Written late October 2009
It could be any town. Small, a little quaint, quiet with an air of discernable tension that is nonetheless not quantifiable into any particular threat.
Our team makes its way cautiously down the gravel street between buildings, many of them deserted. We’re in a cease-fire zone between two warring factions, a country split north and south by the economic and political domination of one minority by another. We’ve heard reports of ethnic cleansing. In the distance, we hear occasional peals of artillery fire landing in what is supposed to be a demilitarized zone.
We’re an assessment team meeting with our local counterpart in the town, here to find out what the refugees camped here require. We’re crossing an open plaza at one end of the town. Ahead, our contact is standing outside our local office, dressed in our NGO’s livery, easily identifiable among a small crowd of locals. He calls us over with a friendly wave.
To the left, a hundred yards away, an impromptu market has sprung up, a crowd of townsfolk milling around beneath a ragged banner that reads Duty Free.
The small knot of companions standing outside the office greet us with enthusiasm. They know we are here to help. We shake hands and try to introduce ourselves, but we don’t speak their language, and they speak little English. But smiles cross language boundaries. We are caught up in the moment.
A blast thumps across the marketplace, pressing itself against the ears. There is no warning. It is followed only by chaos.
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I’m not sure I’ve showcased this shot on Wanderlust yet (though it’s not out of the question, I do lose track a little sometimes), but it’s one of my favourites- not to mention one of the oldest shots in my portfolio. The only tragedy being that it was shot on a cheesy little 2MP Olympus with less image quality than the [languishing] camera on my cell-phone. It was, as the blurb points out, a very happy accident.
This next shot was a happy accident by parts, in a similar vein. Only rather than appearing to be staring into deepest space, this one really is staring into deepest space.
Words can’t express how spectacular the Milky Way is at night time in a place with clear skies and no light pollution. In a thin copse in the Porongorup National Park in Western Australia in the depths of winter, I have been to a few places where atmospherics have been better for star-gazing, but I could count them off very quickly. It was, in short, spectacular.
I had neither a tripod nor a shutter-release cable, so I shot this long-exposure image with my finger holding down the button and the camera lying flat atop our rental car. My travel companion Pam was in the bathroom, and the light you see painting the trees red is from the bathroom window, faintly (I thought) spilling onto the underside of the branches. The faint orange glow is not a UFO but is in fact the same light flaring off the lens. And beyond that, millions upon millions of stars and galaxies.
This shot is not, obviously, the one I was trying to get. And I will shortly paste up a few more that I did get this night which were more in line with what I was trying for. However this photo falls neatly into the category of ‘happy accidents’ in that it somehow works as a wierd, abstract, ‘what the heck am I looking at’ sort of thing. At any rate, I like.