The Simple Things

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I’ve been lucky enough to visit Thailand a few times now, mostly to work with elephants at local sanctuaries.  It’s always such a treat to see them again, and I find I miss their smell and the texture of their skin and whiskers and their clever antics when I’ve been away from them for long.  On my most recent visit though, I found myself with time to spare in Bangkok and wanted  to take full advantage of it.

I’m not by nature a big city person, or someone who enjoys dealing with the crowds or hustle and bustle of metro areas, so I tend to avoid them pretty much at all costs.  However, with that said, Southeast Asia has been really easy for me to get accustomed to, maybe because of the easy to use public transportation, or the friendly people.   Even in Bangkok I was pleasantly surprised to spend time browsing the outdoor markets and local venues.  The sights and smells have become very familiar and fun to return to at this point.

I’ve been hearing for a long time how fantastic the flower markets are, and my friends have endlessly encouraged me to go – especially being a photographer.  I’ll be honest, I never quite understood how they could be THAT great.  I’ve done more than my share of farmers markets over the years at home, abroad, you name it.  But since I did have some extra time on my hands and wanted to use it doing lots of new things, I got up at the crack of dawn and headed out on foot to explore the nearest flower market.

I was staying with friends in a bit of unusual part of Bangkok, but sure enough, there was a good sized market promised on Saturday morning within 15 minutes walking distance so I grabbed my camera and gave it a go.  Although not nearly as large or fancy as the famous water market, it was actually quite charming and I was so happy I went.  I arrived before any shops had opened, and owners were still setting up stands, unwrapping flowers, and posting signs.  I didn’t find anyone who spoke English.  Kind of unusual, but added to the charm.

I have no idea how it happened, but before I knew it, I’d been slowly wandering from booth to booth with my camera caught up in all the little nooks and details of flowers, wrappings, ribbon and even the coming and going delivery drivers bringing large bundles by bicycle to keep the buckets fully stocked for nearly 3 hours.  Completely ridiculous I know.  But I just couldn’t help it!  It really was as entertaining as promised.

I easily snapped a few hundred images of leaves, flowers, designs and even the market vendors themselves.  But of all of the photos I took, this one still stands out as one of my very favorites.  It’s such a simple image, just one visible rose, amid bundles of others.  But I liked it just for that.  Amidst all the traffic and exhaust and customers and vendors and flowers being sold and bought and filled and emptied, this one little rose just stood still and tall.   Master of its own space.

There’s something to be said for that.

 

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Days with Rays

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I recently watched a brilliantly filmed documentary called “Racing Extinction” which details the loss of habitat and exploitation of wildlife due to trafficking around the globe.  The film casts light on the grim statistic that half of the world’s population of species are imperiled and face extinction.  A number that’s really hard to wrap your mind around, no matter how well versed you are in wildlife management or environmental preservation.

One of the animals featured in this documentary as being very vulnerable is the Manta Ray.  I had no idea all of the challenges the Mantas face, especially their exploitation for use in eastern medicine.  The Mantas have been harvested in mass for their gills which are then dried and sold for their alleged mythical medicinal qualities.  Fortunately through a labor of love, documentation and scientific data, these gentles giants are now protected under the CITES international treaty as of September 2014.

Living in Maui, where our beautiful waters are protected as a marine sanctuary, it’s so hard to wrap my mind around the idea that these same graceful and peaceful creatures have been hunted and exploited in other countries to the point of threatening the survival of their species.  I try to spend as much time on the water as my schedule and the weather permits – which fortunately is quite a lot.  But even with all those hours logged on the water, finding rays is still a fairly rare occurrence.  Finding them close to shore seems to coincide with lots of different factors – moon cycle, plankton boom, presence of jellyfish, water temperature and countless other things.

I felt so lucky that just two days ago, as I arrived at my favorite bay and hopped on my paddle board to head out and look for whales, I stumbled across three mantas calmly grazing at the surface.  Other than one manta I spent some quality time with a few weeks ago, I haven’t seen these beauties in several months.  Mantas seem to vary in personality, but are thought to be quite intelligent.  I never know when I find them if they will be willing to interact or not when I slide down into the water with them.  I can routinely get close on my board to film them swimming from above, but once I breach that boundary and enter their personal space they can become a bit shy and keep an eye on me from a distance.

The one behavior that is an absolutely constant, is that they hate to be chased.  Without fail, every single time I see someone get over excited and charge into the water only to swim after the mantas, they will immediately take off like a shot.  I always feel bad for them, to be harassed so pointlessly.  If you just sit and wait, curiosity will get the better of them, and they’ll always come over to pay you a visit.  Even if it’s just a brief one.

