Kenya's Silent Crisis

background information:

On March 10th, 2018, Ethiopian citizens witnessed 13 innocent people get murdered by their own police. In August of 2017, Ethiopia lifted a 10-month state of emergency. Since the Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, stepped down from his position in February of this year, Ethiopia has reclaimed a state of emergency. For those unfamiliar with what this means it is, “A situation of natural danger in which a government suspends normal constitutional procedures in order to introduce special measures such as increased powers for police or army.” 

After the death of 13 people, the melting pot of ethiopia and Kenya's border mixed a little more than usual. thousands fled to Kenya to find refuge, mostly consisting of women and children. Families came with nothing but the clothes on their backs, sometimes walking for 12 hours straight. Locals in Kenyan villages took the first refugees in, aiding them in any way they could. The Kenyan Red Cross, UNHCR, and UNICEF were immediately notified and took action. Providing refugees with shelters, basic food, blankets, and water. Soon,  the refugees grew to almost 10,000 and more NGO’s were getting involved. 

let me tell you about my night in a refugee camp:

A 12-hour bus trip across the country with threats of bandits was not what i thought i would be doing in kenya. but once i heard this story i knew i had to go. i had no plan, no contacts on the ground, and very little money. getting to moyale, the main town about 400m away from the border, i had expected the refugee camp to not be too far from there. the main camp i needed to get to was in dambala fachana (DF), a small village about 65 km away from moyale. with no transportation and my moral getting lower, i headed to the restaurant of my hotel for breakfast. sulking in my terrible cup of chai tea and peanut butter sandwich, i watched as three men walked in with unhcr jackets. i took this chance to introduce myself and explain my situation. i had come too far not to photograph the camp. i shamelessly asked for help and they kindly gave it to me. presenting me with phone numbers of people within the camp and helping me get cleared, as they couldn't let just anyone walk into a refugee camp and take photos. one of the workers told me i could ride in the back of his car, i was excited and relieved that i had made the opportunity to do this. 

the drive seemed long and i started recognizing landmarks from when i first arrived in northern kenya. i could feel my hands shaking as the workers said it was nearly impossible to get anyone's pictures. they told me all the regulations of getting the refugee's permission. it seemed like this would be a very complicated process, but also challenging. putting myself in these uncomfortable situations helped me grow both mentally and with my photography. entering into dambala fachana, we drove down a dusty road with small mud huts lining the sides. i could see the civilians glaring at me through the window, my white skin a reflective beacon. the camp soon came into view with the tops of white huts grazing the horizon and a wash of bright colors filling my eyes.

 April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- Refugee women wait in line to receive food and water rations for the next two weeks.

April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- Refugee women wait in line to receive food and water rations for the next two weeks.

i couldn't look away, my stomach was uneasy, i gripped my camera knowing if i had gotten this far already, i needed to continue. inside the air conditioned 4x4 was comfortable, i stepped outside only to be surrounded by heavy heat and the sun constantly reminding me of its presence. a journalist for unhcr took me under his wing and explained some basic rules of how the camp worked and what not to take photos of. he said words that i will never forget as i picked up my camera, "don't shoot the security guards or they will shoot you." his camera seemed small in his big hand as he clumped along the ground. at first i was scared to take pictures, scared of being yelled at and of being told no. i watched as the hundreds of woman lined up to receive their rations of food for the next two weeks. first, needing to prove they had registered in the camp, they encircled a guy in a plastic chair who was checking the list. in their hands they carried dirty unicef water jugs and empty bags to be filled with maze. we followed the line of bare feet to the end, where they had their fingerprints stamped as they went back to their shelters with food, water, and vegetable oil.

 April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- Ethiopian refugees prove their identification in order to receive rations of food.

April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- Ethiopian refugees prove their identification in order to receive rations of food.

 April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- Jerry cans stacked up. One can is supposed to last a family of 1-7 people for two weeks.

April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- Jerry cans stacked up. One can is supposed to last a family of 1-7 people for two weeks.

 April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- Vegtable is also given as rations for the refugees to cook with.

April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- Vegtable is also given as rations for the refugees to cook with.

the journalist only spoke kswahili, which made it hard for us to communicate with the refugees. often getting permission was us pointing the camera at them and they would nod yes or no. campfire smoke swirled through the air as we walked, the white tents seemed a relentless reminder of their current situation a thorn they can never quite get out all the way. in the background, a small plush mountain filled with green bushes and trees. a mountain that all the refugees had to climb over to get here. a mountain that was a sign of hope and hurt all at once. i could feel the heaviness in the air, the kids carried burdens i would never know in my life. 

 April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- Refugee kids play outside their shelters in the camp.

April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- Refugee kids play outside their shelters in the camp.

we made our way to the small hospital operated by volunteers through the red cross. going into the concrete building, i immediately saw two ladies on wooden beds hooked up to iv drips. my mind wandered to all of the possibilities of their conditions. i saw their family members sitting next to them in sadness. they swatted the flies away from their face and would quickly sit back down in their chair. i was informed by one of the medics that they were both suffering from dehydration, the most common medical problem within the camp. in the next room over i could hear a child crying, i crossed through the doorway to reveal a small girl, only one and a half years old getting a bloodied bandage removed from her left leg. her dreadlocked hair and seashell bracelet wrapped around her tender wrist. she shed tears as the doctor removed the bandage and held her leg over a small metal bowl. comforted by the arms of her father, i was told she had a boil. i watched the puss drip and the pain she was feeling circulated through my body as i snapped a photo. 

 April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- One of the most common medical problems within the camp is dehydration. A woman is hooked up to an IV drip as her relative waits for her recovery.

April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- One of the most common medical problems within the camp is dehydration. A woman is hooked up to an IV drip as her relative waits for her recovery.

 April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- A young refugee girl, 1 and a half years old, cries as she gets the bandage of her boil taken off.

April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- A young refugee girl, 1 and a half years old, cries as she gets the bandage of her boil taken off.

after this encounter, my mind drew blanks and recited the problems i had faced in my life.  the dizziness of my thoughts was quickly interrupted by the journalist telling me it was time to go. the tone of his voice bland and unfazed. we walked to the white 4x4 and i slumped my body into the air conditioned car. the realization that i could escape this and go home to have cup of coffee and they could not weighed on me. it weighed on my brain. on my body. it got comfortable on the contours of my back as i walked up the stairs to my room. it sat on my shoulders as i took a cold shower. it made acquaintances with my mouth as i ate hot food. tomorrow was a new day.

in the morning i awoke expecting to swoon the unhcr staff again at breakfast. i headed down and snuck a packet of instant coffee in my pocket to avoid drinking the tea. i sat there facing the door, waiting, expecting, hoping. no one came. i had exchanged numbers with the journalist, i texted him and he told me they were going to a different camp that did not allow foreign media. my heart dropped, but my mind raced about how i would get to the camp today. contemplating my options, i decided to find a bus. with vague instructions from the receptionist, i set out to find a bus station. eventually finding a small bus that would drop me off at the camp, i sat in the front seat and made acquaintances with the old man who owned it. he seemed trustworthy, so i waited. i waited for over two hours for us to move but my patience was getting shorter as well as the day. a man with a bright pink, collared shirt walked up to my window and got very close to me. his words bounced off the skin of my neck as he whispered, "i can help you." My body recoiled as i saw his toothy smile come into view, and i was not about to trust this man to get me to the camp. i looked him in the eyes and firmly stated that i don't like being lied to. he assured me he wasn't lying, swearing on god's name. i could feel the devil and angel in my head bickering about the next move, being desperate enough, i slung my camera bag on my shoulder and followed him to a big, green bus. he gave me a front row seat next to the driver so i could i see through the windshield. it took us another 30 minutes to finally get going, stopping at every village along the way. i watched the mountain in the distance i had become accustom to get bigger. the bus jolted to a stop where the pink collared man let me out and introduced me to a guy who said he would take care of me. a red cross uniform bundled in his left hand. i was lead down that dirt road and into the camp again. i felt more at ease as i greeted the security guards. after introductions, he started walking me around the camp. i could see the refugees trusted him. he spoke four different languages and could communicate clearly with everyone. i noticed brighter smiles and kinder eyes. i fixed on the acceptance of their body movements. as i was paraded around the camp, an older woman was speaking to my guide asking if i could stay with her that night in her hut. i felt honored that someone who had nothing would want me to stay with them. the guide joked as he repeated her words, as if i would never actually do that. this would be an experience of a lifetime and i couldn't just turn away from it. i enquired if i could actually stay and he assured me. 

