The Endless Summer, The Perfect Wave

Posted 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

Posted 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…..

Posted 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

Posted 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

TITLE; DIGNITY

WE ALL LAUGH, CRY, HAVE HOPES, DREAMS, AND FEARS. WE ARE ALL SIMILAR EXCEPT BY OUR GEOGRAPHY AND CIRCUMSTANCES. A PERSONS CIRCUMSTANCES DOESN’T MAKE THEM IGNORANT OR LESS THAN. REGARDLESS OF THE CONDITIONS ONE LIVES IN THEY TOO ARE HUMAN. THE WORLD BECOMES A BETTER PLACE WHEN WE CARE.

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

Posted 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…..

Posted 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

Posted 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.

Looking Back on New Years Eve

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

It’s hard to believe it was a year ago almost to the minute that I was walking through LAX international airport, headed to Ethiopia, very heavy footed with a heavy heart. It had only been months before when I had left for Kenya with plans to be in Africa for six months to a year, a dream I had worked towards for many years. And after just six short weeks I had to accept even with all the planning, the situation I was in was not good and I made the painful decision to return to the states feeling pretty defeated. I had been researching Ethiopia for several years and had planned this adventure prior to my departure to Kenya, so as defeated as I felt, I knew I had to get on that plane and try again. When I dropped into the Omo Valley it was magic, as all of Africa seems to be, and I knew in my heart I was doing exactly what I was born to do. My drive and passion returned stronger and deep than ever before. In the Omo a story, a long term project and a love for a culture came to life. Incredibly inspired upon my return I went to work with a new intensity determined to move forward despite the challenges of 1010.

I now get the joy of looking back and knowing that if at one of my most challenging moments of this journey I had quite, none of the following would have happened; Rangefinder featured my wildlife work, I had a beautiful article on the The Tribes of The Omo published in Nature photographer and Selamta ( Ethiopian airlines in flight magazine, I was invited to give several presentation on my work in Africa, I was invite to exhibit my work at the G2 Gallery in LA in May of 2012, Getty images sign me to their top collections, I have an image in this months National Geographic and these are just the highlights to 2011. With that said it was still an extremely challenging year, but what I have learned and what a few of those who have mentored me along the way have said, never give up, patients, passion, and perseverance will allow you to fail your way to success.

I know many of you have big dreams and I am sure there are times when it just seems so hard you are just ready to quit, but DON’T, what if it was all going to change just when you gave up? It will never happen on your time line in the way that you planned but it will happen if you just never ever give up. That’s it, that’s the big secret to successes. Try, fail, try again, fail again, try harder……….. and then one day you will realize “ Hey I am making this work and I made it happen”. I really recommend to anyone pursuing a passion with purpose  to read Seth Godin’s book “The dip”.  It is short, easy to read and a great tool. I think Amazon has some copies for $10, but better yet download it to your kindle, nook, ipad.. and then let me know what you think about it. I reread it a few times a year….

Have a wonderful 2012 everyone.

Stories

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

I was excited all week to write this next blog post  since I am really trying to keep my personal commitment to  posting once a week,  but like all things in life,  time seems to run short,  which is the best lead in to the thoughts I want to share.

I had hope to hit my first deadline by noon today but that did not happen until 7pm and I was not sure this post was going to happen.  However,  I was still so inspired to share these thoughts,  I now sit typing away at 9:00 pm.

I have read the quoate “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do than by the ones that you did “Mark Twain”  and  “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but the number of moments that take your breath away” also Mark twain.

I did slow down enough to think about those words of wisdom and have created my own version, which really resonates with me.

“What stories do you want to tell in the rocking chair.”

The camera has given me the gift to not only seek out amazing experiences that I may not have done other wise but to also develop a talent that I did not know existed until life threw me a huge curve, or what I felt was more like getting hit by a MAC truck.

Finding a passion that fills your soul and taking the risk to make those new found dreams happen is just about the scariest thing a person can do especially when you discover this passion after you spent more than a  decade building  a  successful career, a large income and all the “things” that go with it.

Jump……..

I often take breaks from long hours on my computer, due to deadlines, to enjoy my community of friends on facebook and twitter. I did that just before I was going to settle in to write these thoughts.

I responded  to something I read with ” Follow your passion, let it bring you to your knees when failure seems inevitable but don’t quit… keep going.. we get one chance at this, there are no do overs…. there are many stories of those with their last pennies in their pockets who make it because they never stopped believing and never gave up.

I very quickly received this reply through an email

“I am glad you shared that, I have no pennies in my pocket but I am hitting the road, giving up my apt, and heading to maine for the summer  to work a job and than heading south somewhere, get my car paid off and i am free. I got my camera and just going to sleep at friends and truck stops in my car. I am still in school finishing my degree but I can do it online, yahooo I can’t wait, no material things for me. I raised my kids they are doing great. they think I am buit (I think they may have meant broke) I have done it before and came back, but this time its different they are on their own now. I am going to just take photos of what triggers my heart and what I see on this road trip…….

After such a long day I felt blessed to have this happen which summed up the thoughts I was going to post.

Risking everything you have when the chances are you may not succeed are very high, may make you want to stay safe, holding on to the things that you have, but when you get to the end of this journey what good are they if you wonder “what would my life have been if I would have had the courage to  give it all up, chase that dream, and experience all I had dreamed about.

So I ask, “What stories do you want to tell in the rocking chair?”

As always, comments are open and I hope you will share your thoughts and pursue your dreams.

Creating a New Path

Posted by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, passion, risk.

So, what do you do when your vision and the path you are on fall out of sync, become blurry, and you hit a road block? Be like water and flow around it or back up and chose a new path? Going down the creative path is never a smooth ride. It is filled with risk and challenges, so you must keep faith in the passion that started you on the journey. Trust in the process, allowing the roadblocks to teach us not to have blinders on and embrace the possibility that there is a more exciting journey in reaching the end goal.

This is exactly what happened to me on this last trip to Africa.

My love affair with Africa began from the moment I stepped foot on Tanzanian soil almost 7 years ago. I returned 3 times within the first  6 months following that  first Safari. The wildlife, cultures, environment….. it is Magic, like no other place on earth. Africa is  a place that everyone should visit, photographer or not,  at least once in their lifetime. Although I have traveled and photographed many other counties since that first trip, my love for Africa kept me coming back, traveling to Kenya , Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, and soon to Ethiopia.

Most wildlife, travel, and nature photographers are drawn to an area that just seems to feed their soul, and Africa is mine. When presented with an opportunity to spend half a year in East Africa, there was only one answer. Yes. Working with a non-profit, which I had not done before,  I was going to be able to immerse my self  into the culture, environment, and wildlife of east Africa. Simply put, the speed bumps quickly turned into  huge roadblocks, not allowing me to have the experience and goal that I had envisioned. When I was no longer able to be flexible and flow like water, I reversed my direction, returning to the states for a brief period before heading to Ethiopia in January.

For the first few weeks that I returned I was still living out of my 3 bags since my place is leased for the next year. I used this time to slow down, quietly process, take care of my soul, see a lot of friends and prepare to move forward. When I find my self in the struggle of the creative process, I go out and shoot just for the enjoyment and excitement of taking photographs, just as I did the first time I picked up a camera and had no idea what I was going to do with the photographs taken. I hope sharing my struggles; will inspire you to have insight on your own creative journey.

As in life, your photographic journey is yours. Along the way, through experiences, our perspective changes and when it does, we need to have the courage to change directions. What you photograph and experience next, is up to you.

Remember, life is to be lived and it is new and different experiences that we should focus on accumulating.

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