Lucky for me, this particular morning one of the trio was extremely friendly and inquisitive.  After I’d dropped into the water and float steadily beside my board, it would swim by frequently while feeding to look me over and give a good show.  It even seemed to calm down its two manta friends because after some time went by I’d find myself focused on the friendly ray, filming and shooting still images, when from the corner of my eye I’d see its buddy swimming up behind me to pay a surprise visit.

I spent a solid two hours swimming alongside them before finally calling it a day and heading in.  I’d been stung by jellies more times than I can count and was freezing cold, but so excited for all the photos and videos I’d managed to get and especially looking forward to sharing them with everyone who hasn’t been able to have the experience themselves.

I’m always so grateful for these special days in the water. I’m also keeping fingers crossed that with the relatively new protection from CITES as well as spreading awareness of their vulnerability, that the mantas will be flourishing sooner rather than later and their presence will be a much more regular one in our Hawaiian waters and beyond.

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The Gentle Giant

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Looking back, I’ve likely taken close to 2,000 photos of elephants. It all started with a life changing volunteer trip to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand several years ago. It was a bit of a spur of the moment decision, but then again that’s usually how my trips come to fruition. Granted I do have to make off-island plans well in advance, but still, I almost always jump on the chance to go someplace new when I feel that familiar pull.

As long as I can remember I’ve been charmed by the idea of going to Africa. Being such a massive continent, there are a million locations that promise to offer stunning scenery and wildlife and some of course are safer than others. Especially for travelers going solo. So for a recent birthday present to myself, I booked a trip to South Africa headed to a private game reserve focused heavily on conservation efforts and wildlife management.

I had a few extra days before and after my time spent on the reserve and this is one of my favorite images captured both from the trip and from my time touring the area. It’s a really simple image, but I love it because it’s just entirely natural. We found this bull in Addo National Park, known for its high concentration of African Elephants. I happened to be there during the rainy season, so the elephants had plenty of access to water in the dense forest, and found no reason to frequent their normal watering holes which were much closer to the roads and in plain view for sightseers and photographers alike.

After a couple hours searching high and low for one of the resident herds, out of nowhere appeared this bull amidst the dense acacia. Not only was he stunning, but I was shocked that a bull of this size was less than 50 yards away and we had absolutely no idea until he lifted his head above the tree line to nibble on a branch. He moved effortlessly and made no sound other than the soft crunching of leaves as he grazed. And only a few moments later he emerged slowly, completely, from the brush to cross the narrow road and completely disappear again on the other side.

It was one of the first opportunities I had to see a truly wild elephant, doing what elephants do, in its own forest, and it was such a treasured moment. I loved the way he could just appear and disappear on a whim and that he was able to live a peaceful life in a protected, yet wild and untouched environment. I can only hope that the future brings more moments like this and that these peaceful giants are able to reclaim more of the land that they once roam freely and without fear of human interference.

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Whale Tale

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The lack of either trade winds or a south swell created the perfect water conditions for me to hop on my paddleboard and venture out into the channel in search of some social humpbacks up for a play date.

I often see people raise an eyebrow when they find out that I’ll take a relatively small board, along with my photography gear and mask, a mile to two miles out from shore during the winter months. Through the years though, I’ve managed to become really comfortable with the water and the quickly changing weather conditions off the south shore, so I feel at home out there and am constantly vigilant about checking for wind shear or changing tides so I don’t get stuck somewhere I don’t want to be.

Aside from getting stuck in the channel and having to hitch a ride back on a fishing boat one time a few years back (which is a story for another day), I’ve seemed to have a lot of luck being at the right place at the right time to have some pretty great encounters with the local marine life. Sunday just so happened to be another one of those days.

I’d been on the water 3+ hours both Friday and Saturday morning so by Sunday I was stiff and sore without even lifting a finger. But I knew this was one of the last days with perfect conditions early on so I couldn’t help but be up before dawn loading my car and heading out to launch.

After seeing a large tiger shark a week before, and dealing with fairly strong undertow at my favorite launching spot, I decided to try another location closer to home and easier to hop in and out of the water. Also I think it’s safe to say it’s less sharky at the new spot too which is never a bad thing.

