As things progress, I find that more and more of my time is spent on the most evocative continent of them all; Africa. If you are looking to produce images with power and majesty, these countries can really provide the perfect canvas. In comparison to photographing in the UK, you are presented with more opportunity to be surrounded by wildlife the majority of the time, however the same rules of photography apply. You must still look for those little moments of magic, where the lighting is either beautiful or moody, or where the particular animal you are spending time with strikes the perfect pose or portrays an interesting characteristic. In this blog I wanted to keep you up to date with a few of my favourite images from my last few safaris to Kenya.
I believe my favourite big cat to see is a Leopard. The stealth, power and beauty cannot be matched. However, I think my favourite big cat to photograph would be the Lion. Here you can really generate powerful imagery with arguably the most iconic mammal in Africa. Whilst working in the Masai Mara back in December 2015, my main focus was Lion. One of the images I was looking for within this few weeks was a male Lion walking directly down the barrel of my lens. I have been close to achieving this on many occasions but up until this point my images always lacked intensity. I was looking for intense and piercing eye contact, and a foot position which showed movement. This is now one of my new favourite pieces titled ‘View To A Kill’.
The second image which I was looking for from this safari was a full head portrait of a male Lion. When I am on location it is important for me to have goals/images to work towards and visualise what is going to look great as a fine art print on somebody’s wall. I imagined with the right lighting and intensity, the image as seen below in a large frame would look great. This image was surprisingly difficult to actually execute. Again, I needed the eye contact to be 100% looking down my lens and the image to be symmetrical. This portrait in my opinion is of one of the best looking Lions in the Mara; ‘Ceasar’.
Whilst working towards this specific portrait, there were many occasions where I was in close proximity to this group of Lions. Within every sighting there is a possibility for an image, whether the Lion is completely at rest or whether the big cats are active and hunting.
One of the dangers with African photography is that if you do not have an objective, you tend to get caught up with trying to photograph all of the animals under the sun in one trip. It is impossible! For me this dilutes the quality of the work and I find it much more constructive to work with one animal at a time. For this reason, my next focus would be to photograph arguably the second most iconic animal on the continent, the Elephant; the largest land mammal on the planet. My work started on these beautiful animals in two different areas of Kenya, both Amboseli and the Mara.
I was looking to focus on images which showed the size and power of these mammals but also the incredible texture within their skin.
One of the reasons I choose East Africa to work in is for the setting it provides. The open savannah gives a perfect backdrop for simple and delicate imagery. With empty foregrounds and backgrounds, this really focuses the viewers attention on the subject.
Arguably the hardest animal to photograph is the Giraffe in terms of composition. It can be very difficult to avoid tension points when photographing Giraffe as they are so long and gangly. Typically either the horizon will cut through the subject at an awkward point, or there will be a distracting piece of shrubbery or landscape within the image. Two ways to avoid this is either to be very close to the Giraffe, so that you are left with a clean simple portrait of the head, or to be far away enough that the horizon does not cut through the knees of the animal. The second Giraffe image here is titled ‘Standing Small’ and is one of my best selling prints over the last few months.
Sometimes the light is enough to pull an image together. The particular image was taken as the storm clouds parted to reveal the sun for a matter of minutes before the rain started again. In December the lush vegetation can add more vibrant colours to your imagery.
As I mentioned previously, the Leopard is my favourite of the cats to witness. With my last few trips to Kenya I have been fortunate to photograph a few different Leopards during the day and away from the thickets. This provides a much more simple background and the focus can be purely on the subject itself.
It is not long until I return to Africa, leading my Zambian Photographic Safari to Kafue in September. In 2017 I am continuing to work in East Africa on my own projects whilst running serval trips both to the Mara on behalf of Natures Images and to photograph the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda/Rwanda.