Living with Lions

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

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A gentle wind blows across the plains as prides of lions lie in the shade of the acacias, waiting patiently in anticipation. At any moment now, a dust cloud will gather over the horizon, as thousands of wildebeest thunder through the tall grasses of the Maasai Mara; marking the arrival of the Great Migration. During migration season, the Maasai Mara is arguably the greatest wildlife photography experience in the world.

I am currently in the Maasai Mara, at Little Mara Bush Camp, which is my home for the next three weeks. This is a fascinating time to be in the Mara. The grasses are the highest of the year, providing tremendous opportunities to capture artistic and unique photographs. I am slow to click the shutter, as my focus is on creating interesting and powerful images through the use of dramatic lighting, slower shutter speeds, creative exposures and different white balance choices. Each morning starts before sunrise, quickly fading into the heat of the day without seeing another vehicle. It has a feel of a private reserve; the calm before the storm.

I have spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours photographing in this reserve over the past decade. What’s so different about these three weeks is that I am driving my own Land Rover. I must admit, it takes the experience to entirely new heights. I feel even more connected to the wildlife and this extraordinary place; no longer a visitor, but a feeling of belonging. Over these three weeks, I will be maneuvering over rough roads, crossing through rivers with rocky boulder bottoms, and sliding through the wet swampy black cotton soil, covering as much of the Mara as possible. Some of the most important skills for a wildlife photographer to have are to intimately know a location, understand the animal territories and behavior, and to build strong personal relationships in the area.

I wish to not only improve my own skills as an African wildlife photographer, but to specialize my guiding skills for those joining me on safaris.

Africa truly awakens your soul, as it did mine, on my first safari eleven years ago. I will savor these three weeks and immerse myself fully into every moment. As always, it will be hard to leave, even if only for a short time. I will return in August and September to lead my annual safaris –  Kenya Wildlife Safari and Great Migration Safari, during the height of the migration season. No matter how much time I spend in the Maasai Mara, it is never enough; it never gets old. Most all who have been here would also agree.

You know you are truly alive

when you are living among lions.

Karen Blixen – Out of Africa

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One Life; Dream it, Chase it, Live it.

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

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If I were practical, I would not be a photographer living in Kenya. I have always been a dreamer and a dream chaser. For weeks, I went through the grief between practical and heart racing as I traveled through Kenya and came in and out of Nairobi. Those of you that have traveled with me over the last five years know about my crazy infatuation for Land Rovers. I sat behind the wheel of a Land Cruiser, driving the rough roads of Northern Kenya, but at the end of the day, I was sitting behind a Toyota truck. It was just not the same; no matter what my head told me, my heart never fully agreed. It only took a decade of hard work, adversity, wanting to quit, and a huge investment for me to make my dream of living in Africa happen, so why would I suddenly stop taking risks and start being practical?

Really, I kept an open mind until the end. I said, “Whichever one comes my way is the right one.” Well, on my way back through Nairobi from my first trip to Turkana, I rolled past this Landy. It only took about 30 hours and I had the keys. I guess it was love at first sight, as I had test drove several Landy’s on this lot since mid-December. It only took another four days to get stuck in the black cotton soil, or rather high centered and temporarily delayed, proper. The next day I broke it. These things have now been checked off the list, stuck and broken, and I continue to look for a place to make me a bumper sticker that says, “I would rather be pushing my Landy.”

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I am now in the process of preparing for my photographer in residence in the Maasai Mara, from July 1-21! She has been thoroughly checked by two top mechanics, with great results. I needed new brake pads, a few belts replaced, a small short fixed, and a few bolts tightened. She is now at the famous Schuhmacher’s, Land Rover conversion specialist, to have a hatch put in the roof over the front seats.

I know those of you who are practical, will be thinking, “You should have gotten a Land Cruiser”, but my philosophy of “One Life, Live It”, has allowed me to live my dream completely. At the end of the day, if it all goes south, I could just simplify my life by breathing deeply, throwing my stuff in the back, opening my eyes, and hitting the road for another long adventure down a bumpy dirt road.

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The vision of my African Dream was always in a Land Rover. Dreams don’t chase themselves. I could not justify letting fear and practicality stand between me and the dream; I had to go all the way.

7 things I miss the most about the US

by Piper & filed under Blog, travel.

