THE MAGNIFICENT NGONG HILLS
Certainly Ngong Hills on the fringes of Ngong town in Kajiado, Kenya is beautiful. Made up of seven hills, it derives its name from the Maasai language. Ngong or Enkong is a Maasai word meaning the knuckles of the hand of God.
This is because the shape of the hills resemble the knuckles of a person. Folklore has it that God rested there and when He got up, He placed His knuckles on the ground to push up from, thus forming the hills. The hills are ideally situated to give one a view of Nairobi city from its peaks and also the various Great Rift Valley mountain ranges and the valley itself to the West. Ngong Hills is also the location of a major wind farm.
Many come to the hills to hike, share meals with friends, pray and spend time together. Often these hikes, especially those that take one deeper into the seven hills, need to be made in the company of armed rangers, to protect the hikers from wildlife and people who, quite sadly, use the hills for nefarious purposes.
Ngong Hills may mean many things to different people, but for me, it simply reminds me of where I took my first shots with a professional DSLR camera. If you are conversant with the professional digital camera, you will know that it has various shooting modes, depending on what you want to capture and your level of skill with the camera. Modes range from auto, to aperture priority, to shutter priority, to manual. For many professionals, manual mode is the preferred shooting mode and that’s because it gives you total command over the camera, especially when you want to control the outcome of your shooting. Nothing is as sweet and beautiful as when you finish a work of art and it resonates the exact mood or message you want it to send. Art has such power to either make one or break one.
For me, Ngong Hills was where I first peeped through the view finder of a professional digital camera to capture a landscape photo. I remember being very excited about that day, especially when my first landscape photo subject was the amazing Ngong Hills with its assortment of scenery, gigantic windmills with larger than life blades, that cut through the never ending strong wind that surges over the hills of Ngong. I remember running from one part of the first hill to another pushing the camera capture button. I took lots of photos. Did I tell you I was shooting in auto mode? Oh my God… I hated the outcome.
Have you been in a situation where you spend your money to buy what your heart has always wanted, dashed home to unpack only to realize that it all got damaged while you were en route? Or you didn’t even buy the actual thing you had wanted? That’s how my first photo shoot at Ngong Hills was. Because I didn’t know better than to use the auto mode and because of the time of the day (the sun was blazing) the camera was using automatic settings that literally killed all the photos! When I sat at the computer, excited to finally take a look at the photos one after the other… it was all a mess. The only consolation I gave myself was, at least I was able to use a professional digital camera for the first time. And that is the reason I wrote this piece. Now I can say after about two years of self training from “YouTube University” I have become better at my photos and I now shoot in manual mode, even though I am yet to capture what I would call my masterpiece.
Returning to Ngong Hills about two years later was surely a beautiful experience for me. A reminder of how and where I started from with photography and a review of what I have learnt so far.
What did I learn from that first failure?
1. Things are not always what they appear to be in real life, compared to what is seen on TV or online. This is true in all areas of life.
Personally, I love good photos and I wanted badly to shoot some for myself. I just didn’t have the most basic knowledge to understand that the various professional photos I have seen online, took some level of training to attain. I needed some basic training to at least know my camera and how to control it. I learnt this with my first damaged photos.
2. Passion and love for what you do can create a beginning for you, but training will give you a deeper connection to your creative essence. I have seen this firsthand and I am still in the learning business.
3. Never be afraid of your little beginning. I love little beginnings and how they represent your first step into the unknown. I love challenges, personally. And if I am to add, I have the tendency to do what I was told not to do or what I hear people say is not possible, especially if I sense it’s the direction God wants me to go.
4. You are not in competition with anyone. Your life and your passion is yours and the mastery of both is your responsibility. Know that it’s ok to start small and to make mistakes, but do not remain small. And if you do want to compete, compete with the best, and if that, let it be for learning’s sake and not for showing how good or bad you are.
5. Look beyond what you see and you will never be limited in sight. Photography is about sight and the capturing of what is seen and so is every aspect of our lives. Never limit your possibilities.
6. Your worst photo could be someone else’s best. So do not beat yourself up nor swell up with pride. This is not just in photography. It’s about every aspect of life. You don’t know how much better you have become, until you see the beginnings of others. So watch beginners but learn from masters and stay humble.
7. Take a trip just for fun. I love Afrika, and she is very beautiful, so I will advise you go across Afrika. Explore and capture her diverse beauty.
If you would like to see the fruit of my journey so far, please visit www.aduaaya.com for free downloads. And if you want to share your photos of Afrika with us, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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Samuel Phillips is a writer, graphic designer, photographer, songwriter, singer and a lover of God. As an Afrikan content creator, he is passionate about creating a better image and positive narrative about Afrika and Afrikans. He is a true Afrikan who believes that the true potential of Afrika and Afrikans can manifest through God and accurate collaborations between Afrikans. Afrika is the land of kings, emperors, original wisdom, ancient civilizations, great men and women and not some road-side-aid-begging poor third world continent that the world finds joy in undermining.