It will be hard to do justice to the past week with words or photos, but I’m going to try. We have had the most beautiful week visiting and camping in remote parts of Kenya’s breathtaking national parks, finding lions, zebras, elephants, rhinos, hippos, buffalos, giraffes, a cheetah and a phenomenal number of different species of birds, antelope, lizards and insects. It has been incredible.
By now, it’s probably clear that I’ll have plenty to say about this trip. I want to write about the implications of being a privileged white family travelling in Kenya, the notion of ‘wild’ animals, our experiences visiting various elephant conservation efforts across the country, and more. But my plan is to write these blogs in September, after we’re back in the UK. This post is about photography, as per usual.
Over the past week, I have taken 4000 photos, of which I have selected and edited over 600. Usually, 100 photos will yield 4-5 for my Get Snappy post, so you can see that this is a lot. Kenya’s wildlife viewing is a photographer’s paradise and just know that for every photo below, there are at least twenty more photos I wanted to share too (and will be sharing in blogs over the coming weeks). I am so happy crouched on top of a Jeep, camera in hand, waiting patiently for an elephant to flap its ears or for a baby lion to sneak up on its sibling to play. It’s such a privilege and a joy to watch animals in their natural habitat, especially when you get to see family groups interacting, like watching a baby elephant learn to slurp up water from a pool or watching a lioness guard her injured sister. Every animal family has its own dynamics, its own behaviour and its own bonds. I’ve loved it all.
While I have loved photographing all the animals, from grouchy buffalos to skittish impalas, I think zebras have to take the top prize as most photogenic. I cannot get over the contrast of the black and white stripes against both each other and the landscape. I have taken literally hundreds of zebra photos and I love them all! What beautiful animals.
Aside from the zebras, catching lions in various states of play is both a challenge and a joy. On our last day or so in Tsavo East, we came across a large pride of lions, including five or six cubs. Two of the more inquisitive cubs were playing right by our car, resulting in over an hour of perfect time watching and photographing these two stunning baby lions. We captured them pouncing on each other, rolling around together and goading the adult lions into wrestling matches. It is hard to take sharp photos when the movements are so rapid, especially as the sun was setting and the light was fading fast, but when it came together, the results were awesome. We also had a few moments of watching lionesses breastfeeding their cubs, which is an incredibly tender and moving thing to witness.
Obviously, there is a lot of luck and skill needed for wildlife photography. Luck because the animals can be anywhere, doing anything, and for them to be close enough and still enough for long enough to snap a good photo involves a lot of good luck. If the light is good, even better (and even luckier). But there is a solid amount of skill too: the standard stuff like knowing how to compose a powerful photo, getting the settings right and being patient, along with the more specific stuff about appreciating animal behaviour well enough to take touching images. There’s nothing quite like the moment a lion looks you straight in the eye (well, lens) and you press the shutter.
Aside from the animals, one of my favourite discoveries of the whole trip is that in Kenya there are blue trees. WTF. Seriously, there are pictures below – amongst the red dust and dried out branches there are vivid blue trees. I could not cope. I must have taken hundreds of photos of these trees alone.
I’m writing this from a tiny plane, flying to the Maasai Mara for the next few days, before heading down to the coast near Mombasa for some snorkeling and beach time. I hope you all enjoy the wildlife photos below. You can look forward to many, many more over the coming weeks!
Here are this week’s photos. What do you think?!