It’s been a while since I wrote something about myself, we as guides are so often writing about the sightings we saw or the camera setup we use or the perfection of a Land Rover Defender in comparison to the imperfection of a Land Cruiser (that’ll ruffle some feathers!). In fact, it’s been so long that I have forgotten my story, but I think with a bit of digging, Ill be able to trudge it all back to the foreground, just like a marvel superhero movie! So here goes.
I think the only time in my life when I didn’t think I wanted to work in nature, was when I was about 6 and I wanted to be a stockbroker. Because, well they made lots of money & 6-year-old me knew exactly what that all meant. Fast forward just a few years and “lots of money” was so far removed from what I thought about each day. I had found a new form of payment, a new form of bliss and that was pure unadulterated nature. It was the African bush; it was that last Kudu I saw on our family vacation to Mabula Private Game Reserve that year. No really, without me there, just who was going to make sure it was looked after and safe! Yes indeed 9-year-old me was so enthralled with this African wilderness thing, that it pained me to leave the bush every single time we left.
It was a deep passion, one that even had me writing my own textbooks on the mammals of southern Africa. I was pouring over encyclopaedias and magazine and posters and just what ever I could find on the subject, in an effort to fill out my very professional handwritten one of a kind “bubble-gum fact” book’s. And yes, for those wondering I did grow up (for a time) without the internet and even when it did come out, loading a picture of a stripped polecat would’ve taken long enough for me to get through an entire Attenborough special.
Of course, just like you, I went off the rails in my teenage years and all that mattered was rock ‘n roll, making (bad) music and hanging out with friends. In fact, I did this to such an extent that I found myself completely wrapped up in the Johannesburg Music scene and took my role as an event promoter and band manager very seriously. Ah yes, the lost years! Eventually the stress of organising and managing events with several thousand attendees at the tender age of 19 or 20 got the better of me and I went back to my roots. I stage managed my last show at Carnival City outside Joburg and the next morning I hit the road.
Overnight, I swapped the busy city lights for the deafening silence of the African bush. I jumped headfirst into a full year long guiding course with a company called EcoTraining. I didn’t know it at the time but that was the best year of my life. I took the bull by the horns from the moment I arrived. I wouldn’t let those handwritten textbooks go to waste. My real career had begun.
My first Job as a full-time guide was at a gorgeous little lodge called Kwa-Mbili in the Thornybush game reserve in South Africa. Now, I had dabbled in photography on the music scene. Well actually I had taken a lot of grainy, badly flashed point and shoot camera images, but it was when I started at Kwa-Mbili that my eyes were fully opened. You see, the owner of the lodge entrusted me with his Canon 350D and 100-400mm L series lens. I was told to get some images for them to use while out on game drives. Say no more, I was hooked! I got to spend time everyday with the animals I loved, and I also got to use some pretty nifty equipment to capture all of their antics. It was a dream come true!
Several years later and after working at a number of lodges but just never having enough money to purchase any meaningful camera other than the one my phone had, I had finally saved enough for a DSLR starter kit! Sorry Canon but I choose the fantastic Nikon D3200 along with a 70-300mm tamron lens. Yes, I was ready to take the photography world by storm. It wasn’t to long after that that I realised that you get regular camera equipment, and you get pro equipment. Hey at least I was now sure that it wasn’t me taking the bad photos, it was my equipment of course!
I had no choice though; the photography bug had bitten. If you’re reading this blog post on Wild-Eye’s website, then you probably know the exact bug that I am talking about. It’s very similar to the African bug, just more expensive. It really was when I started working at an awesome lodge called Tanda Tula about 6 years ago, that my addiction to photography got its first wave of proper self-respect and with that I purchased a Nikon D7200 and a Tamron 150-600mm lens, what a dream setup!
Although, I loved working at Tanda Tula and with the team that’s based there. I had always kept my eye on a particular company that seemed to really like the use of lumo green. In an industry that almost exclusively makes use of muted earthy and natural marketing tones, that lumo chameleon would catch my eye all the time. Not to mention, the incredible photographers and guides that produced content for the company. It just always seemed like it was the dream job, reserved for the best of the best. Something to day dream about myself, maybe just maybe one day that would be me.
Well, here I am a Photographic Specialist and Tour Leader. The lumo green chameleon proudly displayed on my new jacket as I write this blog post. My Nikon D850’s and a Nikon 500mm F/4 right next to me, just waiting to be packed for my first tour to the Maasai Mara in just two days. The next chapter has just begun, and the dream is being realised.
See you out there folks, bring your sun cream because I don’t give up!
Until next time, happy snapping