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
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.