I have to say, that it has taken me quite a while to write this story. Yes, we have been busy with work and many other projects, but I have had to let this experience simmer for awhile. As I look back now, it all “feels better” and I have a clearer perspective on the whole experience. So here it goes…
It must have been about the middle of May that I received a call from Cameron. Now Cameron is an amazing art director who works for one of the Top Agencies in SA. Lets just leave it at that for now… Anyways, he gave me a call and asks if I would be interested in going to Ghana to shoot billboard ads for Johnnie Walker and a TVC as well. It was for Johnnie Walker’s “African Giants” Campaign.
Now if you have ever read any of my stories, you know that I “regress, backtrack, comment and pretty much say what ever” as I am telling my stories. This one will be no different. Nice to be consistent!
Well, of course, I just about dislocated my arm as I “fist pumped” a few times quietly while listening to this and replying casually something like, “Yeah, of course…” Meanwhile I was bursting with excitement! Now, just because you get a call to ask if you are interested and to quote, doesn’t mean the job is yours. Some agencies require 3+ quotes before they decide on who gets the job, so you just never really know until you get the call for a pre production meeting, or they release the penciled days in your calendar. This is what it must feel like for a habitual gambler. It is literally, all or nothing! Welcome to the world of professional gambling… Oh, I meant Photography! Hate when that happens.
So Cameron sends me a written brief of what they are thinking. I give the brief a really good look and read it a few times and then start to figure out everything I will need to make it all happen. The trick here is that since this is a big travel job, I must keep the equipment to a minimum due to cost (1) and there is always the chance whatever you check in, wont arrive (2). TIA- This is Africa! Lets NEVER forget that… So, then I sit with my in-house producer, Fagmeda, and my assistant Paul to walk them through the ideas I have and what we need to get prices on to build the quote and get it in ASAP.
It was looking something like this: 1 travel day from Cape Town to Accra. 4 days shooting for the billboard ads and doing Social media documentation for the first TVC which was being shot by another director and his crew. Then we would have 2 days to direct and shoot the second TVC. And the last day would be for extra footage and to travel back to Cape Town. In total it was 8 days we quoted on.
Now one thing that is interesting about this shoot is that I would be doing the first set of billboard ads along side another director and his crew. I do a lot of this type of work, as I get on very well with crew, producers and directors because I do what they do as well. Not on such a big scale most of the time, but then I have over 15 years experience working on movie sets and TVC’s, so I know how it works. What is always interesting is if the producer and the director are keen to have you around? That is your biggest hurdle and concern as a photographer on set.
For those of you who don’t know most of the time when a “photographer” is on a TVC set, he or she is the most hated person there! Period! I have seen this over the years and experienced some nasty fucking people along the way. When I think about it, it kinda makes sense in a way. Here is my thought on why some people are such assholes to us on set. First, it is their shoot and how would you feel if some else came on your set and took time and costs away from you and your job? Second, I could see that they might even think we are stealing from them, as it is their vision, idea, and lighting that we are shooting! And lastly, maybe it could even be something as simple as they just don’t know us. I am not to keen on working with strangers either… So that is me putting myself in their shoes.
But saying all that, with the economy the way it is and the fact that agencies and clients are looking to save costs where ever and how ever they can, I can see why agencies would try and have one production cost and as many outputs/ media options as possible. So as far as I am concerned, everything is always about change and we must adapt to be apart of what is happening around us. That keeps you on top! So it makes sense for us to work together to make sure our agency and clients are happy. This is why I DON’T believe in treating anyone on one of my sets like “a red-headed step child” and make their life difficult for just doing the job they were hired to do. A bit of a rant there… sorry about that.
My whole point was the crew and director that I needed to work with on the first TVC that was being filmed never acknowledged my existence once ( not even in the pre production meetings) and the importance of getting my job done. I wasn’t there to shoot “behind the scenes stuff”. I was there to do the billboard ads for which he was shooting the commercial. Same agency, same client, same story, same fucking everything! There was a moment that he did take notice. I will get to that later.
Ok, so we get the quote together. Look it over quite a few times to make sure it is all there and quoted correctly. Then we send it over to the TV producer and wait to hear how it all goes. It took us about a day to put it all together. Not bad if you ask me!
