be one of the Africans who create the imagery and narrative of Africa for all of us.

What are the images that best define Africa’s challenges and opportunities?

Besides being a fan of Mutua, I’ve had the joy of working with him on the #Kenya365 Instagram project. Now, again we get to work together, as we are both on the judging panel for a new competition that IBM is running, called a ‘World is Our Lab’ over the next 3 months.

the IBM Africa photography competition

Now, unlike Mutua, I’m not a professional photographer. I’m a bit of a hack, to be honest, playing around with my phone and limiting myself to what I can shoot with that small device. This is good, it means that if you’re entering into the competition (which you should!), then even if you’re not a pro, you’ve got a chance as I’m just like you. :) The other judges are Salim Amin from A24 Media and Uyi Stewart. Chief Scientist, IBM Research – Africa.

What you can win:

  • A chance to visit IBM’s new research lab in Nairobi, Kenya
  • Laptops with photo editing software
  • Photography workshop with a leading African photographer
  • Trip to Hemingways Watamu Hotel on the Kenyan coast

The three main categories:

  • African Grand Challenges
  • African City Systems
  • African Innovation

Judges will be looking for photos that express how people living in Africa manage their energy or water needs, how they commute, how cities live and breathe and how people come up with innovative solutions to address their needs and create new opportunities.

How I Instagram


(This is my daughter at Lake Naivasha at sunrise)

Enough people have asked me about how I Instagram that I thought it might be worth creating a post on it. I take a lot of pictures as I travel as it gives me something to do along the way, so there are a lot of pictures in my stream from all over the world. I’m a hobbyist, with no pretensions of being a pro.

You can find me at @White_African on Instagram.

I’m starting a tag game with this, now hitting @Truthslinger with #HowIInstagram to see how he does it.

Hardware

iPhone only (I’m on an iPhone 5 these days). I’d guess that 80% of my shots are taken with just the camera and no extra hardware. However, sometimes I mod it with the following items.

These are the hardware mods that I use for iPhone Instagramming: Olloclip + Lifeproof + Joby

These are the hardware mods that I use for iPhone Instagramming: Olloclip + Lifeproof + Joby

An Olloclip lens ($70): which gives me a wide-angle, fisheye and macro-lens all in a small form that I can fit in my pocket. It’s fantastic. Here are 3 examples of it.

Olloclip macro

Olloclip fisheye

Olloclip wide

Underwater Lifeproof case: I don’t have this on all the time, only when I’m specifically going out for underwater or am in a boat taking crazy angle shots. Another great add-on that let’s you take some cool shots.

Lifefproof underwater

Joby GripTight Microstand (Tripod) ($30): I hardly ever use it, but when taking some macro pictures it comes in very useful as I just can’t hold my hand steady enough to get the shot.

Something I’d like to get is a good telephoto lens for the iPhone.

Software

Camera+ ($1.99): This is my most basic quick-edit app, since I can do multiple shots quickly and it does a good job with clarity and quick filters. I tend to tone down most of the filter choices.

Snapseed (free): When I really want to edit an image, a special one that needs a lot of extra attention to detail, I use Snapseed. If you’re an Android user, they have it for you as well.

ProHDR ($1.99): I like color, so to really make colors pop I’ll use an ProHDR to do it properly. A lot of good in-app controls. My favorite picture from last year was taken with it:


(A tree in a park in Camden, Maine during the Fall)

Over ($1.99): If you like to put text over your images, there is no better iPhone app for it than Over. Many awards and also made by my friend @AaronMarshall.

Other apps that I use either randomly or rarely:

  • NoIMGdata ($0.99): wipe all the sensitive EXIF data from the picture for privacy
  • SlowShutter ($0.99): a great app for light trails or low light
  • Reduce ($1.99): for when the image size needs to be smaller

10 of my favorite shots


(Boats near the harbor in Camden, Maine)


(Making sun tea in Diani, Kenya coast)


(A quiet pool and shady trees in rural England)


(At Yale University, USA)


(Mark and Tosh relaxing on Diani Beach, Kenya)


(The iHub team at Diani Beach, Kenya)


(Satellite, the only way to get internet at a ranch near Tsavo, Kenya)


(Emmanuel doing a summersault off a dhow near Lamu, Kenya)


(Olloclip macro lens on a burning candle)


(Jumpshot at Strathmore high school, Kenya)

The Kenya365 Project

In September 2012, we started a #Kenya365 project for anyone in Kenya to take a picture a day and tag it with that hashtag. The amazing @Truthslinger runs it, and we have weekly themes that he sets up. Take a look to see some great shots from around Kenya, and join in. The only rule is that you can only tag one picture per day with #Kenya365 on it.

The #Kenya365 Instagram Project

[See the pictures at Kenya365.com]

The #Kenya365 Instgram Project

Mutua Matheka and I met up today and hatched an idea to have a little picture fun over the next 12 months. We quickly roped in Eston Whitfield and are looking for a couple more to join up. We’re going to do a picture-a-day on Instagram, and see what happens. Likely others will join in as well, so here are the guidelines:

RULE #1: You can only tag one Instagram photo with #Kenya365 each day.

That is the one and only one rule.

It starts on Sept 1, 2012 (2 days from now) and ends on Aug 31, 2013. To make it more challenging and fun we’re going to ask ourselves to find “interesting” shots each day (however you decide to define that).

Feel free to invite another Instagramer to it, especially if you think they do great stuff, or join in yourself. Just pass on rule #1 to them.

A reminder that this is for fun, and we’ll see what happens. If it’s going well we can create a site to aggregate the images with this tag on it for people to find easily.