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I only had about seven weeks to settle into life in Nairobi before I hit the road again, but it was enough to get a taste of real life. Although I have spent 1-3 months a year in Kenya for the past decade, even staying in Karen—an area in Nairobi—with friends for several weeks, living there is still an adjustment. I am currently back in the states leading my Spirit-N-Light workshop, speaking at three events, and taking care of some things that did not get done prior to my departure.

Several people have commented they are surprised I am back so soon, and I laugh because some of those same individuals keep asking me when my 2016 safari schedule will be listed. Most of my schedule is planned out a year in advance. Therefore, when I moved to Kenya, I already had events scheduled in the US, bringing me back a few months after my arrival. Currently, I am planning to visit the states twice a year: once in spring and once in autumn. The idea was to flip where I spend my time, spending the majority of it in Africa and only a few months in the US.

When I return to Kenya in April, I will post what I love about living in Kenya. If you would like to receive this post by email, subscribe here.

1.Family, friends, and my cat.

I have traveled excessively for the past two decades, more for my fashion career than my photography career. I am used to being away from my family, friends, and pets for half of the year, but living halfway around the world from them is a quite a different experience. After several long days in front of the computer, I can’t just hop on my bike, or into my car, and meet up with friends and family. Skype is great, but it is not the same.

As for my cat, she is living a very spoiled life with my parents, but I miss having her with me. I have a greater appreciation for my wonderful family and friends than ever before.

2. Familiarity

I miss the ease of familiarity in everyday life: banking, the market, the freedom of hopping in my jeep and knowing where I am going. All the things I did in everyday life without having to give them any thought. For the first few weeks, just going to market was like being a deer in the headlights. I recognized very few of the brands; from seasonings to soap, it was all unknown and I had no idea what to choose. I laughed at myself for being so naive about to how big of an adjustment these types of everyday tasks would be in the beginning.

3. Trader Joe’s and ground turkey

I am a single woman who prefers to spend her time doing many things in life other than preparing a meal. Trader Joe’s made this task simple, tasty, and healthy. T.J.; please come to Nairobi. Subway is already here. The one item I have not found is ground turkey. It is one of the only meats I usually eat, so I miss it.

4. Coffee and my American size cup!

Yes, many of you are thinking that Kenya is known for its great coffee. I, however, have gone through about 6 brands and I still have not found one that suits me. I even have a friend whose family owns a plantation. I will be stocking up while I am here. I also miss my big American size coffee cup, as I can’t seem to find one in Kenya. That goes back to the to idea of familiarity, of just not knowing where to go yet. So, I will be bringing my cup with me for now. Few things give me more pleasure in life on a day-to-day basis,than a big cup of fresh coffee and a hot shower.

5. American TV

There are evenings when I just want to plop down on a comfortable couch, put my feet up, and zone out while watching a favorite program. I can’t stream through Hulu or Netflix, but I have discovered I can buy TV on iTunes. Since I don’t watch much TV, this is working for me at the moment, but I miss the ease of just flipping through several cannels of quality programing. I have the NatGeo channel and CNN, but that is about it. Oh, BTW, I also don’t have a couch yet, but it is on the list. LOL.

6. The beach

In southern California, I lived a few blocks from the beach. Everyday, after sitting in front of the computer for many hours, I would either bike or walk along the ocean. This pulled me away from the stress of life and allowed me to be a part of the calmness of the moment where my creativity easily flows. I now live in a beautiful, garden-type setting, where I take daily walks, but it’s not the same. I still miss the beach.

7. Photography events

I was fortunate to live in a city that had many incredible photography events. I love socializing in person and the inspiration it can bring. I miss being able to hop into my car and visit the Annenberg Space of Photography lecture series, the G2 gallery, and local photography club events. Make sure to take advantage of these types of events in your own back yard.

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

 

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Ex-orphan at the mud hole

 

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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

 

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Dusting

 

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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!

Africa; Moving to Kenya, Living the Dream

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


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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

SAVE THE DATES !

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.

 

NEW!

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

NEW!

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 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Keep it Simple

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

Dassanach tribe in the Omo Valey, Ethiopia

Gear, gear, and more gear, does not create compelling images. Your passion for what you are photographing is what will create those “WOW” images; the ones that pop off a page from a stream of thousands. With access to so much content these days, it is easy to view hundreds of photographers work. You discover a body of work that inspires you and your thoughts instantly race to “How can I create those types of images?” It’s great to be inspired, but I caution you about that urge to go out and buy all the gear  which the photographer used to create those images, thinking that is the way to capture stunning photographs.

