Wildlife Photography Workshop In Kenya, September of 2017

From the 9th to the 20th of September 2017, we organized a wildlife photography workshop within the lands of Kenya in order to photograph the mythical African fauna as part of an exceptional itinerary tour. The participants were provided the opportunity to capture on camera elephants, lions, leopards, cheetahs, African buffalo, zebras, and hippopotami in addition to numerous and varying species of birds. Yet this journey was originally set as its underlying purpose to image the numerous stretches of magnificent African landscapes and virtually infamous horizons. It resulted in an outing away from well trudged tourist traps and onto offbeat passageways into a veritable immersion of Africa’s true heart and immutable nature.

The participants in this animal photography workshop in Kenya in September 2017: Agnes, Amar, Daniel and Gregory. On Lake Magadi. (Photo credit: Michel Laplace Toulouse)
The participants in this animal photography workshop in Kenya in September 2017: Agnes, Amar, Daniel and Gregory. On Lake Magadi. (Photo credit: Michel Laplace Toulouse)

A Voyage But Steps Away From Africa’s Animal Denizens

We chose to organize a trip itinerary which brought the participants from the shores of Lake Magadi, lying amongst the the walls of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, to the Nguruman Escarpment before finally arriving within the Maasai Mara National Reserve. At each point the day’s shelter was chosen for its proximity to the local wildlife or for its value in terms of landscape visual beneficial and of interest to the photographers. Traveling long and arduous paths on foot in order to reach the surrounding wildlife was rendered unnecessary.

For example, whilst traveling in the Maasai Mara, we were lodged very close to the shores of the Mara River not far from an important natural river crossing, one frequently visited by various species of land based mammalian life. For this exceptional trip, a certain number of participants even chose to make an awe inspiring flyby of the reserve by light air balloon so as to extend their photographic coverage of the region.

This outing was also destined to approach the Maasai people as close as humanly possible to their traditional ways of life. As a result whilst visiting the Shompole Conservancy, we resided not far from an actual Maasai village in which its people had actively chosen to deliberately inhabit a forgotten region of the nation so as to protect Kenya’s natural wildlife and fauna.

Imaging A Unique Biodiversity

For this workshop, the guests not only captured on camera the notorious big five of Africa, lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhinoceros, but also a majority of the observables birds and other land mammals inhabiting this region of the globe. Each and every day, thematic guidelines were chosen so as to realize these photographic vision as best as could be done.

Since weather conditions were quite moody throughout this time period and an unwarranted amount of rain was experienced, it was sadly made impossible for us to snapshot the infamous crossing of the wildebeests, yet these are, alas, the uncertainties of mother nature’s and Gaia’s temperaments.

A Solid Choice of Reputable Staff

. Throughout this long journey our group was accompanied by both an experienced chauffeur and trustworthy guide, both of whom stood as greatly knowledgeable of the region yet respectful and aware of their patrons and photographers needs in regards to its wildlife. The duo were efficient in their choice of stops so as to allow their passengers the best settings for photography and image capture as possible. One of our two guides was, in addition, a Francophile. His reputation is without question and he has been known to accompany various reporters from so of France’s most powerful and respected news channels, as well as those originating from the United Kingdom, the United States and, surprisingly enough, Japan. He has also been flagged for having worked alongside both photographers and cameramen originating from the National Geographic Society based in Washington D.C. of the U.S.A.

Some photos taken by the participants

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Testimonies of the Workshop – September 2017

Gregory Gregory.

My general impressions on this workshop of 13 days in Kenya are excellent. I came to this workshop to discover another facet of African fauna with you. I’d already participated in multiple of your previous workshops and was eager to once more gain access to your knowledge and advice.

However I did not focus solely upon animal and wildlife photography. I also caught on camera landscapes and ethnic images. It was what I wanted to do and I’m all the more glad for it.

