I have created a Crowdfunder page and called the fundraiser – Power the Rangers.
I was inspired by these committed men that patrol the conservancy armed only with their knowledge, passion & wits to ensure the continued success of this recently reclaimed ecosystem from the practices of intensive farming.
The rangers patrol the conservancy day & night to protect the wildlife that is returning to the area and to police the grazing of local herders to allow the grasslands to recover sufficiently to encourage the indigenous species to return.
As one of the northernmost conservancies of the famous Maasai Mara, Enonkishu Conservancy, borders farmland and is known as the ‘Last Line of Defence’.
To allow the rangers to continue to do their very best in protecting the animals & this fragile ecosystem they require equipment which they currently don’t have available – equipment including decent quality binoculars, torches, compasses, a GPS unit and possibly a motorbike to allow them to reach the far corners of the conservancy quickly when needed.
The conservancy has wild elephants, leopard, occasionally lions and cheetahs, hundreds of ungulates (impala, gazelle, topi, dikdik, eland), giraffe, zebra, mongoose, hyaena, jackals, hippos, baboons and lots more. Without the rangers’ protection poachers may try to kill the wildlife for profit. The rangers also police the grazing of the conservancy to ensure that the vegetation is maintained at a level suitable for the wildlife to flourish.
My aim is to raise funds to equip the rangers to better serve the animals they love, I am returning to Enonkishu in October 2019 with much of the equipment they need, it’s not just the lack of funds that they struggle with but also the lack of places to buy the equipment in Kenya – Power the Rangers!
100% of the funds raised will be used to buy the equipment for the rangers.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
I will be getting a large flag printed to take with me and will take a photo of the rangers holding up the flag. On the flag will be the logos of companies and names of the people who help me to sponsor this project. A print of the photo will be given to every UK-based sponsor, an emailed high res jpeg for non-UK sponsors.
Private individuals/families: £20 will ensure your name/family name is printed on the flag. One 7x5in print of the final photo per family.
Platinum Sponsor: £250 Your company logo included in the centre of the flag (30cmx30cm) plus a 18x12inch framed print of the rangers holding up the flag presented after the trip.
Gold Sponsors: £125 – Four spaces available. Corner positions (20cm x 20cm). One 12x8in print of the final photo.
Silver sponsors: £50 – Twenty Six spaces available – along the top, bottom & sides of the flag (15x10cm). One 12x8in print of the final photo.
NOTE TO SPONSORS
Private/family sponsors – After your pledge please put how you would like your family name to appear on the flag in the comments section.
Corporate sponsors – please email a high resolution jpeg of your logo to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can include it in the flag design.
Thank you in advance for any support you can give to this cause.
In what seems like a wonderful, extended dream there exists a place, a reality so different from my life at home, that I’m still struggling to get my head around what I experienced there. It is the Enonkishu Conservancy in Kenya, East Africa, the ‘Last Line of Defence’.
A place where the haunting calls of hyaena, belching hippos and pinging frogs echo through the night in a crazy audio-tapestry, a surreal lullaby. Where the sweet earthy smells of wet soil, camphor trees and perfumed shrubs fill your senses. A place bursting with life and abundance, every creature in a constant fight for survival, all co-existing in a fine balance of finding food or becoming food.
Brutally honest, beautifully real, there are no pretentions here. I found myself contemplating my place in the food chain like never before, reminded of how far removed from the game of survival we really are in our electronically-filled, sanitised lives of daily digital ignorance. This was life like I’d never known it before and I know I’m going to miss it terribly.
It was only two weeks in the great East African Rift Valley, the Maasai Mara, but it could have been a decade for the difference I feel right now in my head and in my heart. People said Africa would be life-changing and now I know exactly what they meant.
“Nothing but breathing the air of Africa, and actually walking through it, can communicate the indescribable sensations.” – William Burchell
• THE LAST LINE OF DEFENCE
I joined a Biosphere Expeditions project as a ‘Citizen Scientist’ to head out to a field station on the privately managed, 4000+ acre, Enonkishu Conservancy, to help with the development of a wildlife monitoring programme.
The conservancy is on the northernmost boundary of the Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem with farmland and villages to the north – it is known as ‘The Last Line of Defence’ – the boundary between wildlife conservancies and farming.