Hamar tribe, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Technically, you can create the perfect lighting, but if you don’t capture emotion, you have nothing more than an empty snap shot

 

BE REALISTIC

You have to take a realistic inventory of what the photographer puts into the photograph before clicking the shutter.  How much research did they put into the location, finding the right guide, the time of year they chose to go and why?  (I covered some of these topics in my e-book, “Dream, Plan, Go”). What was their budget? How much time were they able to spend on the project? Did they have assistants? How much experience did they have working with the gear they were using?  It’s so easy to overlook these questions and go for the quick fix telling yourself, “I can create these images if I just had some lighting, off-camera flash gear, or the new ….(name a camera body).”

One of the most important questions, is, “What was their emotional connection to the subjects and project?”  When you visited the photographer’s site or project site, did you get the sense that the photographer was emotionally invested with the subjects? Had they spent a lot of time writing about the subjects, or their experiences with them?  Was the body of work part of a long-term personal project?

 

HAVING PASSION AND VISION

Today it is difficult to find a place that has not been photographed, yet I constantly find a photographer who has photographed a very popular place or subject and their work stands out and draws you in. Usually what I discover next is their deep sense of passion they have for the place or subject. It is when you have a deep honest connection to your subject that you capture emotionally compelling photographs. Having the right tools to create your vision is important, but without an honest emotional connection you may find your technically perfect photograph to be empty.

Don’t take photographs to be the best photographer; take them because you’re driven to capture what you find fascinating and extraordinary.  Don’t listen to the “nay sayers”,  that it has been “done” or  “that it is over-photographed”.  This has been proven wrong, many times over.

 

BELIEVE IN YOUR ABILITIES

Most of us only have a short amount of time in a remote location, so you want to maximize what you can accomplish. My advice is to shoot at  your skill level. Take time to experience what you are photographing. Get involved with your subjects. Participate in their lives, traditions, and culture. Embrace the experience that you are having, which most people will only get to experience through the pages of a magazine, or a stream on social media.  Spend your time capturing the amazing moments, people, and places that you are experiencing.

Keep it simple, by using the gear with which you are most familiar with. Don’t bring a lot of new gear, with high expectations of coming home with the best images that anyone has ever seen.  Don’t use precious time to learn lighting and off-camera flash during the only time you maybe visiting a special village, especially if you have never tried it before. If your vision is to use off camera flash in a remote location, spend the time to learn this skill before boarding the plane. Once you arrive, embrace the experience of what excited you about the place to begin with. Let the photographs come naturally, by using your abilities to capture the creative ideas that stirred when immersing yourself into a new and exciting environment.

Below are images captured using natural light.  In an exotic place like the Omo Valley, you can capture incredible images with an iPhone and have an experience of a life time. It would be awful to miss these shots because you are fumbling around trying to learn new gear or a new technique.

Kara Tribe, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

 

suri tribe, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

 

Suri tribe, surma tribe, Omo Valley, ethiopia

 

Kara Tribe, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

 

This last photograph was taken with the iPhone, in bad light. My pro bodies would not have captured this as well as the iPhone.  CLick here to read a  past article I wrote bout using my iPhone in the Omo Valley.

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Inspired by the experience; my first multi-media piece

by Piper & filed under Blog, inspiration, travel.

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Four plus years ago I walked into my first lecture about shooting video with a DSL camera. I listen to the words that all photographers are going to need to shoot video and the wall of resistance instantly went up. UGH!! I had not even grasped the DSL Camera and shooting stills yet; I did not want to shoot video, I loved photography. Well a few years back, when I upgraded one of my bodies to one that had video capabilities, I started shooting a few clips. Why, because I could and because I was told I should be doing it. I mean, if there were not these constant conversations being had that photographers are going to need to be able to shoot video to survive, I probably would not have jumped in on my own accord. There were already video/film makers that loved doing it.  I think the main reason I resisted was the time I would need to learn the editing process.

At first, I started filming when the conditions were not good for stills; why not try it out.  Not a terrible idea, as you are able to film a lot of situations in which you could not produce great stills. The problem was when I saw some of the footage, I then wanted great footage, but I was not willing to sacrifice my still images to get that footage. I would return from a trip and just drop the footage in a hard drive not sure what to really do with it. Sound familiar?  From time to time I would drop it in iMovie and mess with it, but again, I didn’t really know what to do with it. I put some to music and put in some still images, but nothing that inspired me to really get on board.