A few days go by and we were shooting a small 10 sec TVC in the studio when I got the call from Cameron. It went something like this… “So, I have sent you an example of what we shot before on an ad like this just so you can get a feel of what we are looking for.” I said that’s cool and told him I would talk with him after I checked it out.
Now because I was in the middle of shooting I really wasn’t paying attention, but about an hour later it dawned on me. Does the fact that he is sending me “treatments” mean we have gotten the job? I have to admit, I had a big smile on my face when that thought occurred to me.
So we ended our little TVC shoot and everyone was super happy. Later that evening I check out the previous ad they did and I got excited. Black and white, a bit gritty, some cool effects and moments. All you could want in a 30 sec TVC. Not to mention it would be for Johnnie Walker! Nice…
Now I am going to fast forward about a week or so… I am sitting in the pre prod meeting waiting for everyone to arrive. And YES, clearly we got the job! So everyone kinda of walks in together. A small stampede of people actually. We are all sitting around the huge board room table at the agency and our Producer , Kathy, starts to introduce everyone around the table. So when she said my name and position the guys from the production house and the Director just give me a look. I knew right then and there it was going to be a bit of an up hill climb. Two hours of going thru shot lists and treatments and locations and, and, and; it was my time. Kathy told everyone my role and what I needed to accomplish during the TVC. I then proceeded to ask about the lighting and if it was possible that their guys could leave lights set up so I could shoot for a few minutes after they are done with a few selected scenes. The reply “NO!” Then I proceeded to ask about allowing me a few minutes aside with the Talent when they are setting up so I could get some portraits. The reply “NO!” So I look across the table to Kathy and say something like, “ Well, looks like you aren’t going to get any print for the campaign.” Then the client pipes up and a few guys from the agency. And it amounted to them saying to the Director, “ You are going to have to give Bryan some time to do what we need him to do.” The reply was “silence.” And then one of the Director’s producers changed the subject completely. It was a few minutes after that the Director and his party said they had to go… When they had left I went to Kathy and told her that they have to give me some time somewhere or I can’t guarantee them anything. She agreed and said we would work it out on set.
Now that is a scary moment when you realize no one cares if you get what you need done! And the whole, “we will sort it out on set” means “let’s see.” Which means I am FUCKED! So I haven’t even started the shoot and I am all ready in the shit. Whoever says this job is “ALL THAT”, has never done big ad work. The shooting is the easiest part of the job. It’s what makes the job happen and figuring out budgets and logistics and personalities that is the hard part!
So a few weeks later we are all sitting at the airport and waiting for our flight to Namibia. Everyone is there and very excited about what lies ahead. This is always a great time to spend with clients, as all their hard work and efforts are about to happen in front of them. The energy was fantastic…
We stop in Namibia to change planes to Ghana and they had a rain storm like I haven’t seen in years. Now Namibia is half a big desert and half mountains. So to have it rain like this is very very rare indeed. Not to mention we had to walk about half a kilometer to get to your plane on the tarmac! Everyone’s shoes were soaked and so were most of us as well. I mean soaked! After drying off and everyone settling in and a few drinks later we all sat back and got some rest.
About 8 hours later we arrive in Ghana. It was night time and as we stepped off the plane onto the tarmac, a wall of hot, humid, awful air engulfed me. I always do my weather research before going anywhere, so I knew it would be hot and humid. But I wasn’t quite ready for it at that moment.
It then took like 2 hours of standing in a non air-conditioned hall with very sweaty and smelly people everywhere before we got to the counter to show our passports and get our stamps. Everyone was very tired after being up since like 5 in the morning and its like 9 at night now.