Kenya has lost 70% of its wildlife during the last 30 years due to farming pressures and climate change, conservancies such as Enonkishu are working hard to bring land back to the wild animals through carefully planned grazing programmes and farming methods designed to reduce tensions between the farmers/herdsmen and the wildlife. By monitoring the wildlife numbers and helping train the Enonkishu rangers, Biosphere Expeditions are making a positive contribution to the regeneration of this essential ecosystem – turning former farmland back into a home for native species.
• RELEASED INTO THE WILD
After a day or so of basic training on the techniques of animal identification, data recording, how to avoid animal attacks and off-road driving, we were released into the wild equipped with our binoculars, compass, ranger finder, GPS and one of four trusty Toyota Hilux 4×4 trucks. Biosphere Expeditions had commissioned a cage structure for the rear of each truck to house our data collectors, safely out of the way of the more potentially dangerous beasts (hippo, buffalo, elephant & lion) and slightly elevated for a better view of our subjects.
The expedition leader, Malika Fettak, and resident Enonkishu scientist/manager, Rebekah Karimi, had fully briefed us on how to record what we saw – including species name, distance & bearing from us, our exact location (latitude & longtitude), numbers of each species and sex/age where possible.
We were also tasked with collecting samples of animal scat to build up a ‘Poo Library’ – I soon learned how to identify hyaena poo (white) and giraffe poo (scattered over a wide area after its fall from a great height) amongst others.
• MARA TRAINING CENTRE (MTC)
Our base for the two weeks was the Mara Training Centre – framed on two sides by the Mara River and just on the edge of Enonkishu Conservancy. The centre comprises a large training room, a dining & social area called The Cow Shed, a number of ‘bandas’ – brick-build bedrooms with en suite bathrooms and six safari tents plus toilet & shower block. I was in tent number 5, overlooking the Mara river, plenty of space, electric lights and a really comfortable bed. Falling sleep to the chorus of crickets, frogs, spotted (aka laughing) hyaenas in the distance and the splashing of the hippos in the river below was simply magical.
• AN EARLY START
Our daily schedule involved breakfast from 6am, gather up the equipment needed, leave camp at 6:45am to head into the conservancy for a morning counting and observing the animals. The dawn light and mist bathing this incredible landscape each morning in a magical glow.
Giraffes and warthogs stand and watch as we trundle past in our cage on wheels, the smells of ground dampened by the morning dew, the dawn chorus of birds broken by the squabbles of zebra and snorts of wildebeest echoing through the trees. Baboons nervously run across paths & dirt roads from their treetop dormitories, warily looking back at us as they make their escape.
This feeling of anticipation of what we will see and the promises of the day ahead will never leave me.
• WARRIORS WITH PASSION
The Enonkishu Rangers, lead by Head Ranger, Dapash, are a truly inspiring bunch, passionate about protecting the animals on their patch of land. Armed only with their knowledge and wits they conduct daily foot patrols to ensure the herdsmen are grazing their cattle where they should and checking no poachers are on the land.
I was lucky enough to do one of the walking transects with them and on another day conduct the Hilltop Observation which involved a steep scramble to the top of Kileoni hill, (1700m and the highest point in the Mara), which partially surrounds the conservancy. It’s amazing how the threat of potentially finding a huge charging bull buffalo behind any bush makes you forget the burn in your legs!
The ranger’s knowledge of tracking the animals and understanding their behaviour is nothing short of astounding. On one walk we came across fresh elephant dung and Dapash soon deduced from the footprints and trail of freshly broken branches that we were on a potential collision course with these huge beasts – not something you want to do on foot if you plan to see another day.
We took a sharp detour up the hill to try to get a better idea of where the elephants were lurking – almost as soon as we had gained some altitude the rangers spotted the slightest movement in some branches below and we discovered the elephants were just 400m from us. Minutes later they were 200m from us.
How something so large can move so quickly and so silently was an eye-opener.
The rangers remained calm and we waited to determine what the elephants would do next. While you could say it felt a little tense (OK, it was very tense!) at no time did I really fear for our safety while in the company of the rangers.
They understand and respect the behaviour of the animals under their care, we could all learn a lot (and did learn a lot) from these guys.
• PHOTOGRAPHER’S DREAM
As a photographer I was totally in my element at Enonkishu. The rich variety of animals, the landscape, the light – it was a dream come true. After a few days of driving around I realised that we had come to accept a tower of giraffes walking past us as the norm. Not that I ever became complacent or stopped appreciating what an incredible situation I was in but it’s funny how the incredible can become the everyday after only a short time.
