New Year’s resolutions are all well and good but how many actually last longer than a week, let alone have the ability to change your life?!
About three years ago I discovered ‘Morning Pages’ after it was mentioned in one of Tim Ferris’s brilliant books (can’t remember which one it was now) and it’s made such a huge difference to my life I thought I would share it with anyone that cared to read about it here.
THE BIG IDEA
The idea is that each morning you sit down with a notebook (and a coffee) and just write three pages (longhand) of whatever is in your head. It can be anything, from something that is bugging you, something you would like to achieve or an idea you have had, plans for the day, aspirations, etc – it is a stream of consciousness poured out onto the page.
Literally anything, just sit and write.
Sounds crazy but trust me it is absolutely amazing!
I have come up with many of the ideas for so many of my personal photography & filming projects this way, it has helped me work out what to do in situations where someone or something is causing me issues and it’s an amazing way to start each day, almost feels meditative and leaves me feeling very calm and productive.
In the words of the creator of the concept, Julia Cameron: ‘Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.’
Julia Cameron first wrote about Morning Pages in her seminal book – ‘The Artist’s Way‘ and while the book is aimed at those in the creative industry, Morning pages can, and does, work for anyone.
I’ve read loads of self-help/creativity/business books but nothing comes close to the changes that doing Morning Pages (MP) can make to your life. It shuts out the noise, lets you have coherent thoughts and work them through as you write them out on the page. The idea of doing MP first thing in the morning is that it allows you to focus before you wake up too much and start overcrowding your thoughts with all the stuff you need to get done (and it minimises disturbances from phones, etc). It is also said to prevent ‘the ego’ from getting involved.
As Julia Cameron says – Morning Pages isn’t for anyone else’s eyes, in fact once I have written them I have never gone back to re-read what I wrote although I do now add a section at the bottom of each page titled ‘Action Points’ where I list things that I need to do to ensure the ideas I have had that morning can become a reality. Sometimes the action points can be as simple as ‘Create a project planning document’ or ‘Phone my brothers today for a chat’ but other times I have come away from one morning’s writing with 14 different action points to take in order to get a project rolling. It’s like having a brainstorming session with yourself.
One thing Morning Pages has made me realise is that most of the answers to questions I have or problems I am going through are already in my head, I just need to give it the space to think out loud (in writing) and I can come up with the solutions over my morning coffee. The simplicity and power of this process has to be experienced to be believed.
HOW TO DO MORNING PAGES
I have the same routine every morning – wake up, head downstairs, put the kettle on, open the curtains, feed the cats, make a coffee and then sit down at the breakfast bar with my Moleskine notebook and a smooth-writing pen and just write.
I think it’s important to have a notebook that you will enjoy writing in so having tried various brands I always come back to Moleskine. They come in a range of coloured covers, the paper is pleasant to write on (cheaper notebooks can have scratchy, cheap paper), a built in bookmark, elastic to keep them closed, a slim pocket at the back and some stickers to label them. I find the A5 sized, ruled notebooks best. I get mine on Amazon here.
My favourite pens for the last few years have been the Uniball Signo Gel Grip pens (0.7mm tip), I buy them by the box-load from Amazon in blue and black here.
One other useful accessory is an elastic loop to keep the pen with the notebook, the best value option I have found is the pack of 5 on Amazon again here.
…and then I just take in the silence and write. Sometimes it’s a struggle to know what to write so I just write about what I’m planning that day, the weather, etc and after a bit of a ramble I find my flow and I’m off – developing ideas, working through problems, writing about hopes and dreams and how I can work towards achieving them. It may take a couple of attempts at doing morning pages to get into the way it works but once you find what works for you there’s no stopping! After finishing my morning pages I definitely have a sense of calmness, order, purpose, determination and creativity, I feel centred, grounded and ready to take on the day.
I’m told doing Morning Pages can also work wonders with calming anxiety too. If something is bothering you – pour it out onto the paper, I find once it’s out of my head I can move past it. It’s like therapy without needing a therapist!
DON’T HAVE TIME?
Well make time! Get up 45 minutes earlier, and don’t rush your Morning Pages, the key is to taking your time, let the words come to the page, you can’t force it. Once you get into the pages and begin to understand their (your) power you will find these could be the most important and productive 45 minutes of your day, every day.
This guy, Chris Winfield has also written a blog about the amazing power of Morning Pages and how to do them, well worth a read as he’s put it better than I could and it’s all very clearly laid out.
Please let me know if you do give Morning Pages a go and the differences it makes for you. I have found it to be so instrumental in driving my life forward on every single level that I just didn’t want to keep it a secret. Everyone should know and do Morning Pages, collectively the world would be a better, more positive, more productive, happier place!
I recently had the privilege of making a film for well-known local artist Sam Thomas (check out his amazing paintings here) and mentioned to him about Morning Pages. Sam totally ran with the idea and says “It’s quick & simple but gives you a key focus. The fact that you do it each and every day means your focus is tuned in to how you are feeling. I am so onboard with Morning Pages and find it useful”
Enjoy the journey, you’ll never look back!
I’ve recently just completed a short film which documents my 2020 here on the North Norfolk coast. While the pandemic does get a brief mention this isn’t about that at all, it’s about the ever changing seasons, the landscape and the wildlife that make North Norfolk so special to me.
From snorkelling on the Norfolk chalk reef to fishing for mackerel, catching brown shrimp, collecting samphire, sailing in the saltmarsh creeks with the Coastal Exploration Company and filming the Force 11 storm. This film showcases my favourite places on the North Norfolk coast including Blakeney Point, Cromer, Sheringham, Wells-Next-The-Sea, Morston, Cley and much more.
With a narration to explain the various events and scenes I hope you will find this an entertaining snapshot of what makes North Norfolk such a unique place.
