Postcards from Lesotho

In Postcards From... by David13 Comments

After 2 weeks in the highlands of Lesotho I’m back in Johannesburg for a couple days to wash the dust off and get the bumps massaged out before beginning the long journey home. The highlight this morning was waking up in a bed that was not my sleeping bag, and getting a cup of coffee that was not powdered Nescafe. But I’d do it all again (and will!) for the experience I just had.

The last two weeks in Lesotho (look at a map of South Africa. See the donut hole in the south-east? That’s the Kingdom of Lesotho) were among the purest travel experiences I’ve ever had. I don’t know of another way to put it. I traveled with two friends, one functioning as my producer, the other as my fixer. The latter spent 3 years living in Lesotho and knew the language and the communities in which we traveled, making an otherwise impenetrable country much easier. For fourteen days we hiked through villages, took horses into valleys, and drove the Land Rover through high mountain passes, all to connect with, and photograph, the balisana (pronounced badisana), the shepherds of the highlands of the mountain kingdom. The word “epic” got used a lot, never in exaggeration. We saw no tourists, and no NGO workers, both normally so ubiquitous in Africa.

The shepherds are a fascinating culture all their own and this is, I hope, the start of a long term project to photograph them. We spent time with them in all weather – arriving in Lesotho to a foot of snow and a blizzard, and leaving the country in heat and sunshine – and photographed them doing everything from watching their flocks to shearing them and going to church on Sunday to dance their hearts out. I can’t wait to go back.

Here are a few of the photographs from the trip. If you’re on my mailing list and getting The Contact Sheet, you’ll get a more robust PDF monograph that represents a better first peak at this work. I’ll send that out once I’m home and have a moment to put it together.

Not on my mailing list? Get The Contact Sheet by going to and downloading my short eBook with the un-necessarily long title: 20 Ways to Stop F*cking Around With Your Camera and Make Better Photographs Without Buying More Gear. That will automatically give you a subscription to The Contact Sheet and get you the first real look at all my new work as it comes out, as well as articles I don’t post elsewhere about the craft of photography. Of course it will also get you a nice-looking updated version of my original eBooks, Ten and Ten More, with my thanks for letting be part of your creative life.

Huge thanks to Andre, from Focal Change, and our very capable friend and fixer, Eric Noseworthy, for this incredible adventure. This assignment was meant to happen 2 years ago but got postponed when I threw my back out 2 days before I was meant to get on a plane. Thanks for your faith in me, and for your patience!

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  1. Magical and often mystical. Thank you for the Christmas present David.

    I can’t wait to get a really professional camera and to go somewhere interesting so that I can take such shots! Just kidding David. I’m with you – it’s the eye and heart, not the box and location that permits the capture of such images.

    Thank you for sharing your eye and heart.

  2. David, you work and your writing are non-stop inspirational. Thanks for calling us (me) to be better photographers…better artists. Hope you don’t mind, I shared a link to your blog in an online photo group consisting of some darn good shooters, who I am sure will benefit from plugging into your work and writings.

  3. Really FABULOUS photos David! The light is incredible and it’s great to see a photo of you looking so happy!
    Sure would love to be able to see your exif data on these!

    1. Author

      Thanks, Rory. I’m curious: In what way do you think the EXIF would help you? You can probably guess, even roughly, what the focal length, shutter speed or aperture might be. The more interesting (and probably helpful) question is probably: why did I make these choices instead of others. Interested to hear your thoughts.

  4. I can understand your feelings about Africa! I lived in Zambia in the 70’s and I loved it immediately. I have not been to Lesotho, so thank you for sharing these evocative images of the shepherds and their lives.

  5. These images are all so beautiful. Thanks for sharing and cannot wait to see more.

  6. Thanks for your boldness in going and for your generosity in bringing us along through your stories and photos.

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