Yeah…that was a great movie. Except that the part where they got lost in the forest of giant grass blades known as their lawn and then were chased by the monster ants…and then the lawnmower!….that was all a bit scary. Now that that flashback is over..on to the real story of this blog post.

A Generator salesman’s paradise

Well, first one more quick tangent (I heart tangents and the use of parenthesis, as you will see in this proceeding awesome paragraph) as I sit here in a coffee shop and write this to the gentle hum of power generators. Tanzania is a great country with a lot of unrealized potential – and one of the things that is really holding it back at the moment is the power infrastructure. Since May the country has been regularly plunged into darkness as Tanesco (the state owned power company) makes increasingly regular power cuts as it cannot keep up with Tanzania’s modest demands (only 14% of the population is connected to the power grid). They blame it on the low water levels at the hydroelectric dams because of the East Africa drought (power cuts is a problem put in perspective of course next too the drought and famine currently occurring in our neighbors to the north) – but it really just comes down to poor planning/governance/corruption/accountability that have prevented the country from building the right infrastructure.

For the past few weeks it has been between 12-18 hours a day (you start to lose count sitting in dark) without electricity. As my place this year does not have a generator – I find myself pretty regularly reading my my cellphone light (can I use this lack of electricity as a good excuse for not updating this blog more often?). Anyways, with no rains in the weather report until September/October and the situation only getting worse (there are vicious rumours floating of 6 day a week total blackouts), the economy being seriously affected,  and things getting more heated politically – it will be an interesting time (you might even say dark times ahead) to see how the wananachi (citizens) react.

Macro-size your life

When back home last summer for my  break inbetween my two contracts here with MEDA Tanzania I bought a 100mm macro-lens for my camera. I  figured that if ever there was a good place to be for taking pictures of insects, flowers, odd bugs, and generally weird tiny things – Tanzania would be the place to do it.

How is this guy for creepy, crawly? While I haven’t made as much use of the lens as I might have liked due to its general heaviness and the not wanting to slow down travel companions with the extra-time and set-up that macro-photos can sometime take – Tanzania continues to provide plenty of ready and willing subjects

So – join me on a macro-photo tour of some of my favourite photos taken with this lens! Here – nice shades and the texture of the iron and wood help to show its age in this shot

Many of these photos were takenduring a weekend trip to the Amani Nature Reserve about 3 hours north of Dar es Salaam.   This area of the Eastern Usambara mountains is known as the “Galapagos islands” of bio-diversity in East Africa and offers rich rainforest environments full of weird and wonderful things.

Somewhere in the hills outside Amani Nature Reserve there is a butterfly sanctuary that supports some local families where you can come see a wide range of beautiful butterflies and in fact get remarkably close up as this guy let me do.

I liked this photo for the vibrant colours and also the nice shapes of the flower in a row going out of focus. I am definitely still learning to use take macro-photos and don’t really ever use a tripod which can be pretty key to getting steady pictures that are sharp in focus – but so far so good for the recreational use.

Almost stepped on this guy while hiking around – maybe you think he looks big here because of the macro-lens – but I assure you he was actually a pretty huge bug at least 2.5 inches long. Check out the red eyes!

Random shot here but thought it was a nice break from the flora and fauna. Soda bottles sitting in a basket offered some options for practicing with my new lens

This is a definite favourite shot of mine. The detail worked out pretty well so that you can see the pollen and the star-shaped yellow fits perfectly into the top-right corner of the picture and the pink and yellow just explode out from there.

Got pretty lucky that the shutter setting managed to nicely capture the motion of the wings while freezing the rest of the body so that you can see the nice wing colours.

So I am clearly not a botanist – and I have no idea what most of these flowers are called. I am trying to think of better word than just saying “flower” in every description but failing so far…

Aha! Bamboo – I know the name of something finally.The greens and yellows of the bamboo trunk made for some nice patterns and the tiny hairs on the trunk were also a cool focal point as well.

I really, really like this photo! It was taken in a restaurant garden in Burundi during a daytrip into the countryside.  The ‘flower’ buds are exploding out at you and about to burst!

Aha, Would you believe it? – I actually know a flower name shown here – the rare East African violet! I was lucky to find some in bloom when I went and they didn’t disappoint with their dark violet with flecks of silver shine colour. In fact, some flower enthusiasts come from across the world for special trips just to see this beauty in bloom.

Well, there you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed my Honey, I shrunk the kids inspired tour of this corner of the world through a macro-lens. There’s another whole world of detail down there – hope to have more to share with you another day!

Cheers,
Dan