A few months ago I was commissioned by a boutique safari company to travel to Tanzania and document my experience throughout my adventure. Here is my short film: WILD: Africa is Calling
Africa begins with a smell. From the moment I stepped out of the plane, I was enveloped by the strong scent of the earth.
Riki, my guide, waited for me outside the airport and together we began my adventure across the endless plains of the Serengeti. There is something about the African Bush that makes you feel helpless in front of the great force of nature. You are not a tourist, but a careful visitor. One that the animals allow to dwell beside them and experience the same wild impulse that drives their life. It was the second day of the trip when I found myself less than 6 feet away from the curious eye of a colossal elephant. For a moment that felt as though it lasted forever, we locked eyes and neither of us moved a muscle. He was probably just curious, I was too frightened and excited to move.
There is something to admire about being so close to such a powerful animal and yet so gentle and intelligent. In the wild there is no ego, no self-importance, it’s you and the animals. And you give them the respect they deserve.
During the 10 days I spent filming the video, I witnessed vast herds of Zebra’s and wildebeest crossing rivers and plains as far as the eye can see, families of elephants, lions, hippos, and crocodiles and countless other predators and beasts living in perfect harmony.
Every evening the glorious sunsets of Africa welcomed the nights. Sleeping in the tents I found my sleep beautifully interrupted a few times by the distant roar of a lion. Reminding me of an old African proverb my guide recited for me.
You know you are truly alive when you are living amongst lions
As a travel videographer throughout the last few years, I’ve shot many special and unique projects around the world. Filming in Tanzania, is without a doubt the most intense and powerful project I have had the pleasure to work on as of yet.
So how did I get here? I count myself to be one of the luckiest people to be able to do what I love. Shooting a dream job in an exotic destination like the Serengeti was always a goal of mine. However, landing a job like this did not happen overnight.
A few years ago, fresh out of university I was at a job where I felt like I was drowning. I spent my days daydreaming away thinking of an alternate universe where I actually pursued my passion. I finally worked up the courage to take a chance. I quit my job and immediately bought a video camera to try my luck at becoming a filmmaker. With no real education in the field, I tried to find guidance with experienced photographers/filmmakers. Connecting with the right mentors is not always easy so I turned to the one source of information that was accessible for me. The internet. I started watching hours of youtube tutorial videos and Vimeo for content inspiration.
Around the same time, I found a studio that hired me to do cheap birthday and wedding dedication videos. After 8 months of building my confidence, I felt like I could take the next step. I realized I would never get the jobs I wanted unless I could prove that I was able to do them. I set aside time and saved up enough money to stop taking on meaningless jobs and began exploring passion projects and creating the kind of videos I wanted to be hired to do. I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot along the way to get where I am today.
Here is what I have to share
FIND WHAT INTERESTS YOU
Travel and Destination photography was always what I was going after, for you it might be something else. The best advice I could give is to find your passion and be authentic. Don’t create something because you think it will lead to success or because you think will it go viral. As I mentioned above, create the kind of content that you want to be hired to do. Companies will notice you when you truly put your heart and soul into making something special.
Find like-minded people with similar goals and but different specialties which will allow you to learn from one another and offer something in return. One of my first travel gigs was accompanying a documentary photographer on a trip to India. I created behind the scenes videos of him for his vlog. I was able to learn how he works and he was able to gain from my videography skills. By partnering with different professionals in the field you will each be able to expand your skill set and portfolio.
THERE IS NO SHAME IN WORKING FOR FREE
Once you start creating content for yourself you might be approached for non-paid or low paid work before you are offered commissioned projects. A lot of my peers might disagree with me on this point but I took several non-paid and low paying jobs when I just started out and they all led me to my next paid opportunity. It is not something that you should make a habit of doing but if it is a good opportunity and you are interested in doing it, and you get something out of it that is not money, why not?
BRING SOMETHING NEW TO EACH PROJECT
Always evolve. With each project you do, try to do something you haven’t done before. Whether it be a new technique, different gear, editing in a different way, different sound design, etc. its important to challenge yourself in order to continue to improve your abilities and creativity.
NEVER STOP LEARNING
I still set time in my calendar to sit down ever week to learn from some of the best photographers and filmmakers in my field. There is so much excellent free or cheap content online and it would be silly to not take advantage of it to improve yourself.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO WILL CHALLENGE YOU
I have built a community of like-minded professionals such as photographers, filmmakers, artists, and designers that I am constantly learning from. They all have their different ways of managing their business and I am always picking up tips and tricks from them in order to optimize the way that I work. I can only hope I am doing the same for them. With your strengths and experiences put together, you all can help one another reach your individual goals.
Projects always become more complex and overwhelming with time. As jobs start coming in, I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to avoid being messy. Organization is a huge part of being able to do this kind of work. A lot of being a photographer is being your own administrative assistant, accountant, marketer, etc. It is important to always be on top of all of these tasks and the only way to do it all is to be organized. Find a method and flow that works for you and never stop adjusting and optimizing that method.
Even when it seems like you have been approached with a great opportunity, make sure your excitement doesn’t cloud your judgment. Always sign a contract and set expectations even if it is non-paid work. I learned this the hard way.
LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES
Working on your own you will have a lot of growing pains and you will make a lot of mistakes. It is part of the job, the only thing you can do is learn from each experience and make sure to avoid going down that same path again. Identify what you did wrong, understand what you could, and apply that knowledge to your future jobs.
DON’T PUT TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON YOURSELF
I cannot stress this enough, I very often compare myself to my peers in this industry and can find myself frustrated when stacking myself up against them. I am still learning how to talk myself out of this mindset, as long as you keep putting in the work, you will be rewarded.
If you also have dreams to travel and create content for a living, I hope my tips can help you achieve your goals and if you need more inspiration feel free to connect with me through one of my channels.