First off, thanks to Katie Barber for all the incredible photos that will be featured in this blog series. You can check out more of her work by clicking her name. Also if you're about to read this but haven't read Yida - Journal Entry 1, please do so by clicking here. These will definitely only make sense in order.
Picking up where we left off in Yida - Journal Entry 1, we had just said goodbye to our loved ones and boarded the first flight of the trip. We stayed overnight in the states for a layover. This particular blog will get more detailed and a little bit nerdy at one point.
Here we go:
Last night we had a layover in DC, it was nice having a separation between all the flights. As I got up, a sense of excitement finally started to pour in. The first step of the many-step process to get to Yida has begun.
Our bags were mostly packed already, throwing in the few final things we had taken out the night before doesn't take long. The taxi pulls up, a few minutes later we're back at the airport and boarding a flight to Ethiopia.
It's an interesting feeling flying internationally. Trying to sleep when you know you need to, but losing the sense of when you need to because it's still light outside. It seems like a whole day has skipped passed us because we're traveling 8 hours in the forward. Think back to being a kid, looking out the window as the trees fly by, that's what the sun felt like on this flight. Traveling back, imagine the sun a distant skyline that no matter how fast you're going, it still seems to keep up with you. Daylight stretched an eternity.
A specific Lord of the Rings quote from Gandalf came to mind during all this, "Fly you fools." Don't you worry Gandalf, we did. 14 hours later Ethiopia is floating beneath us, a short layover welcomes us with open arms, then it's time to board a flight to Uganda and then finally, Juba.
The Juba airport is one of the more interesting places I have ever been. It is hectic, it is dirty, it is scary, yet it gives me a weird sensation of familiarity. I wish I could show you pictures or video, but cameras aren't allowed and we weren't about to risk using our phones. As I walk into the dilapidated building, the exterior dry heat turns into a rush of humidity and body odor. It rushes into me like sticking your face into oncoming waves. Again, familiar.
I walk up to the "Non-South Sudanese" window to show the officer my passport and visa. We exchange a few friendly words and he allows me to move on. I show my passport to one more individual that allows me to go to baggage claim (by baggage claim I mean the other side of the same room) where I start to collect the teams bags while they clear customs. Most of the team joins me in being surprised at how smooth things are going. I look around and wonder where is my brother, my fellow freelancer, my friend? Where's Aaron? Just then, Jacob walks up and tells us they aren't letting him through.
Turns out, he didn't have proof of his vaccinations and the officer was pressing him by saying things like "What are you going to do about it?" "You're going to have to go back and get it." This fear started rising inside me, we JUST landed. Thank God, we are traveling with a highly respected Nuba Mountain Native. Pastor Ismail walked up simply to see if he needed to translate, and the officer allowed Aaron to move on without a second thought. Exhale. I was later informed he likely wanted a bribe. (If you want to read his own personal account of this situation, check it out here. It's crazy.)
After a short drive in the chaotic streets of Juba, we arrive at the compound. This is where we'll be staying until we fly to Yida two days from now. It's already mid-afternoon so we all gladly take the time to rest after what seemed like endless hours of flying.
The next day, my favorite day before a shoot, Camera Prep. We go through all our gear and make sure we're as organized as we can possibly be. As Jacob and Katie prep their cameras, Aaron and I talk out how we're going to shoot and what filters we are going to use. Here's the nerdy part and what all we landed on.
Yida was shot on:
- Cameras: A and B Cam Sony A7sii, C Cam Canon 5D Mark iii
- Lenses: Canon Primes
- Filters: 2 Sets of ND .9's and ND 1.2's (we ended up staying stacked a lot of the time at a 2.1, 7 stops total #AfricanSun)
- Picture Profile: SLog2
- ISO: 1600, 3200
- FPS: 24p, 60p, 120p
The full Camera Prep, including shooting a mock interview, took the full day. What a great peace of mind though, now I feel much better about the rest of the shoot.
The next day, back to the airport to fly to Yida. Again, nothing but hectic. No lines, no real rules, the flight is overbooked and 3 hours late. Finally, we start walking towards the plane. I take a look at the plane and that similar fear rises again. Sitting in front of us is an old beaten down prop plane with russian words peeling off the side. I'm literally scanning this thing looking for the super glue sticking out of seam points, because I'm fairly sure that's what's holding it together. I look at the rest of the team and we're all thinking the same thing.
"Will this thing even get us off the ground, or worse, will it land?"