The beach was barren when I arrived and the water was like glass with just a little hint of a ripple so I paddled out about a mile and found a good place to sit and bob around on my board and hope for a passing whale. As luck would have it, it didn’t take long for two adolescents to make their way west along the coastline and take a minor detour to give me a once over before going on their way. It was around that time I noticed a mother and calf another half mile or so out who had been consistently surfacing in the same general location for a little while.

It didn’t take long to decide to make the extra trek out closer to where they were, and as usual, I’m super glad that I did. The baby was just a wee little one and mom was amazingly patient and tolerant lifting it up on her beak, and letting it play and splash and roll in the waters around her while another couple on a canoe and I took it all in.  As they got closer, and were remaining really calm, I slipped in the water next to my board for some underwater shots and video of mom and her cute kiddo.  I tried to keep a decent distance, even when she started to float closer, so I made sure not to alarm her vigilant escort.

This particular shot above is one of the first images I took and it’s right after mom and baby swam literally right next to my board, closely followed by the escort who made a slow descent with the water falling from his tail. The silly baby had come up from behind me rather unexpectedly like a little self-propelled rocket and all I could do to get out of the way was use my paddle to turn my board slightly to the right as he charged up on my left spy hopping  and showing me nothing but beak all of 18” inches away. Of course mom was hot on his little tail (literally) and ushered him right along where he continued to play and tease her another 10 yards away.

For another hour or so mom, baby and escort gave quite a show, staying in the same small area and swimming in and out of the onlookers, blowing on us, watching us and giving some beautiful tail shots as the adults would dive down below.  I ended up paddling in as the wind picked up and the humpback family slowly made their way south, followed by several newly made kayak fans and a pose of boats waiting not far away for their eminent arrival.

It’s crazy to think that I’m fortunate enough to live somewhere that I can literally spend a morning in the “backyard” and have access to all these amazing creatures. Every year when they migrate on, the waters seem so sad and empty and we all, myself included, count the days for their next return.

Additional video footage of the encounter can be found here:

 

Mother & Calf

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A Ghost in the Forest

_MG_6858On a recent trip to central Thailand I spent a couple weeks volunteering at a fairly large scale animal sanctuary with a varied assortment of rescued exotic reptiles, primates, bears and elephants just to name a few.  I planned the trip there with a small group of girlfriends and we all had high hopes of an amazing opportunity to learn about loads of wildlife that we hadn’t yet worked with.  Unfortunately we were hugely disappointed at the way the sanctuary and volunteer program was managed, but it still provided us with lots of opportunities to observe and photograph the animals.

With the situation being what it was, and the sanctuary being in a fairly remote location, I quickly grew fond of some large free-roaming enclosures on the outskirts of the perimeter of the sanctuary.  Whenever we had breaks between duties, or as light began fading at the end of each 11 hour work day I’d grab a camera and head out to the back forty to enjoy the peace and quiet in the forests.

Unlike some of the images I’ve captured over the years that I’m fond of because of memories associated with the time and place, this Asiatic Golden Jackyl image is a favorite because of how technically difficult it was to capture.

This particular evening as dusk was falling, I found myself still roaming around through the outskirts where various boar and deer are able to roam through the dense vegetation.  This area was also bordered by various other habitats containing fishing cats, gibbons, slow loris, Asiatic black bear and jackyl.  Since it was so close to dusk, it was a great time to observe the shy, nocturnal wildlife coming out of their daytime hiding spots.   But with that, the light was also particularly difficult because of the rapidly falling sunlight and dense overhead canopy.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed just a slight bit of movement weaving through the brush to my right.  I’m usually really good at spotting animals, but it took me a few attempts to get to the bottom of what was watching me and even longer to get a clear view.  Sure enough it was this little jackyl.  It was cautiously curious and would follow slowly and quietly behind me watching as I photographed the other animals.  Any time I’d stop and try to turn to get a photo, no matter how sly I thought I was being, it would quickly slink back into the brush and disappear like a ghost.

After about 30 minutes of watching and being watched, as the very last of the light fell, I managed to get this pretty little fella standing in a small clearing long enough for me to snap 3 quick images before it quietly disappeared again for good.

I haven’t seen a jackyl in person before, but they remind me of our coyotes, except for much more timid.  This fella and his pack let their curiosity get the best of their shyness, and I was so happy to have a chance to observe him and capture his curiosity and inquisitiveness as he peeked out from the safety of his forest.

 

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Blondie

BlondieAs a photographer, whether professional or just a hobby enthusiast, we all strive to capture that perfectly composed idyllic scene. One that will preserve our special moments and make them last just a little bit longer. An image that helps all those who stumble across it feel like they’ve shared in the experience with us.

