on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Time to reflect…

Returning to my Photographic Roots

David Ward

T-shirt winning landscape photographer, one time carpenter, full-time workshop leader and occasional author who does all his own decorating.

into-the-light.com



Two years ago, shortly after our second Meeting of Minds conference, we said goodbye to David Ward as he set off to run an eco lodge in Botswana. We weren't sure when he'd be back (if ever!) but we're very happy to say that he's returned after two years and not only started photographing again but agreed to write about it for us. Welcome back David!

If somebody had said to me when I turned 50 that shovelling elephant poo off paths would ever be part of my daily duties I would have laughed in their face. Yet, at the tender age of 57, this was exactly what I found myself doing – sometimes once or twice a day.

Elephants in camp

Obviously, this was not “normal” for a landscape photographer/workshop leader. But I was no longer a photographer: I was now a safari camp manager. Since I was eighteen years old I have defined myself as a photographer, in the same way, that someone with medical qualifications defines themselves as a doctor. Such labels tend to overshadow other aspects of one’s life. Of course, I was also a father, a lover of music, a bus driver, someone with a keen interest in science, a walker, a writer, a onetime carpenter, a teller of bad jokes, an aspiring philosopher and a thousand other things.

Such labels tend to overshadow other aspects of one’s life. Of course, I was also a father, a lover of music, a bus driver, someone with a keen interest in science, a walker, a writer, a onetime carpenter, a teller of bad jokes, an aspiring philosopher and a thousand other things.

But “photographer” was probably - most of the time - top of any personal list of my activities, attributes and skills. Consequently, I found that picking up elephant ordure was nowhere near as upsetting as having cast aside photography; something that I felt, and still feel, is a fundamental part of my life. So what led to this wild and somewhat painful change in direction?

It’s tempting to blame my partner, Saskia. After all it was she who suggested that running a safari camp in Botswana would be exciting, challenging, rewarding and also help the conservation of endangered species. But she wasn’t twisting my arm (at least not so hard that I couldn’t bear the pain).

Ultimately, two factors influenced my decision to make the move.

Firstly, I have felt for a long time that I should do something concrete to help with conservation efforts. Making contributions to charities and supporting campaigns are obviously worthwhile but, as someone whose whole life has been spent trying to reach a deep communion with the natural world, I felt I needed to do more than give money. Helping to save some of Africa’s megafauna seemed like the most worthwhile thing I could do. Nick Brandt’s (https://www.nickbrandt.com) elegiac photographs of East African wildlife had really moved me. Elephant populations in Africa have declined by over 30% since 2007. They suffer horrifying deaths to satisfy the illegal ivory trade. The carnage wrought by poachers who trade rhino horn as a drug to ignorant people who believe it will cure their cancer or fix their wilting libido is equally senseless.



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