It’s been an eventful week round here with very destructive 70mph winds causing a fair bit of destruction all along the North Norfolk coast. Hundreds of trees were blown down, Blakeney Point saw previously unseen numbers of (unoccupied) moored boats being capsized and/or sunk and we had some seriously large waves battering the beaches. Luckily it was during neap tides so there was minimal flooding, if this had hit during a flood tide then we could have seen serious tidal storm surges which could have been much worse.
Before the storms hit we had a call-out on the lifeboat at 2am on Thursday morning to a yacht which had intentionally run aground off Salthouse. With 4 persons on board they had lost engine power and with the storm imminent and a moderate swell the skipper made the wise choice to run the yacht aground rather than trying to battle on. By running the boat up the shore the skipper got his crew off the boat onto the beach before leaving himself. Along with the coastguard shore teams we managed to locate them and they were taken in at a local pub and managed to get warm, dry & fed. The skipper’s swift actions that night saved the lives of all on board.
The next morning the swell had dropped and we had a small window before the huge storms were due to hit to see if we could still rescue the yacht. I collected the skipper and one of his crew from the pub and we drove back to Salthouse to check the state of the yacht and see if we could find someone with machinery able to pull the 12 ton vessel far enough up the beach to get her clear of the forecast 12ft swell and Force 11 northerly which was due to hit that night.
Sadly when we arrived the boat was already being battered by 3-4ft waves which, while not very big, were rocking the boat violently making it very dangerous to get near so there was no way we could have safely got a rope attached. We could also see that some of the hull planks had already come loose and the boat had taken on quite a lot of water. With the tide coming in all we could do was try to salvage some of the bits that were being washed back into the beach while the rest was floating off in a slick of wood & plastic on the flood tide towards Sheringham. I’ve since spoken to local fishermen who were off that morning and saw the deck roof & all sorts of other debris come floating past them while they were hauling their pots.
We arrived at 10am (above top left) and by 10:55am (above, bottom right) the boat was in pieces, it was heartbreaking to see, I really felt for the skipper who had spent the last 3 months renovating her for his father as a lockdown project.
Later that afternoon I headed back to see if I could salvage any other bits for the crew and all that remained were the engine (below) and the mast in a horrendous tangle of rigging. I managed to recover a couple of brass portholes, some tackle from the rigging and the first mate’s Macbook, battered & full of saltwater but at least he had it back in his possession now.
On Friday I decided to head out with a camera to film the extreme weather, with the rain lashing down and sea spray filling the air I took the precaution of putting the camera in the underwater housing so at least I didn’t need to worry about damage to the equipment.
Below are some shots and the short film I made capturing the weather at Sheringham and Cromer. A lot of people watching the film have said I was mad to go out in it & some suggested I was reckless but at no point did I put myself in direct danger. The wind was Northerly so while on the coastal path the wind was blowing inland and not over the edge of the cliffs (although the next day the swirling winds did actually result in that). At Cromer I ventured onto the pier, again this was wet & wild but it wasn’t dangerous, the pier is very secure and at no time did I lean over the edge or go anywhere that the waves could have taken me into the water.
I’m not a huge fan of being on camera myself but sometimes I think it helps with the narrative of a film and can add some interest between the storytelling shots so with a Gopro mounted on top of the underwater housing I also did some pieces to camera to explain the situation. It was the strongest wind I can ever remember trying to walk in and blew the glasses right off my face twice. Enjoy the crazy weather from your warm, dry home!
• Storm • north norfolk • extreme weather • sheringham • cromer • big waves
I received some great news a few weeks ago when I was informed that my image of the Sheringham Primary School children with the huge rainbow had been selected for the final 100 images for the National Portrait Gallery’s ‘Hold Still’ project – https://www.npg.org.uk/hold-still/
Selected by a board which included HRH The Duchess of Cambridge from over 31,000 entries it is a huge honour to have the shot recognised but of course all I did was turn up & take the photo. The credit for this goes to the children and staff at Sheringham Primary who thought of the idea and carried it out beautifully.
The project has had some amazing publicity this week with the shot being shown in every BBC News broadcast nationally and on BBC Breakfast TV, plus appearing in many national papers & online versions and even Vogue magazine! Links to a few below….
Earlier in the year (post-lockdown) I made this short film for ID Systems featuring Bliss owner, Lisa, explaining why they chose ID Systems for their amazing huge sliding glass doors & windows which overlook the Blakeney & Morston saltmarsh out towards Blakeney Point.
Through a combination of aerial footage and interior/exterior filming I put together this showcase which not only shows the extremely high quality of the workmanship that goes into ID Systems products but also the wonderful home that Lisa & Daniel have created here on the North Norfolk coast.
Much like Voewood, in an earlier post, this home has a wonderful feeling to it, from the view-led design to the interior styling and layout, it’s another property that I am honoured to have spent time in and been able to capture in my role as a property photographer and filmmaker. (I also made the film on the Bliss homepage for Lisa & Daniel, in case you are like me & can’t get enough of this stunning property!)
I’ve been photographing for the Byfords group for many years now and always know that, whatever the project, it will be visually stunning. The level of detail considered in all of their developments is always first class and the design & thought that goes into the interiors leaves their customers wowed every time.
The latest project at the now legendary ‘The Pigs‘ at Edgefield, Norfolk is the rooftop suite, aptly named ‘Sty in the sky’. The suite covers two floors (well three if you include the jacuzzi which is kind of between two floors!) and includes bedroom & en suite, a day room with sauna, steam room & shower and then the terrace with the jacuzzi.
It really is a luxury experience in the heart of the North Norfolk countryside and one which I was really pleased to photograph since we also got to be some of the very first people to stay in it! I also made a short video showing the facilities, if you are looking for somewhere really special to stay in North Norfolk you won’t go wrong here…
For more examples of my property photography in Norfolk please see my property gallery here. I photograph for many local Estate Agents and for holiday let owners and local hotels & B&Bs with many owners saying they see big boosts in bookings once they get my images on their websites. I have a simple pricing structure which includes supply of the high resolution image files. Aerial photography is included if required and I make sure I get a good range of shots showing the interiors, exteriors & detail shots of any features. I always aim to supply the finished files within 24hrs of the shoot although for first time clients I produce the online preview gallery and then supply the high res files on settlement of the invoice.
