photography, portraits, travel

Travel Portraiture // It’s All About The Light

It’s not so easy to travel with heavy, bulky strobes.  But sometimes, it’s an absolute must.  And if that’s the case, I would recommend the battery powered Profoto D1 or 7b systems.  If you’re like me though, and have an A/C power system, strobes aren’t even an option when traveling to remote locales like my most recent job in South Sudan.

So what do I do to get those dramatic and compelling portraits that I have in mind before I ever step on the plane?  Well, in short… you work with what you’ve got.

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So what does that mean?

The first, and most obvious answer is an off camera flash, like my Canon Speedlite 580EX II on a small stand, triggered by PocketWizard Plus III.  When I want drama, that is usually my “go to” set up.  Here are a few field  examples with that system, including the shot above…

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So what are the pros and cons?  Well, the pros are that it is a very light weight, quick set-up, cost-effective solution to the problem of poor/ low lighting.  It can certainly take a little practice before hand to understand the power and ambient relationships you’ll need to achieve the look you want.  But it’s very effective.

The downsides are that you don’t get as much power as strobes, so it can be tough to overpower the ambient when outside on a sunny day.  Also, the quality of the light you get from most speedlights is not as rich as strobes.  It can be harsh and cooler looking.  But there are several ways to counteract this with light modifiers like small softboxes, grids/ honeycombs, and gels.  I recommend playing around with all of these options before your trip in various ambient scenarios to see what you like and don’t like.

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In the absence of our comforting strobes, it’s also a good time to get reacquainted with our old friend, available light.

It’s funny how we can rely sometimes on the trends and tricks of the trade, but when it comes down to it, for many of us at least, our first love is working with the light we’re given… not creating our own.  So on these trips I try to reconnect (when the situation calls for it) my eye to identifying my best available light.

Often times it’s the soft, indirect sunlight from a doorway or window.

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And other times, it’s the soft, diffused light of an overcast sky.

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But don’t get discouraged when the light just doesn’t appear any good at all.  It’s always a motivating excuse to get creative… and perhaps make a compelling silhouette portrait.  It’s amazing how much can be said with a completely shadowed subject.

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The point is to keep seeing and creating in new ways.  Push yourself beyond your comfort level, and make the most beautiful portrait you can with what you have.  This last one was the ugliest, hottest middle of the day (near the equator) kind of light you could get.  But her smile, her eyes, and the colors she wore compelled me to photograph her in this wrap-around light, and not worry about blowing out the background.  It was beautiful light to me.

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So keep shooting and exploring.  And don’t let your long-held notions about good light and bad light cause you to stumble.  Let it instead challenge your creativity to see that all light is good light… you just have to find out how to use it!

Happy shooting…

— andrew


 
Come learn light with me… check out my new workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2014
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2014
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // andrew r. slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014

 

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photography, random thought, travel

The Pursuit

I am in constant pursuit of the perfect image.  A story told through the capture of a singular moment in time.  Sometimes the pursuit is brought about by clients who hire me to go tell their story, and other times it’s a personal quest.  Either way the goal remans the same, and the lengths to which I will go know no end.

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A beam of sunlight breaks through the morning clouds in Kajo Keji.

This trip for Seed Effect went as follows: DFW to AMS to KGL to EBB to Kajjansi to RUA to Nimule to Kajo Keji to RUA to Kajjansi to EBB to AMS and finally back to DFW.  11 legs and 48 hours of travel each way to capture a story that is as old as the earth; the human struggle and God’s unfailing love.

And on this trip it occurred to me the amazing parallel that was happening. I was quite literally traveling to the far reaches of the earth to capture stories of God moving heaven and earth to pursue His people everywhere.  The LORD has given us all the privilege of being His hands and feet.  He has given each one of us very different gifts… in so many different capacities.  But the fact remains; God pursues His people relentlessly.  And sometimes we get to see it first hand.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalm 23:6

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Lily Lawa Isaac quietly prays. Last time we saw Lily, she was pregnant and enjoying the modest success of her business. Her daughter is now over a year old and healthy.

God never promises that we will not experience horrible trouble on this earth.  But He does promise us a hope in the midst of trials and hardships.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

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Local neighbor children watch as a Seed Effect loan group meets to encourage one another with scripture and fellowship. These meetings have a direct impact on their surrounding communities.

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Atem Anthony is already finding much success with his businesses. With his profits, he recently bought a home and is now renting it out.

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We visited a client in the hospital with her son suffering from malaria. She was distressed but not hopeless.