Then last year, I need to create a promotional video for one of my projects. I met with the really talented staff at Tandem and stills, which I highly recommended for video projects!! A long story short, they told me to drop of mediocre and they would deliver amazing. They did just that. Sorry, I am not able to show you the video yet, but that greatly inspired me to want to shoot more video. It also helped that I hooked up with an amazing guide and filmmaker in Namibia who took me under his wing and taught me tons in the 10 days we were together.

This past year 2013, when I was in Ethiopia for about 2 months, I spent a lot of time shooting video instead of stills. I even managed a few interviews. I had a small vision of what I wanted to create, but I was still shooting a lot of footage just to shoot it. When I arrived in Lalibela (Northern Ethiopia), we were invited to a special ceremony at the underground churches; the celebration of St Mary. It was like stepping back a thousand years as hundreds of priest were chanting, singing, dancing and performing ancient rituals. The chanting was surreal and I immediately thought video.  The ceremony was from 9 pm until sunrise, so the lighting was a huge challenge for video and stills, but I shot it to the best of my abilities. It was such an incredible experience our guide pulled us away around 2:00 AM, for a few hours of sleep, before returning at daybreak.

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I just now found the time to watch the footage I shot in Lalibela. It inspired me so much I immediately decided I must create/edit my first true multi-media piece. I found a great source on the web, for videos on how to use iMovie, from MacMost. I went to work. Eight hours later I had something I was excited about. There were times that my frame rate was too slow or fast, but I am learning. I would need to work in Final cut pro to be able to lift some of the shadows in good quality and some of the transition could be a little be a little smother, but he exciting part is that I am now embracing this new powerful tool in story telling. Now that I have made this first piece, I cannot wait to return, attend the Christmas Ceremony in Lalibla, January 7th, 2015, and see the difference in how I shoot it and the piece I will create. Just going through this first editing process has taught me a lot!!

I have learned that I will probably always be a little late to the party, but I need to flow into things in their own time. I still love photography, but it is the story telling that I am passionate about. This is just another awesome tool. This May marks a decade of my photography journey and I can’t wait to see what the next decade brings in exploring this new medium.

It is not easy to put yourself out there, but I wanted to share this first project with you to encourage you to take a risk. Try new things. Go to new places. Put yourself out there. Don’t worry what others think. Know this going in; if you put yourself out there, it is 100% guaranteed that you will be rejected. In today’s anonymous Internet world, it is 100% guaranteed, you will draw out the haters and critics, but these are usually the individuals who are too afraid to get into the arena. We get one life, so I say take courage over comfort and jump in!!! It is one exciting ride.

 

Coming Full Circle

by Piper & filed under Blog, travel.

My work has not always been focused in Africa.

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This journey started, a decade earlier, by simply booking a trip to Africa with the Sierra Club.  A place I had longed to go since I was a child. One of the items on the list of what to bring was a 300mm lens. I had no idea what that was or what camera I would need, as I had never even held a real camera before, other than a cheap point and shoot; does that even count? My local camera store got me sorted and I flew off with my first professional SLR camera, a 75-300 image stabilized lens, and  CD burner…. remember how we first downloaded files from our CF cards…LOL.

Arriving in Africa was magic! I feel in love with everything about it, from the minute my feet touched its rich red soil. I discovered a passion for photography that was stronger than any I had know previously. Although I returned to Africa twice more in the 6 months that followed that first trip, and every year since, I decided I should explore this passion in more areas than just wildlife and Africa. I decided to go to India with a very successful travel photographer. The itinerary included a few days in Ranthambore to photograph the tigers so this seemed perfect for me. India was a 24/7 party of color, music, entertainment, and eye candy. The people were warm, friendly and fun to photograph. I had a blast and have long to return.

Beautiful young woman in Rajastan India

 It has been on the list for years, but things just did not line up quite right until this past year.  I am very excited to be teaming up with Deborah Sandidge for the Colors of India Tour in January/Febuary of 2015. Deborah brings many different talents and skills in travel photography, such as her long exposers, cityscapes at twilight, and infrared knowledge that will compliment my travel and cultural photography skills. She shoots with Nikon and most of you know I am still shooting with Canon. We are excited to be so versatile in our skills to be able to help everyone create stunning imagery. I have wanted to team up with another photographer for several years, but it takes time for it all to come together. We passionately worked hard to create an itinerary that includes two festivals and added a one night camel safari in the Thar desert.

