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We’re heading south from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, towards the diverse tribal groups that inhabit the Southern Omo Valley region.

It’s about a 14 hour journey and I’m madly processing images from the northern leg of the trip in the back of the car so I can hand everything over to the tourism authority before I leave in about a weeks time.
As I posted, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela have been a highlight, as was walking with the baboons on the Simien mountains, but I’ve been particularly looking forward to the next week given my interest in tribal cultures.
In the meantime, there’s been a thousand pic opportunities to keep me entertained during the journey. This one (above) was fun, captured at one of the roadside Ethiopian coffee bars we pulled into along the way.

PRIEST BAW

Gods calling

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cross

Try and get your mind around this. A massive church, not built from the ground up, but freed from solid rock and carved – every column, every step and every window – from the surface down.

I’m at Lalibela, in northern Ethiopia, the site of the world heritage listed precinct of some of the most amazing churches on earth. Twenty four years they took to carve, back in the 12th century – their creators chiseling 15 metres down before etching into the vertical body of rock to form the existing chasms of worship that are still used today.

Bet Gorgis (pictured above) would have to be one of my favourites, given its particularly distinctive roof replicating a Greek cross.

Anyway, I digress but I’ll return with images of the churches later as we attended a 3am mass this morning and I’m in need of a “nano-nap” before heading out again this afternoon.

In the meantime, I thought I’d post a few black and white images from the shoot so far to nurture my creative soul (…..there’s so many pictures to choose from).

Exhausting it may be scrambling to deliver a photo library of the highlights of the entire country to the national tourism authority in just 28 days but what an amazing country it is to photograph…..(and, truth be told, we’re not doing too badly).

I’ll post a best-of preview of some of the images at the end of the shoot.

Next Stop: Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa before heading south to the tribes of the Omo Valley (I’m very excited).

Inside Ura Kidane Maret monastery on Lake Tana

Inside Ura Kidane Maret monastery on Lake Tana

We’re moving quickly and this is the first chance I’ve had to access the internet so I thought I’d post a few pictures.

Here’s one I quite like (above) from an ancient lake monastery a days drive and a 15 minutes boat ride from the country’s capital, Addis Ababa.

And here’s a candid snap of the team – Daniel, my guide, and Getu, our driver – both a delight to travel with –  sharing a tea at a corner cafe overlooking the bastions of the castle of Gondor, referred to as the “Camelot of Ethiopia” (though, as the guidebooks point out, it really does exist).

Next Stop: The rock-hewn churches.

Daniel, my guide and Getu, our driver

Daniel, my guide and Getu, our driver

 

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Now this is an exceptional experience (above and below).

Having ascended 3200 metres to the top of Ethiopia’s Simien Mountain Range (thankfully by car), we joined more than 100 Gelada Baboons as they  migrated slowly across an alpine plateau. Largely oblivious to our presence, they made their way across a verdant plain, feeding on grass and preening themselves.

I wandered among them for about an hour in a cool mountain air tinged with the scent of wild Thyme, before rain clouds rolled in and ended the experience.

Tomorrow we head further into the country’s northern reaches.

As internet is erratic, I’ll look to post a few more images when I return to the capital, Addis Ababa, on the 20th before we head south to photograph the tribal cultures of the Omo Valley region.

What an amazing country.

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The Brief: you’ll be parachuted (figuratively speaking) into Ethiopia for 28 days to build a promotional photo library for the country’s national tourism authority. Setting off with a local guide, a driver and two guide books, you’ll be expected to travel the length and breadth of Ethiopia to photograph its tourism highlights.

Your Client: An international tourism consultancy based in England, engaged by The World Bank (you may remember meeting one of their directors – somewhat distraught – last year during a shoot as you drifted out to sea in a broken dinghy several hours from the tiny South Pacific island of Kiribati). You will be working directly with the country’s national tourism authority.

The Outcome: You’ll be expected to deliver a 300 strong image library which will be drawn from immediately to produce a new range of promotional collateral to market Ethiopia worldwide.

Hurdles: It’s the rainy season and the print deadline for the raft of publications you’ll be shooting for is two weeks after you complete the first of two 14 day assignments. And there’s the 24 hour flight that will deposit you at the  most exhausting end of the international dateline.

Working in your favour: You’ll have plenty of Ethiopian coffee to keep you going.

Ps: For a travel photographer, let me say, this has to be as good as it gets.