• A HUGE PRIVILEGE
One of our fellow Citizen Scientists, Peter, an ex-pat Brit now living in Canada summed the experience up – in a chat one evening he described what a ‘huge privilege’ it was to be able to do what we were doing at Enonkishu. (Peter has a birdwatching blog which I have enjoyed reading – www.mybirdoftheday.ca)
To spend so much time in the company of the animals, to learn from the rangers, to be able to drive ourselves through the plains & shrubland, not crammed in a safari truck like the tourists in the local 5 star resort, all of it was such a privilege. This was an African experience like no other and I thank Biosphere Expeditions for making it possible.
We got to spend serious amounts of time, day and night, in amongst the wildlife, observing the behaviour, taking in the glory of this incredible habitat. Some of the highlights for me were the night drives – I was lucky enough to go on four of them – armed with red and green torches to minimise the disruption to the animal’s night vision. We would head out into the conservancy in the back of the trucks and see what we could find. For safety we always had to have a ranger with us on these exciting excursions and were forbidden from leaving the safety of the vehicles but up in the cage or in the car with the windows all open we could really immerse ourselves in the sounds, smells and sights (in trippy red or green) of the Maasai Mara at night.
I will never forget seeing my first hippo running silently across the plain at night, eyes blazing in the torchlight, about 20ft from the vehicle, looking for all the world like someone caught getting out of the shower and running in embarrassment for a towel! Other highlights included finding a herd of elephant feeding in the woods and stumbling across a huge hyaena den with over 20 hyaenas engaging in various social (and very vocal!) behaviours – including the mother suckling her pup below….
• DAY OFF
On the first Friday of the two weeks we had a day off from monitoring wildlife on the conservancy and got to choose from a number of different activities – visiting the local village, a trip to the local rhino sanctuary, a 2hr drive to the Maasai Mara National Reserve or a 15 minute drive to the neighbouring conservancies of Lemek and Olchorro. Having seen Peter’s superb photos from his trip to the neighbouring conservancies on the trip two weeks previous I opted for that. (Peter actually did the first of the two Biosphere two week Kenya expeditions and opted to stay on for the second (that I was on), as did another of our companions Rebecca – a definite validation of how great the experience was).
We met our drivers – Wilson & Wilson at our expedition base and got into our safari vehicles. After a short drive we were in new territory and since we didn’t need to spend time recording and counting the wildlife we were able to stop and photograph the animals as much as we liked. What luxury!
With Wilson’s incredible eyesight we soon came across our first pride of lions. They had fed fairly recently so were just lying around in the shade of some bushes not doing a huge amount but that didn’t lessen the thrill of seeing our first wild lions – and this was up close and personal!
I was actually amazed how close the trucks could get to the sleeping lions (within 10ft) and the lions didn’t seem bothered in the slightest. The sides of the vehicles were wide open, the lions could have had the easiest meal of their lives but they showed no interest (thankfully). We were told, however, that if we were to step one foot outside of the vehicles the situation would change very rapidly and we may not come off too well!
• MAASAI WARRIORS
After a great morning seeing the wildlife, we stopped off at a local Maasai Moran (warrior) village and were greeted with a welcome song & much dancing, look at the colours of those costumes & jewellery! They then proceeded to show us how to use a bow drill to create fire and I was invited to have a try. I managed (with some assistance) to get enough embers to scrape into a handful of dried elephant dung which were then blown & coaxed until it burst in to flame. I spent the rest of the day coated in the smell of burning elephant poo but I loved it! I bought the fire drill from the tribesmen and gave it to my son Will when I returned home. We have since been trying to make fire here with not so much success. Must work on our technique. We could also do with some dried elephant dung if anyone has any spare?!
After the village, we headed off for a picnic lunch to a spot overlooking the Mara River with approx 50-60 hippos, an incredible sight…
Lunch finished, it was back to looking for the wildlife and we were lucky enough to find two more prides of lions, again still lazing around, taking it easy. But the third group we found were something I could only have dreamed of….
• THE LION KING
…two female lions (sisters) with three little lion cubs! Wilson estimated they were approximately one month old. We were all beside ourselves with excitement at finding the cubs, they mostly ignored us and carried on about their day – the cubs frolicking with each other, feeding from the mothers and showing a huge amount of love for one another. They really were just like big versions of my cats back home. The purring of the cubs as they padded & suckled from their mothers was enough to melt your heart!
