Women for Women - Ghana

After a lot of endless hours, I am finally ready to share my photos and video for The By Grace Foundation in Ghana. 

The By Grace Foundation is a female founded 501(c)(3) that sponsors the training and education of women in impoverished communities. 

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The By Grace Foundation operates a vocational training facility in Tamale, Ghana. In Ghana, becoming a seamstress is a highly esteemed profession, but is only available to women with capital. By Grace sponsors the education fees and sewing machine so that underprivileged women have the opportunity to make an income. 

VIDEO: Tara Shupe

ANIMATION: Paige Dall

One thing I love about working with different non-profits like The By Grace Foundation, is sharing in the experience. From killing spiders with duck-tape and laughing over Africa moments, to watching the women open up. 

I have also had the honor of documenting The By Grace Foundation’s work in India and on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. 

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We had flown into Accra and from there took a small plane to Tamale, one of the larger cities in Northern Ghana. It was such a small plane I had to check my larger camera equipment bag and was informed it would arrive the following day. I had a bit of a panic attack, but the gear all arrived as promised. 

TAMALE - NORTHERN GHANA

We hit the ground running on day one and started meeting so many faces. The most important being, The By Grace women! 

My time in Tamale was focused on doing interviews with the women and hearing their powerful stories. Along with capturing the process behind the clutches the women are learning to create through The By Grace Foundation. 

GIRL IN MARKETS

Young girls are used in Ghana as head porters, also known as kayayoo. They will carry heavy loads for shoppers and traders on their heads, sometime very long distances in the hot sun. She is likely not in school and is working to help support her family or her baby. She will be vulnerable to sexual abuse and unplanned pregnancy.

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The By Grace Foundation is fighting these issues by teaching the women new skills they can use to generate an income!

Women working in the local market in Tamale. 

INTERVIEWS 

I brought large diffusion sheets and spent the morning figuring out how to soften the African sun. We had so many women to interview and it was going to take all afternoon. Which meant we needed to shoot during the brightest time of the day. 

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Pictured above is the women's main seamstress. She helps educate the women on how to sew. 

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Rafia, she was shy in her interview, but warmed up each time we saw her. She was giggling and laughing by our last day with her. 

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I focused the video on Rebecca, because I loved her favorite African proverb:

“Small, small things make an elephant.”

Translates: “Sometimes people place limitations on themselves, but no matter how small you start, you can get where you need to be.” - Rebecca

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"My name is Magdaline and I'm 14 years old. I want to learn to sew, so I can help my family."
-Magdaline, 14

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This was a young girl I asked to photograph.

This is reality for young girls trying to support their families. They will often end up not going to school and carrying heavy loads back and fourth to the market. 

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"Hi, my name is Azara and I do not know my age." - Azara, age unknown

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"If I can sew well, then I can support myself in the future." 

Favorite African Proverb: "If a town is far, there is another town further." 
Translation: "There is always something ahead of you, or somebody always knows more." 

Fatima, 17

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"When I am short money, I can use sewing." - Zilfa, 16

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Favorite African Proverb: "The dry branch will bud and surprise those who gather sticks." Translation: "Nobody expects a dry branch to bud when a tree is cut down and dry. So for a branch to bud is a surprise. I love that proverb because expectations of me are low, so I want to surprise people by exceeding their expectations."

- FEROUZA, 20

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Favorite African Proverb: "Small, small, catches the monkey's tail." 
Translation: "Little, by little, you can get where you want to be." 

AJUIMA, 25

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Another huge part of this trip was The By Grace Foundation’s new building for the women. An afternoon was spent celebrating and giving certificates to the women.  

SANDEMA

After our time in Tamale, we headed further North to Sandema. It was bringing back so many memories from my time in Malawi and the simplicity of village life.

Emily lived in Ghana for most of her childhood and getting to see her reunions was fun. I felt at home as we stayed in one of her old houses and got to settle in a bit.

One of my favorite nights was when we rode in the back of a pick up to one of her childhood friends home. We filled the small home with people and laugher as we ate the local dish, groundnut stew. 

I spent my evenings in Sandema walking around during the African harmaton glow, capturing village life.

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I joked I was bullied at the watering hole because some kids asked me 21 questions and didn’t seem satisfied with any of my answers. I think I redeemed myself a few nights later, when a few of the same boys let me jump in their very serious volleyball match. (pictured above) 

After Sandema, time seemed to fly by. We spent one day relaxing at Zaina Lodge midway through the trip and it was the best decision EVER! After that we returned back to Tamale to get ready to leave and I wanted one more evening with the By Grace Women. 

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Only a few of the women were available, but I used a cloth I’d bought at the local market to create a backdrop. This would be our last night in Ghana, so after the photos we said good-bye to the women. 

