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Experience the Extraordinary

“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 safari

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

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PiperMackayPiper Mackay is a world, wildlife and cultural photographer, based in Long Beach, California. She believes compelling visual images help to protect what is right in the world. Her work takes her to very remote locations, living cross culturally in the villages and environments that she is documenting.

Her work is heavily concentrated on the African continent, a land she fell in love with when she first touched foot on it’s rich red soil. Her 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.

She believes compelling work comes when you invest time, living the stories you are trying to tell. It is important to interact and gain the trust of those whose stories you are telling, especially when sensitive and complicated. The world has enough images of poverty, pain and disaster, much more needful is imagery that reveals the beauty and dignity of the communities that are, except by their geography and circumstances, very similar to our own. Powerful images help shape the view of the world and play an important role in disseminating how cultures and wildlife are coping with the rapid changes happening in the developing world.

Piper’s images have been displayed at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, The Museum of History and industry, and The Art Wolfe gallery, as well as local galleries. Her work has been featured in Nature and travel publication through representation of several photo agencies, including Rangefinder, Nature’s Best, Birders, and the World Wildlife Fund. She is an independent photographer and available for assignment work.

Her prior career in the fashion industry, where she was deeply involved with combing color and texture, has greatly enhanced her approach to the unique look and feel of each culture and photographic subject. This also gave her a strong background in business and marketing. Please visit Piper’s website at www.pipermackayphotography.com.

Posted in: General, Photography Workshops

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Free Falling; Stay Calm & Come to the Mara!

Africa-Safari-Maasai-Mara1Captured 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!

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

3 OffiiceInNatureMaraBushCampOffice in Nature – captured on the iphone4 – at Mara Bush Camp

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

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PiperMackayPiper Mackay is a world, wildlife and cultural photographer, based in Long Beach, California. She believes compelling visual images help to protect what is right in the world. Her work takes her to very remote locations, living cross culturally in the villages and environments that she is documenting.

Her work is heavily concentrated on the African continent, a land she fell in love with when she first touched foot on it’s rich red soil. Her 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.

She believes compelling work comes when you invest time, living the stories you are trying to tell. It is important to interact and gain the trust of those whose stories you are telling, especially when sensitive and complicated. The world has enough images of poverty, pain and disaster, much more needful is imagery that reveals the beauty and dignity of the communities that are, except by their geography and circumstances, very similar to our own. Powerful images help shape the view of the world and play an important role in disseminating how cultures and wildlife are coping with the rapid changes happening in the developing world.

Piper’s images have been displayed at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, The Museum of History and industry, and The Art Wolfe gallery, as well as local galleries. Her work has been featured in Nature and travel publication through representation of several photo agencies, including Rangefinder, Nature’s Best, Birders, and the World Wildlife Fund. She is an independent photographer and available for assignment work.

Her prior career in the fashion industry, where she was deeply involved with combing color and texture, has greatly enhanced her approach to the unique look and feel of each culture and photographic subject. This also gave her a strong background in business and marketing. Please visit Piper’s website at www.pipermackayphotography.com.

Posted in: General, Nature Photography

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