 April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- A family sits outside in the sun.

April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- A family sits outside in the sun.

That night we ate at his brothers house, white rice and vegetables, as we felt the darkness fall around us on the couch. they prepared me with a mat and thin, red and black checkered blanket. we made our way to the hut and as we did a crowd of refugees surrounded my back, trying to touch the ends of my hair. they were shocked that a white girl would stay the night there. as the woman prepared a spot for my mat, more and more people crowded around. i felt like i could do nothing but go to sleep, the moon was full, providing a natural night-light. `

 April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- Two refugees peer inside the shelter at night.

April 1, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- Two refugees peer inside the shelter at night.

i laid in my bed watching the woman as her slender silhouette filled the entry way. her granddaughter and daughter asleep next to me under a fleece blanket. i could hear chattering between her and the people sitting outside, occasionally a flashlight blinding my eyes, although i couldn't understand what they were saying, i knew the flashlight was proving that i was there. it took me a while to fall asleep, my body turning on different sides trying to find a comfortable spot amongst the hard ground. my head was rested on a sack of food for a pillow and i could hear donkey's in the background. getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom (and by that i mean behind a small bush), the mother walked me outside the tent. she held my hand, and lead me away from the tents. i looked up at the sky seeing the stars, i had never seen them shine so bright. it felt like a hauntingly beautiful dream. returning to the hut, i slept soundly. 

I was the last to wake up that morning, to find the mother had gone and the daughter was starting to a build a fire. she looked at me puzzled. with a red scarf wrapped around her head and a blue tie-dyed skirt, she peeked inside the tent and i snapped a quick picture. 

 April 2, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- a young girl peeks inside her shelter.

April 2, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- a young girl peeks inside her shelter.

 April 2, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- a young girl builds a fire for her family in the morning. 

April 2, 2018, Dambala Fachana, Kenya- a young girl builds a fire for her family in the morning. 

enjoying the last cup of tea with the family and my guide, i absorbed my surroundings one last time. the mother told the translator i was now her first born child and to come back anytime. leaving i felt the weight return to the contours of my back. 

a problem i have found in documentary photography is that you view the photos, you feel bad, and then you go on with your daily life. often times there is no way to help, but what if the viewer is impacted enough to want to help the situation? if these photos impacted you in some way, please consider donating to the fundraiser i have put together. the donations will go to clothing, food, and medical supplies. 

if you would like to donate to their cause, here is the link:

at odinga's left hand

watching the news for a good story has become a part of my daily routine. what can i tell? who will care if i tell? and this is exactly how going to kenya became a reality. initially hearing about the violent protests on the news, i became increasingly interested in how this political turmoil was affecting the citizens of kenya. i took to instagram and simply searched the location of "kenya." i came across some photos that i had especially resonated with and found admirable. the journalist, evans dims, had covered some of the most violent protests including tear gas and shootings. he had seen it all. i messaged him and asked a few questions about what his thoughts were. he eventually answered and as we talked back and forth we came up with a project to collaborate on. we settled details and a few weeks later i was on a plane there.



here is some background information about the political turmoil happening in kenya.

in october of 2017 raila odinga and incumbent, uhuru kenyatta, faced a reelection of the presidency. even though the independent electoral and boundaries commission (iebc) said kenyatta had won, the numbers were truthfully in odinga's favor. disturbed by the lack of justice, citizens took to the streets to protest the corrupt government where the police met them with tear gas, rubber bullets, and shootings. on january 30th, 2018, president odinga swore in as the official president of kenya in uhuru park. the swearing in was portrayed as fake and in a misleading light to western media. news resources stating that odinga could face life in prison or being hanged for treason. to avoid being met with violence from police again, the location, time, and when odinga would show up at his inauguration was kept a secret until the night before. i remember getting fruit at the market that night with evans, he handed me his phone with a document pulled up about the details for tomorrow's rally. no words were exchanged between us, a smirk appeared at the corner of his mouth.

i immediately started running through scenarios and what i wanted to get from this experience, both photographically and mentally. i could barely sleep that night as i organized my equipment, but there was no way of knowing what i would face that next morning. 

i woke up to light filtering in through my curtains, creating an orange glow against the wall. my alarm blasting in my ear. it was 06:00. traffic would be heavy and it was going to be a long day. i pulled my ratted hair back and sipped on my coffee. evans whispered to me that it was time to go and we trekked out of the house, the rest of the world still asleep. 

though evans and i were still strangers, the silence was comfortable. we were both photographers and that was enough. we arrived at his office where we waited for an hour to see if anything was happening down at uhuru park. deciding to go down there, evans, his three co workers, and i hopped in a black suv and made our way to the rally. with a small press sign taped to the windshield, we drove through the hundreds of people flocked at the park.

i had covered protests before, but i had never seen that many people in one place. and it was just getting started. the windows were rolled down and the small breeze blowing in my face soon turned into men crowding over me and shouting "muzungu!" "muzungu!" at me (a colloquial term for a white tourist.) i was surprised, but not scared. there was no time to show my weakness. they told me i didn’t need to be scared, stating that, "we are all kenyans, even you." before i pushed open the door, my arm was grabbed by evans as he repeated not to go anywhere without him. i wanted to be the kind of woman that refused to need help from a man. but i knew it would be smart to stick by him until i got used to things. 

Odinga Rally

stepping out for the first time was like a time warp of sound. a once muted crowd turned into ear-piercing whistles, chants, music, and yelling. the energy was immaculate and i never imagined presidential elections could be like this. i quickly learned that odinga was not just a presidential candidate, but a celebrity, almost god-like to his supporters. it was at least 80 degrees outside, the sun was relentless against my skin. i could see the sweat on people’s foreheads as they shouted into my camera. there were people on top of cars carrying tree branches and stones. the tree branches represented peace, but the stones were carried as weapons in case the police turned violent. music was playing over the speakers in the distance and people were trying to get selfies with me. it was like walking through a swamp, each step i took was an obstacle.


after about 2 hours of photographing i could feel myself getting dehydrated. i sat in the car and drank my last sip of water. i was joined by the rest of the group a few minutes later. evans made himself comfy on the roof of the car, and we drove back to the office to recollect our thoughts.

 waiting in the office for odinga to show up

waiting in the office for odinga to show up

i started writing in my journal and began processing what i had just witnessed. we now were waiting to for odinga to show up. we had to be ready to leave immediately if we got word he was there. the afternoon dragged on as we sipped tea. my stomach still growling and my face making acquaintance with my new sun burn. evans started his import on photos and the rest of the group watched the news. i could see the panels of the curtains swishing back and forth to the small breeze. at the end of the hallway a picture of odinga was hung, a character i had only heard about, looming over us. 

the tea was finished and the group had grown restless. i heard the tv announce that odinga would head to uhuru park within the next few minutes. i slapped on my belt and grabbed my camera. getting in the car again was a familiar scene, something that exhilarated me, now i knew what to expect. my anxieties were quieted when we reached our drop off point. this time, it wasn’t in the middle of the crowd, but at the very back near a road. there were metal guard rails lining the sidewalk. i felt all eyes on me as we stepped out of the car, pretending i didn’t notice, i followed evans. we walked up to the guard rails so we could get a view of all the people gathered. i was offered a place to stand on top of the rails, strangers helped me up as my feet wobbled to gain balance. when i lifted my head the breath i was about to take was taken away from me. i was in awe of the amount of people. the crowd had grown at least twice the size. i scanned from left to right, seeing people in the tops of trees, on light posts, straight ahead was the stage where odinga would stand. we took a quick few pictures and i tried to inhale one more time.

 overlooking the crowd onto the stage

overlooking the crowd onto the stage

we made our way down to the crowd again. evans looked at me and said he wanted to get a shot from the podium, but in order to get there we would have to fight our way through the thick mass of people. i could see the look in his eyes, and i told him we should do it. eventually finding the stage, i spotted two men holding a rope and another man with a baseball bat in his hand, this was the security. evans mumbled something in swahili and the rope was lifted. the crowd still shouting, still chanting, still whistling. deafening, yet silencing all at once. i could feel the beads of sweat RUNNING down my spine. being at the podium in front of thousands of people made me feel powerful. i understand why a person would want to be a public figure. i could barely take a picture from the podium, my hands were shaking so much. i could see the other journalists glaring at me, knowing this opportunity was rare. i stepped down from the podium and was ushered to the left side of the stage. my vision was occupied by camera lenses and salty skin against mine. 

