Kitbag: John Coghill
John Coghill is a marketing consultant, freelance copywriter and photographer. He set up Projector Media four years ago to provide marketing services to publishers and extend brands through video and events. Before that he worked in marketing and business development for The Economist.
In 2003 he started the Radios for Africa charity that distributes Freeplay Lifeline wind-up/solar-powered radios to Africa’s rural poor and has recently started operations in Northern Uganda.
This is John’s kitbag for his April 2007 trip to Zimbabwe and Northern Uganda.
Recording and capturing: Canon EOS 400D/ Digital Rebel (US)
Cost: Around Â£700 with canon 18-55mm and 55-200mm lens kit and battery grip
The Canon EOS 400D/ Digital Rebel is a compact, sturdy and lightweight digital SLR that is very good value for money. It’s an upgrade on the popular 350D and has kept the winning formula but added more pixels to become a 10 megapixel camera with a bigger LCD screen and a 9 point AF sensor. Its predecessor, the 300D, revolutionalised the digital SLR market three years ago and this camera is evolution rather than a revolution. The competition has caught up though and for a little more capital outlay the Nikon D80 and Sony DSLR A-100 are strong rivals.
The 400D takes pictures with excellent resolution, superb colours and has an almost instantaneous off to shot time. There is little noise throughout the sensitivity range and it performs well in low light. On the downside, some will find the hand-grip too small and on a recent London indoor assignment I found the automatic white balance poor under fluorescent lights.
A big improvement over the 350D is the “integrated cleaning system”. Dust is a camera-killer in Africa and lens changes almost guarantee its build up. Compressed air blowers can sometimes do the trick but an expensive trip back to Canon is more likely. With the 400D, Canon have added anti-static coatings and created an anti-alias filter that vibrates to shake it off. They have also added a “Dust Delete Data” feature that lets you map and remove the dust that just won’t go away with some clever software.
As a back-up I take a Panasonic FZ5. It’s incredibly small and light but packs a 12x optical zoom through its Leica lenses which is very handy for grab shots in camera-unfriendly places.
Malaria can be deadly and how you prevent it in addition to mosquito repellent and nets depends on where you are going and for how long. In many African countries resistance means that chloroquine based drugs like Avlocor aren’t effective. Malarone (Atovaquone Proguanil) is effective but expensive and not recommended for stays over a month. The low dose antibiotic Doxycylcine can be used over long periods but some people complain of increased sensitivity to the sun. Lariam (Mefloquine) is also effective over long periods but has side effects for many.
If you are unlucky enough to catch malaria, Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs) that combine a derivative of artemisinin with other antimalarials are the most effective and recommended by WHO.
Anti-malarials are prescription-only so check with your doctor or travel clinic for malaria risk and the right medicine for you.
Strange as it may seem I never travel to Africa without some Icebreaker “skin layer”. It’s 100% superfine Merino wool from the backs of my four-legged friends in my home country of New Zealand and while it’s a must anywhere cold it’s great in the heat too. Essentially it breathes extremely well and is remarkably soft and easy to wash and dry.
most unusual item
A knee bandage. Folded in half it is an excellent place to store cash and even the most thorough of frisky types are unlikely to find it.
I finished Our Votes, Our Guns by Martin Meredith, just before I left for Zimbabwe. It is a well researched and searing indictment of Robert Mugabe and so not a good book to have found at Harare airport.
Instead I took The Wonga Coup by Adam Roberts. It is a gripping read that tells the extraordinary tale of the failed plot by South African and British mercenaries to overthrow the government of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. The plot had uncanny similarities to Frederick Forsyth’s The Dogs of War and is still unravelling.
Former SAS officer Simon Mann is about to be extradited from his Harare prison and is facing a lengthy spell in Equatorial Guinea’s notorious Black Beach prison. The extradition has already been dubbed the “Oil for Mann” deal and will prop up Mugabe’s failing state.
what I can’t do without
My Bialetti Moka 3-cup stove-top espresso maker. Combined with a tin of Illy caffe macinato you can admire the skills of the Italian bean maestros wherever you are. Unfortunately the excellent African coffee can be frustratingly hard to find.