This has been a week of two moods. I have been having the most incredible time in Kenya, combining everything that I love: travel, photography, reading, thinking about politics and the intersection of all four of these things. It has been such a beautiful trip. On the other side, the UK is in the midst of its latest political catastrophe, so I have still spent a decent amount of time reading the news, scrolling Twitter, writing a blog and talking about the situation at length with my family. I am a little sad that I’ve missed the bulk of the protests; had I been at home, I would have been out on the streets marching with my camera at every opportunity.
But instead, I was sharpening up my wildlife photography skills in East Africa, on a trip I’ll be reminiscing about for the rest of my life. We had the most awesome time in the Mara. While we’d already had a wealth of animal experiences, the Mara stole the show when it came to action, delivering no less than three kills. We saw a lion kill a zebra and then share the food with her two sisters and their six cubs, a crocodile pick off a wildebeest after a river crossing and two lions let a baby wildebeest run away from them to make the catch more fun. That’s the most special part of these wildlife experiences – watching nature interact, life and death, joy and sorrow. The euphoria of the little cubs tearing at the zebra was tempered by the sound of a distress call from another member of the striped herd, who kept bleating for over an hour as the nine lions tore apart their next meal.
I managed to get some good photos of these kills, partly through luck and partly through getting my settings sorted in advance and pressing the shutter as much as possible. You have to work fast and anticipate the predator’s next move. Often, these moments occurred in thick grass, so I needed to use the manual focus to get a sharp image. I know some photographers are less fussed about focus but personally I think a tight focus is one of the most important things to get right in a photo. I haven’t included photos of the kills below, because they are quite graphic, I have better pictures for this week and I’m planning to put together a whole post of these photos and stories sometime next month. So rest assured, there are no graphic pictures of dead animals down below (though there is one of a lion scoping out the wildebeest she hunted some minutes later).
Aside from watching animals chase and eat each other, we were able to see the crossings emblematic of the migration period, a lone leopard walk out across the path in a moment that actually made me shake with adrenaline, an absolutely obscene number of beautiful lions and endless herds of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, topi and other antelopes. We also saw elephants, giraffes and one of the park’s thirty-five rhinos. It goes without saying that these were breathtaking experiences.
After the Mara, we travelled to the Kenyan coast, to an area called Vipingo. Vipingo is home to a community conservation project on a section of the reef, created in response to years of overfishing. Now, the reef is flourishing, and we spent hours snorkeling through the coral and shoals of iridescent fish. I have, sadly, seen so much dead coral already, so it was great to see such a healthy reef full of a life, a testament to the power a decade of conservation can have on the natural world.
This was the first time I’d actually used my underwater setup, you know, underwater. Up until this point, I had played around with my camera and case in the ocean, but the churning British coast has no visibility to speak of (and very little to see), so I hadn’t taken any photos of actual underwater life. In Vipingo, I was able to photograph fish (so many fish), coral, eels, sea snakes, incredible starfish and clownfish peeking out of their anemones. The underwater camera and case worked perfectly! I spent plenty of time figuring out how best to use the focus, zoom and natural light underwater as I was floating around, and I am thrilled with the results. Jake and I are taking a diving trip in November and I cannot wait to take photos deep underwater.
This may well be as good as Get Snappy ever gets. What do you think? Which picture is your favourite?