 view from the podium

view from the podium

soon, i heard THE CROWD GET LOUDER.

i looked ahead and saw black cars swimming through the crowd of people. flags were waving and it felt like the end of a christmas parade, when santa claus first MAKES his entrance. it was as if a switch had clicked and all the journalists started fighting for the shot. 

odinga arrived at the podium suddenly with his fist in the air. you could see him sucking in all the energy from the thousands, a small smile. he liked the feeling too. the security guards started pushing back on us as people were pushing their limits with how close they could get. a consequence we all paid. the stage was about five feet off the ground and the drop off just to my left. as the security guards pushed back on us, journalists pushed back. i was caught in the wave of people. i could feel my hair being pulled on, being used as a ladder for someone to pull themselves up. i luckily had a man below me who was looking out for me. he said he would hold onto my legs as i reached around to take the picture. 

 president railA ODINGA

president railA ODINGA

the crowd seemed to be getting more and more mad. i took a moment to just stand still and look up at the cloudless sky. i could feel my hand holding onto my camera slowly slipping from the sweat. using my left to keep another journalist from falling off the stage, my right cramping from my tight grip. i was so focused on not falling that i didn’t even realize what was going on. odinga held up the bible and exited the stage. i could feel the crowd exhale all at once, as the cheering faded and camera lenses were released. i met evans’ brown eyes and we walked back to the car. the world WAS NOW awake.

8 things to do before your next trip

expeditions are exciting. exploring new places, meeting new people, reconnecting with the wild. but what happens before expeditions? i thought i would give a little insight as to what i do as a photographer pre-expedition. 

  1. after establishing where i am going, i research the culture. especially as a woman, you have to be careful about what you wear. for example, going to standing rock, as a native american woman, it is respectful to wear long skirts and dress modestly. since i am not native american, baggy jeans sufficed. finding out more about the culture is important to helping tell the story visually because it gives you the chance to connect with where you will be and the people you meet. get to know more about the religion, common meals, and even some greetings in the language (thank you, please, help, fire, bunny, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious) you know, the basics.
 taken during vilmark expedition. photo by  @jamiebarnesuk

taken during vilmark expedition. photo by @jamiebarnesuk

 taken at standing rock, north dakota

taken at standing rock, north dakota

 2. most people will be tempted to research pictures, but i specifically try not to, as that could alter my creative view. before i went to iceland i took to instagram and constantly researched places i wanted to see. after looking at all these photoshopped pictures i had an idea in my mind of what iceland would be like, and i hadn’t even been there yet. when i arrived, i wasn’t let down (as it is one of the most beautiful countries), but it was nothing like the pictures i had researched. my lesson was learned. this is obviously a personal choice, but it is something i have found most helpful when traveling. 

 this is clearly not photoshopped folks. 

this is clearly not photoshopped folks. 

3. being an expedition photographer you do the adventure, but with camera gear attached to your hip. you might have no part in planning the route, establishing the itinerary, or knowing the weather conditions. you have to be doing a different kind of planning. before going to norway, i looked into the weather charts from the past few years, just to get an idea of what i could expect. around june, there was always rain. so i started planning around that. i use adjectives as a prompt when photographing. here is a few ideas on what kind of questions to ask:

how can i use rain to my advantage?

  1. what senses do i capture? warmth from shelter? cold after putting a tent up?
  2. rain brings emotion: are they upsetrushedthankfulstressed?  

how can i use sun to my advantage?

  1. heat and exhaustion? sweat?
  2. splashing cold water onto their faces?
  3. will they be resting constantly?

here are some examples:


 conveying wet during villmark expedition

conveying wet during villmark expedition

 conveying heat and exhaustion during GTSC

conveying heat and exhaustion during GTSC

 conveying the blisters after a day of paddling

conveying the blisters after a day of paddling

4. the next thing i do to prepare is spark my creativity. i own a variety of photography and art books that i spread out on my floor. gather some sticky notes and start marking the pages of photographs that inspire you. it is okay to find inspiration in other people's work, as long as you don't copy. keep in mind that you don't have to stick to one genre of photography to inspire you. i find pieces of van gogh and even nude portraits that i can incorporate into my expedition. when looking through other photographs keep in mind:

  • composition 
  • lighting
  • subject(s)
  • intimacy
  • shadows

5. buy a good journal that you can start writing down ideas in. maybe you want to photograph the adventurers right when they wake up? does their expression convey the aches of yesterday? think of ways you can document the journey in a unique way. start drawing, writing, photographing, painting. anything to provoke your creativity. you will see a vast improvement in your photography if you go the extra mile to see things differently.


6. make time to take care of your health. i can not say this enough. before any big trip i always get a cold. it is caused by stress, late nights planning, eating quick meals so i can get back to researching. it is important to be committed to your expedition, but double check you are getting sleep and eating healthy. traveling to foreign countries and being in airports, it is almost inevitable to get sick. pick up some extra vitamin c tablets and hand sanitizer. you'll thank me later. 

7. being in a world full of endless technology it is easy to get wrapped into dslr cameras and sd cards and polarizers, etc. before an expedition, i start shooting with my film camera to bring me back to the basics and not get blinded by all things digital. photograph the little things, on your daily walk, your back garden, the streets, textures, anything that interests you. 


8. after your preparations are completed, have a drink. a very strong one. 

conflict photography workshops- my experience, not a review.

11:00-the train ride from malaga to ronda is stunning. the villages fascinate me the most. the small people walking around, almost as if they play the part in a little girl’s doll house. the rolling valleys and grass plains were a stranger to me before, now we are friends. at the station in ronda, the train slowly comes to a stop. i take a quick glance up, hoping to find someone to take care of me for the week. i see a stranger with a flimsy piece of paper labeled with a sharpie, “CPW.”

The blue eyed man towers over me by several feet, looks at my osprey bag slung over my back and assumes i am the last student. i am. a flood of relief and anxiety washes over me. i follow his shuffling feet to a large group of strangers. we are ushered into multiple cars, not knowing one of the passengers is a renowned photographer that will be our instructor. we start driving and make small talk about the weather. i remain quiet, trying to absorb my surroundings. the hills transition into mountains and more villages start to appear; carved into the side of the cliffs.

 the light pink house 

the light pink house 

my oversized luggage and under-sized self arrive at a light pink house. a large mountain is an imposing back drop for the next week. before we step foot in the barn where we will be staying, we are given directions by a stranger. i know nothing about the man issuing orders. he speaks about fire safety and ponchos. all i can think about is the weight of this pack, something i will regret even more later that week. we are told to go inside this mysterious barn. greeted by army green cots, velcro objects, and something in camouflage. 

“well, this is cozy.” i say to myself as i drop my pack onto the concrete floor. i look to reassure i am doing what everyone else is. just as i'm about to turn around, out of the corner of my eye, a short woman is hugging me. i instantly know we would be friends. she is from mexico and has long brown hair with eyes that match. after talking, i found that the name of this mountain woman is named, maria.

 mountain woman, maria

mountain woman, maria

after many introductions with the twelve other people crazy enough to take this course, i store my excess luggage and told this will be our last night to shower. everyone seems to be in a state of panic except me. i’m not sure if this is good or bad, but i refuse the final shower to save water for those panicking.

i explore the rest of the property searching for some kind of clue as to what will happen in this next week. although, the bullet proof vests and helmets seems to be enough foreshadowing. 

we head to our cots to get ready for the night, and i tuck myself in the depths of my orange sleeping bag. i was hoping for rest, but sounds of snoring swirl in the air. maybe tomorrow i will sleep. we wake up early and begin training on the kit that was given to us the last night. we make our breakfast. mine is cold. maybe tomorrow it will be warm.

our photo instructors include a french man name eric bouvet, with his lanky body and weather worn face that crinkles as he smiles. a quality i admire. he tells me my photos are nothing special and have no order to them. finally, someone that isn’t afraid to burst my bubble. he always has two cameras slung around his neck. he tells me things i can not always understand because of his accent, but i nod in agreement anyway. our other instructor, jb russel, is an american living in paris. he moves gently and has high cheekbones that frame his face. his deep voice is melodic and calm. the stories he tells intrigue me but his voice can send me to sleep. a sweet juxtaposition.


