Experience the Extraordinary

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, inspiration, passion, travel, Wild life.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

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It is the adventures and experiences that create the excitement that feeds one’s soul. When life starts to feel mundane, it is time to take an adventure; grab your friends, book a flight, head into nature, climb a mountain, dream about the future, feel the freedom, and experience something that makes your heart race. Take more than an epic journey; experience an odyssey in the fullest sense of the word. A single decision can be the defining moment, which changes the direction of one’s path in life. This is what happened to me a decade ago. Making that sudden decision to go to Africa taught me to jump out there, live boldly, and experience the extraordinary.

Although my camera is the drive behind seeking adventure and capturing compelling stories, it is the incredible experiences that stay with me long after the click of shutter. Last year was no exception. I had the opportunity to spend up close and personal time with the young orphaned elephants that were being reintroduced to the wild. We were invited for an exclusive stay at two of the David Sheldrick properties near and in West Tsavo.

Each morning we awoke at sunrise to go down to the stockade for the elephants’ morning feeding, before they headed out into the wild accompanied by their keepers. Midmorning we would join them again for their noon feeding. They would then head to a small water hole where they would interact with the wild elephants that had also come in for a drink. It was fascinating to watch. Both the orphans and the wild elephants would then wander down to a larger water hole for a mud bath. We could lay right beside their water hole, photograph them, play with them, or even get a personal dusting from them! We were able to interact with them, one on one, for several hours.

In the evening we were able to greet them again as they came in from the wild to spend the night in the safety of the stockade. The orphans will decide for themselves when it is time to stay in the wild, as one evening they just don’t come home, so to speak. It has now been placed in the top 10 experiences I have had in Africa.

More amazing than the experience itself was witnessing the incredible dedication of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the keepers who dedicate their lives to help save these amazing animals. I have supported this organization for many years, including donating proceeds of my exhibit “Wild on Earth” that was held at the G2 Gallery in 2013, to the organization. They continue to show the world that we can make a difference. Because someone cared enough to take action, these orphans now have a chance to live a full life in the wild. You can learn more about this amazing organization and the work they do by visiting their website.

This year, I am excited to be able to take 4-5 photographers with me, for an exclusive visit and up-close personal encounter with these gentle giants. Proceeds from our visit will go back to the DWST. Here are the details. Below are a few of the images from our visit.

Vuria, who I adopted, coming from the water hole with the wild elephants

Vuria, who I adopted, coming from the water hole with the wild elephants



Ex-orphan at the mud hole



Elephants playing at the mud hole


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Orphans coming to their favorite dust bath spot.


moments before I was dusted with the rich red soil

moments before I was dusted with the rich red soil






Let it fly.


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Done and Dusted


A keeper walking the elephants home in the evening.

A keeper walking the elephants home in the evening.


Playing with Vuria

Playing with Vuria

Join us this year for an extraordinary experience!

Arriving in Kenya

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, passion.


View from my veranda

View from my veranda

Last Wednesday, December 10th, 2014, I boarded the plane to Kenya, with 7 bags in tow.  This time it was not for a visit, but to relocate to Karen Nairobi, in Kenya.  As I passed through immigration, I was greeted with a smile and told next time I should be in the residency line, this one was for visitors; I smiled back. I was excited to see all 7 bags, traveling around the carousel, within about 5 minutes of clearing immigration. The customs agent asked me a few questions and then waved me through.  Alex, from Sunworld Safaris was there to greet me with a warm African smile. As aways, Sunworld rolled out the red carpet for me.

It was well after 10:00 PM or 22:00 when I arrived, “home.” Too excited to sleep, I began to unpack. First was the unwrapping of my 30” cinema Apple screen. It had arrived in great condition, but I held my breath as I pushed the on button. I was more than thrilled to see the wave of Mavericks light up the screen. As I began to pull out some of the treasures from my southern California home, I knew I had made the right choices. In those last few hours, sitting on the floor of my loft, I decided to take the items that gave me daily comfort and that could not be replaced because most of them were hand made; exotic tapestries, bedding, throw pillows, candle holders, pottery platters, drapery, and a few books (made by clients or myself).

I think I slept most of the first few days. I was so exhausted, not only by this move, but from an exhilarating 6 months of travel; mostly throughout East Africa. Although, this is a very exciting time, it is also one not without anxiety. I am now living half way around the world from friends and family. I have very little in my house, not even a plate. The internet I had installed, while I was in the US, is not working yet, as I suspect would be the case. There are moments of panic, “What was I thinking?” Then there are the moments of being reminded as I glance through the incredible imagery I am selecting for a special project. There were so many reasons for this move, but one of the main reasons, is to have more time for my work in wildlife, conservation, and culture throughout East Africa, Ethiopia, parts of South Africa and Namibia.