It’s been far too long since I last blogged so I’m going to try to catch up over the next week or so. Starting with some shots at one of my favourite buildings – Voewood near Holt.
A large proportion of my commissions these days are property photography and it’s a part of my work as a photographer in Norfolk that I really enjoy. I’ve developed a solid system for shooting properties over the last 15 years of being a professional photographer which allows me to capture high quality property photographs efficiently and effectively.
I try to work with ambient light as much as I can, sometimes using a flash unit to lift the shadows a little but ideally I will shoot with room lights turned off which can mean very long exposures but captures the natural ambience of a room which is essential.
Voewood is a stunning arts & crafts house hidden in beautiful grounds and hired out for weddings, events & retreats. I LOVE spending time there and have been lucky enough to film & photograph there many times in the last few months as I’m working on a collaborative film project with film director, Steve Banks, and the owner of Voewood, Simon Finch.
Below are some still images I have taken which I hope capture some of the atmosphere of this amazing building. I also made a short film for Simon (with my partner Leanne (Samphire Films)) to showcase Voewood and filmed an interview with Simon telling the story of the building and how he came to be there….
Somewhere like Voewood definitely deserves aerial photography not just for the beautiful grounds but also to show it’s location, surrounded by woodland & fields and only a short trip away from the coast. Aerial photography is useful for many types of property photography – for estate agent photography it can be used to give a plan view of the property showing the boundaries but also for the reasons above – to show location & proximity to towns or the coast.
Exactly one month ago to the hour, as I write this, we were sat in Johannesburg Airport waiting for our transfer flight to Kasane, Botswana. Although it seems like a lifetime ago as I sit here now with the central heating on, looking out at 50mph winds and rain hammering against the window.
We had our itinerary planned out and an idea of what we were going to see but other than that we didn’t know what was ahead of us or what animal encounters we would have. That, for me, is the excitement of a safari trip – it’s unpredictable, always packed with surprises and an element of luck & a little danger thrown in!
The four of us, Mark, Steve, Andy & myself, are all members of the Sheringham RNLI Lifeboat Crew, and in the middle of 2019 had decided to book this trip through Tawana Self-Drive, a safari company based in Botswana. Mark had previously used Tawana in 2019 for a trip to the same area so we had the advantage of Mark’s experience and we knew that the company provided an excellent service. Vincent at Tawana had planned us a detailed itinerary, maps for the daily drives and organised our campsite bookings + park entrance fees, all we had to do was turn up and not get eaten!
I was excited to have the chance to document the trip through video (with some photos thrown in) and produced this 25 minute film of our adventures…
Visiting in the ‘rainy season’ aka Green Season meant that the trees were in leaf with lush grasslands and plenty of water & food around for the animals. As a result it is breeding season for many of the species which meant lots of baby animals & colourful plumage on the birds. We saw very little rain apart from a couple of nights when it poured but other than that we had mostly sunny days and temperatures around the mid thirties. Many people tend to avoid safari in Botswana at this time of year, possibly because it’s not in the school holidays but also as they believe that rainy season means rain every day. I have also read that people mainly go in the dry season as it means the animals tend to congregate around the waterholes so are easier to spot but with this many animals around I don’t think that’s an issue. Besides I would much rather see the animals when they are happy & well-fed and with the lush greenery as a backdrop rather than lots of dead, brown grass!
As you can see in the shot below our trucks were certainly built for the job, 4×4 Toyota Land Cruisers with two roof-top tents on each vehicle. The rear storage spaces contained a fridge, cool box, tables, chairs, cooking utensils, gas stove, spade, axe and much more. We were fully self-contained, just add food, water, fuel and plenty of beer & wine (plus Amarula – the South Africa cream liqueur as a nightcap)!
With plenty of USB charging ports inside the vehicles (we brought some extras) and two powered sockets in the rear (South Africa plug type) it was no problem to keep all of my cameras, torches & laptop charged. We also brought two walkie talkies which proved invaluable for chatting between the trucks when we spotted something interesting.
I was struck by the beauty and variation of the habitats in Botswana, (dense scrub, open grassland, rocky outcrops, ancient mopani forest, huge marshes, and of course the Okavango Delta) add to that the thriving populations of animals & birdlife and you have the recipe for a hugely memorable safari trip.
We started off in the Chobe National Park and camped for the first couple of nights right by the Chobe river at Ihaha, the first of many of our truly wild campsites, we were visited by a family of mongoose, heard lions calling each night as we fell asleep and had giraffe feeding in the bushes right behind us one evening. Absolute magic!
Chobe National Park is famed for having the largest surviving elephant population in the world, currently thought to be at around 120,000, always a huge pleasure to watch as they feed, drink, bathe & interact with each other. Sometimes interacting with us – mostly very placid & calm, occasionally they decide they want to remind us who is boss so will pull a mock charge (as the baby in the film shows) or just hold their ground, flapping their ears and shaking a nearby bush to demonstrate their power. So long as we showed respect, gave them time to move on (or on the odd occasion slowly backed away) they would carry on their feeding and allow us to pass without incident.
The hippos on the other hand are a different kettle of fish as we learned one morning at Moremi when we found one still feeding on the grass just outside our campsite. As our lead truck (Mark & Steve) pulled alongside, the hippo decided he didn’t want us around so charged them at full speed, jaws wide open. Luckily Mark accelerated off just in time to see the huge beast sprinting after him in the wing mirror. We sat about 20m behind watching in awe, I’ll never forget the sight of the hippo’s large behind wobbling with fury as it ran after them, eventually giving up when he realised he wasn’t going to catch them. Sadly it all happened so fast I didn’t manage to turn a camera on to film it, I couldn’t take my eyes off what was happening, it was a good shot of adrenaline to start the day (especially for Mark & Steve!)
