African ad­ven­tures

Martin Best’s some­times per­ilous trav­els have pro­vided him with a wealth of pho­to­graphic op­por­tu­ni­ties

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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.

Kenya call­ing

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

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