 eric (left) and jb (right)

eric (left) and jb (right)

after more orders were given to us, we pack up and make our way to our camp for the night that is just down the hill.

our feet crunch against the rocks of the gravel road. at the bottom of the hill there are multiple shelters set up. i learn that the stranger giving us orders used to serve as a sergeant in the british military, he is no longer a stranger. the sergeant keeps talking about knots and how to set up a proper shelter, my mind wanders to the other people taking this class. why are they here?

the instructor speaks too fast for me and i get some of what he says. it is time for us to make our shelter and i am nervous that me and the mountain woman will be “the women that hold everyone up.” i am determined not to be.

 our shelter

our shelter

the next four days we are trained in navigation of mine fields, ied (improvised explosive device) routines, cpr, and how to operate as a photojournalist in a war zone. 

all of our training is finished and it's time to put it to use. the last three nights we are in simulation constantly. we are informed that there are two groups: the rebels and the government soldiers. our sergeant is no longer someone we can turn to for help and actors start pouring in. my mind is flooding with thoughts of mines and kidnapping and tourniquets and cameras. but i feel ready. let’s find out if i am.

the group walking up the hill to our lessons

our first scenario is a rebel checkpoint that starts as soon as my mind is falling asleep. we hear spanish whispers and car doors slamming. we are hesitant to go, but do when we are ushered by an instructor. counting myself lucky that my battle partner speaks spanish, we walk up the hill to talk to them. it feels like a dream because my mind is foggy and my limbs feel sluggish. the actors are clothed in guns and camo. for a moment, i am shocked at how real this feels. i force the fear to escape me and keep the camera glass between me and the action. the scene suddenly turns violent and the rebels have the owners of the car on the ground. guns are shoved in their backs and the confusion between the two languages is frustrating the soliders more as time ticks on. it is pitch black and my iso is bumped to the highest setting. i use the light of a flashlight to brighten the photos.

the crowd of journalists is now becoming a familiar scene. you start to question what makes your work different from everyone else. you find yourself crawling in ditches and pushing your limits to get the shot that no one else will. how far do you go? i keep going, this is the time to test myself. just when we start retreating back to our shelters, an explosion from behind us illuminates the peaceful night sky. it has been engrained into us to immediately find cover. i scramble to the ditch off the side of the road and as soon as i secure my safety, i point my camera towards the orange smoke. i know the shot i am looking for, i check my frame as one eye squints through the viewfinder. i have thorns poking through my skin, but the feeling is numbed by the adrenaline pumping through my body. i tell my index finger to wait for the shot, as it impatiently hovers over the focus. i see our commander bend down to help a soldier, his gun is silhouetted, a looming figure in the background. this is it. i snap three pictures and head back to my shelter. a sigh of relief for now. the explosion goes as quickly as it came.


i don't feel lonely out here. i can see the stars this time of night. These are moments I wish I could remember forever. The times where i smell campfire smoke and the salty taste of my sweat from the day. i’m zipped in my sleeping bag wondering when the next gun shot will be set off. And in these moments i find myself holding onto a sweeter time, hoping it will take away the pain of the current one i am living. 

i become familiar with the pounding rhythm of my heart anxiously awaiting what will happen next. 

the mountain woman is asleep next to me. i lay awake next to her. tucked inside my bivy bag my camera is on and ready to be focused. my body armor and helmet are above my head, so i can prepare for an explosion quickly. 

the morning sun rises and the cold air tells me to stay in bed, but the thrill of what is to come motivates me. i throw my vest and helmet on, my body becoming acquainted with the weight. my camera hangs off the side of my hip like an extension of my body. i peek outside the glowing light of our shelter, and see the rebel troops are still at the top of the hill. the day takes on a slow start as mountain woman and i cook our food and delight in a coffee. time to make some friends. we greet the rebels good morning. after a few hours of waiting in the hot sun, we are introduced to a new actor. a red truck pulls up to the group, and a man with a floppy beret on the top of his head instantly commands the attention of each of us. he has an intoxicating energy as he asks our names and makes a personal connection with everyone. this is the commander of the rebel troops. the kind of man that can be your best friend one minute and try to execute you the next. he asks us to come to the grounds where he trains his troops. we learn more about mine fields and watch men shoot against cardboard figures. our afternoon is eerily calm. an ied pierces the air, the sound, a sad familiarity to my ears. we start running, finding an injured soldier at the scene. we are faced with the question of whether to help or take pictures. we leave the rebels to do their job as we do ours. a sudden bolt of energy fizzles through each of us as we slump back to our shelters, awaiting the next attack. the hours seem to drag on and the sun seems to be getting hotter. we have no concept of time and no phone reception. the quiet times are the most telling. i find a couple of soldiers lying on the grass, looking up at the branches of a tree. we take these short moments of time to rest as much as we can. the breeze is calming and i close my eyes.


that night, we are told to evacuate immediately because the government soldiers are going to come into the camp. i know where everything goes in my rucksack and how to pack it efficiently. i have done it in the dark, preparing me for this moment. the group meets together and we do more waiting. all of us on edge. i haven't eaten lunch or dinner. hunger overtakes me and i can feel myself getting irritated. i eat some dry berry biscuits to settle the hunger for now. the sun is beginning to find it's way below the horizon as we begin our descent down the hill. the shrubs crowd us and we can hear cow bells dinging as our group of thirteen is split in two. six of us with the government soldiers and the seven others with the rebel soldiers. my shoulders are straining under the weight of the pack and i am trying to stay quiet. we arrive at our home for the night. i can feel the cold start to wrap around my cheeks. me and my new battle partner, rees, don't talk. we only exchange hand signals and occasional whispers. he is the only one my age here, with his wavy, dark blonde hair just brushing against his shoulders. his movements are shy but he knows more than he lets on. 



we set up our shelter with no problem, a race against the dying light. it doesn't take me long to fall asleep as i have learned to take advantage of the rest time i've been given. i reach above my head and tap my body gear just to confirm it is still there. a quick glance is exchanged between us, a glance that speaks louder than any words could. in this environment you have to look out for your partner. making sure their needs are met before yours. i wake up multiple times to check on him during the night. 

daylight awakes us, though i have kept one eye open the whole time. i hear the ruffling of the others in their sleeping bags and i force my eyelids to open for our last day. rees and i prepare our breakfast. soon after our shelter's are packed away, the two sergeants are telling us to huddle together. they debrief us about the situation, whispering information about watching our spacing and to remember ‘the shot’ is not worth your life. more soldiers come in and we are assigned one to shadow. the soldier i am told to follow is the blue eyed man from the train station, kev. my heart is thudding so loud i feel as if it could give away my location. we all step into a line, and quietly walk on the edge of a barb wire fence. it is not long before bullets start flying and i have no choice but to find some sort of courage. i start snapping pictures out of nervousness as a smile curves at the corner of my mouth. all of my senses come alive as i look down to see my legs running. i don't know our location, but i follow the line of soldiers, putting my life in their hands. the shooting ends, for now. we start walking through a pathway in between two walls of rock. the mud sticks to the bottom of my shoes and i can feel my feet hesitate to follow the rest of my body. my backpack is struggling to move past the low swinging tree branches and my breath starts getting heavier. 

i see a rope swing down in front of my face, kev tugs on it for a quick test and then scrambles up the rock. i follow. i stop at the top to snap a picture. we crawl under a fence into a ditch and are told to leave our backpacks there. my shoulders are thankful for a moment. we get a couple of minutes to rest and then we are off again. i locate my blue eyed solider and we go up out of the ditch. i see his feet kicking up dirt as we run to a tree, taking shelter from the bullets whirling past us. the soldier shoots back and i hide behind his gun. i know that if i move even an inch, my life could end. i stay close and we sprint to the next shelter. my breath quickens to heaving, but my legs seem to be unaware of my exhaustion as they keep moving. 

soon, we are walking up a dirt road. i follow kev, i look back to see a line of journalists following behind. bullets start forcing their way through the air and we lunge to left of us against an embankment. we see two men carrying an injured soldier, running away from the enemy. the pain on their faces stops me in my tracks for a moment and i quickly find kev will not wait for me. he starts sprinting across the road, i have one mission and this is to document, so i follow. bad idea. i was a step too far behind and a two bullets hit my left arm leaving a resounding sting. if this was a real war zone, i would be dead. this thought brings a shiver down my spine while the rest of my body keeps moving. the shooting rests as kev and i do in the bushes. it is silent, except for the birds. i can hear their chirping echo off in the distance almost as if they are mocking me. i focus on each sound the birds make, reminding me of the carefree life i currently don't have. kev and i exchange glances for a moment, his gun propped and ready to be fired. we wait, though i am not exactly what for. 

