Martin Best’s sometimes perilous travels have provided him with a wealth of photographic opportunities
I fell in love with photography the day I saw my father developing a black-and-white print. I was 11, and we were in Singapore at that time. I’ve been travelling most of my life, first as an Army brat and later, following a stint in the Metropolitan Police, during 23 years with the UN and more recently as a contractor to USAID. As a result I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph some amazing people and places.
My work has taken me to Kosovo, Liberia, Burundi, Afghanistan, Kenya and South Sudan, and working in postconflict countries has entailed
Working in post-conflict countries has entailed some hairy moments… standing on a mud flat next to a six-metre man-eating croc
some hairy moments: being way too close to an explosion in Afghanistan; playing Buzkashi (the chaotic Afghan national sport) in Kabul; bargaining (successfully) to keep my watch with armed kids in Liberia; and standing on a mud flat next to a six-metre man-eating crocodile in Burundi (of whom I’ll say more later!).
But having to leave a Lowepro bag containing two D800 bodies, a whole bunch of Nikon glass and a MacBook Pro next
to the runway in Juba, South Sudan is up there with the worst experiences. I was boarding a British Military evacuation flight five days before Christmas last year, and as we got onto the runway I heard the RAF crew shouting “No bags!”, so there was no option but to leave it behind. To my relief I was reunited with my gear when I returned to the city, thanks to the staff at the British embassy.
Until I left for South Sudan I’d been enjoying a relatively quiet three years in Kenya, which allowed me to spend some time doing what I love most: safari photography. Having gone there for the first time in 2002 as a welcome break from Kosovo, I’ve fallen in love with Kenya, and the Maasai Mara game reserve in particular.
Wildlife photography has always been my passion, but earning a living at it is hard, and with two daughters to support I couldn’t justify giving up my day job. But on the plus side that job enabled me to travel widely, and to amass some serious photography gear.
It was my daughters who encouraged me to put on my first exhibition here in Kenya, which was a success. But it was a call from National Geographic magazine in 2008 that really kick-started my photography career. My lifelong dream of getting published in the magazine came true when they used a shot I’d taken of Gustav, a man-eating crocodile in Lake Tanganyika who’s credited with taking at least 160 lives. Since then I’ve been getting photos published regularly.
I’ve spent months at a time in the Mara studying both the animals’ behaviour and the terrain, and having successfully negotiated the lease of a camp there I’m looking forward to running some serious photographic workshops and safaris (find out more at www. riversidecampmara.com). I’m a big cat lover, and I rarely go a day without sighting at least one leopard; along with elephants they’ll often come snooping around the camp… and the hippos have become such regulars that I’m thinking of charging them!
01 El ephant Sun set, Maa sai Mara Nikon F5, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/2.8, 1/500 sec, f/5.6, Fuji Velvia 100
02 Mal e lion , Nairob i Nat ional Park Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/2.8, 1/500 sec, f/3.5, ISO200