aerial photography, aerial view, blog, Capture One, editorial photography, Equipment

Ethiopian Coptic Priests for Departures Magazine

Rock Church in the Gheralta Mountains of Ethiopia | Priest on the right is over 100 years of age

Archive: December 2010 shoot for Departures Magazine.

One of my favorite shoots from my career. Susan White, the former Director of Photography for Vanity Fair recommended me to Departures Magazine for this shoot on helicopter safari’s in Africa. The magazine needed someone equally as strong in portraits as aerials. (up to that point, I had only shot aerials for Vanity Fair, so I was pleased that Susan knew of my portrait work.)

The writer, the wonderful Sophy Roberts had worked with helicopter pilot extraordinaire, Ben Simpson of Tropic Air in Kenya before and had arranged for us to fly over Northern Ethiopia and the Danakil Depression after Ben finished up a private charter.

Ben conducting pre-flight checks of the A-Star B350 with help from an employee of the Gheralta Lodge.

While waiting for Ben to complete his charter flights, Sophy and I along with a guide went to visit two Coptic Priests who lived in a church hewn from the side of a mountain, 1000 feet above the valley below.

Sophy Roberts, our guide and our tag-along helpers
On the path to the Church

Not a tough climb, except I had my ThinkTank backpack stuffed with Nikon D3s bodies and several zoom lenses. Once we made it to the church, I instantly wished I had brought my fast primes with me rather than the zooms. Always good to challenge myself.

While the D3s was pretty decent at higher ISO and low-light, we are still talking about the interior of a church that was dug into the side of a mountain with rock windows. I processed these files in the newest version of Capture One Pro and am quite amazed at how much more detail I can pull out of the files compared to when I originally processed the images.

There were two rooms cut into the mountains. This one was for sleeping and studying.
Coptic Christian Church Bible
Entrance to the church
Where the priest stands for sermons
The senior priest, who was blind but knew we were there.
The valley below. Notice the church in the lower left-hand side of the frame.