Today I continued with the fish work, and spent a little time with the macro invertebrates team since we are all in the same camp now. It poured rain at one point, which was great because it solved my problem of needing clean water for the fish tank!
I had great success with the killifish today. We are not sure of the species yet, so we have to send the photos off to an expert. Identification will probably focus on the colors of the fish because they all basically look alike in form.
I photographed the fish team, well…fishing. It happened to be at a pretty spot, which is always helpful. The entire time we heard a hippo grunting nearby so I know where to go to find a hippo later!
A side note: fish are complicated. I took photos of a few of the same species and they were pretty dull. Now that they’re in a bigger tank with more friends, they all have a pretty stripe on their side. It just shows that appearances are not always what they seem.
We took the boat to Mouloundo this time, it’s an incredibly nice trip. Mangroves line the sides of the river and we saw tons of birds. Once we were up stream a bit the water turned into the deep black that is common for a forest river in west Africa. The river is not more than two kilometers from camp, I didn’t realize it was so close; closer then the ocean. Yve had a device to check the depth of the river and it was less than a meter deep at spots! During the dry season parts of the river must dry up, at the same time the tides come in the river every day, even as far inland as our camp, so it is a really dynamic place.
We had a gorgeous sunset the night before in Gamba.
The work with the fish team has started with Eve, Antoine, and Jean. They have been here longer then I have, so we have a little backlog of fish to photograph. We are in the Smithsonian Lab now, they need the microscopes and I need the fish tanks for the live fish, though we are just moving through the dead specimens at the moment. I wanted to get the hang of the studio work before I dived into the live fish… I doubt they will be cooperative subjects.
Good ole black velvet. Personally I like the environment in the background, but dead fish don’t lend themselves to such work! This is also not all about beautiful photos, at its heart I am documenting this place and the work of the scientists.
I had no idea I would be burning through so many batteries with the studio work, now that I do, I thank whoever created rechargeable batteries.
Now, the *live* fish really gave me a workout. I don’t have a piece of glass to pin them behind in the fish tank, so it’s tedious work since I can’t limit their movement. It’s like shooting monkeys in a barrel. Plus the fish tank is not that clean, even through I scrubbed it. I’ll just end up doing clean up on the images in post to make sure the background is all black.
This was the last day of the Wasmannia study. Alfonso is heading back home and Tobi needed to get ready for the amphibian part of the project, while I needed to do some paperwork in Gamba and start the fish work, so around lunchtime we all headed back to Gamba. The path back to Gamba was a wet one, and included a boat ride for people and a separate boat for trucks. Both sides of the study area are protected by a river.
The truck ferry broke down so the people boat had to pull the truck ferry, quite the sight. Once we landed on the other side it started to pour rain, so we made it just in time.
I almost forgot the cool insect finds of the day. First, I saw ants that milk their “cow” and protect it/cage it with sand; for round two I will have my flash with me. Next was an awesome grasshopper with great cameo that Alfonso spotted.
The second day of wasmannia went well. We went to the far end of the study zone away from Gamba, towards the national road. We stopped at the end of the study area which is a ferry for trucks. You can understand the need for a road after a few days, we see about 8 cars a day, and its the only way to Gamba except for boat or air. The ferry fits one car and you have to pull it yourself! Thankfully there is a pulley to ease the work.
It was also the hottest day so far, the sun never hid in the clouds. And we had another amazing meal… freaking lamb!!! A first for me in a field camp.
We took a walk to the ocean, 2 km trip took about 3 hours, and the return was in the dark. We tromped through quite a few marshes, which sounds bad unless you look down and see all the different types of orchids. The beach looked like it did in Loango, big crashing waves and trash on the beach. So much plastic. There was also an illegal trawler fishing, close enough that we could see it, which is in the buffer, at least from what Tobi told me.
So far so good. I like how I am shooting video with the photos. I use it for scenes that will play out for me, it might work well with how I see. Especially with scientists who do the same methodological actions over and over again as they collect data.