Aug 27, 2015

Flashing a heli

Not all of my photographic projects come together as envisioned. But a recent project that I've been planning for months came together just as I had hoped. After all, everything looks NatGeo quality on the rear of the camera. Only after I get home do I see missed focus, or see a distracting element in the photo that I didn't see during the shoot. 

My flashes and triggers are key to this project's success. Without them, I'll only have a silhouetted hole in the sky. With them you get a glimpse of what makes these machines fly; an instant connection to the human element of man made flight. But what I didn't know was how they'd work, or even if they'd work, in a helicopter, with me on the ground, 150' away. 

 The front flash with a 1/8 inch grid spot

The flash on the dashboard and one in the rear console

Several months ago the helicopter here was giving rides, and with this project in mind I handed a flash to a passenger so they could tell me if it worked, while I triggered it from the ground . It did, and from longer-than-needed distances too. No time for shooting that day, and the helicopter would not be back for three months, so there was time enough to plan.

The heli returned last week, but with hectic schedules the shoot actually happened two days behind schedule and rather last minute on the actual day. 

Mark and I got to hangar at about 5pm, pushing the time envelope. I wanted the sun setting with dramatic skies, but we still needed to mount the flashes and test the lighting levels. With one flash strapped in the rear of the cockpit, the challenge was finding a place for the front flash that will light Mark's face. We finally landed on duct taping it to the dashboard, and covering the duct tape with black electrical tape to keep the grey tape from showing in the final image. In less than 20 exposures, with the lighting balanced, it was time to fly. 

Adjusting the lighting levels on the ground- free! During flying- $$$$

Mark's altitude was a low 60', just enough to clear buildings that I did not want in the frame. Not wanting to see the underbelly, I asked, that on my cue, he'd pitch forward and fly straight at me while I shot. With the cameras AF on tracking-mode, this worked out remarkably well. The first go around made me realize just how close I was to the helicopter, and more importantly, the blades. A safe distance I'm sure, but closer than I am used to. It was a sticky west African night, but the rotor wash kept me quite comfortable.

The first few runs were practice, but with Mark and I talking via radio we quickly got synced and I am very pleased with how the images turned out.

Mark Spangler flies the SIL helicopter in the northwest of Cameroon, ferrying translators to and from their village allocation which has extremely bad roads. In fact, these translators don't even own vehicles and rely solely on the helicopter.

Storm over Yaoundé

Another of my images being used for the weekly Inspiring Image

A caNdu attitude

Ok, it's a goofy title, I need some caffeine. But another of my images from Ndu, Cameroon is being featured on the weekly Inspiring Image. It highlights Joseph Nkwelle, who really does have a can-do attitude when it comes to translating the Word of God.

Aug 11, 2015

Unseen fruit

I was recently asked, "How do you see God working in your service?" And though I have confidence that God led me to this work and that my skills are needed, my response is a bit unsatisfying. You see, when I was working in construction and maintenance it was easier to know how God was working because I could immediately see that my work benefited those who needed my skills. At least in part I measured whether God was using my work, in how my service benefited others.

A favorite image from Kenya and part of the Faces of Worship series I am working on

But working in communications it's a bit more difficult. Yes, I make lots of photos, a little video and help write stories to document Bible translation and it's impact on people and cultures. But just how they impact the viewer, is something I may never know.

So, my response: I work by faith that God is using me not only so the global church may see what He is doing in Bible translation, but that they also may get involved.

Yet, I am unsatisfied. Because I may never know to what extent my work brings these things about. I remember stories and photos that were instrumental in my own involvement in missions, but the author or photographers never knew it. Perhaps I can understand, at least in measure, what Abraham went through having never seen the fulfillment of the promises which he believed in.

But I am encouraged. I just learned that one of my images and text is now on the Wycliffe Slovakia website. I didn't even know there is Wycliffe Slovakia. So I am pleased to see a glimpse of people who see value in my work and are using it, especially in a place I didn't know existed. How are the viewers impacted? Well, I'll just have to leave the results to Him.

Jul 20, 2015

Mercy inspires

One of my images from Kenya was used recently for the weekly Inspiring Image.

Jun 5, 2015

A Place for Everyone

In March I was in Kenya for two weeks on a story gathering trip, and one of the stories is now published. You can read it here.

Jun 3, 2015

Developing Deep Roots in Scripture

Last year I spent a week in the north of Cameroon photographing and interviewing students and faculty at the Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary, about their Bible translation degree program. The story, written by my colleague, has now been published. You can read it here.

Apr 1, 2015

Want vs Need

One place that my images are used is the Inspiring Image section of Many people contribute to this, but this month mine is featured and is about Joseph Nkwelle, a student at the Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary here in the northwest of Cameroon who is on his way to working in Bible translation. You can see the entry here.

Mar 13, 2015

The return of an old foe

I'm all for bringing home a few artifacts from my last two weeks in Kenya, and I did manage to bring some coffee for Joy and I and a few small trinkets for the kids. But malaria is one I'd rather have left behind. I had been malaria free for over 12 years. Back then they did not have these really cool home test kits which make it so much quicker to get the results. 

Mar 10, 2015

A Good Day

Fetching water from our backup water barrel 

I told someone here recently, "Hey, we have water and electricity today, it's a good day!" But then I had to think, 'is that really what makes a good day?'

It really shouldn't for a believer. It's easy for me to get my eyes fixed on my comfort, on what makes life convenient for me. And for sure, that would be flowing water, the ability to wash my family's clothes, to have a fan on when it's hot and internet to stay connected to people far away. 

But this life generally isn't going to be like that. "In this world, you will have tribulation!" It doesn't get much clearer than that. "But take heart, I have overcome the world!" I can have victory, peace and even joy because God has already won the ultimate battle. I know the end of the story, and it's good!

~ Joy

Slone opening a birthday present by emergency lantern