Dawn patrol

This week I went surfing at 5 am for the very first time. I got up at 4.30 am and got ready. I got dressed, grabbed the wetsuit, grabbed my bag and waited for the van to pick me up. It was freezing outside but I was so incredibly excited. I always wanted to go to the beach before the sunrise and swim and surf while watching the sun rise. As soon as we arrived at the beach we put our wetsuits on, grabbed our boards and headed to the beach.

I was barefoot and we had to walk a little distance to the beach on concrete and my feet were completely frozen and in pain from walking on the hard and sharp concrete. I finally stepped on sand and immediately ran towards the water. I stayed in the more shallow spot first to just practice a bit before my teacher called me over to try some bigger waves.

After many failed attempts I finally managed to stand up for just a second before I fell but it was still amazing. The sunrise was absolutely beautiful and there were many seals just swimming around us. One of them popped its head up right next to me and looked at me curiously before it dove back down.

It was my first time being at the beach before sunrise and it was a long dream of mine that I was finally able to fulfill.

https://www.liveabout.com/what-is-a-dawn-patrol-3154748

The fast five

Through my photography, I have been able to travel to the most beautiful places on this planet. But one definitely stands out to me like no other. The Masai Mara in Kenya, Africa. A heaven for photographers. It is one of the best places on earth to see big cats. I have traveled there three times already, and I fall in love over and over again. Last summer I was able to observe one of nature’s seven wonders, the big migration of the wildebeest that come over from the Serengeti to find fresh grass in the Masai Mara.

Many big cats use this chance to hunt wildebeest that got injured during the crossing. There is especially one group of wild cats that are known to almost all photographers. The fast five. The fast five are a coalition of five male cheetahs. Two brothers got together with a set of three brothers and formed a coalition to hunt and live together. Nowhere else on earth can this be observed.

I have had the privilege of observing these magnificent cats hunt, and it is truly incredible. Each one of them has a special dedicated role and their hunting is extremely coordinated, I have never seen anything like it in my life. They know that they have a higher survival rate if they work together. They hunt every day and are more successful than any other group out there. I am excited to see them again on my next trip to the Masai Mara, and I hope that many others get the privilege to see these beautiful cats.

It is truly incredible what nature has up its sleeves sometimes.

picture by author

Dreams

Everyone has dreams of what they want their future to look like. I am currently a senior in high school and I am getting ready for college. My dream school is Montana State University in Bozeman. It is just 1 1/2 hours away from Yellowstone and just 2 hours away from Grand Teton Nationalpark which is a dream place for me and my photography. But before I go to college I will take a Gap year. I had always planned to take a gap year after high school to just have one year of not studying and doing what I want.

My Gap Year will revolve all around my photography. I am am planning to travel to my favorite place in the world, the Masai Mara in Africa for 2 months. I will work with rangers to help prevent poaching as well as spreading the word of wildlife conservation. On the other hand I will work with vets to learn more about the wildlife in Africa. I am also planning to travel to a place that I always wanted to go, Uganda in Africa. I am planning to spend about 4 weeks there to spend time with one of the most incredible species out there. The silver back gorillas.

I have always been fascinated with gorillas. The way they communicate with each other is incredible. I am hoping to further my understanding of these incredible animals and also help protect them as they are on the verge of extinction.

I am excited for my Gap year, as I will do what I love most. I am hoping to have an impact with my photography and spread the word of wildlife conservation further around the globe.

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Relax

I am currently starting to get ready for my College applications. It is a lot of stress and, on top of it, loads and loads of homework. I always try to find something that can distract me. I tend to try and get everything done in one sitting but I have to remind myself that my body needs a break sometimes. I have started to go on runs to get my mind free and it works! But often the day has just been too tiring to go on a run on top of that so I go and do something creative such as drawing, editing photos, or playing the guitar!

But I must say there is one thing that nothing else can come close to that makes me happy and relaxes me. And that is just going to the barn and spending time with the horses. It’s not even the riding part, mostly I just sit down in a stall with a horse and just watch them. Two years ago a very close friend of mine graduated. She learned riding at the school and bonded with one horse especially. The horse’s name is Simba. He has such a character and is an incredibly fun horse to ride. When my friend graduated she asked me to take care of him for her, and so I did. I started forcing a bond with him. Now every time I see him I am filled with happiness and joy.