You can find us on Instagram with the following handles:

  • Erik Hersman on Instagram: @White_African and on Twitter at @WhiteAfrican
  • Mutua Matheka on Instagram: @Truthslinger and on Twitter at @Truthslinger
  • Eston Whitfield on Instgram: @Eston and on Twitter at @Estoni
  • Jepchumba on Instagram: @Jepchumba and on Twitter at @DigitalAfrican
  • Wamathai on Instagram: @Wamathai and on Twitter at @Wamathai
  • Joseph Were on Instgram: @jaydabliu and on Twitter @jaydabliu
  • Taylor Martyn on Instagram: @Zulusafari and on Twitter at @zulusafari
  • Elvis Mutai on Instagram: @mutaielvis
  • Eve on Instagram: @eveheartsphotog and Twitter at @eveheartsphotog
  • Wachera on Instagram: @Wacherah and on Twitter at @Wacherah
  • Musa on Instagram: @moahandpainted and on Twitter at @mole_a
  • Maggianna Wanjohi on Instagram: @Maggianna and on Twitter at @Maggianna
  • Steve Kitots on Instagram: @SteveKitots and on Twitter at @SteveKitots
  • Lema on Instagram: @lemajisa and on Twitter at @jisaslema
  • William on Instagram: @nguru and on twitter @lilwaim
  • Wairimu Mwaura on Instagram: @missmwaura and on Twitter at @missmwaura
  • Ratia on instagram: @ratia_tee and on Twitter at @ratia_tee
  • Aika on Instagram: @aikawangwe and on on Twitter at @aikawangwe
  • Pendo la Mama on Instagram: @pendolamama and on Twitter at @pendolamama
  • Njeri Thande on Instagram: @njerithande and on Twitter @njerithande
  • Wambui on Instagram: @wambeauty
  • Shitawa Bah on Instagram: @eatoutkenya and on Twitter @eatoutkenya
  • Wiselar on Instagram: @wiselar and on Twitter at @wiselar
  • The Afrohemien Nomad on Instgram: @LAfrohemien and on Twitter at @LAfrohemien
  • Angela Oduor on Instagram: @angelaoduor and on Twitter @AngieNicoleOD
  • Leo Patra on Instgram: @c_Leo_patra and on Twitter at @c_Leo_patra
  • Angela Crandall on Instagram: @honoluluskye and on Twitter at @honoluluskye
  • Flora Okuku on Instgram: @maflosah and on Twitter at @maflosah
  • Mark Mwangi on Instagram: @Mwangyzzle and on Twitter @mwangy
  • eGichomo on Instagram: @eGichomo and on Twitter at @eGichomo
  • Riyaz Osman on Instagram: @ri_yaz and on Twitter at @ri_yaz

If you’re going to take part, leave a comment below with a link to your Twitter handle and your Instagram account and I’ll add you into the list.

AfricaKnows: An African Photo Project

Where do you go to find quality and *real* African pictures? How about the non-tourist ones, the ones that show everyday Africans, work places, bus stops and the lives of your neighbors?

AfricaKnows - Pictures of Africa

AfricaKnows is a new project by TED Fellows Josh Wanyama and Sheila Ochugboju. Their job: to tell a different story of Africa, through big pictures that let you see directly into the heart of African cities.

Africa Knows is about the challenges, triumphs, dreams and nightmares of being an African in a 21st century city that is straddling several revolutions at the same time; the technological revolution, the agricultural revolution, a democratic resurgence and a post-colonial identity crisis complicated by old ethnic tensions.”

If you like an image that you see, you can buy a print or a card of it.

An Airplane Lands in Eldoret

Sourcing

I talked with Josh and Sheila about the site this last week. Right now they get the majority of images by taking them themselves and from other African photographer friends who have good shots of their locale. One of my first suggestions to them was that it would be wonderful if there was a submission page for others to add images in easily. The curating of what shows up on the site would need to be maintained.

There are two reasons why AfricaKnows is a good site:

Quality
So far, the images on the site are pretty good. They’re not all “professional” quality images, but they’re much better than average. A purely open site where anyone could dump images (a la Flickr) wouldn’t work as the noise would quickly outdo the signal, so quality is important.

reality
The reality of the images is the second big reason, it’s why I care to visit and get the feed. If I want to see what the world thinks of Africa I’ll go to a newspaper. If I want to see how Africans view Africa, I’ll go to AfricaKnows.

Traffic at a roundabout in Nairobi

Suggestions

As mentioned earlier, there are others who have good quality shots that would be worth the team looking at. A simple submission form that allowed for me to send in images whenever I took one would be useful – for both me and the editing team.

There’s a real possibility of taking this platform further, making it into a place that is focused on African images and highlights African photographers across the continent. I’d be interested in seeing some images from Teddy Ruge (Uganda) and Nana Kofi Acquah (Ghana) on the site, among others. This could be done by first just allowing them to showcase some of their best images, linking to them and putting contact information on the site (giving them a page).

If others are sending in pictures, then there needs to be a clearly outlined understanding of image rights and ownership.

Lastly, we live in a social web with social lives. There should be the ability to embed the image on another site. Images for this post I had to download (bypassing the javascript security features), and upload into it, which is way to much work for most people. Sharing matters, as it’s how people get found in our digital age. You have to learn to let go – of at least the lower res images. Plus, removing that security will allow more Google image search juice to send more traffic.

Post-Vacation Brain Freeze

I had a great unplugged-from-the-grid long weekend, from which I finally got back from late last night. This morning I actually sat in front of my computer and, though I had a million things to say, couldn’t seem to get them down right on the blog.

Instead, here’s a picture of me spending time with old friends and enjoying the analog life. :)

Fun with Friends

Thank God for lifelong friends.

Oh, and no thanks to Saints for the Prescott news