Deborah Sandige Cityscapes at twilight

Italy twilight

 

London

Learn more about Deborah and view her images here 

Rajasthan, India is a place of energy, color, music, celebrations and surprises around every corner. Tractors come down the street decorated like they were going to be a float in a parade with music blaring from a boom box. Women are wondering the streets in bright saris and in the desert region the men are wearing bright multi-color turbans.  You could be out photographing the town and a wedding party suddenly starts marching down the street; men holding chandeliers, a stereo blasting music, the groom siting on top of a vibrantly decorated horse and a sea of women all dressed in their most beautiful traditional clothing. India is also a country that has extreme poverty, but is part of their society mixed in with all the beauty, unlike the way we try to tuck it away from the main stream. It would be extremely difficult to experience the Rajasthan area, without also experiencing it’s poverty. As a photographer, I want to experience a country and culture raw and as it is, even thought it can pull at my heart.

 

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My work will continue to be focused on the African continent, but it is important to mix it up and keep the creative juices flowing by stepping out of your norm, seeing differently, and increasing your skills to capture compelling images.  I was only into my first few years of photography when I visited India. It will be interesting to see how I view it through the lens seven years later. It also signifies coming full circle as I will now be leading a trip that I loved as a participant.  On a side note, I want to share that a few of the participants from the India trip have now been with me to Africa. I have made wonderful and long friendship with many of the people I have traveled with over the past decade. Just another wonderful way that photography has enriched my life.

Men walking their camels along the ridge of the sand dunes in Jalsalmer, India

We have a great group of people already signed up, but there are still a few spaces open if you would like to join us.

 More than a photograph; an Experience.

 COLORS OF INDIA – DETAILS

Paying for Photographs

by Piper & filed under Blog, Tips and information, travel.
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This is a question that comes up often in the comments of my post on FaceBook and Google+, particularly when I am posting photographs of the tribes in Africa. There is no one single right answer to this question; every situation is different. I know this is a topic many photographers struggle with, so I thought I would share my thoughts on this topic.

ON THE STREET, IN A MARKET, DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD –

When I am walking down the street, jumping out of vehicle, or roaming through a local market, I don’t usually pay for photographs. I am photographing environmental portraits of everyday life as it is happening. I am not disrupting what people are doing; I am merely documenting what I am seeing. Handing out money in these situations promotes begging and has negative effects, changing behavior. It teaches the culture to harass every tourist coming to visit, even if they are just using a point and shoot or iphone to document and share their vacation/experience. It can be a little heart tugging not to hand out money simply because many of these people have little or nothing. The best way to help your heart is to donate to an organization doing good work in the area, prior to your arrival.

However, if I see someone interesting or someone doing something that caught my eye, and I ask them to repeat it, or take them away from what they are doing, I may give them a little something in exchange. This does not automatically mean this exchange is currency. It could be; printing a quick photo of them to and giving it to them, coffee, candy, razor blades (popular with the tribes), tee-shirt or some other desired item. In these situations, I prefer to barter with a materialistic item for rather than hand out cash.

IN A VILLAGE
When visiting a village, remember, you’re a visiting someone’s home and you are a guest. When I first come into a village, I like to arrive early to properly meet the people. Taking sometime to socialize with them before taking out a camera will make for a much more relaxed and welcoming situation. If time permits, I like to visit a village a head of time without my camera.

If I ask a subject to model for any length of time, and I intend to use the photographs for anything other than sharing with friends and family, I pay them. I respectfully try to make this a business arrangement and negotiate a price in advance, before pulling out my camera and shooting. You would pay a lot of money to a model in the western world, why would you treat the indigenous cultures you are photographing any differently? If a photographer/film company arrived at your home wanting to photograph or film how you go about your daily life, would you open the door and say. “sure, take as much time as you need?”. Treat them the same way you would expect to be treated, with dignity and respect.

AT AN EVENT OR FESTIVAL
Again, each situation is different, but if I attend an event or festival where an advance fee or payment has been arranged, and I have permission to attend and photograph the event, I usually do not hand out money for photographs. That does not mean I will not be asked, but to hand someone money in this situation because they are hassling me, is the wrong action. I have made an agreement that should be honored. Situations like this can become tricky; having a great guide and relationships with some of the people who are attending the event, can be key.