Each day was punctuated with the taking down & putting up of the tents, while we did get fairly efficient at it after a few days, it was a sweaty, dusty job so we always saved the showers for after the tents have been put up or down.
Once we had all the tents up each evening the next job was to get the fire lit, with the mopani wood we bought at the roadside stalls, then we got the chairs & tables up, cracked open a cold beer & got to work on dinner. Our evening meals ranged from steak cooked over the braai (most nights!) to chicken, Kielbasa sausages (known as ‘Russians’ in South Africa) and a hotpot one night. The key was to keep it fairly simple and provide something filling since this was generally the only meal we had on many days.
As you’ll notice below we are all sitting with our backs to the vehicles – since none of the campsites have fences, the animals (including the large predators), can wander into camp at any time if they wish so it pays to be vigilant, we would make a pretty easy meal for a lion, being devoid of any claws, antlers or decent teeth to bite back with!
We stayed at some amazing places during our trip, our favourite campsites were Ihaha in Chobe, Mbudi at Khwai and Xanakaxa in Moremi, with Tshaa campsite at Mababe having real potential but being deserted & overgrown (although that may have been due to us being there in the off-season, it wouldn’t take too much work to get the site back up to scratch, being in such a stunning location it could easily have been our favourite site if operational at the time of our visit).
We all found the dung beetles fascinating, busily rolling their balls of elephant dung around, not sure where they were taking them but they didn’t hang about. Often they would choose to roll them down the smooth ruts of the sand roads which required a sharp eye and quick steering to avoid squashing the poor animals in their prime!
Water buck (below) are my favourite antelope, their beautiful shaggy coats & faces remind me of a Jim Henson creation. We saw so many different species on our trip – lion, wild/painted dog, black-backed jackal, spotted/laughing hyena, banded mongoose, slender mongoose, dwarf mongoose, genet, baboon, vervet monkey, tree squirrel, honey badger, giraffe, zebra, elephant, hippo, warthog, buffalo, wildebeest, tsessebe, dik dik, impala, water buck, lechwe, kudu, sitatunga, bush buck, crocodile, leopard tortoise and a huge array of birds. Sadly no leopard (although we must have scanned hundreds of trees looking for that telltale silhouette or the hanging tail) and not a single snake, while it would have been nice to see one we were all quite glad not to have bumped into a black mamba!
This yellow-billed hornbill was great fun to photograph, very tame and with those great colours & eyelashes I had to get a close-up portrait…
While staying at the brilliantly named Xakanaxa (promounced ‘kakanaka’) we took a boat trip on the Okavango, a huge inland delta which eventually feeds in to the Chobe & Zambezi rivers and feeds the Victoria Falls. We had two lucky sightings of the rare Sitatunga antelope, a marsh-dweller specialised for their aquatic lifestyle and no stranger to swimming through the water with just the tip of their snout showing…
When driving the sand roads we were always checking for animal footprints, Mark was great at spotting and tracking the prints, following a set of lion print one morning, taking us right to a pride of lion with eight cubs. Below is a hyena print, discernible from lion print by the size, shape and fact that the claws are showing in the impression. Cats generally have their claws retracted when walking apart from the cheetah – the only cat with non-retractable claws.
We found this young adult male lion in some bushes right by the road while driving between third & fourth bridge at Moremi. He was panting & still very out of breath from just killing a red lechwe antelope. We sat with him for around 15 minutes, he seemed on-edge, obviously wary of having his kill stolen by another lion or hyena. It was intense sitting just 6ft from him with our windows wide open knowing that he could easily get to us with just one jump if he decided he didn’t want us around any more. Amazing to be able to make out the reflection of me sitting at the window of the truck in his pupils!
The birdlife at all of the parks we visited were incredible, below is a hoopoe, yellow-billed storks, red-billed hornbill and fish eagle. We also saw great white pelican, great egret, grey heron, goliath heron, ostrich, saddle-billed stork, marabou stork, hamerkop, spoonbill, sacred ibis, spur-winged goose, knob-billed duck, jacana, blacksmith plover, crowned lapwing, spotted thick-knee, southern black korhaan, kori bustard, swainson’s spurfowl, guineafowl, cape vulture, black kite, hawk eagle, marshall eagle, steppe buzzard, black shouldered kite, osprey, grey go-away bird, little bee-eater, carmine bee-eater, lilac-breasted roller, pied kingfisher, woodland kingfisher, malachite kingfisher, southern ground hornbill, yellow billed-hornbill, common fiscal, red-billed oxpecker, quelea, sunbird, weaver bird and many more that we couldn’t easily identify!
On our penultimate evening we took a riverboat safari on the Chobe river from Kasane, it was a wonderful last safari experience in Botswana with huge numbers of elephant, hippo, crocodile, buffalo and many birds. The sunset was incredible and I was thrilled to get some shots of hippo fighting in the river with the sunset behind.
As I had been mainly concentrating on getting video footage rather than still photographs for much of the trip I didn’t get as many stills as I would have liked but it’s impossible to do justice to both at the same time. These photos hopefully capture the stunning array of wildlife but to really get a flavour of the trip I recommend getting a cup of tea & watching the video.
On our last day we took a day trip over the border into Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls, ‘the smoke that thunders’, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Prior to coming out here we had seen press reports stating that the falls were drying up. As we stepped out of the vehicle on arrival at the falls we instantly knew that wasn’t the case with the roar of water indicating a good flow. It was a truly impressive sight, I was glad I took a raincover for my camera as we all got thoroughly drenched by the spray.
Botswana was an amazing experience, and my third safari trip in twelve months, I feel very lucky to have been able to visit such beautiful places and photographing/filming such wonderful wildlife. I really recommend anyone have at least one safari holiday in their life, I wasn’t sure it would appeal to me but how wring I was, I am now well and truly hooked! As people told me before my first African trip: “It gets under your skin”, it certainly does, I’ll be back!
