Author Archives: Adrien

[D+132] – More news from the Market

Bananas, sweet potatoes (and regular potatoes underneath)

More news from the Market. I’ve just came back from some new shopping adventures. I’m not going to extensively talk about prices, but here’s what I got for 5300 XAF (EUR 8.00 ; USD 10.00; or for José 140.5 pesos). I slightly haggled over the prices, but not so much :

I was about to mention I had paid 2000 XAF for the cab, and that it was half the price of my food, but I realized I am not sharing enough information on the town itself. I mean, did you know there were plenty of cabs in the streets, and that it’s common to use them ? Did I ever tell you where the market is ?

Oh boy! I am a bad blog writer !

I promise I will post very soon an article detailing how the life is organized here in Pointe-Noire. You will know everything !

Anyways, let’s get back to the Market. I’m not going to post great pictures from it : I had brought my camera with me and people were feeling very uncomfortable, which is totally understandable. It’s like you’re coming here for holidays, and ohhhhhhhh look! there is a market let’s take pictures of this attraction. That’s not what I’m thinking when taking pictures, but that’s how many people feel it.

However, during this first “visit” to one of the most active place in Pointe-Noire, I had taken a few pictures and I had shot a stolen video, from which I extracted some low-quality images. Sorry for the bad quality.

Oh and some people are eating caterpillars. It freaks me out but I think I will give them a try if they’re well-roasted…

Categories: Everyday life | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

That Glass Of Milk

That Glass Of Milk…

Oh boy ! That glass of milk !

I haven’t been getting any Calcium intake for four months. Except a little piece of cheese, twice. Oh man, when I realized this yesterday I immediately felt the lack of Calcium in my body, in my bones.

Cheese is too expensive – let’s drink MILK ! 990 XAF (a bit more than 1€) per milk carton : the price is good. I usually hate milk alone, but this glass was so tasty and invigorating. You have no idea.

“Bref, j’ai bu un verre de lait” (pun at the attention of my French ‘fellowers’).

Categories: Everyday life | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

[D+118] – Of the Price of Things (or : The Fish Story)

I went to the market this morning, for the third time since I have arrived in Congo. The more I buy stuffs over there, the more I realize how overpriced stuffs are in “expat shops”. I had decided to wait a bit before talking about money topics, but I’ve been living here for four months now and I think I have a decent overview of the price of Food. Here you go.

First, since I am lazy to convert each price in this article to their equivalent in Euros/US Dollars/Canadian Dollars/Yens/Whatever here is a little table giving you an idea of the rate between the “Francs CFA” (XAF – the Congolese Money), the Euros and the US Dollars (EUR 1 = USD 1.29).

XAF 50 100 655 1000 2000 5000 10000 20000
EUR 0,08 0,15 1,00 1,52 3,05 7,62 15,24 30,49
USD 0,10 0,20 1,29 1,97 3,93 9,83 19,67 39,33

There are many little shops in the town, but there are three main possibilities if you want to buy some food for your lunch :

  • Casino, which is a French supermarket brand ;
  • Park’n Shop, which is a bit similar to Casino but with a lower quality and higher prices (seriously, everyone tells you that Park’n Shop is cheaper but that’s definitely wrong) ;
  • The local market, where prices are much cheaper but where all the aliments are on wooden tables or even put on a cloth on the ground.

One may think : ” well let’s go the French supermarket !”

Good and bad idea. Good, because the quality is supposedly okay (I’m saying supposedly because it’s not always true). Bad, because everything is overpriced at a point you can’t imagine. People are buying Grapes at 10€ per kilogram (~$13) !! The worse quality products in the shop exceed the price of similar average-quality products in France. It’s pure non-sense, really. Of course, the petroleum industry brings a lot of money, but do I really have to buy things at a price that does not correspond to what I’m buying  ? Tomatoes at 5€ per kilo ? Or Nutella at 10€ for one jar ? Prices here do not mean anything ; the only “cheap” thing in my opinion is that you can buy a middle-sized roasted chicken for 3000 XAF (check the table above I said!).

After some time eating pasta and low-quality beef steaks, you end up going to the market. What I am usually planning to do is to buy vegetables at the market, and meat (well, steaks, because the rest is expensive) at the Casino. Indeed, seeing meat pieces on tables without any refrigerating system is rather revolting (you don’t believe me ? come check the smell around the market – that’s a fact, not a real negative feeling of course), but this time I thought I’d give it a try.