Africa is a magical place that is changing quickly. Being here now is important. The incredible wildlife that has roamed this continent for hundreds of years, is being poached at the highest rates in history, with no end in sight, yet. We will keep the hope. The beautiful tribes, that have lived nomadically off the land for hundreds of years, are modernizing. Experiencing this special corner of our world now, is a privilege that most future generations will not have the opportunity to experience, except through media. Think about placing a trip to Africa to the top of your bucket list; experience the magic and create beautiful imagery of one of the most exotic places on our planet.







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Africa; Moving to Kenya, Living the Dream

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, inspiration, passion, travel.


Relocating to Nairobi, Kenya

I suppose this post is a tad over due, or perhaps a long time in coming; it took more than a decade. If you follow my post through my social media sites, than this news will not be a surprise. In less than three weeks, I will be boarding a flight to Kenya, but this time I will be settling into a wonderful compound in Karen, Nairobi, making it my new home base.

During my “80 Days in Africa,” running back to back safaris and tours, I actually found a few hours to rent a place in Karen Nairobi, open a bank account, purchase a few major appliances, get them installed, have Internet installed, and obtain my residency permit.

I am now currently in the US, looking around my loft and wondering when Santa is sending his elves to pack up all my belongings.

I actually do not have a lot of “Stuff”, as I rid myself of 80% of what I owned about 4 years ago, when making my first attempt to follow this dream. That attempt was part of personal project, which I am still working on, but things did not fall into place the way I had hoped. It is what inspired me to start this blog, in June 2010, with the first entry, “a journey is about to begin.”


80 Days in Africa –update

The 80+ days in Africa was amazing, going by in a flash. It was incredible to meet and spend time with so many talented photographers; making new lifetime friendships. Although I was optimistic to post throughout the journey, lack of Internet and time, prevailed once again. I was quite faithful to post to my social media sites and it is a great way to view my latest images. Following me on these platforms is easy, just click the social media buttons in the side bar to the right; at the top.

During this crazy time, I am also editing through all the wonderful memories. I am  putting together a collection of images to share through a complimentary ebook titled,  “80 Days in Africa”, More than a Photograph, an Experience. We are shooting for a holiday delivery.

Fist announcements will be made through my eNews and blog. You can sign up, under subscribe in the right side bar, to receive this announcement through your personal email.


Safari, Tours, and workshop update


Many of you have emailed me over the past few months regarding my safaris and tours for 2015. Due to my heavy travels and relocation, I am a little behind, but I will be listing the below tours in the next few weeks. I keep my safaris and tour groups small, for a more intimate experience and better group dynamics. Therefore, these trips usually fill quickly. If you are interested in a trip, please save the dates and be sure to add your name to the trip interest list. People on the list receive the itinerary in advance and have first opportunity to sign up for the safari or tour. Most trips fill from these list before they go live on the website.



White Horses of the Camargue, in France! July 2015

The spirit-N-Light workshops have become a wonderful success. In celebration of this, I have teamed up with Laurie Rubin and Patrice Aguilar, who is a renowned, experienced photographer in France, to lead a Camargue horse workshop. This workshop is being offered through Muench Workshops.

It was announced last week and is filling quickly! Learn more here 

Camargue Horses


Amazing KenyaSeptember 2015

Great Migration, Amboseli, an Intimate Elephant Experience, and the Iconic Maasai –This is a unique, semi-private, safari that will have a maximum only 5-6 participants. This safari is an extraordinary opportunity to photograph Kenya’s most phenomenal wildlife during the migration; exotic tribes, the herds of marching elephants, and personally interacting with the young elephants that are being reintroduced to the wild, through the DSWT. During this exclusive experience you will have the rare opportunity to capture stunning images from unique perspective.

This trip will probably fill by invitation, but if you are interested, please contact me directly at info@PiperMackayPhotography.com 


Tribes of the Omo –October 2015

You may preview a sample itinerary here  If you are interested, please add your name to the interest list at the bottom of the itinerary.


Gelada Baboons Extension. – October 2015

This incredible experience is offered exclusively as an extension to either the Tribes of the Omo or the Best of the Omo. You will have an incredible intimate experience with these exotic baboons, found only in the simian mountains, Ethiopia; it rivals the experience of the Mountain Gorilla’s. Last year, two of my images of the Gelada Baboons made the finals for BBC wildlife photographer of the year.