In fact I’ll be back in Africa again this year since myself & Leanne are leading a safari photography trip to the Maasai Mara, Kenya in June. The trip is being organised through London safari travel experts Far & Wild Travel, more info on the trip is available on their site here. It promises to be an amazing trip, while aimed at helping people improve their photography (and let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to get the best possible shots on a trip of a lifetime?!), it will be a great chance to experience the thrill of a safari in this world-famous ecosystem. Spaces are limited so book now to learn all of my tips & tricks for getting the very best out of your digital camera.
We are very excited to announce that on 13th-20th June 2020 we will be leading a photography safari adventure tour to Kenya – back to the beautiful Enonkishu Conservancy in the Maasai Mara.
We’ve teamed up with the UK-based safari holiday specialists Far & Wild Travel to offer a unique opportunity to spend 8 days in the Maasai Mara and learn how to take better photos. For more information and booking details please see their dedicated page to this Photography Safari in Kenya here.
Here’s a short video I made to show what to expect…
We have some amazing plans for the trip, while it is aimed at photographers it would also be a trip of a lifetime for non-photographers who just want to experience the magic of the Maasai Mara. All of the photography activities & learning are optional (although included in the price), to all intents & purposes this is an amazing safari trip with the bonus of photography tuition included.
Over our last two trips we have seen a huge array of the diverse wildlife that live on Enonkishu Conservancy and the neighbouring conservancies of Lemek & Ol Chorro – the three conservancies have an agreement so our conservancy fee for Enonkishu (included in the price) allows us full access to Lemek & Ol Chorro giving us a huge area to explore and many different habitats – from the foothills of Kileleoni Hill (the highest point in the Mara), to the savannah grasslands, scrub woodland, marsh areas and many waterholes where the animals come to drink. Not to mention the mighty Mara River with it’s thriving population of hippo & nile crocodile.
Bordering Enonkishu is the rhino sanctuary with two resident white rhinos – we have included a trip to see the rhinos one morning which should be an amazing photo opportunity since the rhinos are very tame and docile.
Each day begins with an early morning start in order to be out amongst the animals as the sun rises. The sunrise in the Maasai Mara is a beautiful spectacle in itself but when you then add in the iconic animals that live here it is absolutely mindblowing. After a few hours seeing what animals we can find & photograph before the sun gets too hot, and the animals retreat to the shade, our drivers will find a shady spot under an acacia tree and set up for morning coffee & a snack – usually homemade cake or cookies. Morning coffee while watching hyena skulk past and the view across the plains dotted with zebra, wildebeest, impala, Thomson’s gazelle, giraffe & buffalo is like nothing on earth.
The Mara is a haven for bird-lovers too, my favourite is the Secretary bird (below, top right), an incredible looking bird which eats snakes, like something out of a Harry Potter movie! There are hundreds of species in the Mara, including many eagles, vultures, egrets, bee-eaters, ground hornbill, great crested cranes, mousebirds, oxpeckers and much much more. Our guides are great at identifying the birds and carry bird guide books so if it’s just a fleeting glimpse they can show us what we just saw.
It always astounds me how close to the lions we can actually get. So long as you stay in the vehicle you are perfectly safe, the lions & other predators are used to safari vehicles and totally ignore them so we get a chance to see their natural behaviour up close & personal!
One of the big features of this trip is that you will learn how to get the most from your camera. From optimum camera settings, lens choice, composition, exposure tricks to the little tricks of the trade which will make your photos the envy of your friends! I’ve been running photography workshops for a few years now and we always see plenty of ‘lightbulb moments’ when it finally clicks (pun intended).
We will have daily photo challenges with vouchers for the evening bar to be won for the best shots. Compositions like the below of a giraffe can be really interesting and offer a different take on the standard safari photos.
In the evenings I will be offering post-processing instruction and advice using Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop – lots of tips & tricks to really bring out the best from your images and make them sing!
Often when we find the lions they are lazing in the shade since they generally hunt at night but that’s not to say we might not get lucky & see a hunt. The below shot was from one of the mornings when we found the resident pride of Lemek lions (originally from the famous Governor’s Camp Marsh Pride as seen on David Attenborough’s Dynasties series), finishing of a buffalo carcass from the previous night’s hunt.
On the subject of the Marsh Pride – we have put aside one of the days of the trip for a day at the Mara National Reserve – home of the Marsh Pride and world-famous thanks to countless TV documentaries. There is an additional fee of $80USD to visit the reserve but I guarantee it will be worth every penny.
These two cheetah brothers below are resident on Lemek Conservancy – just a ten minute drive from Enonkishu (well, ten minutes if you don’t stop to check out anything on the way but the beauty of any game drive is that you never know what you will find, so driving without stopping many times to view the animal activity is very unusual!)
There are many leopard living at Enonkishu & the surrounding conservancies, the challenge is finding them. We were lucky enough to see this resident female one evening on the hunt in the scrubland along a small stream. She is known as ‘Half Tail’ due to her short tail after an altercation with another big cat. Such an amazing treat to see these stunning creatures.
Thanks to the amazing work by the rangers and land-managers of this area the lion population is thriving. Enonkishu is an incredible success story of re-wilding where they have taken an area which was once intensively farmed and devoid of wildlife to this thriving ecosystem. It’s taken a lot of work and we will learn about the process while there. In fact every person that visits is contributing to the conservation through the conservancy fees, tourism in the Maasai Mara is essential for the survival of the wildlife.
Plenty of moody buffalo in the area, not a problem in the vehicles but I wouldn’t fancy meeting one on foot!
Our camp for the stay is at the Mara Training Centre, part of the Enonkishu Conservancy and right on the edge of the Mara River. On the right here you can see the safari tents and to the left are the banda cottages which are available for a small upgrade fee. The bandas have ensuite toilet & showers, for the tents there is an ablution block (just hidden in this shot in the trees just behind the tents). Falling asleep in the tent listening to the hippo in the river, the millions of crickets & frogs chirruping and pinging and distant hyena & lion calls is just incredible. I would take this over a luxury safari hotel any time – it really is an immersive experience and truly life-changing. If you have never been on safari before this really is the best introduction.
