Bloody Nose

Thanks for all your emails on this particular photograph. No, Conor was not injured during a football game. Yes, he plays tackle football but he has never been injured. This photo was taken after excessive running in the heat and a spontaneous bloody nose. He has them often so we are both used to it.

He’s always such a great sport about having his picture taken and Conor was particularly pleased with this image because he said it made him look like “a bad ass.” (-:

I took this shot after being inspired by the fantastic JJ Watt. I used a Dragon Effect in PS for this shot. He is 9 years old. Thanks again for your emails and concern. C

Great Falls, VA.
Great Falls, VA.

National Geographic with Chris Minihane

This is Your Shot Calling: An Image in Her Mind

Dan Stone is an editor and writer for National Geographic Magazine, including the Your Shot page. He is also one-half of the Onward team where he reports on the unexplored, often from the other side of the world.

I had an old journalism professor who once told us that the best stories come from your brain—from your own questions and curiosities. It was a writing class, but I’ve often thought about that advice when it comes to photos. Certainly we all get lucky with a fortuitous shot, like catching a bolt of lighting or watching an owl attack its prey. But what about the deeply deliberative photo? The one that takes thought and planning and sufficient imagination to say something with just one image?

Take Chris Minihane, a Your Shot member who clearly knows how to take a photo. She can recognize good light and an arresting scene. She can set her camera settings and know when to leave the shutter open longer. All of that makes her a good photographer.

Yet as I often tell my friends, the best part of my job is that I get to hear the back stories. Each month, I call the winners for more context. “Why were you there,” I usually ask? “And what was happening right before you took this shot?”

And that’s when I realized Chris wasn’t just a good photographer, but an imaginative thinker and social advocate.

In 2002, Chris moved to Kenya, where she found a job with the United Nations. Kenya, like most of east Africa, suffers from common social disparities, including food access and transportation reliability.

As a writer, editor and photographer, Chris wanted to tell a more positive story of Kenya, a story showing the country’s hope and promise as its economy quickly grows. Specifically, she wanted to photograph the Maasai, East Africa’s largest tribe known for its bright-colored clothing. Using photography, she aspired to show the Maasai’s rich culture and history. “I tried to get a beautiful portrait of them that wasn’t just your average photo. I wanted to show how beautiful they really are, just laughing and being normal.”

The problem was, the images Chris had in mind were anything but normal. She imagined a few shots that would make her point: a Maasai boy flying a kite, a Maasai boy with a blanket against the sun. And her favorite, a Maasai boy riding a bike. It would be hard to imagine a more ambitious shot. The Maasai generally lived a few hours away by car. Places to photograph were difficult to find, especially with unknown people who would frequently interrupt photo shoots. Never mind that in the Ngong Hills near Nairobi, bicycles—and Maasai boys who knew how to ride them—were hard to come by.

Undeterred, Chris invited about four Maasai boys to live on her property. She paid them to watch the cows or help with other chores. Once a week, usually in the evening. she’d pile them into the car and go somewhere to shoot photos. She bought a bike and tried to teach them to ride (“they’d crash every time,” she says). While she waited for the perfect shot, she was constantly looking over her shoulder. A blond lady by herself can quickly become a target, she recalls. Ninety percent of the time she had to worry about when it would get dark.

There were other challenges too. Particularly the Maasai language, in which she only communicated through a series of translators. In the African bush, it’s hard to know when you’re on private land, which can lead to trouble. Then there were animals—big mammals like hyenas and small ones too. While she laid on her stomach once to take a photo, she felt safari ants, the type that can quickly overtake a human with pinprick bites, running across her stomach. She shouted for help but the Maasai boys, reluctant to touch a woman, just stood and watched as she ripped her shirt off.

We all have fantasies about living somewhere else, or what life would be like in a different climate or culture. But the way Chris actually did it—patiently submitting herself to both the joys and indignities of living somewhere foreign—there’s little wonder that she made it work. She went with an image in her mind and wouldn’t leave until she captured it.

Finally, one day just before dusk, when the sun was on the horizon and the hills were painted gold, she got the shot. One of the boys started riding the bike and stayed on just long enough to flash a big grin. Chris was on her knees, trying to notice the clouds and the light. Click. He came off the bike not long after. But the photo doesn’t betray that.