And I bought some (supposedly rather fresh) fishes…

Actually I had asked for two of them, but the price I had been told was for two “portions”. Anyways. But do you know how much I paid for these fishes ?

No ?

Okay the price at the Casino must be around 7000 XAF per kilogram for these fishes. Obviously I’ve got more than 1 kg of fish here. And I paid 400 XAF for these 9 fishes. I swear this is true. I haven’t tasted them so maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you “Bah, the fish story shall end here”, but they looked fresh especially since there was no flies around (there are PLENTY of flies in the market). By the way,

Along with that, I bought some Onions for 250 XAF, a Papaya and 13 bananas for 2000 XAF (at the Casino it would have been at least 10000 XAF I assume) and a of handful of strong red-to-green hot pepper for 50 XAF.

Total price : 2700 XAF.

On the way back, I stopped at the Casino because I still had to grab a few stuffs that I prefer buying there. I am not going to insist on the price differences, because they are obvious. Just check the prices on the picture.

What do you think ? Just leave a comment on this post to share your point of view…

Categories: Everyday life | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

[D+98] – “Chez Tonton Mack” – Part 4 : Some HDR Shots

[read part 1 here] [read part 2 here] [read part 3 here]

A fourth and last post about this marvellous week-end. I decided to compile in this last message a few photos I took and edited using the so-called HDR (High Dynamic Range) technique.

Basically, it consists in taking three similar photographs : a dark one, a normal one and a light one, and combining them on a software (for instance I am using Adobe Photoshop). It allows the creation of highly-satured, almost surrealistic and dynamically enhanced pictures.

Here are my attempts at this technique, which I am usually using for UrbEx stuffs.

Categories: Landscapes, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

[D+98] – “Chez Tonton Mack” – Part 3 : Dawn and Return

[read part 1 here] [read part 2 here]

I woke up very early (at  5:00am), partly because of storm lights outside. As I was afraid there could be spiders, I decided to get outside and shoot some sparks pictures, but there were a lot of clouds and due to the very low light my photographs turned out to be either a bit blurred or not interesting. Obviously I had not properly set the focus, and I feel a bit disappointed about this.

6:20 am
18mm - 1/6 - F/9 - ISO-400

I suddenly got the idea to make a quick fieldrecording, and walked a bit towards the woods in order to share with you the ambiance over there with an audio sample :

We were willing to swim again in the sea, but it started raining a lot around 9am, while we were eating the breakfast, so we started considering returning to Pointe-Noire earlier than expected. Indeed, we had already crossed big puddles on the road and we knew these puddles would have increased in size if the rain was not to stop (which eventually happened).

18mm - 1/50 - F/6.3 - ISO 400

Unfortunately there was not much things to do under this rain, so we stayed sheltered in the main grass hut, and I took a few other pictures I thought I would share with you (including the bed I slept on) :

18mm - 1/15 - F/5.6 - ISO 400

79mm - 1/100 - F/7.1 - ISO 400

214mm - 1/50 - F/5.6 - ISO 200

We eventually left around midday, because the rain was heavy and we were slightly afraid of the state of the track on the way back. Before leaving we ate a sea bass brought to us by one of the fishermen leaving here : how tasty it was !

As we were driving away from “Tonton Mack”, the rain stopped and I took a few new photographs from the magnificent landscape.

20mm - 1/800 - F/7.1 - ISO 400

146mm - 1/500 - F/7.1 - ISO 400

As I said, the puddles we had already seen had now become almost ponds. The 4×4 pickups sometimes had some difficulties to cross some of them, and at some point the water reached the level of the front headlights, which frightened us a bit.

When I thought I should take a picture of these deep puddles, the rain had started again so I only rapidly shot a photograph out of the window, so the focus is not perfect, but I feel forced to illustrate what I am talking about :

65mm - 1/80 - F/7.1 - ISO 400

220 photos later, we were back home and safe.

But this article series is not finished !! 

Tomorrow I will post a set of 5 HDR pictures, which correspond to my best attempt at the bracketing technique so far !

Oh, and now a little “guess what it is?” game…

Do you have any idea ? Just post it as a comment to this post !!