However, similar to my philosophy on street shooting, if I find someone fascinating and take him or her away from the celebration, to pose for me, I might, make some kind of exchange.

PAYMENT CAN BE MANDATORY
From my experiences and observations, in most situations, it is the tourists who are changing the behavior of these cultures and not photographers; aside from the major impact of the modern world being thrust upon them. Most photographers have a curiosity and fascination about the subjects they photograph. They want to spend time socializing with them to learn about their culture and way of life and then begin to photograph them.

Sadly what I witness is that most tourist arrive at a village, take out their camera’s, rush around for twenty minutes, grabbing as many photographs as possible, hand out money for every photograph, get in their cars, and leave. This may happen several times a day, especially when a remote area becomes popular because new roads create easier access. The result, the people have been treated like objects. They have been trained that a car full of people from the other world will arrive, take a few photographs and  hand out money. Over time, payment for photographs becomes mandatory. There is not much you can do to change this, once it has started, but how you handle this situation, can have a big impact not only on those your are photographing, but those coming behind you.

TIP
When planning a trip to photograph indigenous cultures, build time into your schedule to spend a morning, afternoon or evening, with them, without your camera. Bring a gift of coffee, tea, or sugar, but bring it as a gift, not in exchange for what it might bring you later.  This will not only add to your own experience, but your photographs will be more compelling. Remember, more than a photograph is the experience; one that you want to remember not only through the images you took. If you are not able to plan this much extra time, try to go with someone who already has established relationships with those you want to photograph. You may also want to travel with someone who has experience in these type situations before going solo.

ADVICE
These are just the guidelines I have created for those who travel with me and for myself; they may not fit your situation or values. This post is to help you make your own decision on what you feel is right. My philosophy comes from my experiences of working in the remote nomadic regions of Africa. There are many of you that follow this blog who have experience photographing cultures around the world. It would be great if you would share your experience, thoughts, and comments on how you handle paying for photographs. Together, as photographers, we can ensure that we try to handle this situation with respect and dignity to those we are photographing and be ambassadors for those following our trail.

It takes time to get a balance and create you own philosophy about  paying for photographs, but most importantly is to come from a place of respect and dignity.

Another article you may enjoy reading is  – How to approach street photography in 12 easy steps, by Valerie Jardin

Thanks for a great 2013

by Piper & filed under Blog, travel.
Screen Shot 2013-11-17 at 5.19.38 PM

There are times in life when it’s good to slow down and be silent. That is how I decided to end the last few weeks of 2013; one of the most chaotic, but rewarding years, since picking up a camera and heading to Africa, almost a decade ago. Since I have been sharing images throughout the year, rather than posting my top images of 2013, I thought I would post just few of the remarkable moments I had the honor of sharing with some of you. I wanted to start off 2014 by thanking those of you who joined one of my photographic adventurous, especially those brave enough to came on one of my private scouting trips!

Thanks for having the courage to get out of your comfort zone and letting me be apart of some of your first in life. One of you had never been on a photography tour, yet you chose to come to the Omo Valley on your first, jumping in with both feet. One of you was a keen portrait and landscape photographer, but not sure you were going to be wild about wildlife. That all change the moment you saw your first elephant in the wild! Many of you embraced the cultures we visited, being part of the ceremonies, rather than just observing and photographing them from the sidelines. Several of you were on your first safari, one of the most magical experiences of a lifetime, and you are now planning your second.

This is still a relatively newer part of my business as a professional photographer and a responsibility that I do not take lightly. I put my heart and soul into each itinerary, scouting the area first, and sweating it out in the background that all goes as planned. It takes a great team of people to make it all come together. I wanted to thank all the extraordinary guides, their patience, and endless hours of hard work. I want to thank all the outfitters who did backflips to make the itineraries work. I especially want to extend a special thank you to Sunworld safaris, my outfitter in Kenya, for all the support and respect you have given over the past few years, and always delivering beyond what was promised!!

It is with deepest gratitude, that I want to thank all of you for endless suggestions, idea’s, and comments, which will help me to continue to design unique itineraries and improve the experience for everyone joining me in the future.  Thank you all for touching my life in amazing ways. May 2014 be your best year ever, filled with more amazing experiences and stories to share in the rocking chair.

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