I came along with you to Kenya because I wanted you to pass onto me your expertise as a professional photographer and advise me on my own photographic methods. Everything that I wished to achieve with my snapshots was reached. All of my objectives were attained. For example, I am very interested and intrigued by big cats; lions, leopards, cheetahs and the like. I wanted to create powerful and eye popping portraits. Once I encountered the lions I experienced some magnificent moments. Yet I also lived through other grand feelings and events whilst photographing the various landscapes. Thanks to your wise and practical counseling, I was able to capture nice pictures. Now I am aware of how to use the filters that I’ve bought thanks to your advice. I can honestly see their worth a will endeavor to make good usage of them within the near future. It’s just like the technique used in terms of the HDR. I will think of it as if it were a creative technique.

On the concerns relating to wildlife and animal photography, I now feel more assured on myself and my own skills. You communicated to me numerous tricks and techniques for capturing snapshots whom possess a realistic sense of visual impact. I’ve now got more tools at my disposal and tricks up my sleeve. From now on I’ll know how to better adapt myself to the varying and unpredictable situations which can crop up whilst in the field.

The encounters with the elephants and other animals were also very moving. We stand at the heart of Mother Nature’s savagery and beauty. We lived out in the middle of nowhere far from any and all of the west’s or modern world’s daily activities, far from their grasp and out of their reach. It was also for this type of experience that I came along on this trip. The decors which surrounded us throughout the entirety of our workshop sessions were both as calculated as they were beautiful. This enabled me to snap some fine images.

This workshop allowed me to progress. Thanks to all of your technical advice throughout these 13 days, I believe myself to have reached, and passed, an important milestone. You brought along your expertise and never ceased to doll it out. There were no secrets between us. It’s quite an important detail when putting it into context as photographers, both amateur and professional.

This journey was very interesting as it was a loop of Kenya’s southwest: Nairobi to Nairobi. The encounter with the Maasai villagers shall remain an interesting experience even though I am a wildlife photographer. I do not believe that I will experience many such moments throughout my lifetime. I preserve into memory the face of the Maasai herder guided his flock under the veil of magnificent colored lights.

This particular journey’s organization was very well thought out. It was a complicated one as the program was highly varied and quite dense. Yet I appreciated the effort that I avoided those areas already heavily visited and previously trodden. It was what we were looking for. I wanted to have a unique trip. Our goal was met.

Our guide was spectacular. He is a great connoisseur of the African fauna. We would explain to him what we desired and he would arrange things in such a manner that it could happen. He is an incredible individual.

I really appreciated the fact that you position the car in respect to the animals once they’re found by the guide. It was a precious and important detail. Since we were all within the same car, this allowed us to better understand how you worked and which details are important enough to take into consideration with respect to the outcome’s quality.

The accommodations were tents with whatever comforts necessary. Everything was swell. We ate quite nicely. The biggest advantage of the Maasai Mara’s lodge was that it, and therefore we, we located at the very center of the National Reserve. We were close to the animals and were only truly alone once a good distance away from the park’s various entrances.

If I had to save into memory a key moment of this workshop, it would be the instance where I was left alone with just you. The others had temporarily gone off on their own in a hot air balloon. We were looking for lions. The guide found 3. The lighting was divine. The encounter was awe inspiring. It was incredible as all of the conditions were perfectly reunited to capture the perfect photo: decor, lights and lions.

Agnes Agnes.

It’s my sixth trip to Kenya. I’m an unofficial resident of this region of the world as I’ve also gone to Tanzania and Nambia. This time I was caught off guard by the program: landscape photography, ethnic discovery and wildlife image capture.

My general impressions are positive in the context of your technical advised which permitted me to rapidly adapt to the differing situations of which we encountered all along our trek.

I enrolled in this workshop as I wanted to see a different side of Kenya. I must recognized that I was not disappointed on this issue. The stops were varied and the travel time by car between each break allowed me to discover this country. I found that the car trips were quite difficult due to the nature of the followed paths being in very poor shape. I really found myself being thrown around whilst within the car. Luckily the 4x4 was both spacious and comfortable.

In relations to the landscape photography, I regret that we did not have more time in the humid zone of the Shompole Conservancy. It was magnificent yet we only stayed a few hours. We spent some time amongst the trees of the arid zone. I shot some beautiful photographs yet I would have enjoyed staying a little bit longer for the sunset in the humid zone.

