Arnold Mugasha, a Ugandan aerial photographer, is one of the very few talented dronists in the country. He’s known on Instagram as shotbymu. His aerial captures are just stunning, and we, like many, remain completely blown away by his unique drone views of Uganda. We spent an evening with him to know more about his passion for aerial photography.
How Arnold started
It started about 3 years ago when Arnold was watching BBC Planet Earth, a nature documentary TV series by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Two episodes specifically inspired him. The first being the one that captured hyenas chasing wildebeests and the second which went globally viral, where newly-hatched marine iguana made its way to the sea, after a gauntlet race with over 20 snakes.
“The way these scenes were being shot, looked movie-like yet they were actually real life scenes. This cinematic shooting of everyday animal life got me thinking and that’s when I decided to go to YouTube and start learning about drones as well as learning about the camera crew photographers of BBC Planet Earth.” Arnold recalls.
Arnold then started saving some money to purchase his first drone a DJI Mavic Pro, one of the first bold moves he made at a young age of 24. This cost him about UGX 4.7 million (about USD$ 1300). He bought it in December 2016.
The first challenges he countered
Possession of a drone back in 2016 was not the same as possessing a normal camera to use for photography. It involved a lot of clearing, trying to understand the recognized fly zones and no fly zones which failure to understand, could result into indefinite confiscation of the drone by authorities by the Civil Aviation Authority, intelligence and Police for security reasons.
“When I got my first drone, I was very cautious. I did a lot of research that involved moving to police stations and Civil Aviation Authority to understand the fly zones and laws governing drones. Lucky enough as I established later, there are no laws restricting ownership of a drone by a citizen if you are using it in unrestricted fly zones like private establishments.” Arnold explains.
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The real trouble he has encountered
It happened at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, the only place in Uganda where you can see rhinos in the wild. Arnold had arrived late the previous night and had not gotten acquainted with the rules of the sanctuary. When he started flying the drone early the next morning, all hell broke loose.
“All of a sudden, I saw game rangers come running to me. At first, the thought I was a poacher and since rhinos are listed as among the most threatened species, they are highly protected. It took hours of explanations and showing them my identifications proving that am not a poacher that they finally let me go and warned me not to do that again.” He remembers.
His best highlights as an aerial photographer
At first, he fails to pick his best, a thing that proves he puts in a lot everytime he decides to be behind the drone remote. After about 15 seconds of thinking however, he zeroes down to a few.
“I think Kabale is one of my best highlights. When I visited Lake Bunyonyi, it was one of the most breathtaking scenes I have ever seen and taken. The second I can point out is Murchison Falls along River Nile where I also shot Chobe Safari Lodge. These scenes are very magnificent.” Arnold says.
My top nine from 2017, really had no clue when I started @shotbymu this year where it was going to take me but what a wow!! Super grateful for everyone who has given me a chance to work on their projects and thankful for all the interesting people I've met and learnt a lot from this year. 2018 let's do dis! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #topnine2017 #africa #travel #4tographyea #travelgram #travelphotography #earthpix #thisisuganda #sunset #vscouganda #vsco #uganda #wanderlust #aov #aerial #fromwhereidrone #instatravel #dronephotography #dynamicafrica #aerial #agameoftones #moodygrams #afriquette #drone #adventure #heatercentral #worldplaces #dji #mavicpro #dronestagram
Turning passion into business.
At first, Arnold used to fly drones out of passion. When people started recognizing his amazing aerial shots, they started hiring him to shoot their projects providing rare opportunities to travel across the country.
“My drone is now attached to my company registered as Shot by Mu Ltd. One of my first paid jobs was in June 2017 when a team flew in from India to do a documentary about Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in West Nile. They were looking for a dronist and that is when I met them and tagged along.” Arnold explains.
Arnold now established a website (shotby.mu) where he documents all his works that support him in sharing his work to potential clients. In future, he plans on building a team and move beyond just a one person team.
