Journey to Omo Valley of Ethiopia

A year in the making, and with thanks to the efforts of Nicky at Eyes on Africa, I have built a nearly perfect photography adventure to photograph the seldom visited tribes of the Omo Valley. An adventure totally focused on capturing these tribes and limited to only four clients. Bring back images that are seldom seen of tribes that may soon be lost forever.

Dark skin, white body paint from ashes, light breaking through the clouds in the sky - talk about the need to balance light, so it’s manual mode to the rescue.

To attain this look, I calculated the exposure that I wanted to achieve to manage the background, then began to work on the strobe power until I arrived at this balance (only took two shots).

I created some deep shadows by moving the strobe approximately 120 degrees off to the right of the camera. This angle picked up only a few highlights on the right side of the warrior’s head. While the left arm was nearly over-exposed, his face was spot-on with just a slight accent of light on his forehead. Dark skin with perspiration will almost always give way to specular highlights that have to be managed. It is all about balance and what you are trying to achieve.

For this shot, I wanted depth, a gradual flow from dark to light, while not losing focus on the stoic and somber look of the warrior as he stared into the distance. I also made sure that I caught both of his eyes.

Photo Tip: It is rumored that the eyes are the gateway to the soul. When photographing people, it is critical that both eyes are tack sharp – there is simply no room for error here.

Nikon D810, 70-200mm Nikon f/2.8 @ 82mm, ISO 100, f/6.3 at 1/250 sec, Profoto B1 with native reflector, approximately 100-120 degrees to camera right.