With that in mind, I always find it interesting to see what images draw the most attention; that viewers really seem to resonate with. Because for me, actually being present as the shutter clicks, gives me a different level of sentimental value and appreciation to certain photographs that aren’t always immediate favorites to people looking in from the outside.

I think more often than not, there’s a special story that unfolds during the making of a photograph that the image alone can’t fully express. It takes an added narrative, a friendly conversation, or blog like this to bring to light some of my own personal favorite images and tell the stories that make them hold their special meaning.

So this year, as a kind of New Year’s Resolution of sorts, I decided that it’s definitely past due for me to bring some of stories to life and share some of my favorite photography moments from over the years. It seems like a fun way of reliving some pretty great little moments and passing them along to everyone as I go.

The image I decided to start with is this one, taken in early June of 2011. Although I’ve been spending quality time in the Grand Tetons National Park for nearly 14 years now, fall has proved time and again to be my favorite season to visit. This particular year, I decided to try something different and give it a shot just as summer tried desperately to make an appearance and I couldn’t have picked a better year to do it.

There was record snowfall throughout the winter months, and the spring thaw proved to be significantly delayed. I remember driving into and through Yellowstone from the south and finding snow banks bordering the road up to 10 feet and higher obscuring the usually dramatic views. The lakes still were partially frozen, and green grass was clearly a new and welcome treat for the animals.

With all the heavy snowfall and below average temperatures late into the season, it also naturally lead to a correlation with the bear’s emergence from winter hibernation. They were not only late to rise, but were forced to feed very close to the roadways where the melting snow was more pronounced and grubs, roots, grasses and flowers were more easily accessible than in some of the higher elevations of the back country.

Being the bear lover that I am, this alone completely made my day pretty much each and every day I was there.

I was staying at a small group of cabins situated off Jackson Lake where I’ve stayed for years due to their central location within the Tetons, well-maintained lakeside trails, and proximity to Yellowstone if I want to spend a day exploring up that way. Also, it’s a mere hop, skip and a jump from an area called Pilgrim Flats, which is known to be a well-populated grizzly habitat, and frequented by some of the parks most well-known bears.

It was only the second evening of my trip and I was headed back to the cabin after a full day of exploring when I decided to take a last second detour down Pilgrim Flats road. The main park roads were empty with a thunderstorm looming and I hoped it might be a good time to see the wildlife coming out of the dense woods for an evening stroll. If you don’t know the area, this road is a fairly long dirt road, flanked by shallow meadows and sage, before turning into a dense forest maybe 150 yards away. Early in the evenings, just before dusk, it’s common to come across bull elk and their harem emerging from the woods to graze, or coyotes hunting voles in and out of the sage, and also it’s not uncommon to see bears foraging before bedding down for the night.

I had just barely turned onto the dirt road, when out of the corner of my eye I caught a bit of movement in the sage brush to my right out the passenger side window. I quickly pulled over and was completely thrilled to see that there was a rather small, really blonde grizzly at less than 50 yards, calm as could be just sitting there daintily munching the tops off dandelion blossoms and digging up roots. If you know me, you know that the bears are my very most favorite of all favorite animals and I just love them to bits. So to find this pretty little girl, and have her all to myself was just about the best thing ever.

Sitting there for over an hour, until the sun had completely set, I found I could no longer see her but instead hear her little munching sounds as she chomped on roots and grasses maybe 20 feet away from my car. During the same time, I had gotten a call from a dear friend overseas and as I snapped away I gave a play by play of what was going on. I was in my perfect place, with this perfect animal, with a very dear friend via cell phone and all of it together created one of those little fleeting moments in life where you literally have it all.

As luck would have it, every day after that, I was able to find this sweet little girl in the same general area both in the early morning, and pre-sunset hours just going about her business, trying to fatten up from winter hibernation and ignoring the continuously growing masses of people who would come to photograph her. The name Blondie has stuck and to this day, that’s what she is referred to around the park. Finally this past season, she even had little cubs of her own to introduce to her fans.

I’ll always be especially fond of her because of this first summer when I was so lucky to spend some quality alone time with her just watching her be a bear (before the bear paparazzi caught wind). No matter now obnoxious tourists became, or how much they encroached on her space, or how many times rangers tried to haze her away from the crowds, her demeanor never changed to aggressive at all. She was always very docile and patient and showed so much tolerance for any situation I saw her be subjected to.

To this day she’s been the perfect role model for her little bear kids and hopefully will be for many years to come.