As this amazing day drew to an end, we headed back to the expedition base with memory cards overflowing with the glory of this special place.
• MAASAI HERDSMEN AND THEIR BOMAS
A big part of the Enonkishu approach to conservation is to control the grazing and ease tensions between the herders and the wildlife. Part of this is to minimise lion attacks.
Traditionally the herders keep their cattle in wooden enclosures at night, known as ‘bomas’. By encouraging the use of mobile metal bomas the fertilising action of the cattle’s manure on the grassland can be encouraged. Rebekah was pleased for me to put the drone up to get some shots of the various circles of the past boma positions showing the stages of recovery. It was a real honour to be able to put the drone to good use in helping Rebekah demonstrate the benefits of the mobile bomas for future herdsmen education.
The photo bottom right shows a genius invention devised by the 11 yr old son of a Maasai herdsman which is now widely used with great success to prevent night-time lion attacks. The device is a solar-charged flashing white light using the components from a car indicator, thought to resemble a flashing torchlight. Through irregular flashes (regular ones did not work), it deters lions from attacking the cattle in the night, probably because the random flashes mimic human activity. A simple yet effective way to keep lions from cattle, reducing tension between the people and the wildlife.
• THE LAST POACHED ELEPHANT
On our walking transect head ranger Dapash took us to the scattered bones of the last elephant to die from poaching on the conservancy.
The elephant died in 2017 and was thought to have been shot with a poisoned arrow after destroying some of the maize crop in fields nearby. The elephant wandered into Enonkishu and sadly died a day or two later.
Dapash told us that the rest of the elephants stayed with the dead elephant for a week, in mourning, before moving on. They have since discovered that drones can be used to chase the elephants from the fields, which should reduce the damage and prevent future retaliatory killings.
• A RICH DIVERSITY
What continually struck me about the Enonkishu Conservancy was the huge diversity and numbers of wildlife it supported. Having gone from being nothing but wildlife-free farmland only a few short years ago, the effects of what the team here are doing was abundantly evident.
Herds of zebra grazing, wildebeest, impala, eland, Thomson’s gazelle, Grant’s gazelle, giraffe, elephant, hippo, topi, waterbuck, reedbuck, klipspringer, mongoose, hyaena, leopard, hartebeest, buffalo, honey badger, spring hare, aardvark, vervet monkey, baboon, black-backed jackal and a whole host of amazing birds. The place is teeming and this is all down to the carefully planned work of the Enonkishu team.
Our job as Citizen Scientists was, amongst other things, to document this diversity, which until we came had not been recorded at length using rigorous scientific standards. We felt privileged to help in this way and the plan is, that over many years of expeditions, the success of Enonkishu can be documented in hard scientific detail – as an example and showcase on how people and wildlife can coexist for the benefit of all.
• EDUCATING THE FUTURE
Towards the end of our expedition we had a day planned with the local school – Emarti Secondary School. We were to take them out in the 4x4s, show them the conservancy and explain what we had been doing.
Despite living next door to Enonkishu, many of these children had never seen most of the animals up close and were very excited to see the buffalo, giraffes and warthogs. We had hoped to find them an elephant or two, alas the big grey beasts had other plans, but we did manage to find them two other big grey beasts. Driving in the cab with the handheld VHF radio I overheard a call between the rangers about rhino seen in the far corner of the conservancy. That was all the info we needed and I rapidly changed our route to go & find these battle-tanks on legs.
Sure enough, ten minutes later we were rewarded with the sight of two white rhinos slowly grazing their way across the plain. I should probably come clean at this point and point out that they weren’t ‘proper’ wild white rhinos but ‘escapees’ from the rhino sanctuary next door that had wandered (with their armed bodyguards) onto Enonkishu. That didn’t bother us though, to see white rhinos on the conservancy was awesome and our cameras were machine-gunning the scene!
After the excitement of this ‘charismatic megafauna’ aka ‘sexy species’ we all headed back to base for lunch followed by a talk about Enonkishu and the importance of what is happening here by rangers Dapash & Albert, and an inspiring presentation by MTC training manager Musa.
• DRONING ON
The day was rounded off with the school party split into three groups; myself, Carrie & Leonard each teaching a group about a different aspect of what we had been doing. I demonstrated the drone to them and allowed a few of them to have a go at flying it. Centre manager Musa was an absolute natural!
