Heidi, a photographer goes to photograph and get information on the Somali pirates.
Wowee, Africa is hot. I’m here on one of my ‘holidays’, but my holidays are not lounging around on beaches or beside pools like many peoples are. I’m here to take pictures; that’s my job. I’m an unofficial photographer for the National Geographic and hopefully I always will be. Although I’m not an official photographer, they use a lot of my work and I receive notices from them on the upcoming subjects of the magazine. The topic which I am going to be photographing on this particular holiday is the pirates on the east coast in Somalia, Africa, which is maybe not the ‘Oh, look at these pretty flowers’ sort of topic which all of my friends think I do when I say photography is my job, but I enjoy it and I especially enjoy the sights I get to see along the way.
My family encourage me in my work as much as they can. I have a younger sister, Abigail – or Abby as she prefers to be called – who’s fifteen now and will be taking her GCSEs soon. My mum is called Lexi and my dad is Robert. They live on Anglesey in a tiny town which was my own hometown since about two years ago too. I moved to a tiny flat on the mainland in Wales when I was eighteen but I’m hardly ever there and the elderly lady I rent it off is kind and charges me a very low price which I am incredibly grateful for. She says she doesn’t use it as a major source of income, it just provides for her little ‘nest egg’ as she calls it. When I do come and stay in the flat I always make sure I give her something unusual from where I’ve been and some of my photographs which she loves to look at. She’s got several of them framed which warms my heart.
Our family isn’t Welsh, we just moved there when I was little and Abby wasn’t even born. It’s quite funny actually; mum, dad and I all speak with our Northern English accent which was where we came from to begin with, but Abby has a definite Welsh accent because this is where she has lived for all her life. I love her lilting accent and when she offers to read her coursework aloud we always accept, partly to hear what she’s written and to comment but also just to listen to her voice, soothing and relaxing after a tiring day.
We moved when I was about eight. It didn’t trouble me much as I didn’t particularly have any special friends to leave behind, just the usual class mates that got invited to tea about twice a year. It was hard to leave Nana and Gramps though. But it was fine in the end because when they retired they sold their little town house and bought a cottage on the coast of Anglesey, close by to us. It was when I was visiting them that I realised I wanted to be a photographer. In was about twelve and I loved the views from their cottage windows and when I walked along the beach I couldn’t take my eyes off the colours and shapes of the sea. Abby, mum, dad and my grandparents don’t like me going away that much because they don’t get to see me very often but they say that as long as I’m enjoying it they can be happy themselves.
I am quite a lone wolf in my friendship group because of my job. I mean, I am always welcomed and my friends love me as I do them, but all the same I am, to a certain extent, alone. I don’t resent my job in the least, I love it, and most people would say ‘What are you complaining about? Are you stuck in an office? Or in a job you don’t like? No!’ and I agree with them heartily but still, a friend would be nice on one of these trips. This is why – when she has come back from buying provisions that is – I have dragged along Pip. She is lively, bright and just generally happy wherever she is and whatever she’s doing, which is perfect for accompanying me because I do go to bizarre places in the search for the right snapshot.
Ah, here she is now.
“Goodness, Pip! What on earth have you got in there? Rocks?” I exclaimed, surprised.
She was holding three large cotton bags that were bulging at the seams, filled to the brims with all sorts of local foods and ingredients that she would later experiment with in the kitchen where we were staying, no doubt. The last time she did something like that we got a letter of complaint from the self-catering company grumbling at us because of the state that the kitchen had been left in. We won’t be welcome there again!
“Well, we want to be prepared don’t we, Heidi?” she said defensively, hefting the big bags to a more comfortable position, “and besides, they had these delicious looking–“
“Right, ok! Its fine, we’ll deal with it later,” I said hastily before she could start a speech about the food available and what she can do with certain ingredients. I tell you, she may never stop speaking but she is the most fabulous cook I have ever known. She was still perusing through the market stalls whilst we were standing here.
“Pip, we really need to get going. Do you want to miss the coach out?” I said, exasperatedly.
“But look at this! They’re selling cinnamon tea! Oh please, Heidi, just this one item? I won’t ask for anymore after this one, I promise,” Pip pleaded.
I looked at her watch. “Quickly then.”