One misconception about this photography work, is that it’s all exotic and glamorous. Instead, absolute exhaustion mixed with uncomfortable situations is more accurate. All while trying to execute a creative vision.

With that being said, you either love it, or hate it…and I love it! 

So many more powerful stories are coming in 2018 and I can't wait to share them. Leave your feedback, questions, or love below! 

-Tara Shupe 

A Ghana Getaway - Zaina Lodge

Welcome to Zaina Lodge, a unique little getaway you never would have expected! Located only 2.5 hours West of Tamale, you are soon in the heart of Mole National Park. 

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This was going to be a jam packed work trip, but when I learned we’d be in Northern Ghana, I started looking at the possibility of Mole National Park. At the time I wasn't sure if I'd be traveling solo, but either way I was hoping to make it happen. 

HOW TO GET THERE:

  1. Book a shuttle from the Tamale or Accra airport
  2. Book a driver - you can contact Zaina for assistance 

We were lucky to be traveling with a local missionary, (Sherri) who has been living in Ghana for 12 years and had a car. It was the perfect getaway for all of us and allowed for each of us to refuel. For Sherri, she finally got wifi good enough to download more Netflix! (Think about that for a second!) 

After the short drive from Tamale, we arrived to the Zaina front gates. We really had no idea what to expect and were greeted with a lime drink and a scented cold towel. We were then escorted to our "glamping" style room which overlooked Mole Park. 

We laid by the pool all afternoon and literally soaked up the African sun. For each meal we were given two meal options. I have to admit, I was skeptical since we'd been eating local dishes all week, but the meals were phenomenal! 

THE SAFARI

The next morning we loaded in an open top vehicle and went on a driving safari around Mole Park National Park. It wasn't long before we saw monkeys, wart hogs, and varying deer. We were even served a cute little coffee picnic on an overlook. Follow my Instagram travel story to see more behind the scenes. 

The whole time, the safari guides are trying to find us elephants...and boy did we find them! 

I had actually forgotten a piece of my drone, so we changed our route making us run into a small herd of elephants. One of the smaller elephants seemed to pose in the middle of the road. 

We watched from the road as they threw dirt, crunched trees and walked side by side. It was the best ending to our morning safari! 

After our safari we came back to a wonderful spread of breakfast overlooking the park. The staff had heard of our elephant sighting and were so excited for us. 

A few hours later, the elephants came to the watering hole below the infinity pool. I couldn't believe it! I was able to fly my drone from the pool deck and capture footage of them drinking. (Stay tuned for the video.) 

If you check out the Zaina Lodge Instagram, you'll see the animals at times even come up to the pool area. 

Zaina truly felt like a secret Getaway in Ghana. If you are already planning a trip to Ghana, you should consider visiting this little slice of heaven. 

Please leave some love below and feel free to ask any questions. 

xo - Tara

Before / After - Lightroom Photo Editing

I have people who reach out on a regular basis asking a wide range of photo questions, but mainly about my editing.

So I thought I'd share a little bit + give my Lightroom settings I used for this sunset series.  

You can also see how dark I typically shoot. I always, always, shoot dark. However, I also have a powerful camera that allows me to really push the exposure to still get the brightness I want. (Nikon D810) 

I don't believe in Presets being a magical tool to fix an image, but I do believe they're a great start. A lot of people ask what presets I use and the answer is: only ones I created myself. Every image still needs adjusting, but it keeps my work consistent in certain areas. 

So I will place a preset I have created and make a few adjustments. I will then sync it across the series and make even more adjustments for each image. 

Below are my Lightroom settings I used for this sunset series. (Each photo varying slightly.)

LR COLOR EDITS: 

  • WB: 6,172
  • TINT: -7
  • EXPOSURE: +1.45
  • CONTRAST: +45
  • HIGHLIGHTS: -42
  • SHADOWS: +35
  • WHITES: -21
  • BLACKS: -10
  • CLARITY: +22
  • VIBRANCE: -5
  • SATURATION: -11

TONE CURVE:

  • HIGHLIGHTS: 0
  • LIGHTS: 0
  • DARKS: -25
  • SHADOWS: -13

COLOR SETTINGS:

GRAIN EFFECTS:

  • GRAIN: 24
  • SIZE: 23
  • ROUGHNESS: 28

These photos were also pulled into Photoshop for additional burning & dodging. (Comment below if you're interested in my process with that as well!) 

That's cool...but how do I create my own? Especially if I don't know where to start? 

Well, if you're like me, then you start by looking at what you like and try to mimic it. I believe along the way you will discover your own style + your own "custom" presets. 

Comment below if you liked this post and you'd like to see more photo-editing tips! 

-Tara