September 26, 2005, aerial view of Mauritania’s capital, Nouakchott. The first pictures of Sahara desert as we embark on a journey that led us to Mali’s borders to take photographs of the sky’s beauty as part of the documentary “The earth from above” (Yann Arthus Bertrand from Paris).
Chinguetty village, lost in the middle of Sahara at 400 nautical miles from the Atlantic coast. Picture taken at twilight with a beautiful light over the desert’s vastness. Note the clear blue sky; a sign of dryness and lack of rain that occurred in the country for months. If our engine had broken down, we would have been lost; it’s a no-man’s land for miles around.
By the end of the day, fishing boats make their way back to Nouakchott beach. These fishing boats provide the whole country with fish, which are essential for the camels to cross the desert.
Solitary man on the dunes near Chinguetti at the end of the day. Even with temperatures approaching 40 degrees, the natives always wear long and pale clothes. The light seems particularly astounding at twilight.
A camel caravan in the middle of the desert, miles away from civilization. The fading sunlight gives exceptional shading. These camels are intended to be sold in Algeria; if they can make it through the sultry desert. I can remember the moment i took this photograph, sitting in the cockpit, covered in sweat, I wanted to ask them what they were doing here.
The only tree encountered in the hundreds of miles of sand stretching into the distance. St-Exupery probably would have sat next to it and thrived upon its shadow.
Troupeau de chameaux au départ de la capitale Nouakchott en direction du Maroc où ils seront vendus encore une fois soit pour la viande ou comme animal de travail. Les chameaux sont des alliés de taille pour la survie en terrain désertique et ont un prix très élevé.
The Sahara !!! Magnificent view from the Atlantic coast with its dunes stretching into the distance. Imagine yourself flying for hours on end with nothing else but dunes as a landscape…It almost felt like we were part of the “English patient” movie.
Diagonal picture that demonstrates the feeling of smallness against the immensity of the Sahara. Only dunes and a few rocks.
Picture taken before the departure for the Sahara expedition. The two men in blue are the owners of the country’s only private plane; a Cessna 206. As for me, I am with the other pilot, Nicolas, a french man with whom I became good friends (he is now piloting a Boeing 777 for Quatar Airways). The bottle of water on the floor is only one of the thirty others we brought on board with us, in case of an engine breakdown in the middle of the desert. Apart from a few troubles we had with the battery and from facing a sand storm in Atar, the single-engine worked very well.
Aeroclub of Nouakchott’s office. The same place where Antoine de St-Exupery (author of “The little prince”) flew as an Aéropostale pilot at the beginning of aviation, around 1920. The purpose of this great adventure was to reduce mail delivery time across the world by using a plane as opposed to boat delivery, which could take months.
The entire shooting was executed with 35 mm. Fuji films; 50 rolls of 36 films each, to be exact. Every roll had to be brought with me in the cockpit and for those of you who only know digital photography and very little about film photography, you just cannot imagine the complexity of the entire process. For every 36 pictures, I would have to reload the camera with another roll. This simple exercise could damage both the films and the camera with dust and sand whenever riptides occurred (it happened to me).
Overflying the african territory required money in addition to hours of negotiations with the minister of tourism. Furthermore, a government examiner escorted us during the entire flight, at our expense. The army waited for us on the ground every time we had to land for fuel. You can just imagine how the papers ought to be in particularly good order. Still, this journey in Africa was magical!