Depth of Field Podcast: Piper Mackay

Piper Mackay

Piper Mackay

Piper Mackay represents the dream of so many photographers out there. She was working a successful career and gave it up to follow her new found passion of photography.  Her career was in the fashion industry and the area of photography that captivated her was wildlife and later cultural work. In this interview we look at how she did her own, “Great Migration”. Piper speaks openly and honestly about her fears and her doubts. Did she make a mistake to follow her passion. Will she make it in the field of wildlife photography when other more experienced photographers she respects tell her she is nuts to enter.

Join Piper Mackay and I talk about her journey and her struggles. This will be an encouraging shot in the arm if you are a struggling photographer. It doesn’t matter if you are an enthusiast or a professional, there is nuggets in this hour that will make you say, I really can do this!



Follow Piper Mackay’s works:


Blog: HERE

Tour/Workshops: HERE

Facebook: HERE

Twitter: @pipermackay1


The On Field Media Project, Teaching NGOs to Tell Their Own Stories

Digital Storytelling.001

“Photographs are the portal to one’s first impression of a non-profit’s mission via their website. Having amateurs do that work is always a serious compromise. The staff might know the stories but that doesn’t mean they can translate them into effective visual narrative. Just my opinion.” This was a recent comment addressed to me on Facebook after I posted about our recent On Field Media Project training in Africa. I left this persons name off the quote because they deleted the comment, I am not sure why. Maybe they had a change of heart. But I know there are other photographers who feel this same way. To me, this is old, classic, and somewhat colonial thinking. It’s a antiquated mindset that has to be challenged. Continue reading

A Podcast: Mitchell Kanashkevich

Mitchell K

Mitchell Kanashkevich

Mitchell Kanashkevich is probably one of the most talented photographers I know. He has gotten that way by shooting continuously. Mitch doesn’t stop — or at least not for long. It was during one of these quick respites that I was able to catch up with him and find out what he has been up to over the past two years since we last spoke. In a word: Africa. Mitch has spent the last year or more slowly traveling through Africa. In this hour long interview we talk about his adventures, misadventures and his entrepreneurial adventures. Mitch has started a new e-book publishing house called EyeVoyage where he has published his latest titled called Powerful Imagery: The Photographer’s Insight. As a special offer for Digital Trekker readers you can get 20% off your order if you use the code “DTREKKER20” on your check out.

Visit Mitch’s blog HERE.

Visit his Photoshelter archive HERE.

One of the coolest things about hosting a podcast on SoundCloud is the ability for listeners to comment on the podcast’s timeline – as it is playing. Feel free to give it a try. Continue reading

A Podcast: A conversation on the Fujifilm X System with Piet Van den Eynde

Me and my X-Pro1 in Rajasthan. Photo by Mike Alexander

Me and my X-Pro1 in Rajasthan. Photo by Mike Alexander


There’s a lot of talk these days, both good and bad, about the Fujifilm X Series cameras: the X-Pro1 and the X-E1.  I’ve been using the X-Pro1 for exactly one year now. Back when I first gave my initial impressions I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this camera long term. Well, the jury is out and the verdict is I love it… a lot! So much so, I took it for a month of shooting, an assignment in Africa for The Kilgoris Project then to India for my latest Rajasthan Photo workshop. Continue reading

The Kilgoris Project

School starts early under the tree in Ndege, Kenya.

School starts early under the tree in Ndege, Kenya.


This week I had the privilege of photographing the extraordinary work being done by The Kilgoris Project in Western Kenya.  The Kilgoris Project is an NGO started around 10 years ago by Caren and Jon McCormack to provide quality education to the children of the Maasai. If you are a long time reader of my blog then you are familiar with this extraordinary work. In fact, I would encourage you to listen to the podcast I did with Jon a year ago last March. You’ll find it HERE.