Below is ‘The Cow Shed’, the social area where we have our meals, it also has a self-service bar (mmm Tusker beer!) and in the evenings the log fire is lit. This is where we will do the evening post-processing training and presentations. Plenty of power sockets for charging laptops & camera batteries and the good news is that Kenya uses the exact same three-pin plugs we have in the UK so no need for any travel adaptors.
Below, myself & Leanne with the wonderful Enonkishu Rangers – we will have a chance to meet the rangers and they will hopefully put on a ranger parade for us, showing off their marching skills. A really great bunch of chaps who dedicate their lives to the protection of the wildlife at Enonkishu.
To ensure everyone gets a great view of the animals we will only have 4 guests per safari vehicle – everyone gets a corner seat so no-one gets the short straw of being stuck in the middle and having to crane over other people to see the action.
We will be using specially adapted Toyota Land Cruisers with our own friendly, experienced safari guide drivers. These guys really know their stuff and are more than happy to share their knowledge while using their tracking & spotting skills to find us the wildlife and get the best positions for viewing & photographing them. We are hoping to be able to use brothers Wilson & Moses (pictured with me above), absolute legends of the Maasai Mara and incredible hosts.
Below the rangers with the headtorches we gave them on our last trip. We were able to take bags of essential equipment for them including binoculars, torches, a telescope, compasses, etc plus we gave them each a Leatherman multi-tool which will be very useful on their patrols. We made sure the tools have a wire cutter which is needed for removing any illegal snares they may find on their patrols.
Through the ‘Power the Rangers’ fundraiser in 2019 we were able to raise over £6000 to help the rangers and would like to do something similar when we return in 2020. We are hoping some of our guests may get involved & help us to bring them more equipment.
One of the other unique features of this trip is that we will be meeting and photographing the local Maasai Tribespeople – they have a settlement at the base of Kileleoni Hill. We will visit the village to see their traditional singing & dancing and they are only too happy to show us around their huts finishing with a visit to their gift area where traditional Maasai jewellery, etc is available to purchase.
We will also head along to the cattle-dip on Thursday morning to watch & photograph their cattle getting their weekly bath and we’ll be spending some time with them to capture beautiful portraits of them (with full instruction from myself where needed).
Another exciting offering of this trip is the chance to do a night-drive or two – nothing prepared me for the experience of heading out into the night in the safari trucks armed with red torches (so as not to dazzle the animals). The Mara takes on a totally different atmosphere at night when the nocturnal animals emerge and the grazers try to get some sleep between avoiding the predators.
We found a huge hyena den, below you can see a mum suckling a pup, we saw elephants, sleeping giraffes, a huge eagle owl on the ground, spring hares bouncing around, bat-eared foxes and so much more. Many safari reserves don’t allow people to be out at night as it hampers their poacher prevention but at Enonkishu the poaching problem is minimal so we can make the most of the incredible opportunity.
Not just the sights but also the sounds and smells at night are totally different – this will blow all of your senses!
While staying at Enonkishu last time I set up a wildlife camera trap outside out cottage and was stunned to find that we had captured photos & video of this beautiful adult leopard right outside our room. I will be bringing a couple of camera traps with me in June and if any of our guests wanted to bring one it would be great to get them set up at various places around the camp/conservancy & see what we can get.
We will also be having some sundowners on the trip – drinks & snacks while watching the sunset – a magical way to see the end of an incredible day on safari.
I’m a sucker for a nice sunset so while the sun drops we can take photos which capture the colours and atmosphere – more tips & tricks there since many people can’t understand why their sunset photos look washed out & unimpressive. I also love shooting timelapse videos of the sunset/sunrise so will be more than happy to teach the tricks of the trade if anyone is interested.
This really does promise to be an incredible trip, we have so many great adventures planned for the trip and a few surprises up our sleeve. The trip is limited to 12 people so don’t delay if you think this may be for you.
More information about the trip is available at the Far & Wild page and their advisor Marc would be more than happy to answer any of your questions and send a personalised quote/trip itinerary.
The price per person is £2935 per person, staying in a safari tent. The price includes all accommodation, food, soft drinks, conservancy fees for Enonkishu, Lemek & Ol Chorro, a visit to the rhino sanctuary, internal flights from/to Nairobi to the Maasai Mara (Ngerende airstrip, just a 15 minute game drive from the camp), full photography instruction and we’ll produce a hard-backed book for every guest on our return with a selection of the best photos from everyone on the trip. Leanne will also be filming the trip and producing a short video – the ultimate holiday video to show your family & friends!
All that isn’t included is your return flight out to Nairobi (this can be arranged by the guys at Far & Wild if necessary), any alcoholic drinks and the $80 reserve fee for the visit to the Mara National Reserve.
I am also happy to discuss our plans and advise on photography equipment in advance of the trip so please feel free to drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call on 01263 821589 / 07941009745.
In February of this year I visited the incredible Maasai Mara in Kenya to document a trip there for Biosphere Expeditions. Blog post of that life-changing trip to Africa here. A ‘Citizen Scientist’ project based at Enonkishu, a privately owned 5000 acre re-wilding conservancy, started and managed by Tarquin & Lippa Wood. At the time I interviewed Tarquin on camera for short film I was making and later found myself invited back to make a film specifically for them. My visit inspired me to start a fundraiser to provide the wildlife rangers of Enonkishu with essential equipment (Power The Rangers) so we were returning with well-stuffed suitcases.
So, after much anticipation, on the 15th October I flew back to Kenya except this time I wasn’t alone – my partner Leanne came too. Her first ever visit to Africa, safari a life-long dream, I was excited to introduce Leanne to one of the most special places I have ever seen.