Arnold has over 8 years experience in the creative industry working as a multimedia designer dabbling in graphic design, animation and illustration, so camera work is the latest addition to his skills. He is not about to let this end. 4 years from now, he plans on big things for the Shot by Mu brand.
“3 or 4 years from now I don’t want to have a typical day time job. I want to focus on Shot by Mu and make it a fully fledged production house that will be shooting on movie sets, documentaries and telling nature stories about Uganda that you rarely see on TV. In short, I want to be living life doing what I am passionate about.” Arnold explains.
The photographers he looks up to in Uganda and beyond
To be good at anything, you have to learn what your peers in that field are doing and be inspired. Besides his liking for BBC Planet Earth photographers, Arnold has learnt how to be a better photographer through mastering what his peers are doing in Uganda and East Africa.
“ In Uganda, I look up to William Kane, Aaron Kajumba and Kreativ Adikt. In Africa and beyond, I look up to Truthslinger, Tobi Shinobi and Osborne Macharia. These keep me pushing forward.” He says.“You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take”- he concludes
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Celebrating Uganda’s Single Fathers
“Everyone can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad” so goes the old adage. Parents are a pillar in a child’s life. Some say that the father is the head of the family but the mother is the heart of the family.
Countless stories have been told about single mothers, but in Uganda the phenomenon of single fathers is slowly creeping in.
What happens when she walks out on you and leaves the kids behind? Or when the unexpected happens and she passes on? The father must stick his neck out, take charge and be a real dad.
This fathers’ day we spoke to two single fathers that are doing a great job raising their children on their own.
Meet Wence Kamugisha, a 39-year-old single father of two, Jeremiah who is Seven and Maria four. Three years after a glamorous wedding, the two got misunderstandings that could not be resolved, they took separate ways, and they agreed that he takes care of the two children. During this time, Wence a data base administrator at Centenary bank fell sick with a rare trigeminal neuralgia and only recently got a surgery in India.
“When I was in India, Maria fell sick because she was missing me. But I made sure that I call them everyday to find out how they are doing” he said.
He is back on his feet but even through the excruciating pain, he did not let go of his babies, and his neighbors accuse him of spoiling his children.
“They are mine, if I don’t spoil them who will? but I would like them to stay connected to their mother as much as possible. So during the holidays they go to see their mother. I don’t want our differences to get in the way of their growth. ”
We also spoke to Moses Abiine a 33-year-old single dad. His wife Diana passed away in 2011, for 4 years now, he has taken care of their kids.
“The last-born was 1 year and eight months when my wife died. I knew from that day that my children were my responsibility. I have always loved children; I don’t want to see children suffer whether they are mine or not. People encouraged me to take my children to the village to their grandmother but I wanted to keep my family together. If I take my kids to the village, I would be disconnected from them. I dropped out of school when I was young. There was no school fees for me; I want my kids to have a brighter future. This is my ivory, My kids are my responsibility. No one will take my kids away from me whether I have a maid or not. My kid’s miss their mother yes, but they are comforted by the fact that I care about them.”
“When I was working as a driver at USAID LEAD, life was good. But when the project phased out, I told them that life wasn’t going to remain the same. I opened up to them to live within their means.”
“My challenges as a single father are very many, I worry about my children a lot, I am always thinking about my kids. About school fees, being a driver, most of the time, I am not at home, I worry about my kids’ hygiene, whether they have gone to school, then I also have issues with maids. I worry about their clothes whether they still fit, and their medication especially when I am in the field. My children are insured over the years, the maids have stabilized and I requested my organization to insure my maid as well. I make sure I pay her well and that the children respect her.”
“I would also love to spend quality time with my children, but work limits me yet the little time we have with them is to make sure that they are working. They now think I am very tough- they know that cleaning the compound is their responsibility. I need to learn daily how to discipline them with out creating a rift between them.”
“Right now I work at International Sweet Potato as a company driver. At work they will not give you special care because you are a single father. I have built a house for my kids, I rear goats and now I have 5 cows. This has taught me to be more responsible and to work harder. By the time I stop being employed, I should be able to be self-employed. I am working towards seeing that I can earn at least 500,000 from my farm every month.”