See more of Chris’ photos in her Your Shot gallery

Somali Girl in the Snake Village

Somali girl on the outskirts of the country. This photo gets a lot of questions regarding background on this photograph. Part of my mission was to document a small village that was losing a great deal of its population to a terrible snake infestation. The clever, yet unconventional answer came with the arrival of several dozen cats and a small room with anit-venom thanks to UNICEF. The casualties of of the village dropped by 50% within the first 3 months.

A young girl poses with the family goat
A young girl poses with the family goat

Mr. Grumpy Stripes

Mr. Grumpy Stripes has gained a lot of attention with the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award. This picture is taken as is, the lighting accurately represented with only a few water bottles cloned out. Thank you for all your emails and kind thoughts.

Rhino o the shores of Lake Nakuru
Rhino on the shores of Lake Nakuru

Maasai and the Kite

This photograph continues to get a lot of attention and a lot of emails with it. That is indeed Daniels first time with a kite and we spent the day flying it all over the place in the hills outside Nairobi. This particular photo has graced the cover of a book, several magazines and earned

Daniel flies a kite over the edge of the Ngong Hills.
Daniel flies a kite over the edge of the Ngong Hills.

a few awards internationally. Thanks for all your emails.

Rains over the Ridge

This photo receives a lot of emails, mostly asking for the location of the photoshoot and whether my son was flying his kite in a storm.

While it may look as if he is flying a kite in the middle of a storm, the truth is that the appearance is due mostly to angle and lens. The storm was about 20 miles away, but warm and sunny where we were flying the kite.

Thank you for all your emails on this photo.

Maasai Skirmish

I usually post this image as a favorite story behind the photo shoot since it is the most entertaining of the bunch.

One day while driving around on safari, I found a fantastic tree near a large mound in the middle of the bush and decided that I would return with Maasai and photo equipment when the weather was more dramatic for a photo shoot.

Well, the rainy season approached and I got everyone together on a stormy day to head out towards this huge tree in the middle of nowhere. As everyone set up on the mound (2 Maasai and 2 assistants) I stayed back a ways with my 200mm lens and began to sort out my tripod and set everything up.

When I next looked through my lens I could see a very large group of Maasai (approx 20) approaching my guys and judging by the body language and gesticulations I got a sense that all was not well.

I was just deciding whether to load up all my gear back into the car and drive to the mound when a large fight broke out between my guys and this large group of Maasai.

I couldn’t leave the car because I had my 3-year-old son in the back but as I watched spears being thrown and bodies being hurled, I knew I had to do something before my guys got totally trashed. So I took my handgun out from under my seat, pointed it in the air and shot off three rounds.

Well, before the third round was even released every single body had fled within a second to parts unknown. Even my guys took off and never did return to the car.

I decided to pack up and return home. In the morning I found the guys had returned early the next morning after having walked all night, nursing their wounds.

They had several lacerations and cuts that needed stitching but they insisted on binding the wounds themselves with ant pincers. So I handed them some sterilizing alcohol, which I’m sure they sold unused, and left them to their own devices.

Turns out the issue had been that the large group of Maasai did not want pictures taken of “their tree.” When told to bugger off by my guys they decided to attack with spears and knives. My guys said they didn’t know who was shooting so they did not go back to the car and made their way home over the mountains nearest the car.

They still have the scars to this day and love telling the story every chance they get.

Eggs all Day…

This image has won a lot of nature micro photo photography contests and I get a lot of mail about it, mostly to use it for one reason or another.  It was a very difficult shot, which I had to really focus on in order to get the shot before she finished laying her eggs. It turns out it took her most of the afternoon to do it.

This issue was two-fold: First, she was very shy in my presence and would turn her back to me every time I got close. The second was that there was a terrible wind and she was on top of a 4 foot nettle stalk which was whipping back and forth. I shot maybe 100 images. Only two turned out to be in focus. The area was very shady and dark and even with a reflector it was near impossible to capture in focus.

But sticking to it for the whole day paid off. They hatched a few weeks later. This particular photo graces 4 books.