IMPORTANT QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT MY TOURS AND WORKSHOPS
Below I have addressed many of the questions and concerns you may have.
A Photo Safari/Tour is a big investment. It is important that you match your goals up to the right trip, giving you the best photographic experience. My safaris and photo tours are on the African continent, as this is where the focus of my work has been for the past 8 years. Africa is a magical place, one I fell in love with the moment my feet hit its rich red soil and one I hope everyone has a chance to experience. I have a love for the land, wildlife and people; natures other element. This is why I lead both wildlife photo safaris and cultural photo tours. My passion for the natural world has grown into a lifelong commitment to inspire others to explore, respect and preserve the beauty of our fragile planet.
My workshops are based in the United States.
What makes a Piper Mackay Photo Safari/Tours different than the others being offered?
My tours are designed for the adventurous photographer who likes to explore the more remote, exotic regions of the world and the road less traveled. I spend a lot of time personally planning each itinerary based on my experience photographing in the location. The itinerary is designed around the importance of the location and photographic opportunities rather than luxury accommodations. If you would rather stay in a luxury accommodation an hour or two away, than a clean but basic camp 10 minutes from the location for the best light, than several of my tours are probably not for you.
When possible, we stay in the best accommodations, as I enjoy luxury as much as anyone. However, in remote regions on my cultural tours, we may stay in local guesthouse or a simple mobile camp and eat local food, for the better photographic opportunity it will bring; some remote areas have no tourist accommodations. This is clearly written in the itinerary.
My wildlife safaris are usually a mix of top luxury camps, lodges, and basic camps that are used by working photographers and film crews, due to the location. Most of the parks and reserves are very strict about being in the gate, or out of the reserve by sundown. So, if I have a safari planned around the migration, I may choose to stay in a more basic camp or lodge in a prime location if luxury accommodations are more than 30 minutes away, as every minute counts during the golden hours. Read more information on my African wildlife photo safaris.
I work with local operators and guides that are experienced in the special needs, demands, and flexibility that photographers require. They are one of the most important elements to the success of my safaris and tours.
I keep the group size small; 6-8 participants on cultural tours and 8-11 participants on wildlife safaris. This gives us more flexibly, allows me to spend more time with everyone on an individual bases, and is less intrusive when we are photographing cultures.
I continue to do my own work each year on personal projects, which keeps me pushing my own photographic vision and skills to the next level. I think this is added value beyond those who generally only lead photography tours.
My tours are as much about the experience as they are about the photography. They are a little more adventurous. So if you have that urge to explore and get excited every time you have your camera in hand, you would probably love joining us; a fun group of like-minded people who love to travel and seek out the unexpected.
What is the difference between a photo safari/tour and a photo workshop?
My tours are created for passionate photographers who want to travel to remote and exotic locations for amazing photographic opportunities. The goal is to get to as many locations and events as possible in the best light to create compelling images and return home with an incredible body of work. This means we are up early and generally go all day. However, if you don’t feel like going out on a sunrise or afternoon excursion, you may take time out to rest. I always suggest that everyone should go at their own pace but make sure you can take advantage of all photographic opportunities.
I am available throughout the tour for guidance, instruction, and technical problems, but there is no planned or formal teaching on my tours due to the lack of time. We try to spend as much time in the field as possible to maximize our short amount of time in each location. If we have a longer midday break, I am always happy to review images, work with you on technical issues, or give a little demonstration on off camera flash. You can read what past clients have said in their testimonials about how much time I spend helping and giving instruction on my tours.
My workshops are just about the opposite of my photo tours. They are generally in one location to increase the amount of learning time. They are design to teach. They are usually focused more on the creative side of photography such as dramatic lighting, unique compositions, working with a wide angle, using motion for impact, etc., rather than on the technical side such as how to set up your camera and use your gear. I like to teach the business side of photography such as creating a brand, marketing, strategies in making, the transition to pro or semi pro, and practical tips, rather than teaching postproduction. Portfolio and image reviews are part of the workshops.
Do I have to be an experienced or professional level photographer to join your photo safari/tour?
All levels of photographers are welcome to join my tours, but you will enjoy the safari/ tour more if you have good working knowledge of your gear and know the basics such as aperture, depth of field, shutter speed, iso, etc.
