The Gambia photobook

I seem to remember promising to post something about the Gambia photobook once I’d received the finished product. Which I did a couple of weeks ago. And I finally got around to taking pictures of it in daylight last week. So. Here goes, prepare for rather a lot of images:

I should have spent more time designing a cover.
I should have spent more time designing a cover.

I sort of forgot that I needed a cover. So I ended up just pulling out four random images that I’d not had occasion to use inside the book and plopping them into the spots suggested by the default layout. With hindsight I should have spent a bit more time investigating the options, I’d probably have preferred another base colour than white, for example, but it works, and I guess that’s the important thing.

It's quite thick.
It's quite thick.

I ended up with close on 80 pages, and it’s printed on photo paper which makes it even thicker. However, it’s slimmer than I feared, I was a bit worried that it would be so thick as to be unmanageable, but it’s not. Far from it. It feels hefty and lovely, but is not so heavy that you need a reading table.

Continuous printing across two pages.
Continuous printing across two pages.

Another benefit of the photo paper version: The two facing pages are actually printed on one large sheet, and the sheets are glued back to back to create the book. This means that the book opens completely and no part of the page is lost “in the crease”.

Lies flat, without any support.
Lies flat, without any support.

It also lies flat on the table (or floor in this case). No need to hold it open.

Minimalist design. Me?
Minimalist design. Me?

I’m normally more of a maximalist than a minimalist, but just when it comes to photos I find I like as little noise as possible around them. I considered serveral design options for this album, and was planning, at the very least, to choose a colour scheme that I’d use for a few frames, titles and brush swirls. But once I started pulling together the pictures, I realised they worked so well on their own that embellishment would distract rather than add, so I discarded the idea.

The one digital scrapbboking supply I used was a set of templates called “Off to Press” by Paislee Press, available at Oscraps. The templates are for an 8×10 album, so I’ve gone through them and resized them to 12×12. I’ve also moved photo and text spots around a bit on quite a few of the pages, as well as resizing or even duplicating photo spots as needed. I really love this template set, as it helped me keep the look reasonably consistent and encouraging copious amounts of white space while being simple enough to be exceedingly flexible. 


I’m really glad that I went for the photo paper option and didn’t fall for the temptation to save a few kroner by choosing a less expensive format. The clarity is really outstanding, any blur in the images is my fault entirely.

An example of a spread where the coninuous printing works at its best.
An example of a spread where the coninuous printing works at its best.

The other supply I used was a couple of actions from Pioneer Woman’s free action sets. Every image has had either “Boost” or “Define and sharpen” run on it, though on some I’ve reduced the opacity of the action layer(s) to avoid an overly processed look. In a few cases I’ve also used “Slight lighten”. Actions are a great way to get quick results for us lazy people, and I don’t think I’d have been able to finish the album on time without them.

A page with a date.
A page with a date.

I normally date all my digital pages (with the date of the photos/subject, not date of creation), but since this is a cohesive album of one week’s trip, I only kept the date on the first page for each day.

All in all, I’m really thrilled with how this turned out. I had a serious attack of “Squee!” when I unwrapped this. The book, by the way, is printed at Japan Photo, who use a system called CEWE, which I suspect is available through other chains in Europe also, though I don’t know for certain.

Now all I have to do is get all my other photos into proper photo books. Yup. Well, one step at a time…


39/365 - Sera, probably the best driver in The Gambia

This is Sera. What with being a group of five quite tall people, we had specific requirements regarding the sort of taxi we could use, and day 1 was a disaster in that respect. Day 2 we asked the hotel taxi organiser to get us one with plenty of headroom, which he did. Sera, the driver, drove us all round the area for the next sx days, with patience, sound advice and – as far as I could tell – faultless driving. He claimed to have never been in an accident, and I’m inclined to believe him.

So if you’re ever in the area and in need of a driver, look him up. Get in touch with me and I’ll give you his phone number, or check with the taxi organiser at the African Village Hotel in Bakau.