my blue eyed soldier shares his water with me, a simple gesture that meant the world. the quiet moment seems to last forever, we hear an ied go off and that is our queue to move in. we round the corner to see the light pink house. more bullets are fired as me and another journalist duck for cover behind the wall. the sun trickles out the corner of my eye and i am thankful it is not raining. i see the rebel's feet and wait for olly to run out, knowing the moment i want to capture. olly runs. click. i leave.

 a rebel troop lies on the floor as the government soldier flees from the scene. 

a rebel troop lies on the floor as the government soldier flees from the scene. 

we are informed that one of our troops was injured from an ied down the hill. i can feel the sweat dripping from my forehead into my eyes. the thirteen journalists creep our way slowly to the bottom of the steep hill. slow is fast in this situation. if we walk too close, a sniper could take us all out in one round, the farther apart we are the more the sniper has to adjust his aim. we walk up to the casualty and find that it is my blue eyed soldier. half of us are taking pictures and the other half are applying tourniquets and bandages. i talk to him, asking his age and name to keep him from falling out of consciousness. we lift him onto the stretcher and are told that the helicopter pad is at the top of the hill and we must take him there. the hill before us is discouraging and i can already feel the weight of this man's life on my shoulders. it takes four people total to carry the stretcher. 

since there is thirteen of us, we rotate who carries the stretcher. i am still determined not to be the woman who holds everyone up. so i rotate as many times as i can with those who are tired. my adrenaline is still going heavily through me, and i can feel myself wanting to throw up. we conquer one more small hill before we make it to the top and other ied's go off. sending us into a state of panic and throwing ourselves on the casualty to protect him. 

 me and the journalists covering the casualty as an ied goes off. photo by @ericbouvet

me and the journalists covering the casualty as an ied goes off. photo by @ericbouvet

the simulation ends and i am met with a feeling of thrill and exhaustion. my clothes are soaked through with sweat, my hands are bleeding, and my camera is covered in dirt. i am reminded that this is all pretend. i am reminded that my fear was just temporary. that i will now go to my cot and have a cup of tea and talk with all my friends about what just happened.

i think i am the only one awake. the snores are reminiscent of the first night as they swirl through the air. i close my eyes knowing that i have not found a passion, but a way of life. 

Section 3: clothing & personal hygiene

there are specific pieces of clothing you should always have in your pack, no matter what/where the adventure is. the first being a gortex rain coat. the one i use is from fjallraven, since they sponsored us during the expedition to norway, i have had the opportunity to use the gear to its full potential. i use the keb eco shell jacket in the color plum, the best color to stand out for pictures. it is wind and water proof, plus there are two pockets on the sleeves as well as on the upper chest area. these are great for storing lights, phones, sd cards, and camera batteries. it has ventilation on the side for when you get a little too hot, the hood is designed to fit over a helmet and it has adjustable jaw strings on the side to make it the perfect size.

 photo by  @jamiebarnesuk

pants are also a staple for your adventure wardrobe. if you are not comfortable in the clothes you have, the expedition will not be your main focus because you will be too fixed on how uncomfortable you are. make sure you try on everything first and don't be afraid to send clothes back. i use the vidda pro trousers from fjallraven. they are both water and wind resistant, have 7 different pockets, and Elastic, buttoned leg endings. i bought the pants a little too short, so make sure you have the correct measurements so your ankles don't get too cold. I am in love with these pants because they are so durable and fit perfectly. since it is a swedish company, every package you receive has swedish fish in it. which is awesome. do it for the fish.

 image by  @ericbouvet

image by @ericbouvet

under these trousers i usually wear yoga pants or thermal underwear depending on the weather. layers save lives. speaking of layers, a down jacket is a must to put under your rain coat. I use a basic down jacket from patagonia. i typically opt from a hood because i wear this as a layering piece and my rain coat already as a hood. what do you put under this rain coat and down jacket? i always pack a long sleeve, three quarter zip, a fleece t-shirt, and a light work out shirt. 66 degrees north is an icelandic outdoor company that has some of the best quality clothing. i use the fleece t-shirt hrannar as my first layer. if the temperature is cold, i put on this long sleeve.

one of the most important parts of your kit is shoes. i haven't had many opportunities to experiment with different shoes, but my first and only purchase of hiking boots has been by salomon. if you are looking for a hiking shoe that you don't have to break in and won't give you blisters, then these are the pair for you. these shoes are as light as running shoes, but provide the durability and support of a hiking shoe. they have gortex, to keep the water out, and breathable mesh on the tongue that keep my feet very comfortable during the hot days. i have found these shoes to be great, but not completely waterproof. ian and jamie can attest to my wet shoes during the villamark expedition. in the future i will be purchasing a shoe with more ankle support, but will no doubt stick with the salomon brand.



socks are equally important to shoes. if you are like me, then wool is uncomfortable for you. i use micro crew hiking socks from darn tough. these socks are quick drying and keep my feet comfortable and warm, without the itchy feeling of wool. depending on how long your expedition is, three pairs of socks is good for a 8-10 day trip. i always take an extra pair of socks in case the others get wet, this small decision has always came in handy. after a day of endless rain and you're about to climb into your sleeping bag, you put on your on fluffy, dry socks. best feeling in the world. 

being on expedition, showering is a luxury, if not impossible. you'll find out that your body actually holds up pretty well if you don't shower everyday. and the best thing is, everyone else around you stinks. if you do feel that you need a refresher, i use sea to summit mountain wipes. they are basically adult baby wipes but for your body. i have very sensitive skin, but these are infused with aloe to avoid drying your skin out and making it irritable. they are also compostable, so if you stuff them under a rock or dig a hole, you don't have to feel too guilty. as for going to the bathroom, i carry baby wipes in a plastic baggy and you are good to go. the little things are the easiest to forget on a big trip, keep chapstick in your coat pocket, tissues, and hand sanitizer (if you feel the need). as well as a travel toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste. if you wear contacts, always bring a couple extra pairs and some solution. 

now you have your photography equipment, food & mess kits, and clothing. go forth and adventure, friends! 

section 2: food & mess kits

how do you eat on expedition? i have found that the one thing i miss while hiking is bread, but bread is heavy. what other options are there then? if you are going for more than a day trip you need to have dehydrated rations. at most sporting goods stores, you will see many options for food in plastic, vacuumed sucked bags. all you have to do is add hot water. mountain house is a great brand (they have delicious eggs and bacon) but the brand i prefer to use is firepot by outdoorfood. they were our sponsor during the villmark expedition and there is no going back now. all of their food is handmade in dorset, england, it is quickly ready, and it has 100% natural ingredients. they are high in calories and protein, perfect for those 8 hour days hiking up mountains. 

 photo by  @jamiebarnesuk

boiling water with jetboil is the easiest way to can get hot water in just two minutes. jetboil allows you not to have to bring a cup or bowl, they put a handle on the side so you can sip easily or eat from it. the container turns orange when the water is boiled and you can easily stack all the parts together to pack. you have to buy a gas tank separately and you can not take gas on a plane (i figured this out the hard way). when deciding what to buy for expeditions, you need to consider durability. if you buy plastic utensils, they will break and then it makes it hard to eat. always buy aluminum alloy, they are worth it. i use this one. having clean drinking water is essential, for water filtration i use sawyer water filters. the storage container it comes in is a loose net that doesn't stay together all that well, so think about getting a small dry sack for storage. the great thing about this product is you have the option to hook it up directly to your water bladder tube. the only default to doing this is you have to cut a part of your tube, which made me apprehensive. however, this gives you the ability to fill up your water bladder from anywhere and you can sip on it without worry. the other option you have is to fill up the provided bag and squeeze the water through the filtration system into a water bottle or in a pot. both ways work well, it is just a matter of personal preference and efficiency. another alternative that i have bought but not used yet is the lifestraw water bottle. the great thing about this product is it can filter up to 264 gallons of water before it needs changing, it also will physically not allow you to drink water out of it if the filter needs replacing, plus they donate to schools in need of clean water. You can find out more information about the charity here. depending on how long your trip is and how much weight you can tolerate, i carry a 2 litre water bladder with me. A lot of people forget that water weighs more than we think. you should be drinking 2 litres a day, if not more, when backpacking all day. osprey makes a great magnetic feature on the nipple that you can hook on the clip across your chest so you can always be sipping on the water. when i was at standing rock and riding down a dirt road in the back of a truck, 10 people entangled with the other, a man gave me a tanka bar and told me to always keep that with me for emergencies. it is packed with protein and never goes bad, so i always carry it with me when i adventure, partly for emergencies and partly for the memory. the more expeditions you go on, the more objects you will acquire in your bag, train tickets, rocks, batteries, drawings, plants, just random objects that remind you of a specific moment. i haven't cleaned my camera bag out since i have bought it two years ago.