Below are a collection of shots from our trip. The majority of them are mine but I confess that some of them are Leanne’s. Since I was required to video much of the trip for the film I wasn’t able to capture stills at the same time to Leanne took over on that front. She has a terrific eye for composition and I couldn’t resist using some of her images to tell the story in this post. Joint credit for this blog post goes to Leanne.
After arriving in Nairobi we took a taxi across the city to met Tarquin at the Aero Club at Wilson airport – the link to the Maasai Mara. Tarquin very kindly flew us in his Cessna to Enonkishu, pointing out landmarks on the way. Flying across the Great Rift Valley looking out 0f the windows for elephants, buffeted by the updrafts, an exhilarating way to start our trip.
On our arrival we were greeted by Rebekah, Enonkishu Conservancy Manager, with beautiful Maasai gifts and then marching around the corner came the Enonkishu & Naretoi rangers to give us a personal rangers parade. Both myself & Leanne were fighting back tears at this incredible welcome.
After dropping the bags to our room at House in the Wild we took the truck and went for a drive out into the conservancy. Watching Leanne’s reaction for the first time she saw wild warthog, baboon, impala, giraffe, zebra, hyena and so much more is something I will never forget.
Below are a selection of shots of the wildlife that inhabits Enonkishu and the two neighbouring conservancies of Ol Chorro and Lemek. Literally teeming with life, much of it endangered, and only here because Tarquin & Lippa and their team have put in so much work over the last seven years to return this former intensively-farmed habitat back to a natural environment. Rewilding at it’s very best.
So to House in the Wild – a collection of boutique safari lodges right on the bank of the Mara River. Truly the most stunning location of anywhere I have stayed. We ate our meals overlooking the river, sharing our restaurant with hippos lazing in the mud and monkeys jumping around in the trees. House in the Wild really is aptly named as you will see later on.
Below is our room – River Cottage – what a view! No need for television with a view like this right outside your door and look at that panorama from the bath. All of the rooms are beautifully decorated, luxurious, comfortable and surrounded by the sights and sounds of the Maasai Mara. Staying at House in the Wild is a fully-immersive experience and I can’t recommend it enough. Everyone should experience this at least once in their life.
After a few nights at House in the Wild (HIW) we moved a few hundred metres up-river to experience another of the Enonkishu properties – Villa in the Wild – formerly Tarquin & Lippa’s home, recently opened up for guests to take over. Sleeping twelve this is seriously high-end, with a cathedral-like living area it’s a showstopper of a building, more about that later.
Before we left HIW we had some photos with the wonderful staff, they had been so attentive and helpful, particularly David on front-of-house and delicious, healthy dishes prepared by Godfrey and Purity in the kitchen.
Definitely deserving of a mention is the legendary Wilson – safari guide to HIW guests. Wilson took us on many game drives while we stayed at HIW, wonderfully knowledgeable about the wildlife and the Mara environment, a great sense of humour and some very impressive 4×4 driving after the rain turned the road into something I wouldn’t even want to tackle in a tractor. We also had the pleasure of meeting Wilson’s brother Moses and David, both also guides and truly wonderful people.
One of the purposes of our visit was to present the rangers with equipment that the Power The Rangers funds had purchased (plus donations of lots of great binoculars and a telescope from Cley Spy). Thank you so much to everyone that kindly donated to the fundraiser.
In total we provided a value of over 6000 USD to the rangers, making a huge difference to the work the rangers are able to do in monitoring and protecting the many endangered species that in habit the conservancy. Dapash and his team were very excited to receive the new kit and broke into spontaneous song & dance!
As well as the new equipment we were able buy a whole new ranger camp – named Shannock Camp (after the old Sheringham name). Below, head ranger Dapash and Albert, inhabitants of Shannock Camp, pose for photos at their new residence.
The magnificent male lion below is one of two resident brothers currently at Lemek Conservancy (just 15 minutes drive from Enonkishu), originally part of the famous Marsh Pride at Governors Camp, they featured in the BBC David Attenborough documentary – Dynasties (and Big Cat Diary with Jonathon & Angela Scott, heroes of mine). The Dynasties clip of a lion being attacked by many hyena until his brother turned up to fight them off is an incredible piece of film making and featured these boys. Such an honour to see them face to face.
Apologies if you are eating while reading this – the below shot is either a very fortunate or a very unfortunate zebra, depending on how you view the situation. The shot shows a recent wound inflicted by a lion attack. There are two possible outcomes for this zebra – the wounds may heal leaving the zebra with mismatched stripes or the smell of blood will attract hyenas, which will finish the job the lion started. Good luck zebra, life on the mara is a brutal battle of survival, eat or be eaten, constant dramas being played out in this finely balance ecosystem.
With the recent rains most of the elephants headed into the hills but we found these four beauties one afternoon on a self-drive. Wilson told us later that they are a well-known local family group consisting of one old female, her two daughters and a granddaughter. We enjoyed some time in the company of these gentle giants – much more placid than the more excitable males I had seen in February, no mock charges here.
So we headed a very short way down-river to Villa in the Wild, to be looked after by Benson and Purity and the team.
As with HIW the evenings here were always special, falling asleep to the sounds of the hippos quarreling in the river, hyena calling close by, crickets, frogs, the ‘bark’ of zebra and the distant deep roar of lions calling to each other.
No African safari would be complete without sundowners, a civilised end to the day with drinks and nibbles (or ‘bitings’) while the sun sets on another amazing day.
While at the villa we had a sundowner on the edge of the river with Tarquin, Lippa and Rebekah. A fire, G&T or the Kenyan cocktail the ‘Dawa’ (originally invented at the famous ‘Carnivore‘ restaurant in Nairobi), delicious homemade onion bhaji prepared by Purity and always great conversation.
With such little light pollution the Maasai Mara is a fantastic place to view the stars, after our sundowners we sat out listening to the hyena & lions and gazed up at the Milky Way. A truly magical experience. I set my sound recorder outside our room one evening and recorded 20 minutes of the night sounds of Africa. I’m listening to it as I write this, takes me right back there in an instant.