I have always had stronger binds with animals than I had with people. I guess part of it is that animals don’t talk. They just sit there and do their thing. They don’t judge you and they don’t talk about you behind your back. They have their own characters and they do what they want.

Simba has taught me a lot throughout high school and he has helped me to find time to relax and just be. He can be a brat sometimes but he has taught me to never give up even if you have a bad day. Just push through it, and it will eventually get better.

photo by author

An uproar in wildlife conservation

For many years I have been an active advocate and participant in wildlife conservation. With my photography, I am hoping to reach people and show them the beauty and diversity we have on our planet and show how important it is to keep it alive. There are so many incredible photographers out there that do just that, and who use their voice to stand up for animals. I have many role-models that I look up to, but recently there has been an uproar for one of them.

David Yarrow is one of the most famous photographers and one of the seemingly biggest advocates for wildlife conservation. But in reality, he embodies everything that is NOT conservation. From chasing a giraffe to get a perfect shot, to using wolves and bears that are enslaved, to game farms with a record of abuse, there is one image that has caused the public to hold their breath. A picture in which a model is standing just 15 feet away from 3 elephants.

Now many will probably wonder why that is so bad. If anything would have happened during the shooting, say if one of the elephants started to feel stressed or threatened, they could have firstly endangered the life of the model, but also their lives. If one of the elephants would have attempted to charge, he would have paid for it with his life and would have probably gotten shot. One of the three elephants is named Craig, one of Africa’s last big tuskers.

Now I wonder, is it really worth it to risk a animals life just to get a perfect shot. And most importantly, can you call yourself a wildlife conservationist while actually exploiting animals. I don’t think so.

Yarrow has finally said something and apologized for his actions. It is not much but it is a first step in making things right.

picture credit to David Yarrow

Determined

Last week was my first trip to the beach since coming out of quarantine. I had been looking forward to it the whole week and then it was finally time to leave. We packed our surfboards and wetsuits and made our way to the beach.

It was a hot day, the sun was shining and the mood was good. We sang songs in the car all the way to the beach and when we arrived we immediately grabbed our stuff and ran down to the beach. Feeling the sand between my feet and the sun on my shoulders felt so good. I hadn’t been to the beach in 6 months and it felt so good to be back. My friend and I looked at each other and just started running towards the water like two little kids. The water was cold but also warm, just perfect. We swam for a few minutes before we decided it was time to get on the surfboards and attempt to surf.

Well, we definitely miscalculated how big some of the waves were and just got slammed to the ocean floor. It was a struggle getting out in the water again as the waves just came crushing in, taking you and your board with them. When we finally made it out we waited for a wave that was small enough for us, as we have never really surfed in our lives. We kept trying and trying and every yet so tiny success was enough to keep us motivated.

We ended up being in the water for 3 hours trying to stand up on our board. At one point we were so exhausted we didn’t even have the strength to push ourselves up anymore. The sun started setting, creating a beautiful bright orange color that reflected from the ocean. It was time to go, and our teachers called us back in to pack our stuff and head back to the van.

I will go back to the beach again tomorrow and I will not give up until I stand on the board surfing down the line, even of it will take me weeks to accomplish it.

Picture credit to author

Catching frogs and climbing rocks

Finally. After two full weeks of quarantine, I was able to leave my room and go outside. After being isolated for so long, the simplest things make you the happiest. A hug from a friend, sitting with people, being able to go and eat at the cafeteria. I was so relieved to finally be with my friends again. The first thing I did was go on a long, big run across the campus of my school. It felt so freeing to be outside again and run through the campus and greet people.

On my third day of being out of quarantine, I was able to participate in the outdoor ed program again. We took a trip up to some local mountains. The drive there was just beautiful. Huge mountains and creeks all around. We left the van and I immediately ran to the creek. Feeling the cold water around my legs felt truly amazing. It was that feeling of freedom that I finally felt again after being isolated in my room for so long. We hiked along the creek until we came to a nice spot with shade and deep pools in the creek. We put down our bags and started to explore.