She laughed at me, put her bags down, and ran towards a stall where a man was advertising his wares, shouting above the din of the marketplace to make himself heard. Pip danced from foot to foot as she waited for him to measure out the tea into a little hemp draw-string bag. The man told Pip the price but above the noise of the market, I could not hear it. I hope it won’t be too much as we still needed money to pay the guide that we will be having when we reached Hobyo on the coast which was about 500 or so miles from the capital, Mogadishu, which was where Pip and I were now. I know I’m being silly; one cup of tea isn’t going to use up all the holiday money. I saw Pip shake her head and argue with the man. I smiled to myself. Just like Pip to barter for a little bag of tea; she loved getting her own way and she always did all she could to make sure she got the result she wanted. Pip, her haggling now over and done, rushed over to me smiling with self satisfaction.
“I got a third off. He wasn’t pleased but he agreed.”
I laughed. I knew exactly how strong Pip’s powers off persuasion were. She’d once had me dragging myself through a cookery ingredients shop for two hours with her – two hours! – because she needed to find the precise herb that was in a recipe she wanted to try.
As we walked further into the city centre it got busier and even more attention-grabbing and strange wares were offered to us. If I hadn’t reined Pip in – figuratively – and linked her arm in mine, I truly believe she would have bought every single thing that was in view. As it was we managed to reach the rail station in good time without damaged goods; also known as Pip’s humungous bags. It was an utter miracle they survived intact, in my opinion. The train was in the station when we arrived and the luggage of the passengers was being lugged aboard. I had sent our suitcases ahead of us so hopefully they were on the train by now, or soon will be. I have not sent my camera ahead; I will not be parted from my camera, ever. It is my most prized possession. It’s a Canon EOS Mark II; a 21 megapixel, Digital SLR camera and one of the best in the field. I never let it out of my sight when I’m out with it because I am paranoid about losing it or it being stolen.
I got my Canon EOS for my 18th birthday, which was two years ago now and I love it. I can take all sorts of photographs with it: action shots, still shots, portraits, film, low light and so many more it took me about a year of fiddling with the buttons and reading the instructions to know the full extent of what it can do.
“Heidi? We have to get on now it’ll be leaving in about ten minutes.”
Pip’s voice pulled me back from my little daydream and we walked towards an empty carriage near the back.
“I’m just going to check our luggage; won’t be a minute,” I called, jogging over to the men lifting the bags and suitcases onto the baggage section of the train. Taking care not to get in the way of the workers, I peered inside the baggage hold, and saw our bags. Content that the bags were aboard I stepped back; straight onto someone’s foot.
I jumped in surprise, clutching my camera bag to my hip, and spun around.
“Oops, sorry,” said a grinning man behind me, “I didn’t realize I was so close.”
His blue eyes were amused and laughing at me. I coloured a deep red.
“Sorry… I should have looked. I was just looking for my bag. It’s there so… yes; I’ll just go to the carriage.”
I hate being laughed at and it makes me angry if no-one takes me seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I can have a laugh and a joke, but if somebody doesn’t believe in me I am determined to prove them wrong and show them that I–
As I looked down avoiding his laughing eyes and going to turn towards the carriage, my gaze caught a shoulder bag, similar to mine.
“Are you a photographer too then?” I asked, but already knowing the answer.
He looked at his own bag and then mine.
“Oh yes, I’m down here on a little business venture. Something to fill the pockets, you know? I’m David. Who are you? And what are you doing down here then?” he inquired.
I thought quickly.
“I’m Heidi, and I’m doing a major article piece for the National Geographic. I’m their official photographer.” I lied, wincing; wondering if that was going too far.
His eyes flickered with interest when I said my name.
“Really? What subject are you doing down here? It can’t be the Somalia pirates; I know the man who is writing the article for it next month.”
“Well, of course–” I began, but then the whistle went for boarding. Thank goodness! The photographer checked his watch and took a quick look at a carriage window up to his left. I looked too, attempting to see who he was looking at. A local-looking man with dark eyes and a serious face glanced away. I shivered. His eyes looked like a shark’s – predatory and menacing. I had seen plenty of sharks on a photography trip for the National Geographic, and ever since that I have tried to avoid photograph trips which involved those eyes.
“Well I’ll see you around maybe. Hobyo is a small place after all.” He said, winking. “You will have to show me your little pictures one time.”
I gritted my teeth. Little pictures? Little pictures?! How dare he! Ok, maybe I wasn’t the number one photographer and I don’t want to sing my own praises but I took pretty decent if not excellent pictures. How dare he say ‘your little pictures’?
“Maybe, maybe not.” I growled, and stalked off towards the carriage. I could hear him laughing behind me at my indignation.
Inside the train, I saw Pip waiting for me, saving me a seat.