the next section will be about my clothing and tips on personal hygiene while backpacking, stay tuned!

 photo by  @ianefinch

photo by @ianefinch

photo expedition essentials

adventure photographers are always behind the scenes, they are the ones doing the expedition...but with camera gear. ever wonder what goes into a pack? 


in order to make money, you have to spend it. in this blog post, i will give you links to all the things that go into my rucksack before an expedition. i'll break it down into sections:

section 1: camera gear

i shoot with a canon eos 7D mark II digital slr camera. when i travel, i usually take two lenses: a canon ef 24-105mm f/4 and a tokina 11-16mm. in the picture above i also have a 70-200mm lens, but don't usually travel with it due to the weight. the 24-105mm lens is a perfect travel lens because it is the best of both worlds. it has the ability for wide angle, yet can zoom in when you need. the 11-16mm is a small compact lens that is great for photographing large structures or trying to show proportion. carrying a camera on backpacking trips is always a struggle, if you use the neck strap it makes your neck sore. to avoid this, i use a carabiner camera sling. (shown in the picture below!) this enables the camera to rest at your hip comfortably, gives you the freedom to use both hands, and you can swing it up to eye level within seconds. for those of you who do video, you realize how much it drains your battery. because my job is photography, i have to put that as a priority to video. when i do videos it is with a gopro because the battery lasts forever, it is portable, you can fit it in your pocket, and it is water proof. these three qualities are vital to getting the best content under stressful situations.


being on an expedition, you always need to be thinking about how to protect your gear from water, moisture, wind, sand, snow, rain, dropping it, extreme temperatures, and many other things. i keep my sd/cf cards in a waterproof, shock proof, shell. it holds four cf cards and eight sd cards. it was one of the best (and cheapest) purchases that has had a significant impact on how i shoot. for a week long expedition i carry four charged batteries and only switch when the battery loses all of its power. it is always better to have more batteries than not enough. i store batteries, cables, hard drives, and lens wipes in a water resistant bag from rei or a pelican case. the down side (or positive side) to a pelican case is that it's heavy and doesn't have the ability to be compact. even if you try your hardest to protect you equipment, sometimes it is inevitable for them to get dirty. and honestly, if you and your camera aren't dirty by the end of the shoot, you need to do things differently. I use zeiss lens cleaning wipes for those moments. the glass of your lens is super fragile, even the slightest scratch can affect your shot. being on expedition in iceland, we were on a sail boat most of the time. even if it wasn't raining, the moisture from the ocean and the salt would create a film across my lens. at the time, i used my beanie to cover the lens while i wasn't shooting. from this, i learned it is so important to carry a bandana or a small microfiber cloth in case you come across instances like this one. i don't use tripods that often, only for slow shutter shots of the stars or in dark rooms. when i do need a tripod, it is this one. This tripod is compact and light (2.5 lbs) and can fold to 12.5 inches. it has all the features you need, such as being able to pan and operate it smoothly. most importantly, you need to be able to charge your electronics. you can get a standard travel plug kit at rei or walmart to cover each country you visit. below is everything i described, plus some tips on how i use my equipment to the best of its abilities. 


how to make the best use of your equipment

during expedition it is imperative to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. an example of how to do this is shooting on multiple sd cards. some people use 64gb cards, which is great until you have shot your 7 day expedition on that one card and on the last day it fails you. you can avoid this by shooting half your day on one card and the other half on a different sd card, this way you never lose more than half a day. during the villmark expedition i quickly learned how hard it is to shoot if you use trekking poles. my main purpose was to photograph, and the spontaneity was taken out of it when i had to take the time to put the poles down and then line up my camera. if you want to be an adventure photographer, i would highly suggest not bringing poles unless it is absolutely necessary. depending on what kind of region you are going to, you will quickly learn that the camera batteries charge will drop with the temperature. how do you solve this? keep them warm. how do you keep them warm? i always put my camera batteries in the pocket of my down jacket, this way, they are close to my body heat, easily accessed, and protected from the elements. something i found very hard to find a solution to, was how to change lenses quickly. i found the best way is to get a water resistant cover for your extra lens and put it in the fish netting of your backpack where the water bottle is supposed to go. now, you can reach behind you easily and grab the lens. for the more experienced photographers out there, some question what they mode they should shoot on. i have two different ways of shooting depending on the situation. I shoot on program mode (click here if you don't know where to locate it on your camera) during times that require immediate reaction. for instance when jamie and ian were climbing up the rocky hillside, i didn't have time to check the lighting and make sure all my settings were perfect. i just put that shit on program and pressed the shutter. i also used my 11-16mm lens for this shot in order to get show the size and texture of the rocks surrounding jamie. 


i typically try to shoot in manual mode so i have full control over what settings i'm using. if i have time to set up the shot and look at what angle the light is coming through, i try to do that as often as i can. taking the time to set up your shot will make editing a lot easier later on. an example of when i shoot on manual is this picture below. i wanted to be able to bring out the fog encompassing the peak and the shadows on the water reflection. for this photo i shot a 1/160 of a second at f/7.1 iso 200. want to start a debate with a photographer? ask them whether it is better to under expose your photo or over expose it. i have heard from multiple photographers different answers. but, this is only a personal preference, so choose what feels right to you. i personally like to over expose just a tiny amount, this way i can keep all the details of my shadows when i edit later on.

here is the 'before' picture. 





that concludes section 1 of my gear. in the next blog post i will cover how to cook on an expedition and what products i use for that. if you have any questions feel free to drop a comment or email me or write me a letter or send a carrier pigeon. i'll most likely answer. so go shoot away and do all things with kindness, you fuckers.

the duck & waffle

one of the biggest misconceptions about traveling is that everything is always planned. yet, it is the opposite, the best and most rewarding parts of traveling are the happy accidents. the times where you don't take a tour bus and you wander the streets with no extensive plan or list. one night, my friends and i were sitting at dinner in the isle of skye. we began discussing that people are more in love with idea of traveling rather than the reality of doing it. and that's okay, traveling is not meant for everyone.

it costs too much..

i don't have the time..

something is bound to go wrong..

i couldn't leave my friends and family..

these are the excuses i hear people come up with when i talk about my travels. i can help solve some of these issues and you'll also get to find out the story behind 'the duck & waffle' if you keep reading.

most everyone wants to travel somewhere in their life. if you are one of these people you are reading this blog because you don't make a million a year or you're bored. whichever it may be, it is still possible to travel without being rich or bored. there are so many useful things you can do to save. and like everything in life, if you want it, you will have to work for it. my personal method for being able to travel is working two jobs, 6 days a week, for 5 months and saving every penny. i set up a savings account where i put my travel money, a place it is not accessible. i also do lots of little things to produce extra money. i sell my clothes or items i don't need anymore, do photography services, or pick up extra shifts. from here, you have to decide what you are willing to do to save your money. there is no amount of pictures i can show you or stories i can tell to convince you to travel. it all comes down to what you want.

As well as saving there are a few tricks to getting the cheapest, but best quality in your time traveling.


  1. flights are everything. They are your biggest expense and whole expense, so it's important to do it right the first time. First of all, when checking for flights using your web browser, always use private mode. Yes, your browser has it. (Here is how.) Booking agencies have a sneaky way to gather your cookies and see what you are looking at. so every time you go back to visit that page they make the price higher. it is an uphill battle. in private browsing mode, you are free to search for flights and hotels. giving you the ability to book whenever you would like. Next, the websites you should visit.

here is a list of good and reliable ones:

  • Ryanair (we got a flight for $14.00!)

