Using fire to clear bush prevents major fires while encouraging fresh growth for grazing animals but can quickly get out of hand, as seen here in the Alantika Mountains. The Koma people fled into this remote area on the border of Cameroon and Nigeria to escape colonial-era tax collectors.
Cameroon – Photo Tip

How I photographed a dangerous bushfire in Cameroon

Photo by Aldo Pavan

Cameroon – Photo Tip How I photographed a dangerous bushfire in Cameroon

I am interested in photographing tribal people in remote areas. A long hike took me to a corner of northern Cameroon, on the border with Nigeria, where the Koma people live.

Aldo Pavan
Aldo Pavan Travel Photographer

The Koma people are a hill-dwelling ethnic group. They use fire to clear bushes, which helps prevent major fires while encouraging fresh growth for grazing animals. But it can quickly get out of hand.

When a sudden fire broke out that was about to envelop the Koma huts, the entire village raced to stop it. Everybody knew exactly what to do, and I concentrated on documenting the spectacle. I got my camera out and chose a shot that emphasized the silhouette of two people. By leaning against a tree, I was able to use a long exposure (1/15 sec) that allowed a light trail to give the effect of movement.

Koma women, who wear only a skirt of leaves, love smoking tobacco and I shot this photo (below) to show the custom. To give greater effect to the image, I waited for a woman to come out of her hut. I knelt down to capture her silhouette and especially her pipe.

A 105mm lens helped isolate her from the background and I underexposed a bit to keep some light on her eye and cheek.

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Almost all the women of the Koma in the Alantika Mountains smoke pipes, using a mix of tobacco and marijuana. In northern Cameroon, many peasant farmers derive most of their income from cannabis, which was introduced by the Portuguese in the 15th century. Photo by Aldo Pavan / Alamy

Aldo Pavan

Aldo Pavan

Agency
Alamy

Almost all the women of the Koma in the Alantika Mountains smoke pipes, using a mix of tobacco and marijuana. In northern Cameroon, many peasant farmers derive most of their income from cannabis, which was introduced by the Portuguese in the 15th century.

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