5 weeks over September and October 2008, what a time.
Little did I know how much these few weeks would change me.
After a close friend had suggested doing something like this, I signed up for volunteer work with Volunteer Africa (www.volunteerafrica.org) and before long I was in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania learning how to speak Swahili. It was like trying to teach an old dog new tricks, it was tough, but I had the basics. After a few days of language training, myself and the new volunteers who also arrived at the same time as me, were put on a bus with our tutor & headed for the remote region of Singida. We had left around 5am and we were so tired, but I stayed awake the whole time just looking out the window at the amazing landscape and it’s gradual change from lush coastal green colours, to dry, sandy brown colours nearer Singida.
I’ll keep the camp life & village life short.
When we arrived in Singida, we meet up with the other volunteers who were already there and had been working for a few weeks already, a great bunch of people. After another 2 days (on a Sunday morning) it was time to take the long 2hr drive out to the remote village of Mughumbu, and when I say remote, I mean this place was in the middle of nowhere.
Mud-huts, next to no water, no electricty, sand, dust and an almost unbareable heat.
I unpacked, got settled and started taking photos with a small Fujifilm bridge camera I had brought with me, and also my phone camera, which wasn’t great. That afternoon/evening we had been invited to a local wedding and what an experience that was to start things off.
Over the next 3weeks at camp was the best experience of my life, and still is, even though I’ve been back to Africa since. The volunteers helped build a local staff house for a primary school. Each weekday morning we were woken by the sounds of the school children singing their morning songs, the noises at night were interesting, the sunsets were beautiful, the people were always happy, the sun was relentless and the bugs were HUGE. I could go on, but I said I’ll keep that bit short.
After the volunteering most of us went our seperate ways, but myself, Rachel, Lydia and Jordi stuck together for the next week and done safaris in Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara, then flew to Zanzibar and spent a few days there relaxing on the perfect beaches before the trip back to Dar es Salaam to catch the flight home.
When I arrived home, I was told by a few people that I had a good eye for a photograph, so I looked into buying a good DSLR and from then on I was hooked. I bought a Nikon D5000, after that I bought a Nikon D7100, then a professional Nikon D810. I also ended up buying a GoPro Hero3+, an Olympus Tough (underwater camera), new lenses and a DJI Phantom2 Vision+ drone.
(The shot above was taken on my 2nd trip to Africa, in Chobe national Park, 2014)
It took a lot to get started but I was pushed and encouraged every step of the way by family and friends which was great. One thing I never studied, was photography, but I taught myself via Youtube and LOTS of practice. Each month I still stop work for a day or two and try something new with the photography, whether is something simple or more complicated, sometimes it works, sometimes it goes horribly wrong. I don’t dwell on the failings, I think of it as a learning curve and think of ways around the problem and 10 times out of 10, I always get the shot I aimed for. It shows that you don’t have to have qualifications in a specific area to be successful in it. If you want something enough and have a drive and determination to go and get it, it can be yours. There’s no-one stopping you, only yourself.
I now get people emailing me looking to do work experience, train them, help on photoshoots, give advice, etc and it’s a great feeling to be thought of like that. 2014 seen me give up my full-time managers job in retail and go professional and work for myself and things are always getting better. I’ve photographed beautiful weddings in N.Ireland, in Spain and this year I’ve one booked in the stunning coastline in Cornwall.
The people I meet and work with are all now classed as friends.
If this post even inspires just one person to go out and get what they dream of, it will be worthwhile. I’ve enjoyed writing it, as it’s always good to think back to where things started and be thankful for what I have now and what I’ve achieved.
If you would like to see some of my work you can check out the brand new website:
or my instagram: https://instagram.com/image31photography/
Thank you for taking the time to read the post.