  • Wowair (very cheap flights to iceland, but only leaves from 8 different locations in the u.s.)

  • Skyscanner (only have flown with them once, but it was a good experience.)

  • Justfly (i use this booking agency almost every time. sign up for their emails and you will get updates on flash deals for flights.)

remember these airlines land in different airports than the main ones. there won't be free checked bags (the fee is $25.00 at the most and make sure to pay online or they will charge you more upfront). food is only an option if you pay for it, and there are no entertainment systems. all in all, it is a seat on a giant metal bird. if you can get past these small negatives, then start searching!

don't forget:

  • to check for baggage fees.

  • arrive for your flight three hours early if it international. two if it is domestic.

  • keep your boarding pass, passport, and debit card accessible. (let your bank know if you will be traveling so they don't disable your card.)

  • make sure your electronics are charged for the flight.

  • download any music/movies the night before take off.

2. sleeping. when it comes to finding a place to sleep at night, you can either end up in an amazing place or a disaster. you have to look at location, price, and amenities. if you are planning on going to the u.k. and want to stay in a hostel, i recommend: safestay. they have eight different locations across europe. they provide lockers for your luggage and they have laundry machines. when booking, decide if location, price, or amenities is the most important. then, focus on getting what you pay for before finding your temporary home. there are places you can get all three, and then there are places you only get one of those. before booking, you have to look at the reviews, good and bad. make sure to read the fine print, don't be afraid to email and ask questions, and look at the photos. in barcelona, i stayed at the most posh hostel i have ever come across. they had doormen! if you are planning a trip to barcelona, check out this hostel.

don't forget:

  • shower shoes.

  • padlocks.

  • towel. (here is the towel i pack for traveling.)

  • small packets of laundry detergent.

GOOD HOSTEL. the location was above a funeral home but that's besides the point. 

 BAD HOSTEL. literally we were afraid to touch anything and slept with at least 16 other people. 

BAD HOSTEL. literally we were afraid to touch anything and slept with at least 16 other people. 

 my favorite hotel in iceland. 

my favorite hotel in iceland. 

3. eating. obviously you have to eat, but you can't afford to go out every meal. most every hostel provides simple breakfast for a small fee (about $6.00) or sometimes it is free. again, you have to decide what is most important to you. is eating a big breakfast or going out for dinner more important to you? whichever it is, budget for that. look to see if the hostel has a kitchen to cook (most do) or have a fridge to store small groceries.

don't forget:

  • to try new foods!

  • check the hostel breakfast prices.

  • budget (as much fun as that is on vacation.)

  • look at proper table manners for that specific country. (the last thing you want is to act like a tourist.)

 a coffee shop in london.

a coffee shop in london.

 moroccan food prepared for the three of us as they invited us in their home. 

moroccan food prepared for the three of us as they invited us in their home. 

 "american waffles" in barcelona.

"american waffles" in barcelona.

4. transportation. depending on the country you go to as well as your objectives for going, you will need to find a way to get around. when we were in london, the bus and underground were the most convenient since we spent the majority of the time in the city. we got an oyster card for 6 days for $26 which covers the busses and underground routes. however, it is a different story if you are in iceland or scotland. in both of these countries i would suggest that the most efficient way to get around would be to rent a car (you have to be +21) this way you can explore without limits. 

  • isak 4x4 rental (the most popular 4x4 rental in iceland. TIP: get gravel insurance if they offer it)

  • We used ScotRail to get around a large part of scotland. it is a great way to see the country and the landscapes it has to offer through trains. 

don't forget:

  • to book in advance. (especially if you want a window seat.)

  • keep your tickets accessible. you will have to present them before, during, and after your train rides. 

  • to bring entertainment. 

  • plan out before you leave your hostel the bus stop you need to get off at. 

  • if you are driving, have a vague idea of where you are going, but don't be afraid to roam and explore. 


 the famous double decker busses in london. 

the famous double decker busses in london. 

 sometimes you just got to hitchike to get around. 

sometimes you just got to hitchike to get around. 

the train ride in scotland across the harry potter bridge. 

 or you can always take a sailboat.

or you can always take a sailboat.

you have made it this far, which tells me you either have read this blog all the way through or you skipped straight to the ending to find out about the 'duck & waffle.' this story is one of the many events that happened accidentally in my travels. in april, i visited sarah and emily in london after their study abroad in morocco. we conveniently decided to visit london on easter weekend, a very celebrated holiday in england. most everything was closed that sunday through tuesday. on tuesday night we decided we want to go out and have a drink, maybe dance. we did our makeup, bought new clothes, and started googling clubs to go to. none of them were open. i was getting hungry and we were not about to waste our makeup. sarah, luckily found a pub that was open 24 hours, served food, and was only a few minutes away. expecting the typical british pub, we arrived at a windowed skyscraper lit by red lights. we thought the address was wrong as the bouncer checked our i.d.'s and escorted us to the elevator. we questioned what we got ourselves into. the elevator was clear and we could see the city getting smaller below as we floated up the building. the doors opened and we walked down a hallway and into one of the most beautiful pubs in london. the room was comprised of loud music, dim lights, floor to ceiling windows, and chandeliers. this was the 'duck and waffle.' we felt all eyes on us, as we were dressed for a club, not a posh bar. we found some chairs and awed at the view of london's never ending lights. we ordered $15 cocktails made from real egg shells and nutella jars with our names printed on them. 

 photo credit to nuvo magazine.

photo credit to nuvo magazine.

why i fail at being an adventure photographer


on june 23, 2017 i landed at london heathrow airport, with no address and a few simple instructions of trains to my destination at brookman's park.  i was about to embark on a journey that would forever change the way i viewed the world. before coming on this expedition i was told i was crazy for hiking in a foreign country with men i didn't know. they were right; i am crazy. and i was okay with being called that. i left college to pursue photography, i had spent over $4,000 to get there, my relationship had to end, i wasn't with my dad on father's day, all to get some photographs of a hiking trip. but this wasn't just a "hiking trip," at least for me it wasn't. i had seen this as an opportunity for my photography to grow. to get another expedition under my belt. to get some of the best shots i had ever gotten before. i was ready.

turns out, i wasn't. 

a 19 year old woman going up against a former royal marine and another man who had been doing professional videography for the past 3 years, i was intimidated. who wouldn't be? they were a team before me and i was randomly added into the mix. i spent most of my time trying to figure out the role i played in this expedition. it was only after the expedition that i figured out my role. and it wasn't photography. 

this adventure wasn't for me to get the best shots i had ever taken. it was for me to learn the mentality it takes to be an adventure photographer.

photography has always pushed me past my comfort zone, putting me in risky situations just so i could get 'the shot.' i expected to do just that during this trip. however, this situation was different. in past expeditions, i was never actually participating in the adventure. this time i was, and i battled constantly between getting the shot and being safe. 

on our fifth day, using rusted chains as our guide up a rocky trail, we tediously climbed until the clouds greeted our arrival. we were surrounded by mountains on all sides. a clear glacial lake reflecting the view we would see for the next few miles. this was the first time we had come across more than a single patch of snow.

we had stopped for our lunch and as we did, three women appeared behind us. making small talk, they gave us information about a cabin a short walk away. this was our motivation for the next 5 hours. we had images of a cozy fireplace, beds, and a solid roof over our heads. making our way to the cabin was easy at first, following the clearly marked trail up and over small hills, Occasionally seeing reindeer prance away from us, feeling the slight breeze brush against our cheeks. it was only a few short moments later when the trail was no longer clearly marked, the reindeer had disappeared, and the slight breeze turned into a heavy fog. giving us only about 30 feet of visibility in front of us. as our determination to get to the cabin grew, we didn't know that we were only a few minutes away from encountering a situation that would hinder our ability to get there. with ian leading, me in the middle, and jamie taking up the back we were making good time. my hood was up trying to protect my ears from the wind when i heard a faint call for help. i yelled at ian, and as i ran over i found jamie's head just under a rock, nothing but black underneath him. i could hear the rushing of the water below the snow drifts and reached out my pole for him to grab onto. reassuring him he was okay, though in my head i wasn't sure if that was the truth. with adrenaline rushing, i felt all my senses come alive, observing everything with detail. the snow crunching in between jamie's finger tips as he grasped for leverage. i glanced up to see ian running over and demanding i start taking pictures. a wave of relief washed over me until he knelt down grabbing onto jamie's backpack. i could see the veins of ian's hand protrude as they struggled to lift him. the strain on his face worried me enough to shorten my breath. the weight of my backpack suddenly becoming heavier than before. i was now making decisions about what to do if ian had fallen through, all while mindlessly clicking my shutter.


