Friday, November 30, 2012

Focus On: Jomo Kenyata International Airport

Jomo Kenyata Airport in Nairobi, Kenya is the bane of my photographic existence. Okay, maybe not THE bane, maybe more like A bane. Or perhaps an annoyance. A minor one even. And I guess it is a relatively infrequent annoyance at that. But “Jomo Kenyata Airport is a minor, infrequent annoyance of my photographic existence" just doesn’t have same ring to it.

So, why is NBO a minor, infrequent annoyance of my photographic existence? Is it because the terminal is a hulking, seventies, brutalist monstrosity?

No. But it is that.

Is it because the ratio of duty free stores to restaurants is ‘the entire airport to one’?

No. But that is definitely the case.

It’s because the light and air quality at NBO - at least every time I’ve been there - are amazing.

But also because it’s a brutalist monstrosity.

Let me explain.

There aren’t any jetways when you deplane at NBO but - and this is unusual for an African airport - they don’t make you take a bus to get to the terminal. You simply walk along marked paths and then up and onto one of several pedestrian bridges and into the terminal. What this means is that you get to walk in the ramp area of a decently sized airport, which would be a pretty big photographic draw to me anyway. But - for some reason - it seems like every time I fly through NBO, I’m there either early morning or late afternoon - when the light is at its best. However...while I almost always have an SLR in my carry on bag, it’s always broken down. Furthermore, taking photos in airports (or any government facility; real, imagined, or otherwise)  in Africa can be a pretty adventuresome experience. Maybe NBO is cool with you breaking out the SLR and shooting away, but I've had enough experiences in Africa that I wasn't quite prepared to find out.

No problem you think, just shoot from inside terminal while waiting for your next flight. One issue with that. Remember how I said that NBO is a brutalist monstrosity? Well, if you try shooting from inside, this is the view you get:
Fly Kenya Airways IV

Yeah. Concrete pillars are just great. 

So, this was the view I was confronted with for years. Great light, interesting and colorful subjects, and no good way to shoot them. 

Unless maybe my equipment was the problem? DSLRs are great, but they do tend to draw attention to themselves. On the other hand, Point and Shoots don’t usually offer the image quality I want. 

Enter my new Fuji x100. Great camera all around, but my favorite feature is that looks about sixty years old. Whip that thing out on the tarmac and not only do you not get hassled, you get shots. 

Fly Kenya Airways V

Fly Kenya Airways III

Fly Kenya Airways I

My travels don’t seem to take me out to East Africa very much anymore, so I’m not sure when I’ll be getting back to NBO. But at least I was finally able to capture what I saw out there. 

But don’t get me wrong - it’s not like I’m saying I can die happy now or something. 

I mean, at most, it was a minor infrequent annoyance. 

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