Day Five (continued) – Portraits of the Hamer And An Oppressively Hot Murelle
by John Downey
Numb from the 100+ km off-road travel, we found our bearings in Turmi, a small crossroads between Jinka and South Omo. With plenty of daylight to spare, we turned northeast to Dimeka, a speck of a Hamer town that outlays handicraft wares on Sundays, drawing tourists from Turmi lodges.
The Hamer are one of the most distinct of all southern Omo tribal peoples, especially noted for ochre and butter-braided hair of the women and colorful beadware. This Hamer woman is married to her first husband, noted by the permanent two-pound iron and (clay?) neck ornament. She was selling local, raw tobacco, either for snuff or chewing. I was surprised at its strong but very pleasing fragrance and wish I had a pipe in my pack. The scene was strongly backlit, so exposing for the woman’s dark skin was a challenge – didn’t want to totally blow out background, so I lowered contrast, in camera and re-adjusted it for the midtones in post.
From Dimeka, we returned to Turmi and after 20 minutes of trying to find the road that leads West to Murelle (two different outdated maps and questions to four locals before we found it), we were in flat, beach-like sand, surrounded by four-meter termite mounds and scrub brush. After an hour, there was an abrupt descent downhill to Murelle Lodge, an overpriced outpost near the edge of the Omo River. It was after seven pm and a steamy 95 degrees.
At ten, the lodge staff shut off the generator and the place went pitch black. I walked out to an opening in the trees and had to go back and get Ji and Ella to check out the stars – no light pollution here. It’s one of those few places where you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye. Now here’s an image that would be tough to get with film without leaving the shutter open long enough to render the stars visible, yet as trails instead of spots. At full resolution, even at thirty seconds, the stars are a blur from the Earth’s spin. Employed in-camera and post-processed noise reduction at ISO 3200. There are some errant star-like dots in the black areas of the trees… think I need to call Canon.
Day six, we cross the Omo to visit a Karo tribe before punching North to Konso, which would be one of our most pleasant experiences on the trip yet (and very rewarding from a photographic perspective).