Even though I have known about Jon and Caren’s work for some time, this was my first Kilgoris experience. While Jon and I took off to the bush to photograph two new prospective sites for more schools, Gavin Gough and Lesley Fisher were busy running Gavin’s amazing charity, SeedLight. The idea behind SeedLight is to help kids to express themselves through photography. Learn more about Gavin’s work HERE.

Jon and I visited two prospective locations for new schools. Each school is in a rural area that offers only one school for miles. The schools we visited in Ndege and Ollolailei, are spread over several miles. Each community might have one school that educates 500 to 600 children, but this is only counting the children who actually attend, there are many, many others who just don’t make the hike. Many communities like Ollolailei have no road. Children who are only 5 or 6 years of age will literally hike miles through the bush just to attend classes. But these schools are over-crowded–often 80 kids to a class and three to a desk. The schools usually have no funding for facilities for lunch programs, and with so many of the students walking so far to come to school, the classes are kept to only a half day. By the way, the older children arrive at school by 7:00am in order to receive tuition and don’t leave school till 5:00pm!

At both Ndege and Ollolailei the school is literally made of mud and sticks. Ndege is less rural and has over 500 students. The school has around 10 or so classrooms, but with no room left over for the primary children, they have their classes outside under a tree. It might be beautiful to look at, but not so nice when the rain starts. On those days, there simply is no class. Ollolailei is way off the road. Here the school is only one room and it does double-duty as their church. Here they have two classes under the a huge tree.

I am touched to be able to share with you some images from this week.

A note to all you photo geeks: All these images were shot with Fujifilm X-Pro 1.


Ndege children waiting for school to start.

Ndege children waiting for school to start.


Children often are three to a desk.

Children often are three to a desk.


Philip Oloetiptip is the 1st grade at Ndege.

Philip Oloetiptip is the 1st grade teacher at Ndege.


Oloetiptip and his 1st grade class.

Oloetiptip and his 1st grade class.


A smiling student at Ndege.


Children sit early in the morning for tuition.

Children sit early in the morning for tuition.


A child waits outside his classroom at Ollolailei.

A child waits outside his classroom at Ollolailei.


A Masai elder stands next to  the schools class under the three at Ollolailei

A Maasai elder stands next to the schools class under the three at Ollolailei


The one room school house and church at Ollolailei.

The one room school house and church at Ollolailei.

If you would like to donate to the work that the Kilgoris Project is doing in Kenya, here’s your chance. Please donate.

A Rocha Kenya, More Than Birds

Dr. Bob Sluka, Director of Marine Research A Rocha


This is the last post on A Rocha Kenya, at least for a while. As you can see, I was very touched by this organization and its efforts to blend together their Christian world view, views on conservation efforts and their calling to help the poor. I think it is because these three things are very similar to what I am all about. The video below is a very simple promo piece I did for my friend Dr. Bob Sluka to use as an introduction to A Rocha for his audience. It is not fancy, it is not overly emotional. It is simple, direct and to the point. Frankly, I was frustrated by my lack of underwater imagery of Watamu Marine Park. The marine park is where A Rocha Kenya has started it’s marine program. But I was saved by Benjo!  A hearty thank you goes out to Benjamin “Benjo” Cowburn for the use of some of his underwater images in this piece. Benjo is the on-site marine biologist working for A Rocha Kenya (He also writes a fun blog called “Benjo in Kenya“. Check it out!)

Marine research is new for A Rocha as an organization and Bob has been the driving force behind it. He is passionate about these same three points and sees A Rocha as outlet for expressing these with integrity. One thing I was impressed by was I never felt Bob, Benjo or anyone at A Rocha was preachy. Not about their faith, nor about the environmental or conservation issues. They know they have to live it out – walk the walk, rather than just talk it. I hope I captured this over these past three posts.

A Rocha Kenya – More than birds from Matt Brandon on Vimeo.

Kenya’s Hope is in Her ASSETS

“Let your resolve not dissolve.” Will Raso have the resolve to be the next ASSETS?

