THAMBO – The Malawian skies 4K

Căutăm, de multe ori, să ajungem în niște locuri exotice, pentru a vedea ceva diferit de ceea ce vedem de zi cu zi. Dar sunt și acei oameni care caută să vadă aceleași lucruri ca acasă, dar printr-o altă perspectivă. Un cer african, în 4K!

“As I was accompanying a group of students from Odsherred Efterskole, Denmark on a trip to Malawi for a week, I took advantage of the little time off I had to take some pictures. In cooperation with Francis Botha, local citizen and employed at NGO Danish Church Aid, we toured the African country from South to North, helping me find diverse locations and scenes to best capture what I had in mind. 

Malawi is the fourth poorest and among the least-developed countries in the world, relying almost exclusively on agriculture. As the latter is dependent of the capricious and sensitive climate, the land regularly suffers from extremes: droughts or floods. In spite of the sadening conditions, Malawi has by far the most welcoming and warm-hearted people on Earth, hence their motto: ‘The warm heart of Africa’. No matter where we ended up, we would be acclaimed with vibrant and transcending chants. Local communities opened their hearts, their homes and shared the little food they had with us, while we remorsefully reminisced about the selfishness of western countries. 

The south-east African country has everything to offer, from its wildlife to its beautiful landscapes. However it has one thing that beats all and that made the subject of my shots: its skies. ‘THAMBO’, the title of my short film means ‘sky, clouds’ in Chichewa (central region and official language of Malawi). Malawi can now be renowned for its virtually pollution-free and dark skies, and possesses some incredible sky phenomena that can be witnessed year-round. From its orange sunsets or sunrise to its thunderstorms and incredible cloud formations over Lake Malawi, the country counts among the darkest places I have ever seen to observe the milky way and the night sky. Even downtown Lilongwe (the capital) and the moon cannot wash out the milky way entirely! Some of the shots were taken when we were in town, and you can see a bit of haze from light pollution, but that would never be possible in Europe or in the LA valley! Can you spot the following in the video: shooting stars, lightning, the Carina Nebula, rainbows, moon iridescence…

The films wasn’t that easy to put together either as I had to deal with a series of technical difficulties.
The muggy and wet season for starters. March marks the end of the rain season in the country but it has unusually sustained throughout April, which gives regular showers and condensation, which aren’t a photographer’s best friend.
The moon was between 50 and 95% full during the week, giving me only a few hours window to shoot at night, when the clouds weren’t showing of course! On the other hand, it enabled me to take cool moonlit scenes in the countryside.
Spare time: The goal of the trip was of course to accompany young Danish students on a charity trip, and it was a full-time job. I sacrificed a lot of precious healing hours of sleep to come to this result, as our schedule did not allow a lot of free time.
Battery and electricity: I brought a lot of batteries with me, but it wasn’t rare to spend 2-3 days without access to power, resulting in shorter time-lapse sequences with narrow intervals.
Wildlife: I only had a knife to defend myself in the Malawian night, so I didn’t stray too far from villages, where hyenas and other predators were roaming! Even half-wild dogs were aggressive and howling at me!

However it was a real pleasure and excitement to shoot the Malawian skies and the film features some of my best time-lapse scenes to date. I shot everything entirely with the Sony a7s to test its 4K time-lapse capabilities (only 12 mp). I’ll let you be the judge of the quality, but I’d say it is pretty impressive!

Fun facts about the video:
-7500 pictures taken
-25+ hours of shooting and 30 hours of post-processing
-Around 1500km road-trip on the Malawian roads (with a crazy driver!)
-thousand new friends made!

I want to thoroughly commend Mr. Francis Botha for his help, dedication and precious advice.

Thank you for watching. Don’t hesitate to like, comment, share and of course subscribe to my channel for more videos and tutorials coming soon!”