Kisiizi Falls, Kabale, Uganda by Alan Smith

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Picture Story

Kisiizi Falls is tucked away in a valley in a remote area of south-western Uganda. Well into the 20th Century it was a place of death; unmarried pregnant girls used to be tied up by their families and thrown off the top of the 27 metre high falls. The practice reportedly only came to an end after one girl managed to grab her father and brother as she fell and dragged them to their deaths, too.

During the Second World War the power of the falls was harnessed to generate electricity for a flax factory that was built nearby. The enterprise failed and the factory was abandoned until a hospital was founded on the site in 1958. Some of the original buildings are still in use. The hydro-electric generator, however, has been upgraded several times since.

Today the waterfall not only provides power for the hospital but excess electricity is sold to homes and businesses in the surrounding area, providing much needed income for the hospital. Tourists are charged a small fee to visit the falls and that revenue is used to pay the medical costs of the poorest patients.

The falls are hard to photograph. The best viewpoints are close to the cascade, requiring a very wide-angle lens. My lens at its widest has an effective focal length of 27mm so this photograph is made up of several vertical images stitched together.

I wanted a long enough exposure to blur the falling water but fast enough to retain some detail in the river and to freeze the moving vegetation. I didn’t have a neutral density filter with me so I stopped the lens down to its smallest aperture in order to have a suitable shutter speed. Spray on the lens had to be wiped off between exposures.


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