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go with Ameline, the French A Rocha Kenya volunteer. At the last minute I found out I was visiting a community meeting. I don’t like meetings and community meetings tend to be the worst. I came very close to staying back and snorkeling. But, I could tell, Ameline was counting on me to go. I could see it in her eyes. So, I sucked it up and climbed into the back of the jeep, a Maruti Gypsy. I was immediately taken back to my days in India when I owned the same jeep. I knew it was going to be a bumpy ride. The meeting was with the parents of the “ASSETS” (Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Eco-Tourism Scheme) children. I was told by my host that the ASSETS program was A Rocha Kenya’s flagship community development program. A Rocha, if you recall, is a Christian conservation charity based in 19 countries all over the globe. I was in the Mwamba office in Watamu, Kenya, right on the coast.

Festus Masha, Community Officer and Administrator of the ASSETS program leads the discussion with the ASSETS parents.

The ASSETS program is described as a “targeted sustainable development program”. When I asked what they were targeting, I was told the communities around the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. Both of these locations have unique, and in fact endangered wildlife. Deforestation and poaching is a major threat to the species inhabiting these two locations. But how do you stop people with very little income from cutting trees to sell to provide for their families? You can’t just tell them to stop and you can’t make them understand how they are killing off pretty little birds and rare little rodents. What A Rocha Kenya is finding out is you actually can do these things plus you provide a scholarship to help ease the daily cost of living.

A Rocha staff member Henry Kigen speaks with the parents of the ASSETS.

The scholarship is for their children’s schooling. In this area of Kenya, children get subsidized primary schooling. But the high cost of secondary school fees means only a few families can afford it. In 2000, in the Malindi District (where Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek are located) 92% of children who qualified for secondary school did not attend, largely because of poverty.

A Roch volunteer Ameline Peterschmitt and staff member Patrick Kaunda talk with ASSETS parents.

The sustainable part of this scheme is that the money for the scholarships comes from eco-tourism. Here is how it works – Tourist pay to visit the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek to see the elephants, the rare birds and the endangered Golden Rumped Elephant Shew found nowhere else but in this forest. Part of that money is used to subsidize the ASSETS children, so they can attend school. But to qualify for the scholarship students must live around the two locations, have good grades and attend classes about environmental education. The environmental education helps the children grow up understanding the importance of the forest next door and, so the forest now provides an income for the families without it having to be logged.

A prayer for the ASSETS and the community.

Once we arrived Ameline and Patrick met with the ladies, and I photographed from a few angles, but honestly, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do with a meeting. So, I wandered around and found a few children. At first they seemed leery of the “mzungu” or foreigner. But after a while they warmed up and we played. They all wanted to have their photos made. So, of course, I obliged. They wanted to play school and then they wanted to sing and dance for me. I fell in love. Right then, and there I realized the importance of the ASSETS program and I hoped and in fact prayed that each one of these children would make it into this program. I want to believe that Francis, Love, Mercy, Rehema, Raso and Neema all have a hope for the future.

Kenya and Back

Waiting for birds to be netted in the Mida Creek Mangrove Forest, Watamu, Kenya


For the past two weeks I have been in Nairobi and Watamu, Kenya. These two places are miles apart both literally as well as figuratively. In Nairobi (actually I was an hour outside of Nairobi at 7,000 feet or 2,000 meters) I was in meetings almost all week and when I wasn’t in meetings I was teaching photography to several NGOs all the while, freezing my tail off. I never would have imagined that I would be so cold in Africa in August. In Watamu I found myself working with one organization that is dedicated to conservation. I hope to be telling you more about A Rocha this week with a blog post or two and some fun photos. Watamu, situated on a beach, was nice and warm with a wonderful cooling breeze all day. When I wasn’t out snorkeling with two marine biologists I was ringing birds (more on “bird ringing” in the next day or two).

As I write this I am sitting in the Kuala Lumpur airport after a total of 15 hours in the air and 10 hours of sitting around airports waiting on flights. I am sleep deprived and ready to get home, kiss my wife and daughter and hit the sack.

Good Night.