The people we met in South Sudan are a part of this amazing story about the God of the universe pursuing His people.  We met countless Seed Effect clients whose stories are difficult and heartbreaking.  But the ones who have encountered Jesus all had the same hope.  Hope in something much bigger than their circumstances.  Living water for all of our souls.

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Emmanuel has polio. In spite of being nearly crippled and having little control of his motor skills, Emmanuel has a profitable store and provides for his family.

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But Emmanuel’s blessings don’t end on the surface… God is meeting his deepest needs for companionship. Even though he would generally be considered an outcast for his afflictions, he has a large group of friends and just got married earlier this year.

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Christine has a sewing business in Wudu market in Kajo Keji. She used to be muslim but now she trusts in Jesus Christ. She is still grieving the death of her mother.

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Toban Francis is a butcher in Kajo Keji. He has used his Seed Effect loans to grow into several new business ventures.

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Please pray for Christine as she moves through this difficult season of life, struggling with her mother’s untimely death.

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This is Beatriz’s son. We met Beatriz in a tiny stall in Wudu market 18 months ago. She was selling beans and a few other small perishables. This year, she owns her own beautiful restaurant, supporting her children.

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Selena Guo is one of Seed Effect’s most successful clients. She owns three stores now and has put several of her children through school. Dagula is her eldest who is about to earn his diploma from university.

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Dagula is the first generation direct recipient of the benefits of micro finance. He soon will have his degree in accounting.

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Selena’s second eldest son will be the next in line to receive an education from the profits of her businesses.

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One of Selena’s neighborhood children.

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Sunrise, Kajo Keji.

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Mikaya Aloro is proud of his new store. He is thankful for Seed Effect giving him the ability to keep all of his goods in stock for his customers.

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New Seed Effect client and his son selling greens and onions under a tree.

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Helen Diko is a seamstress, but more, she is a leader in her community. She hosts education seminars put on by Seed Effect at her shop.

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Her restaurant is small but this Kajo Keji Seed Effect client’s dreams are big.

The book of Hosea is beautiful analogy of this great love.  The ESV study bible says this…

Hosea depicts Israel’s unfaithfulness with a number of images from family and nature.  Israel is like: a promiscuous wife, an indifferent mother, an illegitimate child, an ungrateful son, a stubborn heifer, a silly dove, a luxuriant vine, and grapes in the wilderness.  Yet Israel’s unfaithfulness and obstinacy are not enough to exhaust God’s redeeming love that outstrips the human capacity to comprehend.

I am thankful to have the opportunity to take a very small part in this great love story.  And to see God’s pursuit of us every day in my own life, and in the lives of people all over the world.  To Him be the glory!

— andrew


 
Take your photography to a new level… check out my new workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2014
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2014
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // andrew r. slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014

 

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photography

Forgetting The Bottom-Line

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Lily Lawa Isaac learned how to treat customers with a smile and a clean space in the market. It’s why her customers chose to buy her vegetables and why they keep coming back. She can now provide for her children.

Being a small business owner, I am often all too aware of the bottom-line.  It makes sense.

I am an artists and I love what I do, but I still have to feed my family, right?

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“Little Scovia” is the next generation of South Sudanese that is growing up in the world’s newest country that is falling deeper and deeper into another civil war. She collects water bottles every day to help the rest of her family.

But sometimes, it is important that we  forget the bottom line and support a cause we believe in.

I am thankful that I crossed paths with Seed Effect a few years ago… because they have become like family to me.  Okay, they are literally my family now.

My mother started fundraising for Seed Effect a few years ago, and after a trip to South Sudan last year to shoot for this great organization, Elle became their mobilization coordinator.  But more than my family having intimate involvement, I believe in what Seed Effect is doing for the least in South Sudan.

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Elle and I in Nimule, South Sudan on our first journey to the country in 2013. We are so excited to be going back!

We are returning to gather more compelling stories and photos in August, and I would appreciate your help, so we can provide low/ no cost work for Seed Effect.  What that means is that they can put more money into loans for the South Sudanese, instead of into our expenses.

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Douglas is the son of an early Seed Effect client. He is currently at University because of the amazing hard work of his mother and her successful store. Douglas is a perfect picture of how Seed Effect is giving people the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty in South Sudan.

If you have a cause to support with your time, I would encourage you to forget your bottom-line at times and serve.  It will bless others and your own soul.

But if you don’t have a way to serve… please consider giving generously to Seed Effect and our trip.

