Postcards from Nanyuki

In News & Stuff, Postcards From..., Travel by David30 Comments

After 2 weeks in the field in northern Kenya, we’ve settled in for 2 days at the Mt. Kenya Safari Club to shower up, debrief, and get ready to head home. We’ve been in Kenya’s north, from Archer’s Post to Loiyangalani, photographing in partnership with The Boma Project, among Rendille, Samburu, and Turkana tribes, mostly nomadic pastoralists.

I’ll do a longer post later as I sort out my thoughts and emotions about the trip, for now I just wanted to drop a line and post a couple images. We’re returning home with a rough edit of 220 images culled from 5000+ frames that are taking up an astonishing 175 GB of hard-drive space on the laptop.

Among those images are a series of portraits that I’m really excited to get home and print, and I’ve already got a spot for a small collection of them in the upcoming book, SEVEN. If you saw the last  blog post, you saw a few of the initial ones, made with natural light, most of them under the shade of an Acacia tree, and against a Westcott 6’ x 6’ ScrimJim with a diffusion panel. It’s a significant departure from the work I’ve done in the past, but I’m thrilled with them. I’ll be sharing some of them with you in the next few days.

Truthfully, I left for Africa a little under-enthusiastic about picking up my cameras, and nervous about going in a new direction with my portraiture. Perhaps it was the fear talking. Still, my return to this kind of work could not have gone better. The everyday adventure of it, the reunion with friends in familiar villages, the time with a team and a client that I love, and with Corwin who plays producer and assistant when we’re on the field; it was all amazing. And I managed to come out unscathed – no sickness, no falling into a well.

2560 x1440 Desktop wallpaper. Lake Turkana, January 2013.

I spent time photographing shepherds and herders on the edge of the desert, and fishermen on the shores of Lake Turkana, from which this month’s desktop wallpaper comes. We ate rice and cabbage and goat meat for days, and spent our nights in stick huts with dirt floors, after washing away the dust of the day with a bucket of cold water. We spent hours driving the long distances, laughing a lot and amazed at how much can be said with so little swahili. We spent the last day on the field in Ong’eli, my adopted village, feasting among friends, the elders gathering to give us their prayers and blessings. It was glorious, and I’m going to have a hard time hiding my sorrow when the first person at home asks me how it feels to be back in the “real world.”


  1. Tony Templeton

    Hey David, these are great images. You capture the story behind the photograph so well and your images speak volumes. I have learned much from you. Thanks

  2. Tony Templeton

    ps, if you ever wanted to experience North Africa, a friend and I would love to show you some of the amazing locations and people of Tunisia.

  3. David_G

    image #4 of the person by the fire on dusk is beautiful – great contrast and yet peaceful.

  4. Meredith Bradbury

    I think, David, the boat picture is one of the most beautiful photos I have ever seen.

  5. Tim A.

    That last photograph of the boat is incredible in color and mood. It almost looks like it was artificially lit and / or a constructed set. That is some seriously beautiful light!

  6. leonie

    It is the light and the angle of these images that really holds me captive – specially the first three. I can almost imagine myself to be in there amongst it all.

    I am not sure there’s any such thing as the “real world”, there’s just “world” and the experience of it is simply different depending on where we are.

    It sounds like it was an adventure that will not really ever be able to be verbalised (probably like a lot of other adventures you have had)!

  7. Isaiah

    This post is a huge kick in the pants. Every time I think I’ve reached a point where I can’t really can’t improve my work, I’ll think back to this post where David duChemin went from being one of my favorite commentators on photography to one of my favorite photographers.

    This whole evolution of your style and vision is awesome and a great encouragement that you can always improve. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a photo that was literally jaw-dropping. The first one in this series certainly left my mouth open.

  8. Dave Benson

    Glad you are well and not in the well, fallen or thrown… look forward to seeing more of the images, can really sense your connection to the people and the land in the posted images… the sun and or moon plays a prominent role noting our place in the universe…

  9. Brooke

    I can only imagine how difficult it must be to try to convey such an incredible experience . . . but your photos, bathed in that luscious, golden light, emit that sense of awe. “If I try to seize this self of which I feel sure, if I try to define and to summarise it, it is nothing but water slipping through my fingers.” – Albert Camus

  10. Eric

    Superb job, David. I miss your EXIF info, you know: you’re like a teacher to us, if not a master. It’s so nice that we understand settings ^_^ Thank you.

  11. Caroline Lajoie

    Beautiful, peaceful, inspiring… do such fabulous work. I’m always so inspired after seeing it.

    @ Brook…that’s a beautiful quote and so fits.

  12. Eric Potter

    These are some of the most beautiful images I’ve seen from you, or anyone, in a while. The light, the moment, the body language in the first image is just incredible. You continue, it seems, to play with back lighting and I continue to be inspired and amazed. The image with the orange sky is simply epic (in the true sense of the word, not the flippant way it is tossed about these days). Thanks.

  13. Graham Hobbs

    It might just be my on love of Africa speaking, but to me to me this is the best work you’ve done in some while – it has a vitality and energy about it that feels like all your emotions and skills are concentrated into the moment of the image capture – a real ‘flow’

  14. Mike Todd

    Ah, yes… re-entry is never easy. And I believe you were the one who introduced me to the term “culture grief.” I’ve been using it ever since.

    Safe travels.

  15. Michal

    David, good to “hear” you again. thanks for another great writing and amazing frames…

    @Eric… agree. David, it would be great to see exif data of your frames… i think many of us could learn much from it. cheers, m.

  16. Vanessa Powell

    Your images always touch me. It’s your words coupled with them though that give me the urge to run to the nearest airport with dreams in my eyes and naivety in my soul. Thank you for making my wanderlust heart scream.

  17. Marke Blue

    As Yoda might say (battered little Minox spy cam hung from a jute cord slung around his neck): “There is no Real: only World or not-World.” Or maybe he said, “No World, only Real or not-Real.” Either way, it seems to work…

    David, you are bringing and binding different parts of yourself and your photography, your home and your travels, your eyes and our eyes, and creating a mosaic. Its facets reflect the light from different sources at different angles and pierce the sight of those who turn in its direction, seeing more Real, more World.

  18. Jeff Kennedy

    “We Leave: part of ourselves.
    We take: sand in our cuffs, rocks, shells, moss, acorns, driftwood, cones, pebbles, flowers,

    But is the picture a tenth of the thing?
    A hundredth?
    Is it anything without the smell and salt breeze and the yellow warmth when the fog lifts?

    Oh! but I got all that, too.
    It is exposed forever on the sensitive emulsion sheet
    Of my mind.”

    Terry ad Renny Russell
    On The Loose
    Sierra Club Books (1969)

    Thanks for sharing with us just a fraction of your minds-eye….

  19. Tom Kostes

    Man, what beautiful images. The one by the fire with the moon in the sky blows me away, but the next three are wonderful, as well. You must be proud.

    As far as the “real” world goes, just remind folks that the whole darn world is very, very real, and a miracle to boot!

  20. Daniel

    Some fantastic images of Africa, its a toss up between visiting Asia or Africa next year for me and I still can’t decide between the too!

  21. David Burke

    Stunning work David – have been lucky enough to go to Africa quite a few times and it still blows me away. One day I WILL visit my birthplace in Uganda!

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