[read part 4 here]

Guess what it is...
250mm - 1/100 - F/6.3 - ISO 400

Categories: Landscapes, Nature | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

[D+97] – “Chez Tonton Mack” – Part 2 : Beach and Fire

[read part 1 here]

This place was really marvelous. I felt something I believe I had never felt that much strongly. Being almost alone and contemplating the exotic landscapes and seascape that Nature was offering us was mesmerizing, as if I was living ten thousand years ago. As if I was the first one to set foot on this part of the world. A sort of rustic yet almost initiatory, energy-filled context.

84mm - 1/800 - F/5.6 - ISO 200

116mm - 1/640 - F/7.1 - ISO 200

I know my pictures do not totally reveal it, but the seashore was surrounded by luxurious vegetation, alternating with a savanna-like environment. I don’t have decent pictures to show of this, but there were a few ponds with water-lily around our camp. We could also hear crickets noises in the tall grass nearby, as well as many birds tweeting.

84mm - 1/500 - F/7.1 - ISO 200

90mm - 1/500 - F/6.3 - ISO 200

135mm - 1/1000 - F/5.6 - ISO 200

After a good lunch in the shade of a sort of large grass hut under which had been put some tables, we eventually went to the sea and stayed there for almost the whole afternoon, playing in the big waves (once again my photographs do not exactly do justice to their size) as if we were still children.

Ousmane, Rémy and Rémi (yeah, two of them)
18mm - 1/250 - F/6.3 - ISO 200

Rémi, Marine and Julien
24mm - 1/1250 - F/6.3 - ISO 200

41mm - 1/2000 - F/6.3 - ISO 200

There was a lot of driftwood on the beach…

250mm - 1/1000 - F/8 - ISO 200

24mm - 1/1250 - F/6.3 - ISO 200

55mm - 1/640 - F/7.1 - ISO 200

…but also lots of crabs which were moving incredibly fast as we approached them. Hard to catch !!

250mm - 1/3200 - F/5.6 - ISO 200

250mm - 1/1600 - F/5.6 - ISO 200

55mm - 1/1000 - F/7.1 - ISO 200

Look at how great the landscape was ! Marvelous !

18mm - 1/800 - F/9 - ISO 200

18mm - 1/1000 - F/8 - ISO 200

As sun the was decreasing, we went back to the camp. Cocktail hour. On the picture below you can spot two Congolese beers : Mutzig (green bottles) and Turbo King (brown bottles). One day I’ll tell you more about them.

Pierrick and Julien talking about politics
32mm - 1/100 - F/5.6 - ISO 400

We went to the top of a nearby hill to watch the sunset, but unfortunately there were some clouds near the horizon line, so I couldn’t shoot the magma-like ball I was expecting.

29mm - 1/60 - F/6.3 - ISO 400

We had gathered some dry wood, and spent the night around a joyful fire (mostly mastered by Ousmane, thanks man!), eating chicken and potatoes. How great this was ! The ambiance was friendly and I assume we all spent a great moment talking on the beach like this.

27mm - 4" - F/8 - ISO 200

During the night, I recorded the sounds coming from one of the ponds I mentioned earlier. If anyone knows what kind of animal produces the melodic/rhythmic sound you can hear in the sample, I’m interested to know more about it…

Getting asleep was a bit hard for me because I was afraid there could be spiders, but luckily I did not see any of them !

Time for me to end this article… You’ll have to wait another day before reading part 3 !! Do share your feelings about these pictures : would you like to be here ? Do you think we forgot something ? Anything you wanna know ? Just post a comment below and I’ll answer you !

[read part 3 here]

Categories: Landscapes, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Nota Bene : How to follow this blog ?

Hey girls and guys,

Just thought I’d post a quick message about how to remain aware of what’s going on here. There are two things I wanna talk about, but if you’re already following the blog just jump to Step #2…

1. Following this blog by email

Best thing to do to be kept posted about the new articles around here. In the right column of the blog, you should be able to see a small box allowing you to receive emails each time something new is posted (actually you can choose between an instant update or weekly digests). It only takes a few clicks to register, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

2. Following your own comments

I saw many people commenting on this blog, but rarely answers to others’ answers. Don’t let this happen ! When posting a comment, you can tick the following box in order to be notified when answers are posted !