• THE LEGEND: LEONARD
As part of Biosphere Expeditions’ commitment to the local community, a placement was offered to a local student for the expedition and we were lucky enough to have Leonard join us for two weeks.
Leonard was a huge asset to the group with his knowledge of the wildlife, enthusiasm and efficiency for the data collection. A graduate of Environmental Science from Kenya University and a Maasai himself, Leonard became a great friend and we had many laughs. Leonard is hoping to continue his education with a masters & PhD in the UK/USA and one day manage a conservancy. His passion was an absolute inspiration.
Leonard also taught me some of his Mara language, which I tried to use, often with comic mispronunciation. Ashe oleng Leonard, I miss your company.
• DAWN PATROL
Whenever possible, I would be up well before dawn & out on the conservancy for sunrise to capture some shots and one of many time lapses of the sun going either over or under the horizon. We could then head directly off to do our morning transect. When people wanted to join our morning foray, we would have a little gang along to enjoy the sunrise. This was the last Dawn Gang comprising myself, Knut, Leonard, Rebecca, Rebekah and Carrie, nicely modelling the Maasai traditional shuka blankets which are worn in many different ways as Leonard demonstrated to us one evening.
• IN CLOSING
As this incredible experience drew to a close, Rebekah summarised the results of our efforts and thanked us for our involvement. One of the big benefits of Biosphere Expeditions working with a local scientist is the number of ‘person hours’ that can be contributed to a study, which otherwise would take months to complete solo or with a smaller team, or not be done at all for lack of resources. Because apart from our workforce, we Citizen Scientists also help finance the project through our expedition contributions, which finance vehicles, equipment, logistics and all the things needed for a successful study. Biosphere Expeditions demonstrates this in the expedition reports it publishes after each expedition, which details the outcomes of the science, as well as what was achieved through all the ‘person hours’ in the end. And the list of conservation achievements all over the world is indeed impressive.
Through our many walking and driving transects, scat collection, a 72 hour waterhole observation (we each took on three 4hr chunks), we were able to help Rebekah build a good record of the wildlife present on the conservancy and hopefully contribute to an annual count to monitor the ‘re-wilding’ of this precious area of land.
• HOUSE IN THE WILD
If after reading this you fancy visiting Enonkishu (and why wouldn’t you?!) then I believe Biosphere Expeditions will be holding a similar expedition there next year (keep an eye on their website for forthcoming adventures) or you could book in for a stay at the stunning House In The Wild – a family-owned boutique lodge in the heart of the Enonkishu Conservancy.
Run by the lovely Lippa and Tarquin Wood (the creators of the Enonkishu Conservancy), House In The Wild truly is a special place, right on the edge of the Mara River. I am hoping to head back there sometime soon for a stay and introduce Leanne to the pure beauty of Enonkishu. I really enjoyed the safari tent at the MTC but this takes it to a whole new level!
• SUNSETS GALORE!
So I had to close with a couple of sunsets really, didn’t I? Dawn & dusk are the most magical times of the day in Kenya, the animals make the most of the cooler temperatures and can be seen feeding out on the plains, the golden light makes for gorgeous photos and the colours are out of this world.
To say Kenya got under my skin would be an understatement, never have I been somewhere that has affected me so much, inspired me and made me feel so at peace. I can’t recommend it enough, if you haven’t been, then you MUST, everyone should experience Africa at least once in their life. I feel so honoured to have been able to experience it in such a special place as Enonkishu. I will be back.
• PARTING SHOT – THE MYSTERY OF THE STARING GIRAFFES
This was the very last photo I took in Kenya, a tower of Giraffes all looking to the west. I noted at the time that it seemed unusual that they had their backs to the wind when, in my experience, animals generally prefer to stand facing into the wind.
We were later told that they were probably all keeping an eye on a predator, leopard or lion. We will never know, but that is the beauty of Kenya, there is always some mystery waiting to be discovered, one of the last great adventures on earth and so rewarding.
“Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same. But how do you begin to describe its magic to someone who has never felt it?” – Brian Jackman
• HOW YOU CAN EXPERIENCE ENONKISHU FOR YOURSELF
Biosphere Expeditions – Citizen Science • Ethical Adventures • Wildlife Conservation – offer a wide range of very well organised trips all over the globe. If you want a holiday with added value, pure adventure and to contribute something back to our planet then this non-profit citizen science NGO is for you. Alternatively you could just go somewhere hot, lie around a pool, gorge on all-inclusive junk food for two weeks, and return home fatter, redder and none the wiser!
