We all have a story to tell … don’t leave it too late to share yours. / by Hilary Hann

“Why do you do what you do?” someone asked me the other day.  What do I do, I thought.  It isn’t always clear to me; let alone the why of it.

I ‘do’ wildlife and wild places and I share stories that celebrate nature and how it’s significant to the future of our planet.  I’m passionate about it and it drives my art.  I get excited about introducing people to the wonder of experiencing the wildlife in person.  The look in someone’s eyes when they see their first elephant up close; it fills me with a joy that is hard to explain.

When I’m tired or stressed, the place I go to, to escape for a while is straight to the wide open savannahs of East Africa.  I imagine that I’m sitting under the spreading branches of an acacia in the filtered light that seeps through the sparse leaves.  The warm breeze is soothing; the bird sounds drown out troubled thoughts and the distant movement of animals going about their daily lives is grounding to me.

If your life is as busy and hectic as mine, I can imagine that you have your own special place that you travel to, even if only in your thoughts, that helps you get through the most stressful day. 

When I plan a safari, either for just myself or for guests, I try to factor in suitable down time for contemplating the environment that surrounds us.  It remains one of the best restoratives that I can think of.  Writing a journal on safari is another thing that I enjoy doing.  Some days it seems a bit difficult trying to find the time, but reading through my thoughts and meanderings several years later brings back the experience so strongly, even more than the photos do which is odd, given that I’m a photographer not an author.  The power of words that come from your heart can be so much more significant than the capture of a photograph that may or may not express anything more than a literal time and place.  Perhaps that’s why I try, to the best of my ability, to bring more to my images than just that literal translation.  Using different apertures and shutter speeds to control how the scene is captured along with varying the position of the camera relative to the subject are some of the things that I choose to do to make my photographs say more of what I’m feeling, not just what I’m seeing.  The visual appreciation of what’s in front of you can take time to develop and if you’re on your first and perhaps only safari, it can be very helpful to have help ‘seeing’ each scene in different ways.

Storytelling is important to humans.  It doesn’t have to be only with words, photographs are a powerful story telling medium and putting the two together can tell the strongest, most emotional stories of all.