Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

from Photographers' Blog:

A shot in the dark

A soldier from the U.S. Army's 1st Platoon, Alpha Troop, 2-1 Infantry Battalion, 5/2 Striker Brigade Combat Team scans the area with a scope during a night observation mission in Kandahar Province April 15, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

It’s 1:00am, I’m sitting in a small dirt hole. Not sure exactly where but somewhere in western Kandahar‘s Maiwand district. How did I get here? On a journey that has involved too much time spent waiting. Waiting at Forward Operating Bases, waiting for planes, waiting for people, waiting for helicopters, waiting for convoys, waiting for patrols.

The short version is it hasn’t been the most productive assignment. I am itching to get ‘out there’ and shoot. So I have jumped at the offer to join an observation post patrol on a moonless night in a flat and treeless landscape, looking for militants laying IEDs.

I’ve bumbled my way out the back of an armored Stryker, across rocky ground, closely tailing a few soldiers who unlike me are equipped with night vision gear. It’s inky black, no illumination permitted. I even have the small red indictor lights on my camera’s back covered with tape. So now I’m in this little dirt hole. It’s dark, really dark. No light at all…… Well, except the billion or so stars above.

f1.4 offers such a tiny depth of field I’d be wasting my time attempting to manual focus accurately in the pitch dark on anything close and even a soldier sitting behind a night scope wont stay still long enough to be sharp for such a long exposure. But those stars aren’t close and they aren‘t exactly whizzing past either. It takes about 10 exposures with some fine adjustment to get them sharp. My tripod for the evening is a convenient and infinitely adjustable model. A small pile of pebbles and sand between my feet.

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