at this point, i was caught off guard. jamie's safety was at risk and i had to take pictures? what if he had fallen through? what if his family had blamed me for not being enough help? the scenarios were endless and i went to sleep that night repeating the situation in my head. this is where i learned the value between the importance of documenting and safety. i had remembered famous conflict photographers who had gotten their legs blown off and still took pictures of what was happening around them. this scenario is when i found the mentality it took to be an adventure photographer. and to be quite honest, i wasn't sure i had it. only after when i was looking at the photos from this situation was i disappointed in myself. i did not capture it the way i had observed. 

when i tell someone i am trying to pursue expedition photography, most people tell me how 'cool that must be to experience all that.' to a certain extent, they are right. however, it is moments like jamie falling through ice that make it difficult to decipher between work and reality. at what point do i put down the camera and check in with what is happening beyond my viewfinder? this is where i fail at being an adventure photographer. i later learned it was okay to take my camera out and document what was happening. in fact, it would be a critical part of our story in the future. in this instance, i failed. and that is okay. from this small expedition, i acquired big ideas. by looking beyond the viewfinder often, i am able to obtain the details to make any image come alive through words. and that skill is equally important for an expedition photographer.

i can't wait to fail more often.  




redefining my future

choices. we all have choices to make. for some, that may be cereal or toast? should i really buy those shoes? should i marry this person? however, the choice i have recently been debating has been the one most parents and teachers despise hearing.."should i even go to college?" woah. did a 19 year old just say that. "if i don't go to college, i won't get a degree, and if i don't get a degree i won't get a job, and if..." all these what if's and here i am in an icelandic bar with one old man reading a paper, a glass of carbonated water at my right hand, feeling more in power of my future than i did sitting in a classroom with 500 people.

all these outside forces telling me i won't be successful if i don't continue, but as these people mindlessly tell me their thoughts and opinions of what they define as success, i look at them and wonder if they're truly happy. i know what makes me happy.

which is the reason i am not choosing to continue school at WSU.

this breaks my heart. my decision has been made tossing and turning in my hotel room beds, crying over instagram photos of my friends back in pullman, and the little voice that tells me i might fail if i take this jump. i love everyone at WSU, i couldn't imagine my life without them. but there comes a time in a person's life when they have to make a choice.

and i've spent too many conversations hearing about the stories of people who made the safe choice instead of the one that could have been great. after every one of those conversations, i kept telling myself i would never be that person that was too scared.

by now, i can only imagine your reaction.. ugh another one of those teenage hipsters that takes pictures in front of waterfalls, gets a lot of likes on instagram, and now all of a sudden claims she is some photographer- although i love these preconcieved thoughts, i'll have to push them out the window to further explain my goals.

****stop reading now if you really don't care about what i will be doing in the future*****

as a daughter of a photographer, going to photoshoots is something i have grown up with. i have had the immense pleasure of holding reflectors, making silly faces at the subjects, playing in sprinklers watering acres of peas, and much more. besides the endless memories, i was left with a small imprint of what was going to shape me as a person.

anyone who knows me, knows that i want to learn strangers' stories. their insecurities. the happiest moment of their lives. really anything they'll tell me. and with that emotion, i want to capture it. because of this desire to know people, i will be building my portfolio as my adventure continues in a few different countries. those are to be disclosed as of a later date, but until that day comes i will be living/working in seattle.

with many hours of work and saving every penny vigorously, i'll (hopefully) be leaving the country after the year is over. having a strong portfolio after my travels and an even stronger sense of who i am as a person, i will start the process of getting my BA in photojournalism at a university abroad.

only time will tell how my life will turn out. so these plans are definitely subject to change.  this post was only to help further explain why the hell i am doing what i am doing. to some it may seem a little crazy, scary, stupid, or any other adjective...

but, damn.

it makes me happy.

uncovering the silence

***trigger warning for those affected by sexual assault or rape***

i'm tired of asking what people's dreams are.

so, i'm going to take you on a nightmare.

i want you to imagine the person you trust the most. this could be a person of either the same or different gender, close to your age or not close at all, your teacher or your parent. when you have this person in your mind, picture yourself with them where you usually see them. you could be playing video games with your best friend, asking your teacher for help after school, or maybe you're just sleeping in your bed at home.

let's continue.

you notice that there is something different about the way they are staring at you this time. it almost makes you uncomfortable, but you know it shouldn't because they wouldn't do anything to hurt you.


they get closer to you and then all of a sudden you're on the floor and they have a grip so tight you can't get away. you think to yourself, "why are they doing this?" you tell them to stop, but they don't. your words mean nothing. you start fighting back, but come to the realization it's not going to change anything.

suddenly, your grip is loosened and you're letting your clothes come off, and not by the touch of your own hands.

you can see the bruises forming on your wrists. oh, and the body you were saving for someone special? it's no longer saved.

there is a strength that comes from inside you and somehow you're running down the street. your ribs feel cracked and you can't catch your breath. they're finally off of you. you cry, not knowing if it's relief because you're gone or sadness because you just lost the right to your own body.

you can't go anywhere. no one would ever believe that they did this to you. you keep to yourself and try not to replay that event over and over and over again.

let's close this nightmare and realize that,

you were sexually assaulted.

as i started my journey at washington state, i found that more survivors came to me with their stories. much similar to the one i just told. i realized that too many people i love were affected by malicious men and women who put their sexual desires before other's feelings.

why would i just stand there and nod along saying "i'm sorry" and then continue on with my life? i decided that this would not be the path i chose. i decided that standing up against sexual violence was something that i needed to do.

putting both my passion for photography and standing against sexual violence together, i created a photo project that gave people the chance to stand up for survivors and raise awareness.

i don't know what any of these people's affiliation with sexual assault is, if any, but i do know they want to help make a difference. and that's all that matters.


having nothing

It's 29 degrees outside. You have a coat and one blanket. And you have to sleep outside. Your stomach is aching because you haven't eaten today, your finger tips are numb from the holes worn in your gloves, and despite how beautiful the winter sunset looks, you are dreading the cold night that follows.


A rusted shopping cart holds everything you call your own and there is no place you claim as home.

That is the life of the 10 people I met today on the street. As I was driving home from the bank, I saw a group of people clustered together masked by their bundled scarves and puffy coats. These are the people I like photographing; the not so perfect men and women who have wrinkles that prove they once wore a smile. In a debate with my conscious of going home to a warm fire or photographing in the cold, I decided that I should grab my camera from and photograph the people.

With Bruno Mars filling the empty air in my car and my camera anxiously awaiting to be focused, I drove back to the bus station and parked. I found my heart pounding and my mind buzzing with thoughts of being kidnapped or robbed as I approached them. When I realized that this label, "homeless" is what makes society believe they have all done something wrong. That every penny you drop into their coffee cup goes to drugs.

My first subjects were Joe and Chris, a son and his mother. Her getting older now, he came to Walla Walla this weekend where they embraced for the first time since 2 years. Although her mouth didn't possess many teeth, her smile was full of joy when looking at her son. They were both open about their lives and how despite all they have been through together, they still love each other.


The majority of people at the bus stop were circled around one shopping cart and what they had called their Christmas tree. Decorated with a jar of mayonnaise, a snow flake from a church, and knitted scarves and hats so if anyone was cold that night they could take them.


Malcolm was the guy that exuberated happiness and begged for his picture to be taken, with his crocheted purple beanie and denim jacket, he made for a great subject. 

As I was photographing and talking with everyone, there was a woman who was giving out scarves, blankets, and free coffee. Despite having nothing, the homeless made sure I was warm enough. They gave me a scarf and gloves and offered the food they had on them. So what is it that makes these people who have virtually nothing, the most giving people I have met? The self reflection made me understand that they treasure what they have, not what they want. They know the difference between a house and a home. That it's not about where we crawl into the same sheets every night or the repeated outlet we plug our phone into; home is where we decide it is. For some it might be a lawn chair outside a church, the sidewalk on 9th street, your frequented coffee shop in London, or the 4 story house in the country. Where ever it may be, it only proves to be understood that you are the one that's got to die when it's time to die, so make your home where the hell you want it to be.

God Speed.