Now came the very “dodgy” part of the first steps of my adventure. In order from me to bring my own equipment into Ghana, you have to pay a customs duty. This has to be in US Dollars and in cash when you come to Ghana. You are to leave it at the airport in their safe for guarding until you leave the country. They write it down in a ledger and give you a copy of the paper. If you loose the paper, you lose your money. If you cant get to the counter before your plane leaves, you lose the money. And you must realize this desk is in the arrivals hall, which you are only allowed into if you are arriving! I hope you can see where this is going. Now I am going to regress for a second and let you know how difficult it was getting the 1000 US Dollars before I went. Here goes! So I get a call on the Thursday before we are to leave on the Sunday to Ghana and I am told I have to pay a Duty for my equipment. When ever you travel, at least in Africa, you have to fill out a “Carne” that lists all your equipment, serial numbers, and basic costs of everything. Well I did that and the local producer who is helping us in Ghana lets me know that I need to adjust the numbers of the costs as if I keep it “the actual costs” then I would need to give a duty of 35,000 US dollars in CASH for them to “hold” for me! Now I don’t have that kind of money anyway, but I was not even aware I had to give them any money at all! So we quickly adjust the costs of things and we get it down to 1,000 US Dollars. Which is like 8,500 rand. Now I had that, so that is cool. But now I have to turn it into Dollars. So I go to the mall where they have a lot of places that convert currencies. They proceed to tell me that they have to “order” dollars and it takes two days. And they don’t deliver money on the weekend! Well it is Thursday at 5pm when I realize all this. So all day Friday we are calling around and trying to find US Dollars. No luck! Saturday I am kind of freaking out as I find a place that just had a bunch of tourist cash in dollars. I rush there just before they close and get what I needed. Talk about luck! Now I could have tried at the airport, but if they didn’t have any dollars on a Sunday morning at 6 before we left, I would have not been able to bring in any of my equipment for the shoot! So you can understand why I didn’t want to go that route! All this before I even got on the plane!
Ok, so our local producer guides me to this little desk in this crazy crowded arrival hall and says.” here you go”. She has to leave as she must sort out the agency and everyone else. So there I am with my assistant Paul waiting at an empty desk for someone to help us. After a while a lady comes and helps us. We give her the money and sign all the papers. We then leave the arrivals hall and a security officer stops us and proceeds to tell me that I must pay him to leave the hall. Now I have been up for quite awhile by now and been waiting for hours, so I am in no mood for some guys attempt to have me pay him off with a bribe. I noticed him watching us while we gave our money. I laugh at him and tell I don’t owe him anything. He grabs me and I turn and look at him. I say loudly, I will call the REAL police if you touch me again! Everyone turns and looks. I smile and Paul and I walk out the “free hall” that everyone else was walking thru with out paying… Fucking typical!
We then have to walk about 1 kilometer around to the pickup area as no cars are allowed at arrivals. We finally make it to the driver and we get to the hotel. What a day!
We check in and get all the equipment unpacked and charging and cleaned for tomorrow morning bright and early. Around 11 that evening we all sat down together and had a production meeting on times and what was happening. Turns out that the first two days where going to be location recce’s, gear checks and talent, wardrobe and all that never ending stuff. So that meant that we had two days to travel all around Ghana to certain areas where the man we were shooting was from. This was all for the social media aspect of the ad campaign. We were to video and shoot stills of anything that was pertaining to his past and current life. So around midnight we had our first real meal of the day and a very very cold beer! That was a good moment indeed…
Next day Matt, who is the social media guy on this project, was with myself and Paul as we proceeded to drive out to where Prince Kofi Amobeng was from. This man owns the largest private bank in Ghana and in Africa to be precise. He came from nothing and made it all with his business partner. A truly inspirational story. Not to mention one of the nicest people I think I have ever meet. Honestly! OK! Up at 6 to be on the road by 7 for out 3 to 4 hour drive. This was my first time being in Mid Africa. I have been up north and all around the south, but not much in the middle as conflicts are often and everywhere in these countries. So it was visually interesting to see the difference in the people, cultures and living conditions. Ghana is a very poor place. Most live in huts and shack without any running water. This is true all around Africa, but it is so concentrated here that it is over whelming. The roads are good in town but once out of Accra, they become half dirt and rock. Then you hit a nice pavement with huge pot holes and then dirt again. I have learned you can tell a countries wealth by its public roads and facilities. Ghana is poor… As we drive we see a lot of people who have their own shops and are selling everything you could imagine. From metal pots to caskets for the dead on the sides of the roads. Entrepreneurship is something I think all Ghanaians have in vast amounts! And it is amazing to witness it as you drive and watch them.