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Why Doing A Good Deed Isn’t All Sunshine And Roses

Courage doesn’t always roar.  Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher

It’s taken me a lot of time to decide whether to write a story about when your efforts to do something good are met with a less than welcome response from those on the receiving end.  I’ve been very fortunate for the most part.  That the traveling I have done and the sanctuaries I have chosen to be a part of offered an opportunity to learn and grow and although not everything always went smoothly, at least I felt like my efforts were generally appreciated and that I was able to contribute something valuable back.

So many people I see travel with the sole goal of taking what they can when they can – the souvenirs, the photos, the memories, but they don’t ever actually make an effort to leave anything good in their wake.  It should be more like this I think – give AND take.

Balance.

My most recent volunteer project was a return visit to a sanctuary where I spent some time last year for a photography project.  There are 60+ rescued animals on-site in a very remote area of New Mexico.  As with all sanctuaries, the staff and rescues live on donations and of course to receive donations, people must first learn about you and your work, and the best way to get your name out there is through advertising.  So I spent 10 days in 2013 and returned for what was supposed to be another 7 days in Fall of 2014 to capture as many new photographs as possible, pro bono, so that they would have these high quality images for advertising, promotion, gift shop items, etc. and would be able to generate revenue or awareness for an infinite amount of time using whatever images that I produced.

This is something I planned out 9 months in advance, and I covered the complete cost of my own flight, meals, rental car, etc. as well as put in countless hours of time processing the photos once I returned home.  It’s not easy for me to get away because I have tons of responsibilities with my home, pets, and business, so I have to plan very far in advance, and I try to choose my destinations carefully.

Although the first year at the sanctuary also was quite a rough one with empty propane tanks, nearly impassible roads, broken heaters, empty water tank and a lack of preparation or information shared within the staff as to why I was there, I managed to have fun and made the best of it. I was also promised that if I returned everything would be so much smoother and my time would be better utilized.

So against the better judgment of all my friends and family, back I went this October for round 2.

My first clue that things were amiss is when I got an email from my primary contact, and someone I considered a personal friend, about a week before I was set to arrive.  The good news is that it included a schedule for me. The bad news is that instead of showing the photography I would be doing each day with what animals, instead there were only 3 days were I was actually taking photos and the other days were spent working as a gift shop attendant or cutting up food in the meat kitchen.

To say I was caught off guard was an understatement.  If I was signing up as a general volunteer somewhere, of course your daily duties vary to wherever you’re needed most, but that was never the arrangement of this trip.  I quickly wrote back to clarify what we originally agreed on. I explained that this was a shorter, condensed trip compared to last year’s trip, so that I can really focus on helping them with as much photography as possible during my stay and I’m not willing to take time away from the photography to get trained/work in a gift shop or cut up carcasses, maybe some other time ….

Fast forward to 17 hours of travel between the flights, layovers and drive time and I arrived dusty, hungry and jet-lagged but otherwise okay at the sanctuary early Wednesday afternoon looking forward to seeing the people I considered friends and the animals I adored.  I was immediately shown to the cabin that I would be using, which was off a little dirt road surrounded by rustic woods.  From the outside it was a cute little 12×12 pre-fab cabin.

What I wasn’t at all prepared for is that when I opened the door I quickly saw that it had no water, no electricity, no toilet, no curtains and had large chunks of insulation and wires hanging from the ceiling and my new roommates were wasps.  There also was no internet or cell phone service so if something went amiss after business hours when the sanctuary was locked up I was SOL.  All of these things I can deal with, but it really would have been nice to know ahead of time so I could have planned accordingly.

Then once I had unloaded my luggage and returned to the office:

  • I quickly asked to talk to my contact and I was told she wasn’t available.
  • I asked if I could take a walk around the sanctuary (since I had free roam the prior year) and was told no, I wasn’t allowed.
  • I asked where I could set up my laptop to work and was told there wasn’t a place.
  • I asked if I could use what appeared to be an empty desk in the office and was told that the maintenance workers sat there sometimes so no, I couldn’t use that area.
  • I then asked if we were going hiking the next morning with 2 of the rescue animals, but was told no, the Director was too busy doing other things and finally….
  • When the staff schedule was pulled up on the computer, there was nothing entered for the days I was there. Not one thing.  So officially now I was here, and not one person was scheduled to help me.

So even the days that I originally was told I would be able to take photos were not happening.  But it was offered that I could make Halloween decorations in the kitchen if I wanted to.

