I love shooting this kind of expedition work. Some parts, I follow by car but most of it is on foot. Hauling all my kit, constantly seeking fresh perspectives, sprinting ahead for head on clean shots or up the banks for an unmissable panoramic view. I just love it.
This expedition has been particularly special for cultural reasons. I’ve been based in the Middle East for 10 years, or longer if you count my childhood in Saudi yet encountering Arabic hospitality and tradition, at such close range is an absolute rarity. Cultural shows and hotel service, this is not, but rather true, authentic Arabic tradition.
This expedition has touched many Omani’s, those with family ties with Thesiger and those who just love the retelling of a great explorer’s story. The goat in the back of Sheikh Khaled’s car is a prime example; his grandfather spent time with Thesiger and is a great supporter of the expedition. On that same evening, he laid out a ceremonial dinner and cooked the goat in the traditional way. Other local (tribal) friends were invited along and all waited patiently, in true majilis style (based on hierarchy and in a circular fashion) around the campfire for Adrian, Saeed and Ghafan to hobble into camp. All were chatting with the usual Arabic animation, all dressed in local wear.
I guess it must have been tough on the boys who ended up being on their feet for 11 hours, exhausted, hungry, dirty and thirsty only to then find a delegation of twelve local tribesmen awaiting their arrival. A procession of formal greetings was followed by much sitting and talking. All were so very curious about the expedition and the incredible ambience and beautiful, authentic setting made the perfect backdrop for conversation. Finally, two hours on, after seeing, smelling and hearing the food for what seemed like an age, came time to eat. Adrian must have felt like a boy in a candy store! Halfway through the evening, a second dinner invite followed, a further five kilometers down the wadi. The expedition required an average of 35km a day however so a diplomatic solution was swiftly found … dinner became breakfast … and breakfast constituted goat brains. Awesome!
Leaving Adrian, Saeed and Ghafan the following morning was tough but they looked strong and were in good spirits. One hell of a long journey lies ahead of them, one that they will make I have no doubt but the questions that remain are how and when. I know for sure that I’m keen to come back and shoot more.
I’m still going through my images having shot around 10,000 frames in four days. There is so much to shoot, a story on every corner involving great people, great faces and real, authentic tradition.
An upshot about local gigs like these is that all my kit goes in the car, hence my long wheel base Defender. I used it all; my standard wide and zoom set-up for all day-to-day action and documentary, my lovely 400m sports lens to isolate the action and capture the watery roads, my gelled, off camera flash around the campfire. A Profoto battery powered my studio heads and a beauty dish was used for portraits at sunset. My favourite 50m f1,2 lens proved perfect for both ambient lit portraits and studio lit portraits at f2,0 during midday sun. Waterproofs came along on the trekking stages but thankfully stayed in the bag.
Although some of the imagery moves away from the original Wilfred Thesiger photography style, it would be a real shame not to shoot it. I see it as supplementing tons of original footage with some wicked creative stuff thrown in for good measure. Let’s see how the journey continues but I’m fast gearing up for an exhibition at the end of this. Fingers crossed …