Best of the Omo –October 2015

You may preview a sample itinerary here. If you are interested, please add your name to the interest list at the bottom of the itinerary.


The Endless Summer, The Perfect Wave

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, inspiration, passion.

I was wondering down the isle of the store with my mind and soul completely in Africa. I looked up and thought; now why am I here and what am I looking for. Although I recently returned from another incredible journey in the Omo Valley, which had been followed by one of the most exciting safaris ever, I was about 8,000 miles away planning my next photographic adventure.

It was at this particular moment that I said to myself, this is how a surfer feels about searching for that perfect wave, that endless summer. I grew up in southern California, a rare native, in the surf era – a great time to grow up here.  My high school sweetheart and most of my friends were serious surfers. I have been surfing many times, but it just never filled my soul in the way it did theirs. Surfers have this amazing intimate connection to nature and when they are out riding a wave nothing exist but that moment.  I remember being envious of that longing and passion they had.

The serious surfer will go to the far corners of the earth in search for that next perfect ride. Experiencing the adrenalin rush that resonates with their soul becomes as necessary to them as breathing air is to most of us. Surfing that perfect wave in a magical exotic place becomes more important than the material success in life.  In their quest for that greatest ride, they take huge risk, crash and burn a lot…. but they always get back up and face natures fury.  It is part of their spirit and they could not stop even if they wanted to.

So, like a surfer, in the quest for that perfect wave, that endless summer, my adventures will continue on the African continent in my quest for that wild and less traveled area to capture unique images. And so the planning has begun once again………

He Changed the World

by Piper & filed under Blog, inspiration, passion.



One year ago Steve Jobs, a man who changed the world, left this world.

Seldom do we get to live in a time period where one person so dramatically changed the world. I  watched some of Steve Jobs speeches and have read his biography and always found him incredibly inspiring. He is a great example that it is all possible. Let this be an inspiration to follow your passion and live your purpose.

Today Apple released a short video as a tribute to Steve Jobs. The history he made we have lived.

Please take two minutes to watch it and then share it!  You will be glad you did!!

There are social media buttons at the bottom of this post that make it very easy to share this.



Let the Adventure Begin…..

by Piper & filed under Blog, passion, Tips and information, travel.

They say it is more exciting to get ready for the party than the party itself. I agree with this especially when planning an adventure to an exotic location in a distant land. The camera has been the greatest excuse to justify hopping onto a plane and flying off to that place I have been dreaming about. I am so grateful for the way it accidently fell into my hands, as I have done more and traveled further to some of the most remote regions on our planet than I probably would have, without it.

I think everyone should have at least one great adventure in their life, whether solo, with friends, or in a group. This is why I chose to write my first ebook on something I am so passionate about; Dream, Plan, Go. I hope it not only is an asset to you in planning for a great adventure, but also in helping  you to create those memorizing images when your on the go and you have one chance to get it right.

An introduction to the book

As photographers we see the world through the magic of our imaginations. For a lucky few, these visions are made real via weeks and weeks in the field, literally chasing the light from pole to pole. But the reality is that most photographers can steal away only a few weeks at a time. So a trip to an exotic location can be your photo experience of a lifetime – your one chance to capture the mesmerizing photographs that will stand out in a sea of imagery.

With that premise in mind, I wrote this book as a guide by your side so you can utilize the tips and insights I’ve culled from dozens of trips to extremely remote locations throughout Africa and other developing countries. It’s a photography truism that the difference between an average photograph of an extraordinary subject and an extraordinary photograph of an extraordinary subject is the work you put into before you click the shutter. So inside are ideas and insights into lessons learned on how to connect with indigenous cultures, as well as simple ideas on lighting and composition techniques. All can be easily applied in minimal time.

Purchase your copy here for only $10.00

If you know some one who would enjoy this book or would find the information useful, please pass this on to them. If you would like to help me share this book on the official launch please click on the   social media buttons below.

A Photographers Responsibility

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, inspiration, passion.

