A BICYCLE AND A CAMERA IN MADAGASCAR
Chris van Ryn explored Madagascar by bike, stumbling across myriad candid moments, which he captured with his limited photographic kit
“There’s a chameleon!” came the call from our guide. I cycled up to the bushes, dismounted, swung my bag around to the front and reached for my camera. “Where?” I queried, peering closely. “There,” he replied, pointing. “Looks like a branch.” Then I saw it — moving slowly, tentatively reaching out its front ‘fingers’ like an elderly man reaching for a coffee mug, before it finally gripped the branch, pulled itself forward, then repeated the motion with the other leg. Despite the slowness, it disappeared from view much quicker than I anticipated, its head becoming obscured by leaves. Damn, I thought. I sprinted around to the other side of the bush, pushing in between the branches. I zoomed right in, checked the depth of field, set the aperture to f/2.8, then took a shot. I adjusted the camera, set the aperture to f/3.5, then took another. I wanted to make sure there was enough in focus, but I still wanted some bokeh. I decided to play it safe. I set the aperture to f/4.5, and then I had my money shot. Setting off again, we headed further into the remote countryside. The trip consisted of 500km of cycling in just over seven days, and 56km of hiking. Travelling in this way puts you inside a scene as a participant; you are no longer just an observer.
We’d departed from the capital, Antananarivo — a chaos of people; dust; dieselpuffing trucks, Renaults, and Citroëns from the ’50s; humped zebu; squawking roosters; and roadside markets where bluebottles swarmed over meat, alongside vegetables and fruits of assorted reds and greens — a Mecca for street photography. From there, we had ridden south into the highlands, over the mountainous vertebrae that separates east from west along the length of Madagascar, forging polarized geographic personalities. In the east, a sweeping moist wind had spawned a green belt. In the west, dry, arid air had turned land into sand that supported spiny forests with cacti bearing