I was sent recently on a two week assignment to cover the Presidential elections in Sri Lanka. This trip would take me from the far south of the country to Jaffna in the extreme north.
Sri Lanka is not the easiest place to report or shoot in. The media is controlled heavily by the government and you need permission to do just about anything.
The last time i was in Sri lanka i spent more than a week with the Tamil Tigers during the middle of the civil war in a town called Killinochi. Most of the people i met and filmed are now dead. Killinochi itself is a virtual ghost town, having almost been completely destroyed during the Sri Lankan military’s main northern assault last year.
The majority who have suffered have been the Tamil people. Hundreds of thousands are now without a place to live or living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. For those who have left the camps they are now returning to find their houses and lively hoods have been completely destroyed by war.
Myself and correspondent Wayne Hay spent a week in Jaffna, a place that until recently had been impossible to go to. The army have controlled Jaffna for more than 10 years but it still bears the scars of more than 30 years of cival war. 98% of the population are Tamil and most of them are still living in terrible conditions with their houses either having been destroyed or been taken over by the military. Such is the level of censorship over the media that we were removed from Jaffna on the morning of the elections. At 4am in the morning four large explosions rocked the windows of the guest house we were staying in. The government had complained about a few of the stories we had done in the north of the country and had sent the military around to demand that we left and to escort us more than 200km away. We were not allowed to film any election activity that took place in the north of the country. Only 17% of voters turned out to vote in the north according to government figures. Were they intimidated? Were they free and fare? Who knows….with no media allowed to report in the area the outside world would just have to assume they were.
I created this small short film of Tamils praying in a Hindu temple using my 7D. It was quite dark and very early in the morning meaning it was too difficult to shoot with my broadcast camera. The camera worked well for this situation. I would of liked to have used it more on my trip but due to time constraints and remote filing of stories using a BGAN satphone it was not possible. I hope in the future that conversion times and ease of use will improve on DSLR cameras as i love the images they produce and would use them a lot more. Still for most news gathering events such as this trip the broadcast cameras convenience and quick turn around time meant i had to use it on 90% of occasions. Aljazeera’s response to me using a DSLR continues to be fantastic and i am now blogging about it on the Aljazeera website. They will continue to post not only the stories but short films i shoot in various countries. I commend them on their forward thinking and hope other news networks jump on board the DSLR revolution.
This same film will be running on the Aljazeera website shortly. Here are some of the other stories that ran on Aljazeera from Sri Lanka:
My article on using DSLR cameras to shoot the news is also running on the Aljazeera website. Click this link