“My kids must know that I love them; I want them to be people of confidence that will change the world that they live in.”
“My advice to all fathers is that they should aim at a good life for their children all kids are the same. And this is not about the money they must be present in the lives of their children all the time. Right now, my daughter knows that she has to keep herself pure until she is through with school. I give her these life skills, sex education. I make it a point to live an exemplary life to my children. Help them do home work. You must sow in these kids’ lives then you will yield at the end. They will be children that change this country, not to drink And when faced with life’s challenges. We have a choice to make, but men should not turn to alcohol to drown their issues but face the giants. It is not easy but the fruit is worth it.
Today, we celebrate all the awesome dads out there, the dads whose kids call inspiration, the dads who don’t leave it all upon their wives, the dads who never give up through thick and thin, the same dads that never adopted for abortion when the world said it was to early. In a special way, we celebrate the single fathers, you are the rock upon which this country is slowly being built.
Uganda’s Raymond Besiga’s Pursuit of Social Justice through Technology
Raymond Besiga, a technologist, software engineer, an entrepreneur, a Global health corps alumnus is an agent of social change who is passionate about using technology for social justice and development. He is the founder of Akabbo Crowdfunding, whose goal is to reduce payment friction and create a forum for open rallying of campaigns. Akabbo has had plenty of success in the past with the Uganda Arts Trust which raised over Ushs1,000,000 in 3 weeks and plenty more open campaigns that are still running. He also-co founded Sparkplug. Besiga encourages the building of ideas, skills and self-development as the future depends on the youth of a nation and social change starts within an individual and in turn spreads to the whole universe and effect social change. He envisions a sharing economy that would largely depend on utilizing strength in numbers in the absence of strength in monetary form. This would in turn lead to a shift in culture which overtime has become a more selfish and less passionate culture with the passing years. As a technologist, he feels the use of technology in Uganda is not nearly optimum and is not localized enough as most of the technology used is imported and may not necessarily fit our needs. He therefore sights a need for locally developed technology and development of skills that would be able to accomplish this. This can be done by developing individual ideas which eventually develop into something substantial for example he is currently developing an app that identifies Wi-Fi hotspots in Kampala.
He is a resilient spirit who believes that human beings are on the cusp of something ‘Giving up is too easy’ and in order to achieve all that is intended, public opinions shouldn’t be given as much power and everyone should bask in their freedom to freely express themselves as desired without having the need to impress anybody so as to get content across. Everybody ought to express their true potential which often gets lost in trivialities like appearance and impressions.
He cites lack of integrity as the biggest challenge faced in running business and trying to get it off the ground. And values of people that are so public oriented instead of focusing on their inner formation and the need for the service they can provide and their skill. Besiga urges Ugandan netizens to refrain from falling into the wagon of cyber bullying and shaming, but rather use all platforms of social media for personal and social development, scout new and fresh opportunities for self-promotion and for the betterment and to extend the reach of their services and skills, step out of their comfort zones so they can push themselves to do great.
On whether donor money can make a difference in Uganda, he believes that in as much as it would make a difference, we are plagued by corruption that indirectly affects the rural people that are in dire need of any help they can get.
On the increasing doubts and discontentment of the Ugandan education system, he too believes the system is massively flawed and in turn produces less efficient graduates.This therefore calls for a change in the education system and in the way we learn. What would make anybody stand out in this era is long term thinking and the abandonment of pride. Not to despise humble beginnings and being altruistic in our daily endeavors. It goes a long way. ‘do not let school get in the way of education.’
Sunrise Tales from Uganda
Walking with the rising morning sun,
Along these Kampala streets,
Bright, warm and beautiful,
My mind leaves me,
It travels through my soul and thoughts.
I can no longer feel myself alive,
I walk on, slowly travelling,
Unknowingly counting the steps,
400 to be precise.
But why does this happen to me,
Why does my soul leave me,
Why does this mind travel,
Then it hits me,
Mine is a temple of the Lord.
Photo Credit. Ninno Jack Jnr
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