Your support will have great reach and make a huge impact.  It will help us to continue to tell the stories of people in need of a hand up, not a hand out.

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More than providing a hand up out of poverty, Seed Effect offers the richness of the gospel to the impoverished soul.

Thank you for considering supporting Seed Effect and the people of South Sudan!
 
~ andrew
___________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
If you are interested in learning more about photography, taking your art to a new level please check out my new workshop dates:
 
Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2014
Private, Destination Workshops 2014
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // andrew r. slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014
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art, photography, random thought, travel, writing

why?

I won’t propose to wrap up the questions of the universe in this post, but I found the “why” question swirling around my heart and head a lot while in South Sudan the last few weeks.

The question is seemingly always apropos.  Though there are few answers, if any, that we are able to come up with for this interrogation.

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And if most of us are honest, we often direct it at God.

There are so many things we see every day that beg this question.  Even lately, times here in a prosperous, free America, demand an answer.

I was watching a British TV show yesterday, Outnumbered.  Ben, a mischievous 8 year old boy, always making trouble for his parents, was serendipitously sat at a table with the local Vicar, as the family was attending a wedding.  What ensued was both hilarious and timely for a lot of people.

“Can I ask you another question about the bible?”  said Ben.

“Uh, well… of course you can, Ben,”  said a reluctant Vicar.

“King Herod sent out an order to kill baby Jesus, right?”

“Right, yes he did, yep.”

“Well…. why didn’t baby Jesus zap him.”

A little comic relief for such a massive subject, I hope.

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It seemed that every South Sudanese we spoke with had an incredible life story.  Filled with unimaginable hardships, obstacles, loss.  But more than those milestones was the overflowing grace, peace, forgiveness, redemption, and joy that permeated many of their lives.  And I began to wonder if this would be the case had they not experienced the contrast of such pain.

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And then I looked at my own life.  At once I saw great hurts and sorrows.  None as dramatic as my African brothers and sisters (isn’t it funny how we compare even our hardships to one another?), but still seemingly horrific injustices to me, none-the-less.  And even now, I have been moving through a season of great difficulty.  Many times over the last few months my inner voice has cried, “why!?”  only to receive no visible or audible answer.

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But thankfully we’re not left there in that place; in the dark.  Unless we choose to be.

Seed Effect is Christ-centered micro finance.  Anyone who wants, Christian, Muslim, Tribal, can receive a small business loan.  There are no religious requirements.  And that loan often changes peoples’ lives.

But that doesn’t mean they never face trials and heartache again.

Jesus, before his death said,

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33 ESV)

What really changes lives is the knowledge of ultimate peace and saving grace, and the heart change that follows.  And Seed Effect offers discipleship to the folks that are searching.

But again, it doesn’t mean a life free from tribulation.

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Now i’m sitting here, racking my brain, in a feeble attempt to wrap up a life changing experience in Africa into one blog post, and unfortunately I realize I’ve opened a really big can of worms here.

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In spite of an amazing experience in South Sudan, I’m still struggling with taking comfort in the words of scripture.  I think a lot of people do.  In fact, I think that’s the single biggest reason people don’t believe the words of the Bible or the claims of Jesus.  It is hard to find peace amidst the ever-present storms of life.  And the question of “why?” is always looming.

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But then I’m reminded that we’re asking the wrong question.  “Why?” suggests that we are owed an answer.  It doesn’t come from a place of humility.

In answer to this question, God put Job in his place, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell me, if you have understanding…”  (Job 38 ESV)

Really, it comes down to an issue of trust.  Are we willing to trust that God is, in fact, good?  Even though injustice surely lives?

Our world is broken.  I think this truth is self-evident.  To Christians, Muslims, Jews, Atheists, whatever.  Something is massively wrong.  I saw much evidence of this truth while in Africa, but just as much upon my return home.

So for me, the “why” is beginning to fade, because really, the more I toil over it, the less it actually matters.  The question now is presented, “what”.  As in, “okay, so we will experience discomfort and terrible sorrows… what now?”

Now we have an opportunity to do something in the face of hardship.  Not to necessarily fix all of the problems on earth, and not to defy our circumstances, but to love and comfort one another in the midst of these trials.  And to share the Comforter with the brokenhearted.  This is real Christianity.

I’m thankful that Elle and I had the opportunity through working for Seed Effect to witness the financial empowerment of the South Sudanese people, but mostly to see again the true light of the Gospel.

