African wildlife and wilderness will always have a place in my heart despite living eight thousand miles away from it.
For nine months of the year I study photojournalism in Washington, DC and the photos I take there are very different from the wildlife I photograph in South Africa. On a given day in Washington, I photograph newspaper style photos of protests, politicians, city events, and sports games. The city is alive and the hustle and activities always going on creates numerous photo opportunities. I always carry my camera on me as I might walk by a famous government official or stubble upon the many protests in the nation's capital.
As the school year came to a close I wanted to continue to grow my photography and push myself. When I saw my first wild elephants slowly make their way across the endless savannah last summer, I knew I needed to do something to help their rapid population decline so I've returned to South Africa. This summer I'm using photography to make an impact in wildlife conservation specifically for elephants. It's about what you do with your photos and how they can make an impact.
I'm using photography to raise awareness of, educate on, and raise funds for elephants. Wildlife conservation is not successful unless the local community is cooperating. I made a kids photo book to glorify the animals while also stating the threats they face. I'm raising awareness through an elephant book I made with personal experiences with the magnificent creatures. The proceeds go to Save The Elephants, a great organization. I'm also selling prints to raise funds for the organization. Finally I made a virtual reality elephant video to educate people on elephants as well as give them a chance to experience them as if they were in Africa. (Click here for more on these projects.)
Africa attracts many students and often never lets them go. Endless memories will always be ingrained in them. There is something magical about hearing hundreds of mysterious sounds outside your tent camped under the milky way. The sight of wildlife in the same natural habitat since millions of years ago is quite breathtaking. It's hard not to love sunsets that are so unique and vivid orange that you can stare at them with the naked eye. The breathtaking landscapes of this place will forever be engrained in me. The people are so friendly and welcoming that visitors want to learn about their culture and become involved. They also make delicious food filled with passion.
A combination of the wildlife, people, scenery, and culture drew me back to South Africa. There are no tall monuments, government buildings, or politicians in the African wilderness, just wildlife roaming peacefully in their natural habitat.
When reflecting on why I enjoy both city and nature photography, I drew this conclusion...
Wildlife photography is not like photographing the protests in Washington, DC. At a protest with hundreds of thousands of people it's impossible to feel a sense of peace while elbowing your way through a crowd. This being said, I love Washington. But, seeing an elephant walk across the savanna, a lion rest in the shade under an acacia tree, or cheetah bolt across the camera frame is soothing and reminds me to not worry too much and appreciate the smaller things.
For now, I'm truly enjoying the balance of newspaper photography in DC and conservation photography in South Africa. In a few years I might just be doing one, or neither so I'm soaking it all in. Many people in Washington, DC wonder why I come to Africa but they will never truly understand until they experience this magical place. When I arrive back in the US I will constantly wish to be back in South Africa helping the wildlife that is greatly threatened.