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Today was my last proper day of class and the lucky beans are back on the sidewalks. There is one more assignment to be handed in – a whale-esque 5,000 word nonfiction piece – but barring some intervention from the gods of unanticipated disasters, I can get to call myself a journalist in a couple of months and a graduation ceremony. If there are two things that the course has taught me in the last year it’s that I deeply, absolutely do not want to be a reporter, and that I really do love finding and telling stories about things. With the journey to Gulu around 32 days away, I have been gearing up to get the most out of the visit.

Unlike gear shopping ahead of the Cape to Cairo adventure of last year, this time I have access to the university’s journalism department A/V store. Imagine a school tuckshop, but jammed to absolute capacity with the coolest of audiovisual toys. Canon lenses, broadcast-quality recording thingamajigs, HD camcorders, devices whose purpose I cannot divine, but which come in important-looking steel cases. It’s Willy Wonka’s cave of technological delights. It’s also afforded me the rare and special opportunity to actually try things like sound recorders out first hand to see how well they performed. Internet shopping is great for obsessing over technical details until you go blind, but there is nothing like getting to hold and try out things for yourself to help you make decisions. Decisions which have now been made and (mostly) arrived in parcels to this little corner of the world.

Keeping a Record

One improvement over Cape to Cairo is that I will be taking a sound recorder this time. Video is cool and all, but setting up or pulling out a video camera can be far more intrusive than a simple voice recorder. Voice recorders are also damn handy for capturing interviews better than you ever would with a pen and paper, without the awkwardness of filming a person. The resulting files can then be used as sound for soundslides, notes for writing stories off of, and even as a voiceover to other recorded video. Sound recorders, as they said… um… two decades ago, are the proverbial bomb.

Sound recorders, as they said… um… two decades ago, are the proverbial bomb.

In this case, and thanks to the A/V cave of audiological wonder, I opted for a Sony PCM-M10 and it’s accompanying furry hat wind screen thingy – which makes the device look like a mobile phone crossed with a troll doll. The device records 96KHz/24-bit sound straight to .wav and .mp3 and is build in a manner that suggests it could take a solid drop or two and still work fine. I’m hoping to use it to record everything from high quality ambient sound to interviews and voiceovers that can go with soundslide photostories. For readers, that will mean that you will be able to use headphones to get even more out of this blog.

Photography 2.0

I’ve been a little slack of late in putting new photos up on this blog, a pony that I really need to saddle back up on. Life and studies have inserted themselves more than a little in the way of photography in the last couple of months. Further, I did myself no favours leaving my camera set to jpeg-only shooting when going out to cover the karretjiesmense with Tom – making after-shoot corrections a real pain in the ass. Tom pretty much started his photojourn career this year and blows my pics out the water already. You can click his name above to see some of his work yourself, and verify that I am not hyperbolising this. Though hyperbolising can be fun. Just like digression. But I… um… never mind. Tom will be coming with to Gulu, which will make for fun travelling and the opportunity to push ourselves photographically with some good natured competition – the results of which will doubtless manifest on these pages in a little over a month. With sound (see above)

She is a Canon 60D and she arrives, with a little luck, sometime shortly before you are likely to read this.

I want  to up my photographic game considerably on this trip, including packing some  faster, sharper lenses that I had travelling from Cape to Cairo. The Pentax range, though it pains me to admit it, is much weaker on the upper end of its cameras and lenses than the likes of Canon or Nikon, which has made a platform swap inevitable. I’ll still be taking my trusty Pentax to Uganda, because it’s always useful to have a backup and because I really like the 70-300mm zoom on it. But I’ve invested in a mistress in the meanwhile. She is a Canon 60D and she arrives, with a little luck, sometime shortly before you are likely to read this. The 60D has all of the processing internals of its much-admired 7D sibling, but eschews the magnesium alloy body for polycarbonate and CF cards for SD cards. Both of which I will be able to survive without. With it comes the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM lens. It’s the first truly professional lens I have ever owned and I’m looking forward to seeing what it can do. It’s meant to be superbly sharp, and fast, and able to summon angels to improve lighting. Or something.

The opportunity to push my boundaries as a photojournalist this December is something I am hoping to make the absolute most of, and have tried to tool-up as appropriately as possible for. It will hopefully make for even more visual richness on these pages – failing which, I will revert back to increased wit in the passages that surround the images in an effort to distract you, dear reader.

The rest of the Uganda kit will remain much the same as from the last adventure. The noble little netbook, the removable hard drive and the comfy, water-resistant bag to store it all. Beyond this, organising pushes forward apace tomorrow morning, with Tom and I contacting a good few dozen NGOs to ask for interviews and the opportunity to tag along and see what they get up to in a day. Soon we may even have a place to stay.