Expedia was used to book the flights with Emirates – I flew from into Nairobi via Dubai. Emirates were excellent, flying on their Airbus A380 was a great experience, very friendly hosts/hostesses, comfortable seats, a huge range of films on the in-flight entertainment with big screens in the seats. The food was very good and we reached all our destinations in good time for the transfers, highly recommended.
“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa, for he has so much to look forward to.”—Richard Mullin
Here’s a short travel film I made of the trip to try to encapsulate the amazing work being done at Enonkishu and the contribution Biosphere Expeditions made to the future of the conservancy…
• Travel blogger • Travel photography • Kenya travel photographers • Travel photographer UK •
I can’t believe January is nearly over already, how did that happen?!
It’s been probably the most extraordinary January I’ve ever had with some incredible opportunities presenting themselves which is going to mean I’m abroad for most of February but more of that later.
I’ve had many property shoots for local estate agents and holiday properties to keep me busy this month, some portrait shoots, various press work and a very cool aerial shoot at Norwich Cathedral for well-known artist Brian Lewis. I can’t show any of the shots for a while as I need to make sure Brian has a chance to paint his commissioned pieces (for the Dean of Norwich, The Very Reverend Jane Hedges) before I publish any of the photos (we don’t want anyone else painting this unique view until Brian has got his done!)
The year started with the (now) traditional New Year’s Day Dip at Sheringham organised by good friend & fellow lifeboat crewmember Liam Cooper. I always help out with the PR & some other bits & bobs but it’s Liam’s baby and he puts a huge amount of time and energy into organising this great event every year. He started the dip three years ago and we had about 40 people, fast forward to 2019 and we had over 350 crazy dippers running into the icy waters and record amounts raised for Sheringham RNLI (£1,600 raised this year). Well done Coops!
Two local leg-ends – Coops (organiser of the Sheringham NYD Dip) and Clive Hedges (organiser of the Cromer Boxing Day Dip), between them they have been responsible for generating tens of thousands of pounds for many great local charities…
Nice of Keith Richards to pop along!
Thankfully the weather was calm for the dip but not long after we had the first storm of the year with strong Northerly winds whipping the North Sea into a frenzy. Of course I couldn’t resist heading down there to capture some of the exhilarating action…
The day after the storm I headed to West Runton beach – I love a good beachcomb after a storm, you never know what you’ll find washed up. Sadly this time it was just an awful lot of plastic and polystyrene. I posted a short video & some photos of the rubbish on the beach (while collecting as much as I could to take home & dispose of). This was picked up by one of the local news reporters and ended up as an EDP news story!
Mid January I purchased a new drone – the DJI Mavic 2 Pro – what a fantastic piece of kit – stunning image quality through the onboard Hassleblad Camera. I thought I’d make the most of my CAA Night Flying Permissions and put the drone up on a clear night at Sheringham. The results were quite amazing considering how long the exposure was. The below shot was a 1 second exposure – I couldn’t hand-hold a shot of that length and get a sharp image from it so how something flying 60m above the ground (sea actually!) could manage it is mind boggling!
I was so impressed with the results I wanted to see how it would look doing a similar shot of Cromer Pier, again the results were amazing…
The next day I took the Mavic 2 down to the lifeboat station and got some aerial shots of the chaps (and lady) doing some Sunday morning training…
I had been asked to conduct a lower harbour survey at Blakeney Point for the Blakeney Harbour Association at the next low Spring tide so I took a walk out through the saltmarsh at Blakeney to get the shots they required. Between getting the photos of the current positions of the buoyage and showing the shifting harbour entrance channel I grabbed some interesting shots of the scenery. Below is a shot of some seals resting on the sand banks…
Below is a plan view of the wreck of the SS Hjordis which sits by the entrance channel presenting a hazard to shipping…
This last week the winds whipped up again once more and we were battered with 70mph gales and a 15ft swell. I couldn’t resist some shots of this intrepid local kite surfer, James, making the most of the conditions…
As the storm raged on that night I spent an invigorating 2 hrs at Cromer Pier photographing the storm lashing the coast…
I made a short video of the waves although it’s not exactly broadcast quality! With the winds blasting around and very little light it’s a pretty wobbly & grainy video but hopefully it gives a sense of the energy out there that night. It’s no wonder I had the pier to myself!
