Sitting on the back of a 4×4, watching the scarlet sun melt away into the orange skies, over the vast, barren landscapes of the Eastern Cape of South Africa, I thought to myself, how did you end up here? I had my trusty (yet old) Canon 5D DSLR in one hand, and my go-to Canon 50mm 1.4 in the other. As I changed lenses, I caught myself in deep reflection. Taking in the unreal scenery surrounding me, I took a deep breath and exhaled. This golden hour has to be one of the best I’ve ever experienced. I am sat on the back of a 4×4, photographing Africa’s finest wildlife, working with an incredible charity, and most of all… doing what I love: DSLR Photography.
The Conception (of DSLR Photography in my life)
So, how did I get there? A story that begins like most others (though deeply significant to me), is one of a Father and Daughter… And a shared passion for capturing the moment on camera. Douglas, a musical mastermind and photographic genius, taught me many things, but one in particular. A five letter word that means everything in DSLR Photography (and across the board), and one I will never lose sight of. Light.
See what I did there? Light is the single most important thing that comes with photography, in any form. Though it took me years to comprehend that dastardly exposure triangle, and even longer to leave my beloved AV setting behind and dive full fledge into M… (not that this is always necessary!), I remind myself every day of its importance. Always look at the light first, THEN decide what you want to do with it.
Years of Practice
Now, these ‘years’ of practice I’d had before my professional career began, started wholesomely at nineteen years old. I had just graduated from college in England and was due to embark on my first solo travel experience. Around South Africa, on my own, at nineteen. Using DSLR Photography as a way to document my journey. My family thought I was crazy, and to be honest, it only spurred me on further! With a South African Father and an English Mother, my identity had always felt a little… odd. This was my time to discover myself.
So, off I went, kit lenses and a budget Canon 1000D DSLR along the shores of South Africa… At every possible moment I couldn’t help but stop to capture yet another jaw-dropping landscape…. or just one more open-hearted, smiling face. Everything fascinated me, and when I thought one thing couldn’t amaze me enough, something else did one even better. Along my journey of self-discovery (eurgh), I realised many things.
South Africa had touched a part of my soul I didn’t even know existed. I felt fulfilled, vulnerable but, strong. I’d found my authentic self on those roads, camera intact. I finally had a purpose, and I’d have never thought that six years later, I’d be here writing about it. The thing about life-changing experiences is just that. They change you, forever. To this day, I work hard to be as authentic to myself and my craft as possible and hold no shame in a great deal of emotional investment propelling me forward.
Then the crossroads came. Literally. I remember volunteering at the Storms River Project like it was yesterday. At the time, I hardly spoke any vernacular, so trying to control a bunch of excitable children was quite the challenge! Amazing of course; challenging nonetheless. I had the choice to continue, broken foot and all (that’s a story for another day!) or walk away – or in my case, hobble off.
Choosing to continue, despite my sadness in not having the ability to do more for the children, I focused more on my creative side with the hope that might help. All at once, everything changed. I would bring my camera to class every day and show the kids how to ‘play’ with it. This was when I recognised my love for DSLR Photography was far more than a travel hobby. I wanted to use my developing skill set to further benefit charities and businesses, by creating positive content for their campaigns… Even today, whether I’m working with a charity or a new business, I will always place a strong focus on the emotional elements of the company.
Fast forward three years, sat right back on that 4×4. It’s 2016 and I’m photographing an anti-poaching campaign in the heart of the Eastern Cape of South Africa. I am documenting T.E.S.A’s travels raising awareness on Rhino poaching in schools on a one-month expedition. I am doing exactly what I am here to do. Life affirmations are a real thing, and this was my first experience with one. I am doing exactly what I am meant to do.
Combining my first love of DSLR Photography with my second of Africa, I had reached my third… Charity Work. Through solo travelling, learning forgiveness and practising acceptance, I understood that life is all about balance. My love for photography was an all-consuming, yet very privileged kind of love. My love for Africa was an ever-growing, unconditional kind of love. And my love for charity work was an entirely different kind of love. The type of love that holds the mirror up, and asks, what can you do? It keeps you in check and shows you who you are. And with all this in mind, that amount of love needs channelling. This is how I became who I am today. A storyteller.
For years, my Father nagged me to write. Write in my diary, write a blog, write him emails! I didn’t take it seriously for a long time, perhaps too long. Eventually, I heard him. Being honest with myself, I’ve always internally identified as a Photojournalist – I just didn’t have the credentials to prove it! Now, I am content with the notion of being a storyteller. I can photograph, I can write, and best of all, I can tell you a great story.
The Final Chapter
South Africa created a right of passage for me, a journey of self-expression. It taught me the importance of self-love and self-belief. And it showed me how to be unapologetically… Me. I learnt that DSLR Photography is more than creating an instant image, it is a safe space for all who experience it. A place, a memory, a feeling. What separates a good image from a great one? How it makes you feel. If a photograph provokes you to feel something, it is something you’ll most likely never forget. And that is my motivation now.
Create something worth remembering. And remember to put your worth into whatever you create.