I regret also not having spent more time within the Maasai village. Three nights for this stop, it's just too short. I would have like to participate further in the inhabitants daily routines. I snapped some very beautiful captures with herders and their flocks. Your session with the women and children was well organized but I would have like to have done more.

For the wildlife and animal photography within the Maasai Mara, we had very particular conditions. Since I photograph in 600mm (Approximately 23.6 Inches) which is a long focal length, I was sometimes far too close. Yet each time you had the car back up. Each of us were able to realize the shots that we wished. But it is not easy in a group where every photographer has a different focal length than the others’.

The group’s ambiance was very nice. Having your own little group for such a trip is an advantage as it provides us with time and the ability to comfortably position yourself within the care. The guide was excellent and knew the region like the back of his hand, always aware as to where we had been, where we were headed and how to get there.

The overall organization was well handled. The accommodations were proper and correct except for one time under a tent that I in no way appreciated. I’m used to living in quite luxurious lodges and the like with all the comforts I need. I was a bit frustrated throughout this journey. However we were well within the center of the regions best to capture on camera.

If I had to preserve a positive memory of these 13 days of travel, it would certainly be the encounter with the Maasai. The photographs are magnificent, the ambiance was extraordinary. It’s a breach out of time.

Daniel Daniel.

My general impression are that this trip was dedicated to Africa’s wildlife and fauna and therefore every one of its moments were magnificent.

Throughout this trip there was both some good and some less good. The good was the encounter with the Maasai villagers at Shompole. We were far from the typical and cliché tourist traps of the region. I spent an invigorating time with some villagers who invited us with kindness and smiles. The run-ins with the domesticated flocks and their herders were extraordinary. The snapshots with the colored lighting and dust were truly magnificent. The Maasai Mara with all of its wildlife still remains a grand moment in my photographic career.

The admittedly less fun portion was the time spent traveling between Nairobi and Shompole. We lost quite a bit of time. I would have like to spend this time with the Maasai within their villages. I would have enjoyed sharing in the daily lives of these inhabitants.

Another point that I didn’t enjoy was the night spent at Magi Motto. It was one of our stops before arrive in the Maasai Mara National Reserve but I found it rather boring.

I’d already visited the Maasai Mara a few years back. Things have changed quite profoundly since then. During this month of September 2017, we were supposed to be smack dab in the middle of the dry season, yet the rain just wouldn’t let up. Everything is green. It’s very surprising. I had ingrained into memory herds of very significant size and numbers. Since food is abundant throughout this time of the year, these groups tend to disperse and therefore become more widespread. Our encounters with the local wildlife were very different. I personally found that there were an oddly large number of lions. I regret not having been able to see a good mix between zebras, wildebeests and buffalo.

During my first stay within the Maasai Mara, I had not been an informed photographer as I am today. Despite it all, I believe that this year, we had much more beautiful lighting and color schemes and far more beautiful backgrounds. We had clouds and rain whom purified the surrounding skies.

This animal photography workshop included a small group and that was a real plus. We were all seated in the same car. It’s quite clear to me that all of the advice you provided my enabled me to progress in a noticeable fashion. It’s my first animal photography workshop. I’ve completely changed the act in which I take my photos. It was a real boon to have you in the car and to provide us with the necessary information needed by us to realize or vision while on site. Without you, one out of every two of my shots would likely have been out of the recommended parameters.

It’s also without question that for photography concerning landscapes and ethnic shots, your technical settings and advice helped me quite a bit. I would never have thought to include the trees within my backgrounds as I did. Now I know better.

If I had to hold onto a specific memory of this trip, it would have been the return of a herd of livestock to the Maasai village at Shompole. That was a real discovery for me. In terms of a wildlife safari, I’ve already been to Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa and Kenya. This was nothing new. However the visit to the Maasai people was really an extraordinary moment for myself. The encounters were authentic. It was a real meeting between peoples and a true pleasure to capture on camera. The women even dressed up for the occasion.

This photography workshop was for me a real discovery in terms of artistic photography. The post treatment techniques that you imparted upon us will fundamentally alter the quality and impact of my images. I would never have guessed how much I was missing out on before your explanations and advice. There are some photos that I wouldn’t have necessarily held onto yet with your techniques, I see the interest in preserving them for now. I’ll have them made into prints.