A conservationist’s global journey from Stroud

From Stroud to Namibia, you could be excused for thinking that photographer Morgan Cardiff’s life has taken an unconventional path. 

Inspired by his mother’s garden, the former Gloucester High School student is currently in the final stages of completing a Natural Resource Management masters degree in Munich and Montana as an environmental scientist. It is part of a journey including Nicaragua in Central America, where he met South African Dave Chamberlain, the subject of Morgan’s acclaimed film project ‘The Penguin Runner”.

“Dave Chamberlain was my scuba diving instructor [in Nicaragua],” Morgan said.

“He was talking about running the length of Argentina... We kept in contact, and he did then run the length of Argentina. Following this I was in Germany and he contacted me to ask if I wanted to travel to Namibia and shoot some photos for him. He was now about to run 2700km through the desert, solo, unassisted, and on a liquid only diet (logistical reasons) to raise awareness for the African Penguin.”

The run from Namibia to South Africa was in aid of Bird Life South Africa. 

“He told me there would be a 4WD parked in Walvis Bay, call this guy once you land, he will pick you up, take you to the land cruiser, buy everything you need for a month at the camping store, then come and find me,” he said, adding that prior to this he had never set foot in Africa and had not seen Dave for two years.

Fortunately Morgan did eventually find Dave and ended up spending almost five weeks with him. Struck by how “articulate, interesting and fascinating this dude was”, he decided to shoot a series of interviews to accompany his photos.

“Namibia is one of the most amazing places I have ever been, incredibly hostile, most days were 45 degrees plus, and Dave was covering distances of 50km plus, including one day.. where he ran 89km in one day. It was really quite remarkable and an incredible off the path experience. We spend most nights camping by the side of the road, I remember waking up one morning to a herd of about 100 zebras all drinking from a water hole about 100 metres away. There were also tough days... where temperatures hit 47 to 48, with not an ounce of wind,” he said.

On his return to Germany, Morgan taught himself editing from You Tube, and “many frustrating months later” ended up with 'The Penguin Runner'. Billed as ‘one individual’s seemingly domination of what many would consider a feat far too great to achieve’, the film has scored official selections in seven film festivals in Europe and South American, much to Morgan’s amazement and pride. 

“These festivals, in particular the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival in the UK, have been instrumental in the networking opportunities, contacts and friends I have made since.”

He has since completed another project ‘West to the Sea’ with Dave, who is now planning a circum-navigation of the globe next year. Morgan also spent two months last year on the Great Plains of the American Prairie Reserve. 

“Rehabilitating grasslands is a lesson in all things biological, social and economic... It’s a life lesson in patience, perseverance and the importance of collaborations and working with others, often with a totally different agenda. If we are to effectively manage and conserve these areas we must communicate and develop concepts where economics and conservation do not work against each other. It starts by getting people out into the environment to experience it,” he wrote.

And for the future?

“I would like to come home for a while.”

That’s if he can fit it in.

To see more of Morgan's images, go to www.rhysmorganimages.com/ or www.instagram.com/rhysmorgan_images/