In some cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.
Photograph by Rebecca Hale
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Views of Africa
Field Notes From Photographer George Steinmetz
Twenty-five years ago I dropped out of college and spent 18 months hitchhiking in Africa. So it was amazing to go back and revisit some of the places I had been to before but this time with the resources to really explore and understand them. I had a plane and a bush pilot, and we crisscrossed countries where I used to have to wait days to get a ride. It was a fantastic experience and one of the best assignments I've ever had.
I've done 13 trips with my assistant Alain Arnoux, but in the last week of the assignment he got a virus and became so ill that he had to fly home and spend two weeks in the hospital. It was tough to see him leave because not only is he a good friend, but he's also a world-champion paraglider pilot. After he left, I couldn't be quite as bold in my flying because Alain wasn't there to back me up.
I was in Morocco during its first snowfall in 32 years, so I got this idea to get photos of snow in the date palm trees (see page 33). In anticipating a trip around Africa, I had not packed for freezing temperatures. It was miserably cold flying at 30 miles an hour (48 kilometers an hour) in a paraglider harness and holding onto my camera with frozen fingers, but it was worth it. The snowy weather was extraordinary and extremely beautiful. It was as if it had snowed in New Orleans. The locals were out taking pictures and having snowball fights in the desert. And then, to make an even weirder day for everyone, a crazy foreigner was flying overhead in a red parachute.