This will probably become one of my favorite photographs and in the  top 10 of portraiture photographs that I have captured. Every time I look at it I see a different meaning. To me, this is what makes a powerful image and why I say shoot what you love and shoot from the heart. I recently posted this image on Google+ and then Facebook with this quote



One of the responses I had was…… which I just noticed was deleted  when I went to copy it….said something about being the poster child for organizations wanting to  show the sadness of Africa so you would  give your money to their organization… it was a first reaction to the photograph without reading the caption. I then explained the photograph and to please read the caption. What it made me  realize is  the power of a still image ( I will always be a still photographer), and the responsibility that goes with along with that.  What I had captured was an amazing moment where we both connected in a powerful  moment that just feeds my soul and why I love photography  and Africa so much. However, after posting it I became aware of  how differently it could be interpreted. This made me look at this image over and over again… I saw the smile in his eyes that  was what was happening  at the moment  I took this image.  I was then pulled much deeper into the photograph… to look at it as though I was viewing it without any information….this is very hard to do….. when taken from the heart… but I realized it  had multiple meanings depending how it was used and the message with it…..especially with a touchy subject like  Africa, the people  and the way it is told in main street media…… So it is my responsibility to think before posting such a powerful image…..  The rain on his face almost looks like tears……

Here is the photographic story behind the image… It was on one of the most magical safaris with some amazing friends this past Feb, new and old.  After our safari in Tanzania we flew to Rwanda to trek with the Gorilla’s and that was over the top. We were on our way back to Kigali and were driving through the beautiful pouring rains of Africa. We were hungry and came upon this fruit stand. Of coarse our drivers knew the local people and they ran out to great us……

The teenagers had to get invalid, be cool, laugh with us and I as a photographer just becomed overwhelmed in the moment  and had to capture it……

We were so excited… they were so excited. I started shooting through the window and  they would look into our vehicle and stare into the camera  (I have to  confess that I got so excited I had to jump out of the car, in the rain, and started running amuck with my camera and having so much fun with them).  We bought the banana’s and hung them from the post inside our land rover, along with some pineapple…

I shoot from my heart and I get so excited when I am sharing my passion of Africa with others…. but this post (on social media) really made me stop and think… about my responsibility of looking deep into a photograph before I post it….. and the depth of a photograph…. because it may not be sending the message in which it was captured.

As an example here are two other photographs that I took moments apart.. and they say something powerful and completely differnt ……


Disclaimer… if my spelling and grammar is not yet up to par… I am working on that with he help of an editor…… you may also refer someone….. I want to focus on what I do best.. and let someone else help me with what they do best :)





Living the Story

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, inspiration, passion, travel.

I believe the more compelling images come when you live the stories you are trying to tell and that more than the photograph is the experience. I am often asked how I gain access to the people I photograph. I often hear the comments “it looks like they really enjoyed having their photo taken.”

My answer is a simple one, I participate in the peoples lives whose story I am trying to tell, not to get the photograph but to experience life and the world we live in. The camera is really a great excuse to hop on plane and discover a world so different than my own. If the out come is powerful and emotional images then that is a bonus. Although extraordinarily difficult at times I try my best not to be tied to the outcome in fear I will miss the experience. The other part to that is I also get my subjects to participate in my story. I often hand them my camera’s (my guides think I am crazy handing over my expensive gear), having them hold my speed lights or reflector’s and allowing them to experience the creative processes. When they discover how fun it is to create photographs they understand why I am so excited to take their photographs.

Too many times photographers stand on the sidelines photographing from a far because they are unsure how to interact with people so different from them. But really we are all the same…. We all have dreams, needs, hope, fear, love, and all the other human emotions that bind us together. Before you pull out your camera, be curious, ask questions, share stories about your life and culture and soon you will make new friends in faraway places and you will gain a more powerful vision of what you want to capture.

Stirring a pot of Ugali at the Mwambiti secondary school in Kenya. Ugali,  a porridge made from maize, is one of the staple foods in AFrica because it is filling and inexpensive to make.

I spent serval days in the hot African sun with the rangers in East Tsavo, Kenya. I helped to take down snares that the poachers had put up and document the tragedies that we were unable to stop. Understand this situation make photographing these animals in the wild even more special.

Participating in the ceremonial painting at the bull jumping ceremony, a boys  passage to manhood. Hamar tribe, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Letting my new friends get involved with the creative process and experience the passion of creating photographs.

CHOICES- Stuff or Experiences…..

by Piper & filed under Blog, inspiration, passion, risk.

Our American culture, now spreading world wide, makes it challenging to make the choice between “Stuff” and “Experiences”.  My main computer has been down since my return from my most recent journey through eastern Africa and I cannot yet transfer the huge amount of files that need to be edited. So, I have been taking care of the all the other daunting task that need my attention. One of the hardest parts of this journey is the huge amounts of time that can be required of me sitting in front of my computer….I am a very social person so I find this type of isolation challenging.  One of my favorite people recently sent me this……..