On our two day journey around Ghana we saw the mountainous country side, the east coast beaches, a private high school and track day, fisherman hauling huge boats out of the sea with ropes, a vehicle driving down the road made of scrap, snails the size of your head, and exotic cars in very strange places… Everywhere you looked was something I had never really seen before. So little to say we got a lot of unique images for that part of our brief. I can say though we spent more than half of very day in the car. At the end of it I was glad to get on location and move around.
Well, its now 4 am in the morning and Paul and myself are up and we are defrosting /defogging our cameras and lens. It is so hot and humid that as soon as you open your camera cases outside everything fogs. And it takes hours to clear. Lucky I remembered this our first day out driving so we had planed plenty of time to let them clear. But what I figured out was that we had to get up an hour earlier every day and run the cameras outside so they could warm up and clear. Thus we were up and having coffee at 4am instead of 5 like everyone else. No rest for the wicked! But always better to be safe than sorry, so you do what you have to do.
We are on location by 5:30 and the crew is filming. They are shooting along the coast where the fisherman live and work. It is a township on the ocean. Sounds pleasant, but far from true. It is already 32 degrees with a 100% humidity at 5:30 in the morning and the sun is trying to break thru the haze. We walk thru this crowded community and we are the only white people there and we have tons of gear and everyone knows what we are doing. We have armed guards with us at all times and the locals like to stare and watch as we work. They have no running water or plumbing so outside each shack is a two foot trench where everyone does “their business.” And they do it right out in the open! The whole place smells like fish, piss and shit… Really…
I quickly realize I am just going to have to use my “on-set experience” and just get in the shot and steal what ever I can get, as they are only doing like 2 takes of each scene and moving right on. So I sneak around and make sure I am not in shot and go and shoot as much as I can. This would be my plan for the next two days. I always positioned myself next to the DOP or Steady Cam guy and shot right next to their hip… Never in the way or really noticed. Slip in and shoot. Slip out and wait…
We ended up shooting there for about two hours and then moved on into town for the next set of shots. The sun comes out and it is a blazing 46 degrees and full humidity. Keep in mind I am hauling around 20 kilos on my back as well, so everything is hot and heavy. By noon my clothes are completely soaked thru, my socks are wet and I have water running down my arms and getting the camera wet. It is just shocking conditions to be running around in. We shoot a total of about 6 scenes that day. Which was good for the crew. I got some really awesome shots of Kofi in some amazing locations. That ended up being a good day indeed…
They never once let me have anytime, so I talked with Kofi and every moment they were not using him I “stole” him as I would say and got portraits or him doing the same actions as they were shooting for the TVC. I didn’t ask permission I just hoped in and did it while they were watching playbacks or moving camera. It worked out great! You have to take serious initiative to make this kind of shoot work for you as no one else really cares.
We finally wrap day one around 6 that evening and we all head back to the hotel. I was so glad to step inside the hotel as they have air conditioning. It was like stepping into heaven! Paul and I go to my room to unload all the gear and clean, charge, back-up and get everything ready for tomorrow. Paul leaves and I tell him we will meet in an hour at the bar downstairs for a drink and dinner. As I am pulling off my sticky, smelly clothes I realize something. I left the hotel at 5 am and we are back after 6 and I am now for the first time today going pee! I know for a fact I drank over 10 bottles of water easy. Now you can imagine how hot it was and how much I was sweating if my first pee break was 13 hours later! Holy shit! Amazing… Sorry about that, one of those moments that I might have “over shared”.
Next day we were at location by 6 am and prepping ourselves for another day of heat and running around. Today we were shooting in a few different locations around the city center. It turns out that it was hotter than the day before as we were in the city with concrete and cars everywhere. Everyone was literally melting and hiding under any thing they could find. But poor Paul and myself had to run around and get as much as possible done. I don’t mind working hard at all, it just sucks when it is so damn hot and humid. We got to see Independence Square and all kinds of unique areas around the city. Now remember at the very beginning of this story I said there was a moment that they did take notice. Well here is what happened. As we were at Independence Square shooting, I saw the perfect “Johnnie Walker moment”! Kofi is walking parallel with the Arch for Independent Square and he is in full stride and it is just “THE MOMENT” I have been looking to capture for the past 2 days. As the Director finishes his shot, I walk over to Kofi and ask him to walk the same way he did for other guys. He gets on his position and I tell him to walk and the Director says “Kofi must change clothes, we don’t have time for this.” I turn around and say straight to his face something like, “ You will give me 1 minute to shoot!” I turn right around and tell Kofi to walk. The Director starts to say something to Kofi and I tell Kofi to listen to me, not him! Kofi walked it twice and I got the Hero Shot! The Director was just in shock as I looked at him when I was done and said, “ 1 minute! Thanks you” and I walked off to show Cameron and the client the shot.