3. Bonus Tip

Don’t forget you can log in with Facebook to ease the process of posting comments ;)…

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

[D+97] – “Chez Tonton Mack” – Part 1 : On the road

After a good bunch of days without any news, I am finally able to provide you with some fresh new pictures. A LOT of new pictures.

This weekend was my first real trip on the countryside. I mean, far from the big town of Pointe-Noire. “The plan” was to sleep at a place called Chez Tonton Mack, which corresponds to a few small huts. The price is pretty cheap : 5000 XAF per night (7.5€ / $10), and spend the week-end over there.

We had prepared some food, with the idea of making a fire on the beach for the night.

We left home around 7am : 5 trainees, the girlfriend of one of them and 3 friends of Remy, with whom he had met in a party. Two 4×4 pickups.

Here we go.

We stopped for the first time just after the bridge that crosses the Kouilou river, in order to taste some Yanga, which happens to be a sort of palm tree wine. Probably not the best drink ever, but a cool experience anyhow. Ten minutes ago we we were back on the road, until Madingo Kayes, were the asphalt road ended. We had travelled half the way in terms of length, but only one quarter of the way in terms of time. Indeed, driving on a sandy track with large and deep puddles (almost ponds sometimes) accross the road is not always as easy as one may think.

Rémy, who was driving me
24mm - 1/3200 - F/5.6 - ISO 400

Ousmane and Pierrick
20mm - 1/800 - F/5.6 - ISO 200

20mm - 1/200 - F/5.6 - ISO 400

20mm - 1/500 - F/5.6 - ISO 200

187mm - 1/1000 - F/5.6 - ISO 200

250mm - 1/1000 - F/5.6 - ISO 200

55mm - 1/2000 - F/5.6 - ISO 200

We eventually reached the entrance of the Conkouati natural park, where we got stopped by some guards. Supposedly, we should have paid 5000 XAF per person, but after 45 minutes of useless discussions we eventually paid 5000 XAF per vehicle, and felt pretty relieved, since we weren’t aware of that fee.

Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to see a lot of exotic fauna (I mean, elephants or antelopes), but we caught the sight of a jackal and of a few birds…

250mm - 1/2000 - F/5.6 - ISO 400

250mm - 1/2500 - F/5.6 - ISO 400

116mm - 1/1000 - F/7.1 - ISO 400

After a rather long travel, with a lot of laugh but under a hot equatorial sun, we eventually reached our goal around midday. I have to say we were astonished by the place, and immediately felt we were about to spend a particularly great weekend.

It is getting late, so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to read the rest of the story… Don’t hesitate to share your point of view regarding the pictures above !!

[read part 2 here]

146mm - 1/1600 - F/7.1 - ISO 400

Categories: Landscapes, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Just a try at shooting sparks

A first try with my camera at shooting pictures of lightning bolts. Unfortunately I didn’t have a good point of view, the storm was more located on the left of the picture.

Categories: Just a picture, Landscapes | Tags: , | 1 Comment

[D+80] – Weather: 1 – Adrien: 0

(Or, I got owned by the Weather)

I am specifically dedicating this article to those of you who happen to be photographers. If you’ve already encountered similar situations, don’t hesitate to tell your stories and leave a comment !

Yesterday, I (eventually!) decided to take some late-night picture in the streets of Pointe-Noire, where I’ve been living fyor 3 months already. The weather was a little rainy, but I had brought with me a small umbrella that was supposed to help me prevent raindrops from hitting my camera’s lens. I stopped at the street corner, set up my tripod…

First Problem. I had forgotten my SD card. “Anyways”, I say. I’m living nearby, it’s not a real problem.

A few minutes later, I’m back with the forgotten memory card, happy to finally take a few pictures. The shooting spot I had chosen was just under a tree, so the rain was not bothering too much. Good place, nice angle for the picture. “Good”. I turn the camera on, and half-press the button in order to set off the auto-focus mode.

“Why on Earth is it not working ?”

Second (and last) problem. Because of the temperature difference between the flat and outdoor, a thin layer of steam had covered my lens ! Indeed, the atmosphere was really moist and I had not realized it would affect my pictures. It had already happened to me in France… but I had forgotten about it.

And this is how I met your Aunt Robin. And this is how I got owned by the weather…

Categories: Everyday life | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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