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

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


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.”


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.


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.


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

 Africa-Photo-Safari-Piper-Mackay-DSC_1664 - Version 2 copy

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!

Free Falling; Stay Calm & Come to the Mara!

by Piper & filed under Blog.
Captured with the iPhone 4 just before returning to Mara Bush Camp

Captured with the iPhone 4 just before returning to Mara Bush Camp

It is hard to believe I have been living in Kenya for a month already! I have traveled here so often over the past decade that I think it feels more like another visit than actually living here.

From the moment my feet hit the rich red African soil on May 24th, 2004, I longed to live here for at least one year of my life; an experience I needed to have in my lifetime. It has taken me more than 10 years to achieve this, with great sacrifice, hard lessons, and a failed attempt four years ago. When I landed and walked through the front door with my 7 suitcases and boxes, I expected to feel right at home; jump up and down and shout, “I did it, I am living my dream!” Instead, what happened was panic, “OMG, what have I done!?” My instinct was to run, get back on a plane and head home.

Free falling; when you take the final jump to live your dream, put everything on the line, and risk it all, it can be exhilarating yet terrifying. I imagine it would be much like the first time you jump out of an airplane and parachuted down.

I was in a strange place – knew only a handful of people, had no car (still don’t), no TV, Internet was installed but not working, and I had no furniture except for a bed. The next few weeks I was more in a state of panic than joyful bliss. I will always be so grateful to Sunworld Safaris, who embraced me like family, helped me get around Nairobi, showed immense kindness and got me out to the Mara for New Year’s Eve. They knew that what I needed was go to the Mara.

It was incredible to be in the Mara during the off-season (non-migration time) and on New Year’s Eve! With the exception of a few small groups of photographers and locals celebrating the holiday, it was virtually empty; a photographer’s dream. I could spend hours with Malika (a famous cheetah) and her four cubs or work from the Land Cruiser while sitting across from the Rekeero pride, which were of coarse sleeping. Now, I felt at home, and my office was in nature. The best part was when Air Kenya landed on the dirt airstrip, just minutes from bush camp and picked me up. The flight back to Nairobi was a mere 45 minutes, my driver was outside waiting for me, and in 20 minutes I was home.

This is exactly why I moved to Kenya! To have more time to photograph, experience and capture the stories that move me. I have now been back in Nairobi for just over a week, working harder than ever, planning some exciting photographic adventures for 2016. Many of you have been asking about trips in 2016 and I should start listing them in the next few weeks. I am heading to Samburu for a few days, before heading to India on January 26, with Deborah Sandidge and a great group of photographers.

May you all have the courage to pursue your own dreams!

Office in Nature - captured on the iPhone 4 - in the Maasai Mara

Office in Nature – captured on the iPhone 4 – in the Maasai Mara


Office in Nature - captured on the iphone4 - at Mara Bush Camp

Office in Nature – captured on the iphone4 – at Mara Bush Camp


office in Nature - captured on the iPhone 4 - at the house in Nairobi

office in Nature – captured on the iPhone 4 – at the house in Nairobi

National Geographic Traveler- Feature Article

by Piper & filed under Blog.


In all the excitement of the “80 days in Africa”, coming back to the US for a few weeks to pack up, teaching  my Spirit-N-Light workshop, and then relocating to Kenya, I forgot to share some very exciting news!!!  Several months ago I woke up to an email from National Geographic Traveler Poland, yes, I said, “ Poland!”  They wanted to publish some of my work on the Tribes of the Omo Valley, and interview me for an article. The email stated their writer would be in contact shortly as they were on a tight deadline.   The interview was done over Skype in the next few days. The article, was an 8-page, lead in story in their September issue; 50 best places to travel.

Here is a link to see the article. Yes, it is in Polish and I am sure they would have sent the English translation, but I just have not had the time to request it. National Geographic Traveler sent several copies of the magazine to my home in the US and it was very exciting to this article in print, when I arrived home from my “80 days in Africa.”

The Omo Valley is one of the most culturally rich tribal regions in the world. Inspired by their environment of wild trees, exotic flowers and lush vegetation these tribes use the clay soil of bright yellows, startling whites and rich earth-reds to pair each other’s bodies and make bold decisions about their outfits. In essance  becoming a  awaking body of art; known as a living museum to anthropologist.  Modernization is coming into this area quickly and change is happening rapidly.

If you would like to travel to this region, please see the two exciting tours I am offering to this region in 2015.

Tribes of the Omo Valley Tour

Best of the Omo Valley Tour 


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 


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.