38/365 - The School Kitchen

Before we went to The Gambia I got in touch with a British charity called the Gambian Schools Trust, because I figured I’d bring some school supplies down and wanted to make sure they were put to good use. We met up with Hillary and Steve from the trust on Thursday to hand over the goods, and they offered to show us one of the schools. So on Sunday (the only day we could make it, unfortunately, it would have been interesting to visit when school was in, but that’s how it goes, also, I suppose, visits like that must be quite disruptive to teaching) they took us first to Nemasu and then decided to pop by Naata as well. Hillary had told me that at Naata they had a school kitchen so the kids could have a solid meal every day. I must admit this is not quite what I imagined when I heard the phrase “school kitchen” (mind you, in my own defense, I wasn’t picturing shining countertops and a fancy cooking island with a brushed steel hood, either). It does the job, though.


38/365 My father - big catch

Big catch for the fisherman. The boat trip was great, but I tired quickly of the fishing. All anyone got were these tiny fishes, and most were so small they just had to be released again. Call me difficult, but though I rather enjoy fishing with a purpose (like catching today’s dinner), I don’t particularly enjoy torturing fish just for fun.

I love this picture, though.


37/365 - The husband and a python

My father wanted to go to Gunjur and our driver, Sera (probably the best driver in The Gambia, if you’re ever going get in touch and I’ll give you his phone number), insisted on stopping off at the Gambian Reptile Farm (not that he had to insist much, “Would you like to see some reptiles?” “Yes, please!”).

The farm is run by a “mad dutchman”, and entrance is free for Gambians, and as good as free for tourists, though we pay for the upkeep apparently. Most Gambians are afraid of all reptiles and can’t tell the harmless ones from the dangerous ones. This is a problem in several ways, partly it means the poor reptiles are killed in droves, quite uneccessarily, but another consequence is that local “medicine men” can exploit people’s ignorance. Their website – – will tell you more if you’re interested.

We were shown round by a young chap named Bakary Camara, who was very informative. The other people in our group were from one of the Baltic states and seemed to be as wary of snakes as the average Gambian. I’m sure they must have thought us all hopping mad. We were fawning over the snakes – as you do – telling them (in Norwegian, but I imagine the tone of voice was expressive enough) what pretty things they were. And when, at the end, we were allowed to hold two pythons, we were falling over each other to get at them.

But I mean, look at it? Isn’t it just the most gorgeous thing? (The Husband is good looking, too, obviously, but you don’t need to admire him too much, in fact, it’s better if you don’t, he’s taken.)


36/365 - At the batik factory

We’ve got a good system going with the haggling, I think. I pick out the stuff I want, ask “How much?”, the salesperson replies and I hand over to the husband. I HATE haggling (especially when the prices are so ridiculously low in the first place, and I know how much more the money is woth to them). He revels in it. I should have filmed the woman’s reaction to his first counteroffer, btw, though I realise it’s all part of the game, she seriously looked like he’d asked for her oldest son as a hostage or something.

When they were done and we’d paid up, I picked out one of the pictures in the background with a babywearing woman and paid what the lady first asked for it. I’m quite sure they made good money on us in any case.


35/365 - Feeding the animals

We visited Abuko. It turns out I’ve gotten Abuko and Tendaba mixed up in my head, which meant I spent half the day trying to get my memories sorted into the correct heaps.

One of the other visitors was more of a bird-fanatic than us, he had a lens the size of a small truck attached to his camera, with a camouflage cover. He and his guide caught up with us as we were watching a bird, and he asked “Anything good?” which I though a supremely stupid question. “Good” according to who? And how am I supposed what you think is “good”, I’ve never seen this bird before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not common as dirt. Well, at least he could tell me it was a robin chaff, which was useful, though as he said “It’s only a robin chaff”, I assume it wasn’t “good”.

Still and all, I had a good time. Birds aplenty (though probably mostly common as dirt) and the monkeys were charming (and hungry, or greedy, it can be hard to tell which).


34/365 - Our house

My father, trying to look over the wall at what was once out house. We couldn’t find it at first. Not only was the wall white when we lived there, it also only came up to that line at about waist-height. Luckily, some security gueards further down the street remembered the egg-man, which enabled my mother to identify the house.

When we’d see all we could see peeping through the gate and stretching to glimpse over the walls, and gone only a few meters, the people who live there now arrived home. I wonder what they would have thought had they turned the corner just a tad earlier…


33/365 - Fishing boats coming in at Bakau

We arrived in Bakau, checked in to the hotel and went for a walk. The fishing harbour has been built since we were last there, and naturally my father wanted to see it.

Oh so familiar, but also so very foreign, sounds, sights and above all smells. Being back is surreal beyond belief.