Reflection from a Photographer Volunteer Manager
Nick volunteered as a Volunteer Manager Photographer in South Africa from June to August 2023, where he had the opportunity to capture many incredible moments from the Raleigh Expedition while experiencing life on two projects and an incredible trek. Here he shares insight into life as a Volunteer Manager and his top tips for other Raleigh Photographers.
What were your motivations for signing up for a Raleigh Expedition?
I am in my early 20’s so I felt like now is the time for me to do something a bit crazy. I wanted something that would let me see the world, to help me in my own personal development and also hopefully create a positive impact where I was going.
Being 24, I could have gone as a volunteer. But I am a photographer by trade, so you know, why not go and do the Expedition but also offer my skills and services as a photographer? I thought it would be beneficial for Raleigh and also for myself. I’m a freelancer at the moment, so I felt this was my chance to seize an opportunity like this.
Tell us about your experience as a Volunteer Photographer
As Photographer you work to a brief for Raleigh. You want to be capturing volunteers working and socialising, capturing Raleigh activities and the interactions between volunteers and locals in the community. You cover a really broad range of the Expedition so that not only can Raleigh utilise the photography for social media and their website, but also for the volunteers to take home memories as well. It’s a very important role for that.
As the Photographer you’re constantly keeping an eye out for good moments and capturing as much as you possibly can. You don’t really switch off until you go into your tent and put your head down for the night. You’ll be wanting to keep your camera by your side because something really cool could happen at any moment.
What were some of the coolest moments you got to capture on your Expedition?
Everything on trek! There were definite highlights, like when we got to the the top of the viewpoint and we could see where we’d trekked over the previous eight days. You could see Raleigh Fieldbase, all the game reserves and up round the mountains. We took group photos there and the mood was very high there because we reached the physical summit.
On the community project it was really nice to see the fruits of our labour being enjoyed. We built a playground from nothing and to cut the ribbon to open it, it was just the best feeling ever. It was the culmination of all our efforts.
And then on environment, there are so many insane interactions with animals. We were in camp one day and elephants walked through. We got on the roof of the toilet and sat there for an hour watching the elephants. Every interaction with the animals was totally amazing.
How do you think joining as a Photographer has benefited you professionally?
It’s massively boosted my portfolio. I’ve got so much now that I can show, so many images of people and incredible interactions. It’s been a dream of mine to become a wildlife photographer for a good number of years, so having that boosted is also incredible. It’s so helpful for the future.
Having my photos used by Raleigh International is also fantastic exposure. To be able to direct anybody to the gallery on the website and say that imagery is mine is really cool. And for anyone to go online see my pictures and decide that they want to do Raleigh from that, that’s a good feeling.
What tips would you give to any future Photographers joining an Expedition?
Bring stuff to clean your lenses as it gets quite dusty. Bring plenty of batteries as well. If you can, bring a laptop or a tablet to edit your images on the fly. If you’ve not done much photography prior, get used to your camera beforehand. Learn how to use your camera and just take as many pictures as you possibly can while you’re there, because otherwise those moments will pass you by.
How did you find your other responsibilities as an Expedition Volunteer Manager?
When I arrived VM training was a lot to learn and get through. They were pretty intense days, but those lessons were really valuable and we really utilised what we learnt in training during projects.
I’m quite comfortable doing photography, but I wasn’t sure how I would manage as a Volunteer Manager too. I have got a bit of leadership experience through things like being a Scuba Dive Master, but I didn’t know how whether these 17 to 24 year olds would respect me or listen to what I said. But I really, really enjoyed it and I think I took to it quite well.
I found that the best way to manage them was to just to get stuck in and help the volunteers do what they needed to do. You’re there ultimately to support the volunteers and you’re there to help them achieve what they’re trying to achieve. So you have to help them in their projects and not hinder them in any way.
How has Raleigh changed you?
I feel I’ve gained loads of new skills. I pushed me to like the limit, like on trek, and now I know what I’m capable of. And I feel like it’s given me the tools to face life and take on anything. I don’t think that there’s much that I wouldn’t be able to do now.
To anyone considering a Raleigh Expedition: Go for it, you won’t regret it. Do it and you’ll have lifelong memories, you’ll have an amazing experience and you’ll meet amazing people. Just go for it!