Everyone couldn’t believe I told the Director to basically shut up. But sometimes you just have to fight for your position on set and to get what you need. After all, what is 1 minute of time when you are moving locations anyway. Please! They argued over where to have lunch for 45 fucking minutes the day before! We then ended the day on the roof of the National Theatre as we had to do a shot with Kofi looking out over the city. That was pretty cool as it was a unique vantage point to shoot from and see the city from as well.
Then as we are wrapping up, the Director- Ian- for the fist time ever spoke to me and had the balls to ask me for “a favor”. The guy gave me one minute in two days and at the end he asked if I can I shoot them a group portrait. I just stared at him and knew that he is such an ass that it probably never computed in his head how he has treated me this whole time . So I smiled and said , “Of course.” So I took a couple of shots and then I got a hand shake as well. Lucky me…
After the shoot we went across the street to have a drink with Kofi and say our goodbyes and thanks you’s. I got Paul to take pictures of everyone with Kofi so we could document the occasion. I told Kofi he had been great and helped me so much by giving me his few moments in between shooting. He smiled and told me when I came back I must let him know. That was a great moment for me…
In the evenings we would get cleaned up and then sit down stairs at the bar or out near the pool area. I choose the bar as the air condition all blew right on the bar area. The agency and other guys usually took a dip in the pool and chilled out with a nice beer.
We had great dinners at night as we all sat and talked about the earlier day and reminisce about what and where… The best part of this shoot was shooting with such a great team of people. It really makes all the difference and the guys over at King James rock!
Now we are at the half way point in this story! Yeah, I know. So I am going to try and speed it up a bit.
The next day we started my TVC shoot and print ads for Samson SiaSia. He was the guy who the next TVC was focusing on. Samson was a famous football player and a winning couch for Nigeria awhile back. So it was a great honor to work with him and be apart of this great shoot.
The first day we shoot at the Accra National Football Stadium. What a huge place! It was the first time I have ever been in a completely empty stadium. It could envision all the fans yelling and the noise, but there was just silence. It was a very cool moment to experience. So, up at 5 so cameras where ready by 6 and then off to location. Turns out it was even hotter in the stadium as there was no air movement and all the empty chairs and concrete collecting heat to make it even Hotter! By now I am not joking when I tell you I had moved two notches in on the holes on belt and it was just the start of day 5. We went thru the shot list and created a few great moments of our own. I felt bad for Samson as he has to stand there in a 3 piece suit! I was dying as it was, so I could only imagine what it was like for him. But he didn’t complain once and was a real gentleman! We had some really great scenes set up with soccer players training and doing drills as Sampson couched them. We got some really cool stuff! That was super exciting and almost made me forget about the heat. We shot there the whole day and around 5:30 we called it. I was so tired, that I almost didn’t go to dinner that evening. But I really wanted to sit with the agency and Samson and have a great dinner and talk about the day. So we all ended up at dinner and then had a great talk until like 11 that night. A few nice Johnnie walkers were drunk and many good laughs.
The next day we were at the beach for sunrise, so we were up by 4 and on the road by 5ish. We shot some great footage of Samson playing ball on the beach and showing off his ball handling skills. Then we went and shot old soccer fields and derelict areas as when Samson was a kid he grew up in a very poor side of town. Once again it was hot! At this point we had gotten kinda use to it, so you just put your head down and keep on keeping on! The shoot ended with us all playing a bit of football at one of the fields. Nothing like seeing 8 white people playing football in a poor neighbor hood to get the neighbors staring! Haa… Haa… We drew a crowd. We finished up and all decided we deserved a wrap drink in the air condition at the hotel!