For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6: 2-13 ESV)

click the gallery above to view the photos larger

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I realize some of you are looking for specific stories.  I apologize.  There were just so many that are so amazing, that I truly had a difficult time putting them into words.

But Seed Effect has already shared some, and will be sharing many more on their blog… please check that out, and check it frequently!  I will also begin to add captions to as many of these photos as possible!

And if you appreciate what you’ve seen and read here, please consider supporting Seed Effect’s efforts in South Sudan.  I’ve seen the work they do first hand, and I could not give them a more glowing recommendation.

Fine art photographic prints will also be available soon, and a portion of the profits will be donated to Seed Effect!

Thanks for taking the time to read!  Please fell free to comment here if you have any thoughts or questions….

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2013

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photography, random thought, travel

the beautiful faces

The first thing I noticed when we landed in South Sudan was all of the beautiful, interesting faces of the people. I guess that’s just the photographer in me. Many of them are truly striking.

But it’s more than just the aesthetics. My experience so far photographing the South Sudanese is that they wear it all on their faces. The sorrow, pain, hope and even the joy. We in America seem to have on masks that can hide the deepest parts of our souls. I see this all too often as a photographer.

Experiencing this raw, honest humanity has been moving. To visually witness the joy exuding from these believers’ faces is overwhelming and contagious. Their love for Christ and how He has set them free is evident. And reflecting on this yesterday, I was led to Psalm 27.

Verse 8 says, “You have said, ‘seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘your face, Lord, do I seek.’ Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!”

I feel as though I have seen God’s face in his people here. I have also seen His work being done through Seed Effect, which tells me that the Lord will not hide His face from us, or His people here in Africa.

What a blessing it has been for me to see this, and to capture all the beautiful faces of Kajo Keji and Nimule, South Sudan.

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all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2013

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photography, random thought, travel

thoughts swirling of africa

we landed in Africa a few days ago and it is unlike anything I have ever experienced. needless to say, my words feel incomplete and somewhat insecure at this point.

but a day or so before we left for south sudan, a friend of mine shared some thoughts she had while living in Africa some years ago. i found it really poignant and thought it worth sharing…. thank you Prisca.
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“Before I came to Tanzania I thought extreme poverty and destitution were equivalent. My image of poverty in Africa came from ‘starving children’ commercials and glossy magazine ads showing dirty, distraught looking faces. Perhaps the fallacy of that image did not fully strike me until an African friend asked me not to photograph dirty children for show in America. He objected because he believed Americans would misinterpret their dirtiness as a sign of neglect, degradation, and want. Although children in the village near where I live are poor and often dirty, neither they nor their parents are destitute.

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Destitution is living without the things necessary for human dignity. When Americans see people who lack things we think we (and by extension they) need to maintain self-respect, we see destitution. But the American concept of what comprises a dignified life has been formed with little knowledge of life in the developing world.

The poor in Tanzania live without excess, but not without dignity. Homes are small and constructed of mud bricks and straw. Clothes are few and well-worn. Ugali, a dough-like substance of maize flour and water, makes up the bulk of almost every meal. Yet Tanzanian villagers living on pennies a day practice generosity and hospitality. They maintain codes of interpersonal courtesy as intricate as those of the British court. They are individuals with complicated personalities, intelligence and humor. The poor have dignity proceeding not from their lifestyles or material possessions but from their humanity.”

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all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2013

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photography, random thought, travel

south sudan | seed effect

i shot this image a few years ago in beirut, lebanon.

it is a simple a detail of a wall, but for me it says a whole lot more.

the middle east is full of faceless, nameless people.  the forgotten.

but it’s not just this part of the world that the forgotten call home…

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which brings me to my point; Elle and i have been invited by Seed Effect to use our photography to help give faces and names to the forgotten in South Sudan, Africa.

The Seed Effect from Seed Effect on Vimeo.

we are giving our time and talents to Seed Effect because we believe in what they are doing, and we want to keep as much money in the hands of the Sudanese people as possible.

because of this, Elle and i are raising support to help pay for our travel expenses.

if you appreciate what Seed Effect does, and what we will be doing for them, please consider supporting our efforts with a tax deductible donation.

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we also are holding a pre-sale for the Africa prints we’ll produce after the trip to benefit Seed Effect.

the proceeds from the print pre-sale will help with our out of pocket expenses, and will also go towards Seed Effect’s general fund.

visit the link below for more information.

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please consider helping Seed Effect bring us along in january to give greater exposure to their cause through photography.

and please check back regularly throughout the weeks and months to come to follow along with us on our journey!

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

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