The Enonkishu Conservancy aims to fully involve the local population in their values of conserving the wildlife and that extends to the school established by Tarquin & Lippa – Emarti School. We visited on one morning with the rangers, after a brief talk with the children their ‘Wildlife Club’ were loaded onto the DAF truck and taken for a tour around the conservancy. It seems impossible but many of these children still haven’t seen much of the wildlife since the animals stay away from settlements. Taking the pupils into the conservancy and educating them in the importance of Kenya’s wildlife is essential – as Tarquin said at the time – these children are the future of Kenya and the wildlife needs their ongoing help to manage the conflict between wild animals and farming/herders.
We had some awesome sightings over the course of our trip – finding a pride of lions cleaning off the buffalo kill from the night before was one of the highlights for me. The following morning we found a hyena with another fresh lion kill, the sound of the bones being crunched an indication of just how powerful a hyena’s jaws are. Thankfully they are quite shy around humans so the threat of an attack is very low although Tarquin & Lippa did have a very interesting camping experience while we were there involving hyena and elephants in their campsite!
We were lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time in the company of the Enonkishu Maasai herders. One morning we filmed the weekly cattle dip, another afternoon we filmed a planning meeting with Musa, the Enonkishu education officer, we visited their village and were invited to a celebratory feast (nyama choma). At one point I gave the lead herder a lift in the back of the truck, it was surreal to be driving along with a genuine maasai herder in the rear view mirror.
While staying the House in the Wild Leanne suggested I set up my wildlife camera trap. I was pretty certain we were unlikely to capture anything right outside our room but set it up anyway. We couldn’t believe our eyes the next morning when we checked the camera and discovered a female leopard had walked right across our veranda not once but twice during the night. Literally 6 feet from where we slept, far from being scared as many people have suggested we were absolutely thrilled. The leopard posed no threat to us, she was simply on her nightly round looking for small animals to eat.
One of the great features about Enonkishu is that Night Drives are permitted. Many places ban venturing out after dark so a stay at Enonkishu offer a unique perspective unavailable on most safari trips. Armed with red light torches (so as to minimise damage to the animal’s night vision) we had a couple of night drives out in the conservancy. Nothing can describe the excitement and adventure of a night drive, the sounds, the smells, the excitement of seeing eyes reflecting back at you through the darkness. It gives the opportunity to see some of the nocturnal wildlife (spring hare, hyena, eagle owl, bat-eared fox, leopard and much more) and the diurnal animals resting. Driving through the scrubland to see a stand of giraffe sleeping is something special.
We were honoured to be guests at a nyama choma with the herders – a celebration where they roast meat (this time sheep) on a fire, eat, sing dance and chat. While eating they boil the bones in a big pot with herbs from the surrounding bushes. I have to say that it looked about the least appetising soup I had ever seen (hot puddle water), but they enjoyed it. Luckily we weren’t offered any of the legendary Maasai traditional staple food of cow’s blood mixed with milk. I know for a fact I couldn’t have stomached that.
After the food the herders and rangers sang & danced for us, dragging Leanne in for a dance too, I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time, what an incredible experience.
Below, Conservancy Manager Rebekah and her trusty side-kick ‘Lou’, on our final sundowner overlooking what Rebekah calls ‘Chris’s tree’ after I spent many evenings there last time filming time-lapses of the sunset. Rebekah kindly brought along some bottles of the legendary Kenyan lager – Tusker. I love the taste of that beer, it means I am back in Kenya.
I had to apologise to Rebekah when we finally reached her at the rendezvous for the sundowner – we had been on our final evening game drive at neighbouring conservancy Lemek, a self-drive in the truck that Tarquin & Lippa kindly loaned us for the duration of our stay. We found Wilson taking some House in the Wild guests for a game drive and he told us they had just found a leopard prowling through the undergrowth close-by. We chose a spot a bit further down the scrubland in the direction the leopard had been traveling and waited. After a short time we were rewarded with a sighting of a well-known local female leopard known as ‘Half-Tail’ on account of her having a short tail after an injury (possible lion or hyena attack). Seeing this illusive and beautiful big cat at such close range was a huge thrill for us, adrenaline levels were high that evening.
The next morning was our final day, as ever I was keen to wring out every last drop of our time in Kenya so we were up before 6am and went for our final game drive. The one animal we had both really hoped to see but until then had eluded us was cheetah. We had a nice drive around Lemek with some very close hyena sightings and lots more animals including a huge herd of buffalo all around us as we slowly drove. The time came for us to start heading back when we saw a safari truck in the middle of an area of long grass, the occupants pointing their cameras down to the grass. Surely it couldn’t be the cheetah brothers we had heard were in the area?!
We drove over and as we got closer made out two large spotted cats lying in the grass, what a way to finish an incredible trip!
We would both like to say a huge thank you to Tarquin and Lippa for their incredible hospitality for the duration of the trip. It was an absolute trip of a lifetime. Thank you also to Rebekah for all of her help and great company, to all of the Enonkishu rangers – Dapash, Albert, Joseah, Meshack, Mike, Salami & Naamen. To the guides Wilson, Moses & David – their knowledge and passion for the wildlife at this special corner of the Maasai Mara is totally infectious. To all of the staff at the Mara Training Centre, House in the Wild, Villa in the Wild and Bandas in the Wild – Musa, Albanus, Bernard, David, Godfrey, Mary and Purity to name but a few. A dedicated team of wonderful friends who we have been honoured to spend time with. Asante sana to you all.
The Maasai Mara truly gets under your skin and we aim to be back time & time again. In fact we are already planning our next trips – we plan start a safari photography tour – one in early June 2020 and another in Jan 2021. Very early planning stages at the moment but if you would like to experience this unique environment, meet the people I have mentioned above, see the Maasai way of life, get some photography tuition and come home with photos like never before then please feel free to email me (email@example.com) to get on the mailing list.
Until next time Kenya, kwaheri. x