That evening Samson invited us to dinner at a friends of his house and restaurant. So we all said yes and had a great evening out. We got to meet a bunch of local people and eat a lot of unique local foods as well. It was such a treat to be out with locals and to be drinking and eating and laughing for hours. It made all the hard work worth it instantly.
The next day we shot Samson’s personal trophies and awards and then had a great lunch and said our good byes as he had to catch a plane. As Samson left we all sat around and just took a deep breathe as we had finished up two great shoots! Back to back in extreme conditions to say no less.
One thing that I have learned over the years is that once the shoot gets going it builds a natural momentum and carries on. You just need to get it going and maintain a great outlook and optimism for it to be a success. And I am very proud to say it was.
The next day we checked out and head by to the airport. Now I am a bit stressed on getting there early so I can get my money back. So we all get there and I tell the guys from the agency that I have to go and get my cash back. They are in line and tell me to go and they will wait for me there. I walk the 1 k back to the place I walked out of last time. I get to the door and there is a security guy there. I tell him I need to get inside to go to the desk and return my paper. He lets me in and I walk thru all kinds of back hallways till I find the door that opens into the arrival hall. I finally get someone to help me and then it starts… The lady at the desk takes my paper and say to my face, “I have been so worried about your money. I haven’t slept in days.” I ignore this and kindly ask her to get my money as I need to get checked in very soon. She takes her sweet time and like 10 minutes later she arrives. She hands me my money. I count it all and then she says, “ Where is my tip for keeping your money safe?” I tell her I don’t have any change and she kindly says she will take 100 US dollars. I laugh out loud and let her know I am not going to tip her for doing her job. She then starts yelling in some language and gets up from the desk and leaves. I then get up and see my old security guard friend standing there again. I walk past him and he calls to me, but I ignore him and keep walking. I am outside and walking down the ramp with all kinds of people around me when I feel a hand on my shoulder. He says he has been calling me. I told him I don’t know him and turn and walk away. He then walks in front of me and demands that I “tip” him for allowing me to get my money. Now at this point I have had enough of this shit and it is still hot as hell at 6 at night. I look at him straight in the eye and tell him “NO”. By the way did I mention he was like 6 foot 5. I think it was the first time any body has told him NO. He starts to yell very, very loudly and goes crazy. At that moment there was a huge group of people walking down the ramp and I quickly just blended in with them and got the hell out of there ASAP! Bribery happens everywhere in Africa. So be ready and try not to let them get to you or your cash!
I make it back like an hour later and the guys are worried about me as they are looking everywhere for me and they cant find me. I quickly check in and tell them my story. What a drama indeed!
Now I am thinking we are all good now. We are at the airport. I have my money back. Bags are checked in. Flight is on time and we are walking to security. Then Cameron walks thru with 3 soccer balls that Samson signed for the agency and security has a fit! They all of a sudden decide that taking a soccer ball on an airplane can cause it to explode. Even though the cabin is pressurized! We all just look at each other shaking our heads. Basically what happened was some security person along the way saw the soccer balls and wanted them. So they make shit up and take your stuff. If you give them grief, they put you in jail. Simple as that. Well, Cameron had 3 balls, Kathy had 2 balls, Mike had 3 balls and security was having none of it. All of a sudden we had like 5 security people all over us. Everyone argued for about 5 minutes until on security lady said, “ only if you deflate them- can you take them”. No we are thru security and we need to puncture the balls, but we have no “sharp objects” on us! Cameron then asks for a pen or pencil. Not one of the 5 or so security people around us try and help. He asks for scissors. Nothing. Then one security lady tells us we have to move on as our flight is leaving. Now myself and Paul are watching all this and trying to find something to stick the balls with but we are having no luck either. Then Cameron grabs a pen from one of the security people and starts to jab the balls where you put the needle in. He got one and then another and then another. He was on a roll and as focused as I have ever seen him. Meanwhile we are being yelled at that our flight is leaving. The other security people are watching all this unfold and doing absolutely nothing.