Save the Elephant’s Safari

by Piper & filed under Blog.


Nearly four years ago, when I was in Africa for several weeks, I had the pleasure of doing some conservation work in Kenya. One of our stops was in East Tsavo, where I accompanied the rangers on de-snaring missions, for several days under the hot African sun. One of my most memorable moments in Kenya, happened during this trip. While at Salt Lick in Tsavo national park, I joined the vet team from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, to photograph them while darting an elephant and fixing it’s wounded leg.

Here is a blog post I wrote about the experience in October of 2010. Later that evening the elephants all came down to the water hole. In the stillness of the night you could hear their every movement. Soon they began interacting and trumpeting loudly for minutes at a time. It was magical and I have dreamed to return to this place ever since.

Tomorrow I will depart on a private “Save the Elephants” safari. I will be heading out to Tsavo to visit it as a photographer for the first time. Have you ever seen the movie, “The Ghost and the Darkness?” If not, I highly recommend watching it. It is the Hollywood version of the famous man eating lions in Tsavo, during the building of the Uganda-Mombasa Railway in 1896. Tsavo is filled with history. Tsavo East and Tsavo West combined forms one of the largest nationals parks in the world and covers a massive 4% of Kenya’s land area. Of coarse I am going to be tracking lions in this area, as their behavior tends to be different in Tsaveo, compared to other reserves; don’t worry, at the moment, they are not known as man-eaters.

While in Tsavo, I will be staying at a private house retreat and tented camp, maintained by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. I will see their continued work from the elephant Orphanage based in Nairobi. Once the babies are old enough they are transported to Tsavo, where they eventually released back into the wild! I will also get to revisit Salt Lick, where I captured the image at the top of this post. Please visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to learn more about the amazing work they have been doing to “Save the Elephants”, for over 3o years.

This is all part of my 80 days in Africa. Make sure to follow the journey though my social media pages. Just click on the social media buttons in the top right side bar.


mainframe lions

Preparing for 80 days in Africa

by Piper & filed under Blog.

This year is going to be the year I call a pan blur, as it has been ridiculously busy; filled with unexpected travel,  adventure and change.  I recently completed two back-to-back trips to East Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia, added in some domestic travel and will head back to East Africa on Thursday, for 80 days.  In between the craziness of the preparation, I have moments that I just want to jump up and down with excitement.

The journey will start in Kenya with a private “save the elephants” safari, followed by the Great Migration safari, Amboseli, extension and Best of Kenya Safari. In September I will journey over the boarder to Tanzania for another private safari. Then I will make a quick stop back through Kenya to visit a friend in Samburu for a few days of R&R. Lastly, I will be off to Ethiopia for my Tribes of the Omo and Best of the Omo Photo tours, with an extension to Lalibela in-between.

The last of my repaired gear has arrived along with a few new items that were certainly necessary. No really, some of it was! I needed some lens cleaner, sensor cleaner and swabs. Two 1TG External drives did not make me feel comfortable for 80 days in Africa so I grabbed a few more and opps somehow the canon 100 mm macro 2.8 L lens got into the bag; now my favorite portrait lens!

Seriously though, I have spent most of my time helping to prepare everyone who will be traveling with me. One of the things I enjoy most about what I do is bring others to one of the greatest wildlife and cultural destinations in the world! I have also been working hard on some exciting changes that are currently being implemented into my business. These changes will allow more time for me to focus on sharing, blogging, teaching, and creating inspiring images. I will also be exploring more new destinations to create exciting photographic adventures such as the Turkana Festival and Wildlife Safari 2015.

In the side bar at the top right of this post are the social media buttons, Facebook, twitter and Google+, where you can follow the 80 days in Africa. I am hoping to add an Instagram button before leaving. Internet allowing, I am optimistic that I can try to post to one or all, for everyday of the 80 days in Africa. I hope you will follow the journey.


Racing to the Omo

by Piper & filed under Blog.
Kara Tribe, Bull-jumpers, ceremony, Omo Valley

Kara Tribe, Bull-jumpers

Last Wednesday night I returned from an unexpected trip to the Omo Valley…………

Last October, when my group arrived at the Kara village of Kocho, several of the guys who ran out to meet us were wearing small skins over their shoulder. They excitedly told me they were preparing to jump the bulls.

This is a really big deal for the Kara tribe. Unlike the Hamar tribe, who has bull-jumping ceremonies almost daily, during their season, the kara bull-jumping takes place only every couple of years. In the Hamar tribe, each clan has a separate ceremony and only one person jumps at a time. In the Kara tribe a group of boys from the whole tribe jump at one ceremony, held over about a two-week period.

