Among Photographers: Africa’s wildlife in focus
Reinhard Radkes column on African wildlife
Repeatedly, the discussion comes up, whether tourism helps or damages parks. In the case of the Maasai Mara, presence and behavior of photographers is an issue: they are felt to be disturbing and sometimes insistent (of course it is always the other photographer, never ourselves).
But without the positive and financially supporting influences of tourists, the Mara area would today not be a protected preserve for wild animals. One should be careful about pointing fingers at visitors to the savanna, complaining about their presence as spoiling the scenery for photos. Obeying a few rules can make the difference and visits to the Maasai Mara an unforgettable experience.
The savanna is a photographer’s paradise. There is still a great diversity of species, from a variety of antelopes and gazelles, to cheetahs, lions, elephants and rhinoceros. Additionally, the open landscape offers everything to set the scene to photograph these animals. Here all the natural ecological interactions between the species are largely intact. Vegetation and animals still regulate themselves. Anyone coming to this archaic world feels like a witness to a pristine wilderness. To enjoy all that, with as little impact on wildlife and fellow visitors as possible, there are a couple if rules to be followed. And now and then it just needs a little empathy – for animals and humans!
There are few rules a photographer should be aware of:
Allow yourself enough time. Not even an experienced photographer makes great photos when he has too little time. Only with a great amount of luck can you have good results after only a day or two.
A telephoto lens is the basic requirement for successful wildlife photography, this assures that the animals won’t feel cornered.
Adjust yourself to being out from morning to evening and keep a respectful distance to the animals. Don’t just drive out at random. Well organized camps, like Matira Camp, offer tours with guides who best know the area, the park rules and the potential for good photos at specific spots
Don’t try to achieve too much: When you want enthralling cheetah photos, you shouldn’t expect to see hunting lions or young leopards all in the same week. Wildlife observation requires a great amount of time. Experienced guides keep a respectful distance to animals that they follow over longer periods of time.
Be tolerant with other photographers; you all have the same rights and responsibilities. Whoever pushes to the front and blocks the view for others, shouldn’t wonder that responsible guides may no longer give him information of the whereabouts of the animals. People harassing animals might even be banned from the reserve. Whenever possible, coordinate with other guests. Nothing is more irritating, than a single vehicle blocking the field of vision for all the other photographers.
Keep in mind: You are here as a guest in the savanna and share the responsibility for a sensitive ecosystem.
The photographer who heeds all this, and also teams up with experienced guides, will best utilize and enjoy the time spent in the reserve. In this way, you can take wonderful photos and also prudently protect the Mara’s environment.