Joshua Tree, California

There is so much that I would like to say about the experience I had in the Californian desert, with people who inspire me in ways that I can’t fully comprehend, but I don’t think anything I say would ever fully do it justice. The Heck Yeah Photo Camp post came up on my Facebook feed at the end of August last year, I saw it, saw the line-up of creatives that would be speaking, freaked out and knew that it was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I couldn’t let slip through my fingers because I would regret it forever. It sold out within a few hours, and I was fortunate enough to bag one of the last tickets. Now, it might not seem like such a big deal, but if you’re a photographer, and you’re presented with a line-up that includes Jonas Peterson, Dylan Howell, Sara Byrne, Ben Sasso, Benj Haisch, Parker Fitzgerald, Gabe McClintock, Sam Hurd and Lara Jade (Phil Chester was there too so that was just an awesome bonus, he is also an excellent dancer), you do what you need to do to make it possible to be there. Even if it means flying all the way across the world (think 27 hours of travel). Dare Greatly. And being the only South African gave me some ‘dope street cred’, so you can be sure I totally made that angle work for me. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I know ‘Die Antwoord’, I’d be well on my way to financing my next trip to the States.

Not only did I get to meet these few incredible photographers that I’ve looked up to since I was starting to build my career (and long before that), I got to meet a whole lot of other awesome people and fellow photographers that I can happily now call my friends. Since being back, I’ve had a lot of people asking me if I learnt a lot, and I did, I filled pages upon pages in my notebook with words of my role models, friends and other people I met on my trip to the States, but I think I learnt the most about myself. And if there was one thing that was a common theme at HYPC was that knowing yourself and being true to yourself, is what makes all the difference. That and consistency.

A few days after camp, I posted the following on Facebook about my experience (and please note, this was when I was in a completely overwhelmed mental-state, thinking in all CAPs non-stop for more than a week): “I have yet to fully process everything that this past week has been, has meant, and will mean. As my new great friend Britt put it today, it feels like we have suffered through a traumatic event in the sense that only those few souls with us in the desert this week will truly understand what we have been through, what we have experienced. It’s painful. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredible and in no way a true traumatic event, yet the aftermath of a few days spent in the desert, with people who have quickly become such an integral part of my life, is something I fear I will never recover from (or at least I hope not too). A few days in the desert (and in the mountains before that) has irrevocably changed my life. So here’s to adventure, to strangers becoming best friends and soulmates, to venturing off the beaten path, to jumping out the car on random highways just because the light is good, to punch-dancing in cold, dark desert accompanied by the howling coyotes of Joshua Tree, to climbing mountains in the dark to watch the sunrise, to exploring new places with new friends, to learning, laughing, and also crying (thanks Jonas). Here’s to daring greatly. Here’s to finding your voice. Here’s to coming alive.” Looking back now, a little over a month later, I still get tears in my eyes thinking about those few days in the desert (to be fair, I get tears in my eyes thinking about the entire trip, but those few days were still incredibly meaningful).

These images that I’m sharing are just a reminder, and a tribute, to my time in the desert, with a few portraits of awesome new friends and people who inspire me (also, asking the Jonas Peterson if you can take a portrait of him is nothing short of terrifying #jonassweats, but what an honour).

 Suggested Listening: Go Your Own Way – Lissie (as a big fan of Fleetwood Mac, because my parents raised me right, I approve of this excellent cover.)

(Opens up Youtube in a new tab or window)

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