Let me clarify a village and clan. A clan is like a your extended family; mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, cousin, etc. A village is a group of clans (extended families) living together in one area. A tribe can have many villages within a general territory. The kara people are the smallest tribe in the Omo, but also my favorite tribe. They have only three villages. These three villages all come together at the main village of Dus, for the bull-jumping ceremony.  Generally boys from all three villages will jump the bulls making up a group of 20-30 jumpers. The groups are usually split in two and they have two ceremonies about a week apart.

Since the kara tribe first told me about their bull-jumping ceremony, on my very first trip to the Omo several years ago, I have dreamed to attend. I let them know that I would love to have permission to attend. Of coarse I probably reminded them of this every visit…LOL. So this past year when the boys let me know they were jumping, Lale Arada Bilale, one of my favorite warriors and elders, said he and his uncle would accompany me to Dus. They would represent me and ask permission from the council. My group was kind enough to allow me to go to this meeting in the morning while they were photographing in the village.

We met with about 60+ elders in a cabana type hut. This in itself was an amazing experience!! The meeting, or negotiations, took about 2 hours. There was no set date, but they would try to hold it in May, when I was able to attend. I was on stand by. I started receiving some emails from the Omo in April to let me know what was happening. I began pondering if I should attend because it was going to be an enormous expense and I was going to be headed to Northern Kenya at the begging of June. I share this with you because one thing that keeps people from having incredible experiences is they tell themselves they can’t afford it. A few supportive friends and past clients said, “you have to go!” And they were right.

When the email finally came on May 12th I had less than 30 hours notice to book a ticket and get on a plane. Thankfully, my new passport, with all my visas, arrived the next day, May 13th. I traveled 4 straight days, stopping one brief night for some sleep on day 3. I was the only one there, outside of the kara tribe, with exception to some members of the Hamar tribe and the Turkish men who works near by. I need some time to process, savor and reflect upon all I witnessed an experienced.  However, I will share that I feel I failed as a photographer, but perhaps succeeded as a human being. Failed is a strong word that I don’t use lightly, but it is relative, based on my knowledge and skill.

The people of the Omo have captured my heart, as they have with several of you that have traveled with me. I have become very close with several of the people in the Korocho village. This is a very special ceremony and life moment for all the bull-jumpers. Although I had permission to freely photograph, except in a few sacred area’s, I could not bring myself to be disrespectful by interrupting any part of the ceremony, to get the shot. I was too personally attached. It reminded me of Aaron Huey explaining how he lost all perspective as photojournalist during his experience with the Native American Indians on his long term project at Pine Ridge. You can see his talk at the Annenberg Space of Photography, here.

There were too many moments when I had to put the camera down, be in the moment, and experience every part of what was happening. I spent a lot of my time in huts with a clan, sitting with the women while they were singing, talking with the elders and being in awe of this extraordinary experience. I could have decided this was my big chance, as photographer, to capture thousands of images that not many others have ever had the chance to capture, although it was. I could have solely decided to use this as a huge opportunity to try to advance as a photographer, but the reality is, I just wanted to enjoy this extraordinary experience that would probably be once in a lifetime. I also wanted to tread lightly as guest.

There were many times I made simple technical mistakes, which is why I use a word as strong as failed, although the lighting was incredibly challenging; not to mention the 100F/38C heat and humidity.   If I were to remove all my emotions and evaluate this strictly from a professional standpoint, then I would have to determine that on several occasions, I did not shoot at the skill level I have achieved.  However, as a human, had I not put down the camera and embraced this incredible experience, I would have missed out on one of the greatest experience in my life. An E-ticket ride, on a one-way life ticket.

I guess you can say, I live as my tag line; more than a photograph, an experience. At the end of this journey, this will always be an experience that I will remember as one that took my breath away! It also did not go without meaning that the first stamp on my passport to Africa is dated May 24th, 2004 and the second bull-jumping of the ceremony was on May 24th, 2014; marking the first decade of my work in Africa.

I have begun editing through this incredible journey. I want to honor this tribe and their traditions by taking the proper time to share the stories behind the images, such as the one at the top of the post. However, I am catching a plane to Kenya on Thursday and will head up North for the Turkana festival; up to 12 different tribes will attend. I hope to start sharing these incredible moments, stories and traditions when I return to the states, in a few weeks.

P.S. I apologize for typing errors, misspellings, and wrong grammar. I read through it once and made some corrects, but I did not have time to send it to be properly edited, by a fresh set of eyes, before my departure.