Ephram

"Ephram...like in the Bible", he said when we asked his name.  When we moved in to the Farmhouse, our friend CaspersMom (the sweetest lady, but I can never remember her name, so she is just 'caspersmom') sent a garden boy to help clean up the garden.  After a few hours, Ian asked Ephram if he was looking for work.  "Yes" he replied.  "Are you married?  Do you have kids?"  "Yes" he said once more.  "Come by tomorrow with your family and stay the week."  We liked Ephram, he worked hard and seemed like a good soul.  He showed up the next day with Colleen and little Smanyilay.  She was a tiny thing, and she screamed her head off every time Mona came near.  

It's strange for me to have 'houseboys' and 'maids'... It just seems so colonial, so not me.  But here in South Africa it is the norm, and I just tell myself that I will treat them with the upmost kindness. One can get very used to it as well;  floors are cleaned daily, the garden kept, leaves raked, chores done, dishes washed... "It's just you two here?"  Colleen asked.  "Yes, just us..."  "No kids?"  she asked, perplexed.  "No..."  and I added "not yet" to make us both feel better.  This is a four bedroom house, too large for just two people, especially in their eyes I'm sure. They are three, living in a space the size of a modest bathroom, yet within two days, they turned it into a quaint room, humbling me as I saw the pride they took in making it a make-shift home.  

They went home to their other home for the weekend...I wonder what it looks like, what they are like when they are not at work for the mlungu.  Before they left, I asked them if they wouldn't mind taking some photos, a family shot.  They agreed, and just before hopping in the car with Ian to go home, I got to see them for a few minutes as a family.  

Ephram & Smanyilay

Ephram & Smanyilay

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Tagging along to go tagging: Impala

One of my favorite days on the reserve so far has been tagging along with the men on their mission to tag one of Joe's female impalas and move her to another camp within his farm.  She had jumped the fence during a fright from a storm, and now they needed to get her back, as the cold was about to set in and she was terribly frail.  I showed up with Lara, the little beagle pup I was sitting, and we all had coffee while the boys contemplated strategy.  Joe got the syringes ready, loaded up the dart gun, and made his plan.  "It takes eight minutes once the dart hits her, we have to move fast"  he said, eyes squinting with a stern calm.  

After about thirty minutes of slowly preparing, everything moved in warp speed.  Joe shot her through the bathroom window, we roared towards him with the truck, swooping him up, all eyes on the target and where she bolted off to.  "There she is!" shouted one of the guys, "don't lose her!" and we sped over the bumpy road through the bush on her trail.  "Six minutes."  Joe said calmly, but you could feel the tension filling up every inch of the cab we were sitting in.  We had her in sight, and saw her start to wobble as she tried to walk.  "Seven minutes..."  She was frozen now, her gaze in our direction as our eyes darted back and forth between her and the clock.  I was amazed that right at eight minutes, she fell.  And not two milliseconds later, Lara and I were alone in the cab, watching the boys dash out to grab her.  They picked her up and carefully walked back as fast as they could, laying her down in the back of the truck, one stayed in the back cradling the impala while we sped off once again to make it to the other camp.  "We have only a few minutes to get her there before she starts to come to, and she's very fragile right now", Joe explained.  Along the way, we heard a yell from the back, "She's going into shock!", we saw her convulsing, and time seemed to go in slow motion.  We made it to the camp, the truck was not even stopped before Joe popped out and began to assess his girl and administer aid to her.  My heart was pounding!  Was she going to be ok?  We were racing against the clock, both for the dart to wear off, and for her own little body to hold out long enough for Joe to help her.  He gave her several shots, and her body started to recover, her piercing eyes started to open, groggy but alright.  It seemed we were in the clear.  Little by little, she showed more signs of life, I stroked her to say it's okay, and her big brown eyes shone into mine;  I was overwhelmed with appreciation that I got to feel the magnificence of this being.  

There are so many people out there who pay to come to Africa and kill.  I am lucky to be on the side of those whose aim is to protect and care for such beautiful creatures.  When you see and feel these animals close up, you absorb a piece of them into your soul, and you are never the same.  I may have given up some of the creature comforts in life to move to Africa, but what I receive here is beyond what any fancy new app or hot new happy hour can ever give, and I am grateful.  

seven minutes...

seven minutes...

Following Richard's top 10 tips for success...

I am excited to say I'll have the pleasure of meeting Sir Richard tonight as I photograph the screening and panel discussion of his documentary, "Breaking the Taboo" here in San Francisco.  Richard, I hope you enjoy this post, inspired of course by your article in the BBC on March 14th.  Please leave me a comment & let me know what you think!  Cheers & I hope SF is giving you a warm embrace! 

Follow your dreams and just do it!

 

My dream last year was to bring photography to the children of Dumphries, the village that borders Richard's private game reserve, Ulusaba, in South Africa.  Sure, I was afraid... What if I failed, what if I can't raise the money, what if I all of the sudden couldn't take a good photo anymore, what if, what if, what if... I just put one foot in front of the other, made a commitment to myself and to others, and did not let intimidation change my path.  My reward??  THIS!  These amazing kids, memories that will make me smile for a lifetime.  And, what a bonus that I got to help raise money for these incredible people who stole my heart over and over again.  