I went back to my cabin that night completely devastated and isolated.  Although I asked several times to speak to my contact I was told she was “on tour” and then later when I asked again, that she was driving to an educational program and didn’t have a cell phone.  So no, I couldn’t talk to her.  At least given a key to the campground bathroom and loaned a towel so I could drive the mile up to the bath/shower house to use the bathroom that night.

Sure enough, just like the previous year, around 4am my propane heater shut itself off randomly and wouldn’t restart.  “Click”  Just like that my heat was gone. At 30 degrees outside with nothing but 2 very, very thin blankets I had to put on my ski jacket, several sweaters and just tried not to move so I would conserve heat.  I started calling the office at 5am and leaving message because there wasn’t any other way to get ahold of anyone short of driving around in the dark and banging on doors.

Luckily I discovered that if I laid dead still in one little corner of the bed my cell reception would actually work.  So I seized the opportunity to call the airline and for a mere $350 charge, I changed my ticket to leave 2 days later, the soonest available flight out.

For those two days I tried to be anything but completely miserable and one staff member kindly took me in with the two rescues he cares for so at least that gave me something to do for a couple hours a day.  The rest of the time I mostly spent wandering through the sanctuary, taking photos through the wire of the enclosures and feeling absolutely terrible that these animals who clearly remembered me and wanted to have attention and affection, I could barely even pet because no one had the time to let me in with them to do what I traveled so far to do.

To make matters worse, the heater in my cabin was still obviously broken.  I asked repeatedly the next day if it had been fixed and got no answer.  I finally went with a staff member at 6pm and he tested it and it seized up on him as well.  I then begged to be able to just sleep on a cot in the office for those next 2 nights so I would know I was safe and was told I wasn’t allowed to.  That I could go back and sleep in that freezing box, and that the heater was fine, it was just a “user error.”  After all, “other people have stayed there and didn’t have a problem at all.”

Really?  So that’s the same thing you say when your car was running fine yesterday and today it’s not so it must be user error?  Because things don’t break, or leak, or stop working? (sigh)

I was literally in tears and begging to speak to either the Director or my contact in person.  Again I was told no.  My contact was having a bad day, and the Director just turned off his two way radio, and drove right by me as I was standing outside by my car crying asking to speak to someone.  That pretty much says it all.  A woman is crying, saying how unsafe she feels, and you simply turn off your two way radio, tell her it’s her problem, and keep on driving.

So for my last 2 nights I ended up having to sleep in a loft of another cabin with some kind people I didn’t know.  The nearest town is an hour away so there’s no place else I could go, I was basically stranded.  And again, my cell reception stopped working because of the remoteness of the location.

I headed for the airport at 4am three days after I arrived.  I literally could not have gotten out of that place fast enough.  I did try reaching out to my contact, who I also had thought was a friend, once I returned home in an effort to try to talk about what happened in more detail. To try to alleviate any hard feelings and clear the air. But although I asked her to call me when she had a spare moment, I never received a call.  And it’s now been 2+ months so that call is obviously not coming.

Despite everything, I spent literally days at home working on processing photos for them to use for their own promotional purposes.  450 photos in all.  This is time taken away from my own personal projects, and time away from paying jobs.

The end result?

Other than +/- 5 images, none of my work has even been put to use.  That’s a donation of $2500 in photography plus the $1800 I spent out of pocket to travel there and back basically for nothing.

To be made to feel that I was no more than a thorn in their side that no one had time to deal with.

I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to volunteer some amazing places and meet some amazing people, like at the Elephant Nature Park, where volunteers are so greatly appreciated and cared for because they know that volunteers are what makes the sanctuary what it is.  However now I also know that not all places operate this way and try as you might to do something positive and worthwhile, in the long run the recipient still may be at the best less than grateful, at worst annoyed that you are there taking up their time at all.

Despite being the most disappointing and miserable trip I’ve ever taken, it did make me feel so very grateful.  Grateful for where I live, for the people in my life, for my business, for my ability to get myself out of that situation (even if it did take a couple days) and for the fact that most of my efforts to do good things have ended well.

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As a post note to this story, I feel like it’s important to add that within 48 hours of posting it, I was contacted by a representative for this sanctuary and told that none of my photographs would be used “until further notice” per their management unless I removed this blog.  Although the name of the sanctuary and type of animals they rescue isn’t included anywhere in here, they felt that it was more important to react spitefully rather than use the thousands of dollars worth of free advertising that I donated to them.  Very, very sad to see when people react this way instead of in a way that is in the best interest of the animals.

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