Lonely in your own home

I moved to boarding school in America 3 years ago. Since then my life has changed completely. I feel like a different person. A better person. I grew up in the south of Germany. Beautiful mountains, living in the heart of the Black Forest. I always loved where I lived. But school in Germany can get tough, especially being in a Gymnasium. Ninth grade is said to be the hardest one of all. Everything comes together and just pushes you down. I felt stressed, anxious, and just not good enough. I had no motivation left because no matter how much work I put in I felt like it was never enough.

When I arrived in America it all changed. I finally felt truly happy again. The people were supportive and just so incredibly nice. It was so different, so… amazing. I finally was able to show what I was able to do, I didn’t feel hopeless or pressured anymore. The teachers were supportive and always helping. I immediately felt at home. The outdoor education trips were incredible, the people were incredible, everything was just perfect for me. This school has made me into a happier version of myself. It helped me discover what I am good at and what I want to do in the future.

And now this is my last year here. I can’t believe how fast time flies. This school will forever have a place in my heart, and I am truly thankful for it, for making me into the person I am today.

The classic dichotomy of senior year

Nothing but empty promises…

In October I wrote an article about one of the most famous wildlife photographers, David Yarrow. For years I looked up to him and saw him as a role model. That changed when he started endangering wildlife just to get the best shot. From chasing a giraffe to get the perfect shot, to using a “photography game farm” in Montana that has a record of abusing their animals, to putting one of the last big tusker Elephants in the world in close proximity to a model for a good shot. This could’ve not only endangered the people around but also the Elephants as if they would’ve acted out they would’ve gotten shot. He has been calling himself an active advocate in wildlife conservation yet embodies everything that is not wildlife conservation at all. The first, biggest, and most important rule in wildlife photography is: do not interfere with the wildlife.

David Yarrow apologized for his actions and promised he would change to the better. But he did not hold that promise. Yesterday a picture of him with two of his friends cruised around the Internet. He was lying on the ground with his camera while his friends were feeding Foxes in the Grand Teton National Park. A FED ANIMAL IS A DEAD ANIMAL! Especially foxes can get very dependent on humans if they are fed. They will start going up to humans begging for food and stop actively hunting for themselves. 99% of the time these foxes will die or have to be taken down by Rangers because they have no chance of survival anymore.

It is very sad to hear that David Yarrow continues to be a bad example, and there was nothing behind his promises in October. He needs to be held accountable for his actions. Feeding animals in a National Park is against the law and he is currently being investigated. I hope he will not just get away with a slap on the wrist this time.

Davis Yarrow laying down taking photos while his friends are feeding the foxes rests of their McDonalds meal.

Photo credit: https://www.jhnewsandguide

My Turtle Koa

For Christmas my grandma gave me a turtle. Her name is Koa, and she came with a little bead bracelet and a card to track her movements in the wide ocean. I scanned her code, and my phone displayed a map of where she was released.

Her journey began on the coast of Florida as her rescuers released her into the wild. I could see she had already swam miles up the coast of the United States. She had passed Georgia territory and was nearing North Carolina.

Her little fins took her across half of the country, and halfway back. When I had previously thought about sea creatures, I had always imagined they’d stay in one area that they called home. My experience with Koa, however, has showed me that she is a true explorer of the ocean with no limits or boundaries.

I am grateful to have a connection to a living part of the ocean that I can check in on each day.

Image Credit: Shane Meyers

A white Christmas

Finally. After 4 months of not seeing my family, I will soon be home again. In one week I will be on a plane on my way back to Germany and I can’t even put in words how excited I am. I came to the boarding school in the U.S when I was 15. Now, this is my third year going here but every year I don’t see my family for 4 months at a time. I always fly home over Christmas break and the first feeling of stepping out of the airport in Germany is so refreshing. The cold air, the snow, and there they are. My mother, my brother, and our dog. Every year, it is the greatest feeling there is. We drive home and I see our house shining bright with Christmas lights. I open the door and I am greeted by a huge Christmas tree in the living room.

The feeling of finally being home is not comparable to anything else. I step into our garden and play in the snow with our dog. We run around and I go to the lake to see if it has frozen yet. We live close to beautiful mountains, so everyday I walk up with our dog and just sit and watch the beautiful view while it starts snowing. The next day I meet up with my best friend and we go to the famous German Christmas markets in our city. Hot chocolate, waffles, crepe, everything you could imagine for Christmas is right there. All the little shop huts are decorated with lights and snow on top of them. Christmas in Germany is incredibly special to me, and not comparable to anything else.

A beautiful Christmas market in Germany

https://www.wanderlust.co.uk/content/top-8-german-christmas-markets/

For Africa

In about three weeks, I will finally return back to my second home: the Masai Mara in Kenya, Africa. This will be my fourth time visiting the Mara and I am more than excited. While I am there, I will work on a big project for school; working with different wildlife conservation organizations as well as Park rangers that wander the park every day in search of poaching traps. The work these rangers do is incredible. They dedicate their whole life to the park and the animals that live there. I and so many other people are incredibly thankful for the work they do. Without them, the parks wouldn’t work the way they do.

But also, tourism is a very big part that makes these parks work. Many people are not happy with tourism in these wild parks and think that tourism should be completely banned. I do agree that sometimes tourism in the parks can be overwhelming, but it is such an incredibly big and necessary part of Africa. Without tourism, rangers would not be able to save the animals from poaching because the park would have no money to pay the rangers anymore. So many people would lose their jobs, and the animals would lose the protection they have from poachers. Tourism is a big and vital part of these parks.

When COVID hit, and traveling was shut down, these parks suffered immensely. The poaching numbers rose into the sky and many lost their jobs. A lot of photographers as well as myself donated money to an organization called “prints for wildlife”. This organization collected prints from hundreds of different small and well-known photographers in order to raise money to send to these parks. They were able to raise $660,200 in just one month. It was absolutely incredible to see so many photographers work together to save what they love most.

pictures by: https://www.printsforwildlife.org

Windows Down

Although the air is frigged on this winter night, we drive around blasting music with the windows down.

Why one may ask?

Because sometimes there’s no purer form of joy than singing your favorite songs with two of your favorite people.

In that moment, all your fears and worries fly out the open window and you are living in the moment, watching two people sing and smile with every word that leaves their mouth.

This is one of the moments that you would replay over and over again when you rest your head on the pillow for nights to come.

I would not trade the little moments like this for anything.

So the simple answer to why we drive around with the windows down on a frigged winter night is simply for the joy of it, because in the end, you only have once chance to make memories like this with the ones you love.

Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/

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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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