by Peyton Hale
This year I was fortunate to come on board as an instructor for The Giving Lens (TGL), an organization founded by renowned international photographer Colby Brown. The idea behind The Giving Lens is to blend together travel, photo education, and the ability to give back to the communities we visit through the contribution of our time, cameras, and financial support to nongovernmental organizations in the countries we visit.
I’ve had the added benefit of watching The Giving Lens blossom from an idea to now seeing how that idea has matured into the organization it is now, delivering a positive impact its making through worldwide trips. From the beginning I have had an interest in being able to bridge photography and travel with making a lasting positive impact to the places we visit. Coming from a conservation oriented field of study, I’ve seen the power of images make a difference in species and land protection. Transitioning into a humanitarian focused organization was a new endeavor, but the same ideas are at the root of the cause – raise awareness and establish a sustainable, positive influence in the places our trips are focusing our efforts. The trips also have the reverse influence, making a lasting impact on both participants and leaders working with NGO’s around the globe.
My first excursion with TGL took me to the highlands of Peru, the flagship location that started it all in 2010. In Peru we have an established relationship with the Picaflor House Community Project, a non-governmental organization that exists for at risk Peruvian children to help them with everything from language skills, homework, and teaching them photography skills. The idea is to make a positive impact through the NGO to support the will to stay in school and make good choices moving forward, helping to break the cycle of poverty.
In my camera bag my go to setup is a Canon 5D Mark III along with a Sony A7R and various zoom lenses fit for my landscape shooting lifestyle. For this particular trip I was able to give the Sigma 24-105 f/4 Art lens a test drive. This lens’ accolades and focal range made it a perfect choice for a travel lens.. As primarily a landscape shooter, this lens was very appealing to me to be a potential replacement for my 24-70 lens but also as a versatile tool for shooting mixed subject matter. In my travels I’ve always been driven to chase landscapes, but coming on board with TGL I had to adapt to working with street scenes, portraits and urban and indoor environments.
Our initial days were spent exploring areas around Cusco and working with our NGO, the Picaflor House Community Project. The last few days of our Peru experience took us to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. For two days we visited the ruins of Machu Picchu and even climbed the mountain beyond the ruins, Huyana Picchu. The Sigma 24-105mm was a great addition to my camera lens lineup, giving me a large focal range with great image quality and optical stabilization. I really like the OS for walking around the streets of Cusco at night, allowing me to capture images in low light settings while keeping my ISO values within a reasonable range.
Peru was a spectacular experience from the cuisine and people to making kids smile while teaching them about photography. Latin countries are likely my favorite overall to visit because there is such pride among the people. My first international trip took me to Central America and has been the spark that has driven me to travel, so I will always find myself returning to those places throughout my life. I look forward to heading back to Peru in 2015 with The Giving Lens as well as future explorations around the globe.