Be­hind the lens

The swel­ter­ing plains of the Maa­sai Mara are teem­ing with all kinds of life, but cap­tur­ing it in all its glory can be in­cred­i­bly chal­leng­ing

World of Animals - - Contents -

Ex­pe­ri­ence the beauty and chaos of the Maa­sai Mara with pho­tog­ra­pher oliver Smart

Ev­ery­one wants to go on sa­fari. Why wouldn’t you? For me, I wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence the Maa­sai Mara, where drama, beau­ti­ful light, won­der­ful an­i­mals and ul­ti­mately some great me­mories are to be found. It took years to find the right pack­age, and I de­cided to fo­cus on the wildebeest mi­gra­tion in Septem­ber as my tar­get maiden ex­pe­ri­ence.

Our nav­i­ga­tion across the grass­land plains was by ve­hi­cle: scan­ning, sit­ting and watch­ing for ar­eas where wildebeest may cross the river. It is fas­ci­nat­ing ob­serv­ing the tac­tics and of­ten the panic of an­i­mals cross­ing the Mara River over many hours, and it is a very hard story to con­vey. If it were not for the lack of a mu­sic score you’d think you were in a wildlife doc­u­men­tary! Pa­tience, knowl­edge of the sub­jects and the en­joy­ment of just be­ing there make it one of the best wildlife ex­pe­ri­ences of all time.

Cap­tur­ing in­trigu­ing and in­for­ma­tive images of the mi­gra­tion can be tricky. In this par­tic­u­lar im­age I wanted to con­vey a sense of move­ment and may­hem. Wildebeest want a leader, one an­i­mal to take charge. Un­for­tu­nately, of­ten their de­lay in cross­ing only en­cour­ages the Nile croc­o­diles to form an im­pen­e­tra­ble wall, mak­ing it even more dan­ger­ous for them. They panic and charge from the wa­ter’s edge in a stam­pede that kicks up dust as the masses head for higher ground. This is the chaos I wanted to cap­ture in this shot.

To cre­ate images like this use a slow speed (1/20th sec­ond in my case) to al­low the shut­ter longer to take the ex­po­sure. This cre­ates nat­u­ral blur. Keep your cam­era as still as pos­si­ble, and be pre­pared that it may take prac­tice and in­deed a lit­tle bit of luck for the per­fect com­po­si­tion and amount of blur you de­sire to come to­gether. It will add a com­pli­men­tary per­spec­tive to your port­fo­lio and ex­pe­ri­ence of the Maa­sai Mara.

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