We had just passed one of the main gates into Kenya’s Masai Mara national park, driving for not more that 10 minutes, when our driver suddenly stops as he notices this beautiful male leopard relaxing in a tree at around 100 metres distance or so. So, time to bring out my Nikon D850 with the 600mm f/4, put it on the side of our Toyota Land Cruiser and start our 7-day adventure in the Mara.
Earlier, I had spent months looking for a local travel agent who specializes in photography: there’s a whole list of requirements I had laid down in order to create the best conditions for a successful safari photography trip. There must be hundreds or more tour operators inside and outside of Kenya offering safari trips and most of them will cater for the ‘general safari tourist’. You’re most likely to end up in a minivan or Land Cruiser packed with other tourists armed with pocket cameras or mobile phones… Instead, I made it clear from the beginning I wanted to stay away from the tourists (yes I know I’m one as well…) which called for a relatively small (tented) camp, that I was looking for a driver/guide skilled in both spotting wildlife and who understood the basic principles of photography, and that I was focused on finding big cats. A couple of years earlier I had visited Tanzania’s Serengeti and the only cheetah I’d been able to spot was one at the horizon; this time I had set my sights on the big cats – cheetahs, leopard, lions and basically any predator out there with teeth!
But like with any (wild)life/nature photography trip: nature will ultimately decide for you your own unique experience. Over the course of the week we encountered lions (& cubs), cheetahs, hyenas (& cubs), more zebras then I had ever seen before, elephant, hippos, crocodiles, baboons, cape buffalos, giraffes and… one (1) leopard, on the first day of our trip, just after entering the Mara. Each day is a surprise in the Mara: you expect to see a lot and see almost nothing, and you expect nothing and see almost everything. This is what makes the Mara so special. As my driver used to say: “Mara never disappoints”. It’s the journey that creates your own adventure.
Over the coming weeks I’ll start adding my images to this blog and I’ll probably also experiment a little with some needed changes to the look & feel of the site. So if you see anything strange… it’s all under control (well, hopefully). And while I post my images and war stories, I’ll also focus on the context of a ‘photography safari’: what does travel & transportation look like on a safari trip, what should you consider in terms of gear – both camera gear and supportive materials (e.g. camera bags), what about settings for shooting – beanbags vs. hand-held vs. tripod etc. etc.
And lastly, the very positive experience I’ve had with my carefully selected local Kenya tour operator has made me consider organizing a similar safari trip in the near future for a small group of photography enthousiasts. For many other (commercial) photographers (which I’m not), hosting trips and workshops is a key business activity and source of income. For me, it would simply be the opportunity to embark on a similar adventure as the one I’ve experienced recently and to be able to share some of the (hard) lessons-learned over the past decade. So if the stories and images strike a cord in the coming weeks… drop me a note at at: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll take it from there!
The journey begins…