I started scrambling along the rocks going higher and higher, sitting on a high rock overlooking the little valley. I was so incredibly happy to be back in the outdoors again. I climbed back down and noticed lots of tiny frogs jumping around. I remembered how in Germany when I was younger, I would always go and catch the frogs in the lake behind our house. I started catching some frogs and it felt like I was in Germany again. I would catch one and hold it for a while before I released it back and caught the next one.

We stayed for about 2 1/2 hours before we made our way back up to the van. It was a small trip but it brought me so much happiness and I hope I get to participate in many more trips to come.

Quarantined

For the past 12 days, I have been quarantined in my room at my school. About 2 weeks after school started I decided it was better for me to return back to the U.S to take my online classes, as the time-difference from Germany was too much and I always had classes at night.

Of course, with me coming from a different country and getting in contact with a lot of people, I had to take a COVID Test and I still quarantined to be safe. Being stuck in your room for 2 weeks is more exhausting than I thought. I can only leave my room to get water and to go on runs. I am a very social person, so not being able to actually be with people and hang out with them really got to me. I decided that I didn’t just want to sit around in my room not doing anything so I started doing things that I usually didn’t have much time for.

I started playing the guitar again everyday, learning new songs, I went on daily runs, did daily workouts and concentrated a lot on studying. Quarantine is what you make out of it. I though these two weeks would be endlessly long and boring but I have found new ways to keep me busy.

I was able to work a lot on my photography, I usually don’t have much time to squeeze my photography in with having school until the afternoon and then sports, dinner, study time and then bed. But now with the extra time I had, I was able to work on my pictures and continue on my journal about animal behavior and animal tracking.

I also had daily google meet meet-ups with friends every night to study together and work on homework and SAT studies. This has now become a daily thing and we meet up every night in the google meet working together. This makes studying more fun and it helps you to stay connected during these uncertain times.

I am very happy to finally be able to get out and see people again after my quarantine but these two weeks have also taught me a lot about keeping myself busy and helped me make time for the things I love.

Quarantine and lockdown - Coronavirus: Key terms explained | The Economic  Times
https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/coronavirus-key-terms-explained/quarantine-and-lockdown/slideshow/74930210.cms

Finding Inspiration

Inspiration has to do with pretty much anything we do. If it is writing, drawing, dancing, cooking, playing an instrument etc. But sometimes it is hard to get inspired and we feel stuck. We sit at our desks starting a sketch or a choreography for a dance over and over again and we just get frustrated because nothing seems right. I get this feeling a lot.

After school I spend a good amount of time sitting in front of my laptop, looking through photos I have taken on my travels around the world. For me, photography is something to escape to and to relax. Going through pictures is almost like you are reliving these moments. I always think it is so overwhelming how much meaning a picture can have. I pretty much only take pictures of animals and it has grown to be my biggest passion. When I look at my pictures, and I get to look an animal straight into the eyes through a picture I have taken, it almost feels like as if I had some sort of connection to it. For a moment everything is quiet and it is just me and the animal.

Photography has its many amazing sides. You get to travel the world, see the most amazing spectacles that nature has to offer, but there is also a side to it which sometimes brings you down. I follow hundreds of other photographers on social media, and sometimes I scroll through certain accounts just thinking: wow. I wish I could capture pictures like this.

I have a bad habit of comparing myself to others and being very harsh to myself when it comes to the pictures I take. I try to find inspiration through others but in the end it just makes me feel like my pictures aren’t good enough. I have spent hours and hours trying to find a style, that when people see my photos, they know that they are from me. Every time I post something I think it is just not good enough, my pictures all look the same and they all just look flat. I get frustrated and I can’t find any inspiration or whatsoever. But this is part of the progress. Nothing is ever perfect. But there are moments, when I see a picture that I like, and it just makes me so incredibly happy and proud. And these are the moments that keep me going.

People text me telling me that my pictures inspire them. That they enjoy my work. And these are the moments that make everything so worth it. I love what I do and I am so incredibly thankful for all the amazing moments I have got to experience thanks to photography. I love sharing my work with other people, bringing people closer to our wildlife and nature, showing off the beauty and diversity our planet has to offer.

Photo taken by the author.