Last year I was contacted by the production company that makes the Channel 5 TV show ‘The Hotel Inspector, Checking In, Checking Out’ (series 6, episode 4 if you are interested, 34 min in!) to see if I would be interested in being filmed photographing the rooms at The Swan, Harleston and discussing the importance of good photography with the host Alex Polizzi. Apologies for the crumby screen grab below, it’s the best resolution I could manage from their streaming version online…
We had great fun at the filming, Alex was exactly as she comes across on screen – charming, in control and brilliantly honest! The program was aired last night and the lovely Stacia Briggs was kind enough to write a piece for the EDP online yesterday to publicise it in advance…
…and finally in this update of what I’ve been up to… some very exciting news – in January I was invited to document an expedition to the Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya for Biosphere Expeditions – two weeks filming and photographing the wildlife and the great work the volunteers carry out monitoring and protecting the many incredible species inhabiting the reserve.
As you can imagine I am pretty excited about it and put a post on social media to outline my plans. Shortly after the post went live I was contacted to ask if I was available the week beforehand to fly out to The Maldives for SwimQuest and document a trip they are organising for open water swimmers – swimming around the coral atolls, living aboard the 30m MV Emperor Voyager. It’s fair to say I didn’t need long to think about it! This is literally my absolute dream assignment, I have no idea where I can go from here but I am going to enjoy every single minute of it. They arrange swims with manta rays, sharks, hopefully whale sharks too and who knows what other wonderful sealife. I had to go out & buy a new underwater camera just to make sure I can do it justice!
I will be posting the results of both trips on this blog once I return but if you are interested in following the photos as it happens I am hoping to keep my Instagram page regularly updated (wifi dependent) so please follow me here: @christaylorfoto
See you on the other side!
I usually do a bit of a round up of the year by choosing my favourite photos of the past 12 months but this year I’ve chosen to limit it to 50 images and not necessarily my favourite images but the ones which I think sum up the year best for me.
2018 has been a great year for the business, the best I’ve had since starting it in 2005 so I have a lot to be grateful for. It’s been a lot of hard work but I’ve enjoyed pretty much every minute of it. As always the variation of subjects I have photographed through the year have been fascinating and kept me on my toes.
2018 has also been the year that the film-making really took off, adding a whole new creative outlet which I am really enjoying. I have a couple of hefty video & stills commissions already booked in for the new year which will keep me busy for a few weeks each plus a very healthy number of wedding bookings so 2019 is looking to be a continuation of this vintage year!
As 2018 was the 13th year since I started Chris Taylor Photo and 13 being my lucky number I decided to commission a cake from the lovely Emma Thorburn at the Buns of Fun bakery…
With the snowfall earlier in the year I had been hoping to get loads of aerial shots of North Norfolk blanketed in the white stuff. Sadly it was also accompanied by very strong winds for much of the time the snow stayed around so I couldn’t get the drone up much. Below is one shot I managed to grab in Holt at the Gresham’s Prep School rugby pitches while shooting some scenes of Holt town for Arnolds Keys estate agents as part of a year-round commission.
In late January I spend a lovely morning with the CRAB rowers – a group from Blakeney who keep their rowing skills up to scratch in the winter months on Barton broad. In the non-winter seasons they row at Blakeney and I spent another morning with them & friends later in the year as you will see further down.
A few years ago local legend and talented artist Colin Seal had an idea to start a Viking Festival in Sheringham to honour the viking history of the town. The below shot was one of many I took on a beautiful sunny day in mid February of a viking reenactment group battling it out on the beach at Sheringham.
Of course I couldn’t leave out wedding shots in this blog post so below are a few of my favourites of the year. Obviously with tens of thousands of images to choose from it’s always going to be difficult so I have grabbed a handful from some of the amazing weddings I shot this year…
With so many stunning properties in Norfolk I was again spoilt for choice for what to choose to show some of the amazing places I’ve been hired to photograph this year. From huge luxury converted barns that sleep 20+ people to tiny one bedrrom converted fisherman’s cottages, each have their own unique North Norfolk charm and present different challenges to photograph in order to capture the atmosphere.