Cameron gets all the balls flat and he is in a complete sweat! Remember the airport doesn’t have air conditioning. He then shows the one lady who is being a real bitch to everyone that the balls are flat. She then says to Cameron, there is still air in it. Listen when I tell you they were completely flat! Out of the corner of my eye I saw Cameron throw the balls down onto the ground and leap in the air and scream a bit of a word each jump, “Is… that… flat… enough… for you!” I think I blurted out, “Holy shit!” The security lady instantly pulled out her walkie talkie and started screaming. All security was frozen as they watched him jump up and down on the balls a few times. Then they quickly move to the exits and start pointing in all directions. I looked at Paul and said “Run dude! Cameron has lost it!” Now right then I know we were probably all going to miss your plane and be in jail within the hour. After going thru the past week with all the difficulties and hard moments to end up so close to the finish and get stopped now, just didn’t compute! I told everyone very quickly, “ to get their stuff and lets go!” Cameron gathered his now pancaked soccer balls and his bag and we all walked swiftly to our gate. I sent Paul ahead to ask them to hold the flight as the one security lady kept telling us that our plane is leaving now. No one said a word as we walked very fast thru mass people to find our gate. We finally get there only to find out that our flight doesn’t leave for another 1:30 hours. That bitch was lying so we would leave the soccer balls there! They never came after us, but we were all on watch as we hid and laid very low until we got on the plane. We didn’t let anyone go anywhere alone incase something happened.
As we sat on the plane and they closed the doors, we realized we were going to make it out alive and I one piece! A sense of overwhelming relief filled everyone’s faces as they began to talk and laugh about everything little fucked up thing that had happened. We all were seated next to each other so we had like 8 of us all gabbing and giggling like school girls!
I awoke to us landing in Namibia to switch planes. We had an hour or so lay over as we waited to get back to Cape Town. Everyone was so knackered that at like 7 in the morning we were having beers! My poor assistant Paul was so tried he passed out on the couch as everyone made fun of him! It had been that kind of trip…We finally get on board the flight to Cape Town and everyone was just finished. We haven’t had a shower in over a day and everyone is ready to just be done with this and wants to be home.
Fast forward to landing in Cape Town. We make it thru Customs and then have to collect our bags. They all arrived! YEAH! It’s always a bit of an anxious moment as you wait for luggage in Africa. I know myself and Paul have to go thru Customs Declaration and claim our equipment, so we get our stuff and walk to that section. Turns out there was no one there. So we just walked on thru. Paul and I wait for the rest of the guys in the main hallway. After about 5 minutes we start walking around thinking we have missed them some how. A good 20 minutes later I see them all come thru the doors from Customs. Turns out the film crew asked Kathy to bring back 4 boxes for them. So Kathy asked the guys from the agency to check one in as their own. Turns out no one knew what was in the boxes. So when they were stopped at Customs and asked what was in the boxes, they didn’t know! So, they all got locked up in one of those rooms until it was all sorted out… When they finally came out, I asked them what the hell was going on and they all were just pissed off and yelling!
It was a long trying trip indeed… But there are always positives one can take away from these types of adventures.
So what did I learn from all this?
1- Traveling in Africa is and will always be difficult if you are working as a photographer.
2- Bribery is very real! Even though I got away with not paying. I know I was lucky…
3- I now compare any type of heat to, “Is it Ghana hot?”
4- Let your lens and camera defog at least an hour before shooting.
5- You can eat the same thing every night for dinner and it still can taste good as long as you have a cold beer in hand.
6- I can go 13 hours without going pee in Ghana.
7- On a 6 day shoot bring more than 10 days worth of clothing. It cost me 175 US Dollars to do laundry at the hotel!
8- You can deflate a soccer ball with a ball point pen in seconds.
9- Cameron can jump really high for a white guy.
10- Oh, yeah! I would do it all again tomorrow…
We all gave each other hugs at the parking lot and smiled. It was one hell of an adventure! At the end I know it brought us all closer together. And that is awesome…
Thank you Cameron, Mike, Matt, Kathy, and Melanie and everyone else for making it all possible. This trip was one of those where I came back a little more grey than I left, but worth it.
That is why I have waited awhile to write this and I am so glad I did.
Thanks everybody for taking the time to read this.
Until next the next crazy adventure!
All the best,