Shelly with the kids at Dumphries, January 2014.

Shelly with the kids at Dumphries, January 2014.

Make a positive difference and do some good!

 

I searched for a long time within myself to find the path I wanted to take within the photography field.  I tried it all:  Portraits, weddings, photo booth, head shots, travel & lifestyle... until I finally found my purpose.  A business that makes a difference.  Photography that changes the world, even just a little bit, through the connections it brings.  Doing good, sharing souls.   

Connecting with the teens at Mawewe high school.

Connecting with the teens at Mawewe high school.

Believe in your ideas and be the best!

I am trying, Richard, I am trying!!  I DO believe in my ideas, I have so many of them and try to catch up with them on a daily basis.  It's difficult to get past the monkey mind that tells you 'you don't have time', 'someone else will do that, you can't', or 'what makes you think you can do that?'.  But, day by day I get past small obstacles in order to persevere, so I think being the best for me right now equals 'being the best I can be today, right now in this moment'.  

Shelly in Tulum, Mexico for her 40th birthday celebration!

Shelly in Tulum, Mexico for her 40th birthday celebration!

Have fun and look after your team.

Paju and I did a photo shoot together for an audition he was going to.  He called me the day before and asked if I had time, and I was honored to be the one to photograph such a gorgeous man, both inside and out.  To start the shoot, we streamed Beyonce on the JamBox, poured a glass of sav blanc, and then got to it.  Of course, we had to end the shoot hugging an jumping.  This kind of fun is what makes me believe even more that I am on the right path! 

Shelly having fun during a photo shoot with the one and only Paju Munroe.

Shelly having fun during a photo shoot with the one and only Paju Munroe.

Don’t give up.

The way I've gotten to this place now is that I have never given up on trying.  In the words of someone I adore and respect, ehem, "If you don't try, nothing happens."  So, I keep trying, keep getting excited about ideas, and learn from the failures and the trials that have come with them all.  And at the end of the day, nothing is ever a failure, because I took a risk.  That's what life is all about, and the uncomfortableness that comes along with it is truly precious.  

Taking it all in... Sedona AZ

Taking it all in... Sedona AZ

Make lots of lists and keep setting yourself new challenges.

Black Rock City has given me the opportunity to challenge myself in ways I never knew.  It goes deep into your core and brings up all of the things you try to suppress in the default world, then it sits and watches you try to get out of facing them.  If you let it in, beauty and truth arises.  The challenge is in not running away from it, and even more, in welcoming the demons to dinner so that you can have a conversation over a bottle of wine that has almost turned.  The freedom and growth you feel afterwards carries you off the Playa, and gives you strength to keep making those lists that feed your greatest challenges.

View from the temple, BRC 2011

View from the temple, BRC 2011

Spend time with your family and learn to delegate.

I don't get to see my family as much as I'd like, but when I do, I dive in and get dirty.  These little guys can tackle me in the grass, soak me with a hose, and pull my arms off, I don't care, I love it!  My goal is to spend the most quality time with them when we are able to be in the same place, and let them know that they should be very excited when Auntie Shelly comes to town!  My plan for the future involves a lot of travel, so I will have to learn the art of delegation and choosing projects wisely.  I know how fast time flies, but seeing how much others can accomplish with way more on their plates than me is an inspiration that keeps my sights high.  

Shelly and her nephews, getting down 'n dirty!

Shelly and her nephews, getting down 'n dirty!

Try turning off the TV and getting out there and do things!

This one, I have zero problem with.  TV is not my thing, although I do have my secret infatuations with certain actors, and can be captivated by any number of "top tatoo/chef/designer/insert-any-word-here show" if you catch me on the right day.  I don't have many regrets when it comes to the things & places I've gotten out to explore, but when I think of just how many more experiences there are out there left undiscovered by this blonde girl, it kinda makes my head spin - and gets me planning!  Now, if I could only get myself off of this laptop more hours of the day... 

Exploring the streets of Paris, 2013

Exploring the streets of Paris, 2013

When people say bad things about you, just prove them wrong.

Just keep going, let it pass through you, know that you can't please 100% of the people all of the time, and give them your inner "roar!" of awesomeness to show that you are amazing no matter what anyone else has to say otherwise.  This photo was taken on my 40th birthday!  Who says you have to grow old?!?!  

Lucky 13 bar in San Francisco, 2013

Lucky 13 bar in San Francisco, 2013

Do what you love, and have a sofa in the kitchen.

Whether it's a sofa or the ground, cuddle with friends!  My love of creating different photo opportunities has led me to capture some of my favorite moments with those I adore & love.  This project at Burningman was to capture people in cuddle puddles from above.  It was one of my favorite projects, and whenever I feel like connecting with friends, the camera always comes out... whether it be on the couch, in the kitchen, or totally dusty!  

The "above" photo project, Burningman 2011

The "above" photo project, Burningman 2011