I am lucky that my home base is in southern California where the weather is generally nice year round (actually it has been unusually cold for months this winter..ugh) so I can grab my laptop, hop on my bike, ride down to the beach and relocate my office to have an ocean view for a few hours. But, for the times I am trapped in my loft at my computer I listen to such things from TED talks, photography podcast, inspirational speakers and the likes, to keep from going mad!! One message that kept coming up this past week was experiences vs stuff and having the courage to make the choice, or rather that is my interpretation.  Unfortunately having courage does not mean being fearless and it is that fear that stops people from taking the risk to do what it is they really want to do.

I listen to Amy Purdy, a world champion female adaptive snowboarder, ask the question “If you were the author, what would your story be.” I listen to Scott Bourne, a professional photographer,  talk about the layer who always wanted to be a cake baker but instead did what he thought he could not what he truly desired to do… and state “that is a life wasted”. I listen to, David Hoffman, a documentary film maker,   talk about how he lost everything in a fire including a lot of his still and film footage… this really resonated as we all know that stuff can be gone in a moment, but memories last a lifetime.  Then I went for a walk down to the marina where I took this photograph with my iphone of all these boats and yachts just sitting in their slips.

I assumed most of the owners are at work and I then wondered how many of these boats sit here over ninety percent of the time? Giving up such things that took so much time and effort to acquire is hard, this I understand perfectly. As I share my journey of transition I wish I could tell these choices are easy and don’t sweat it, but I cannot.

My choice to pursue my passion has not come without a price, how big or small has yet to be determined, but so far I am making it happen so that means it is possible for you to make it happen.  It would be dishonest to say that at times I pass by stores and don’t long for the freedom I use to have to just go in and buy whatever I wanted….more stuff… a new leather couch or the latest and greatest patio furniture would be fabulous. But, if I have to make the choice between stuff and experiences… what I can tell you for certain…is no one thing has ever made me more excited, feel more alive, or made me more happy than when I am on Safari in Africa, whether it is wildlife or cultural. AND no one fear is greater than the fear of getting to an age where I look back and realize I did not have the courage to make the sacrifice to live the life I really wanted…and now it is too late……….

Here is the image made with my iphone with the view I had while writing this post…….


I encourage you to make those hard choice to pursue what really fills your soul….

Below are the links to the stories of

Amy Purdy

Scott Bourne interview- scroll down to Episode #13

David Hoffman story 



Driving through Africa

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, passion, travel.

The below post was written on my drive to the Omo Valley. I had the unrealistic expectations that I could blog along the way. This was my third trip to the Omo Valley in 13 months and over 15 trips to Africa, yet is was the most challenging journey I have ever had, yet it was also the greatest experience in Africa yet… again I say that is the magic of Africa… it always delivers and tops itself.. or maybe that is my extreme love and passion for the continent, people and wildlife….. Although this was written weeks ago now as I now sit at a beautiful lodge in Tanzania awaiting my group to arrive tomorrow, I still want to share these thoughts with you.  I have so many new wonderful stories of this past 16 days in the Omo and although I will not share them in sequence,  the order that they happened, I look forward to sharing the stories and photographs as I continue my travels in Africa over the next 6+ weeks……

Sat Feb 4

Driving through the beauty of the hills of Ethiopia scattered with thatched roofed huts I am deeply filled with gratitude in having the courage to take risks and experience the things that enrich my life. We pass through little towns where the quaint thatch roofs are being replaced with new metal ones, modern and less expensive. It is on these long drives through Africa, a place that fills my soul, where I am at peace. It would be hard not to be when surrounded by such beauty in a place where life, though more physically hard perhaps, is simple and enjoyable.  This is changing as the modern world pushes it way through to these raw places. Tarmac roads are under construction, cell towers are popping up, motorbikes are seen more and trucks are bringing in the trinkets of desire which only money can buy.  The world is changing so quickly I wish I could push a button and selfishly stop it for just another decade so I can still get to all those wonderful untouched places before the innocence is lost. But I am also glad to see these changes making the local peoples lives better.  My wish is for everyone to experience these extraordinary places that can change your thoughts and change your life.

Many times we look back in life and say I wish I would have known that now…. Well I can look back at my old life in the fast track of the Fashion world 60 hrs a week but very success and realize I was missing the whole point of life. Having an adventure, experiencing something extraordinary, meeting fascinating new people whose lives are so different than your own, and really living your life. As I say often these days…. creating stories for the rocking chair. This does not come without a price and extreme sacrifice but later in life when I am sitting on the porch with a cold one looking back on life, it is not the grind of a career I will be fondly thinking of but of the many drives on dirt roads I drove through Africa and all the extraordinary people I met that enriched my experience in Life.

Join me sometime, I promise it is not a regret you will have.

Comments are open and I would love to hear from you.