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Being a better photographer Part 1: Comfort Zones

This blog began as a single blog about one subject but I have decided to break it into a 3 part series. So here we go. Part 1: Comfort zones, we all have them; we look down at our phones to avoid eye contact when walking down the street, we create a daily routine because it is comfortable and as we get older we stick with the same friends we have had for years and making new ones is a bit of a scary thought.

I am no stranger to any of this and I admit, breaking out of a comfort zone is really hard but when you do it, amazing things happen. As a photographer, I have to approach complete strangers on a daily basis and get them to smile for me, I have to make someone happy to do my job! That is a photography tip no one will tell you.

Last year, when I first went to Tanzania, we camped in a lovely area called Mikocheni, there were mountains surrounding us, a grassy plain before us, along with a few small villages in the distance. while we were there, the village children came to see what was happening. As they approached, I noticed some of the children were dressing in regular clothing while others were dressed in the traditional Maasai clothing, which is very bright and ornate. Mikocheni Campsite

One boy caught my eye; as the other children were playing he stood in the distance and observed. He observed us, his friends and our camp. As the evening went on, the younger kids learned how to play duck, duck, goose and the older ones played with soccer balls we brought along with us. He grew closer and closer until he was maybe 10 ft from me. He was younger than I first thought, maybe 13 or 14 but very tall and slender with a statue like quality.

Zacharia in the distance
Zacharia in the distance

Butterflies began to fly around in my stomach because I wanted to photograph him, desperately. I was scared, how would he react, would he walk away, yell at me in Swahili or just ignore me all together. After about an hour, I asked one of our guides to ask him if it would be alright if I took his photo. He stood there for a min and then nodded his head, as to say yes. If it were any other child from the U.S I would have kept them there until I was sure I got the best photo. This time, I only took 1 photo of him as to not out stay my welcome him off.

Maasia boy named Zacharia
Maasia boy named Zacharia

After I took his photo, I asked the translator to ask his name, it was Zacharia. In swahili, Zacharia asked if he could have a copy of the photo. I truly wish at the moment, I had a printer. I thanked him for the photo and of course showed him the picture and we parted ways.

This is not the end of the story…as luck with have it, last minute, I was asked to go back to Tanzania for a 2nd time. Just a few weeks ago, we ascended on the same camping spot at Mikocheni. For some reason with a mix up in communication, I had no idea we were staying there again. Just like before, the children came to play. I stood there watching them play soccer with our travelers, and looked over, and their was Zacharia.

He was a year older and looked like the same boy but with more manly features, blue jeans, a T-shirt and his Maassai wrap around him. I looked at him for what seemed to be hours, he caught my eye and waved. I thought to myself, holy cow this kid remembers me. Honestly, who am I kidding, a white girl wearing biking gear holding a camera kind of sticks out. I got the courage to approach him, with a translator of course. I said hello and reintroduced myself. I then apologized for not having a copy of the photo from last year. He allowed me to take his photo once again, even though this time his friends began to heckle him. He told the translator that he was very happy to see me again. IMG_5786

If the first time I saw Zacharia and didn’t gain the courage to break out of my comfort zone then this story and his photograph would not exist. Also, next year, I will have copies of ALL photos for him. Me and Zacharia

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