In your pre-departure information is a section with information on how to prepare for each tour. It includes a list of books, online class and other resources you may want to consider in preparation to maximize your abilities to create extraordinary photographs.
I will encourage you to shoot at the level you are at. We will be photographing extraordinary subjects and even with some simple composition and natural lighting techniques you will be able to take extraordinary photographs.
I will discourage you from buying new equipment “weeks” before your trip or putting too high of expectations of trying something technically new, such as off camera flash, WITHOUT preparing for it in advance. I am there to help and will assist you, but trust me, you don’t want to be fumbling with buttons during the migration crossing or cubs playing. You also don’t want to waste precious time figuring out off camera flash on the only afternoon we maybe visiting a village and not come away with at least one fantastic image.
I am a non-photographer, can I join your safari’s/Tours
Non-photographers are welcome to join but you should talk with me prior to signing up, as the itinerary is created for photographers.
Do you photograph on your photography safari/Tour ?
Yes I do, because I am a passionate photographer and it is second nature for me to instinctively have my camera in hand, but my first priority is to be available to you as a resource. In the area’s we are visiting I have already spent quality time doing my own personal work and is why I have chosen the location. My shooting is secondary and I am not there to do my own personal work. My camera is usually the last up and the first down. When I am looking through my camera I am seeing things as a professional photographer. I believe this is beneficial as I notice distracting backgrounds, see a better composition, warn you about exposure and shutter speeds, notice light and shadows on the subjects to better advise the group or reposition our vehicle.
What is an Adventure Photo Excursion?
These are exploratory or personal project trips. I enjoy traveling with other photographers, so when I am scouting an area or I want to do a personal project that is not particularly specific, I like to extend an invitation for a few people to join me.
These trips are for advanced photographers. They are by invitation only to photo tour alumni, workshop participants, or photographers I have previously traveled with. This is because there is no instruction and I am there as a working photographer. We will work together as professionals collaborating and discussing photography throughout the journey. I only offer 1or 2 of these type trips per year and only take 1-3 photographers per trip. These trips are generally not advertised through my website.
What makes these trips special is that we go farther of the beaten path to capture unique and compelling imagery that it is difficult to get on regular photographic tours due to the remoteness and lack of proper accommodations. Accommodations are secondary to getting the images and many times this will require staying in a small tent in “the bush” so to speak.
Why do you require travel and medical insurance?
My safari’s and tours are in remote areas in developing countries. If you become seriously ill or sustain a serious injury there is a high chance you will need to be evacuated by helicopter or aircraft. In a serious situation I need to know I can get you back to the western world for top medical care. Everyone thinks, “ that will not happen.” Although I have not personally known any one who has been hurt, I have witnessed horrific vehicle accidents more times than I can count and have heard terrible stories of people who have become ill and did not get proper care. Your safety is my responsibility and in an emergency I need to be assured I can take care of you in the best possible manner.
For a major trip like this, many clients book almost a year in advance. That is a sufficient amount of time where many unexpended things could happen that would result in you having to cancel your trip. There are also challenges working in Africa and extremely remote regions. On occasion changes may have to be made to the itinerary. Although this has not happened, in extreme situations, beyond my control, due to political reasons, floods, or other acts of God, a trip could be canceled at the last minute or be permanently interrupted. A trip of this nature is a big investment and this insures you will be refunded such a large investment should something happen, including any non-refundable deposits and airline tickets.
Why do you charge a fee for using a credit card?
Trips to Africa are expensive. The fee for using a credit card, which is based on a percentage, can be high. I do not want to automatically add/average this into the cost of the trip price, as most companies do. I prefer to give you the choice of saving the money or paying the fee because it benefits you to do so.
What else should I know before sighing up?
Africa operates on a different rhythm; it is a slower pace than the western world. It is important to be flexible, patient, have a good sense of humor, have limited dietary requirements, and be in good physical condition. Traveling on rugged dirt roads can be exciting but mentally difficult on a long day. It is best to try to leave your western ideas at home and embrace the beauty and culture of this magical place.
If you have any further concerns or questions please email me.