For the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to be the photographer for the Byfords Group properties which include the legendary Byfords Cafe & deli and The Pigs at Edgefield. With regular improvements and changes to the menu they keep me busy photographing their beautiful rooms and delicious menu. In fact 14 of us are heading to The Pigs tomorrow for our New Year’s Day lunch. Their pork belly with black pudding & crackling is pretty special! Below is one of the shots I took this year of their new games room…
2018 was a good year for publicity with my work being shown on BBC, ITV & channel 4, featured in some national press and a four page spread in the Cameracraft magazine as seen below…
It was also a good year for publicity for Cromer Pier, seeing them hosting the BBC Antiques Roadshow, BBC Radio 4’s Kitchen Cabinet with Jay Rayner and the cherry on the cake was seeing the pier used for the BBC1 Christmas ident…
As always I spend as much time in, on, under or by the sea as I can and 2018 gave me plenty of opportunities. I made a couple of shrimp nets last year from some vintage shrimp netting I bought from a museum. We like a bit of a forage so the summer time is a bonanza with the brown shrimp we can now catch and the delicious samphire we pick on the North Norfolk saltmarshes! Not to mention the mackerel we catch off Blakeney Point from the boat.
With the amazing summer we had this year the sediment dropped out of the water column and provided us with some incredible clear water for at least two weeks. I don’t remember ever seeing the sea so clear here and made the most of it by getting out snorkelling as much as I could. Below is a shot I took of my son Will while we were out snorkeling one morning and the shot below that shows just how clear it was.
I believe this was the second year that the increasingly popular Cromer Hall Concerts were held and I was asked by the organisers to go along & film it for a promotional film. The drone was invaluable for providing the opening shots to set the scene on a glorious summer evening…
In August I had an incredible week down at Cowes Week photographing the sailing action from the press boat. Below are just two shots out of hundreds I took over the time I was there…
As always the RNLI played a huge part in my year and we took Sheringham Lifeboat over to Wells along with Cromer’s All Weather Lifeboat for the last trip of retiring Wells Coxswain Allen Frary. In the below shot you can also see Cromer Coxswain John Davies on the bridge of their Tamar class lifeboat. John also retired this year, a sad year for the North Norfolk RNLI to lose so much experience & knowledge.
Blakeney Point is one of my favourite places on earth and I got to spend many happy days out there this year on various projects, adventures and foraging trips! The below shot was taken while flying the drone from my boat on a shoot for the CRAB Rowers. They were on a trip with various other rowing clubs coming from Wells harbour to Blakeney…
…and back again to shoot the World Norfolk Oyster sailing championships. Again making sure I got the iconic old lifeboat station in the background. Such a beautiful building.
As part of the 1st World War centenary armistice celebrations we held a special service at Sheringham Lifeboat Station and I was honoured to set off a single white parachute flare from the boat. Expertly captured in this shot by my partner Leanne.
A number of events were held around Sheringham for the Remembrance weekend culminating in the lighting of a beacon. This shot of the flames really caught my interest as it looks like a phoenix flying out of the fire. A poignant end to a touching weekend of remembrance.
It wasn’t always sunshine & blue skies for my North Norfolk boating experiences this year – the below is a shot of the Norfolk Coastal Exploration Co.’s 30ft whelker, The Salford, coming into the recently restored Cley Harbour. Once a busy shipping port the harbour became so silted that it resembled a muddy stream until the good folk of the Cley Harbour Association formed to clear it out & make it navigable again. The Salford was the largest boat to sail into Cley Harbour in over 50 years. A momentous occasion indeed!
Always a sucker for punishment I undertook my third Tough Mudder event this year with this merry band from our local gym. It was great fun, if a little tiring but the teamwork & camaraderie makes such a difference when it comes to sliding into a skip full of iced water or running through an obstacle designed to shock you with 10,000 volts!
Please excuse the quality of the next shot, it’s from my phone but I couldn’t resist including it. I’ve always been a huge fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s programmes so when I saw online that they run a summer festival at River Cottage I just had to get tickets. We saw Hugh about the place lots, he seemed to ennoy it as much as the festival-goers plus I got to ask Prue Leith in a Q&A session what she would choose for her final meal if she was due to get the electric chair tomorrow. She found the question amusing. (…and in case you are wondering her answer was oysters, followed my more oysters, followed by treacle tart!)
Always looking for a different angle I grabbed this shot of the iconic Happisburgh Lighthouse one evening. It’s not a shot I can ever see anyone buying but I like it for the angles, lines & lighting.
As part of a commission I spent a couple of mornings filming the seal pups at Horsey beach. Looks like this pup has smelled something he didn’t like!
Always a sucker for a good coastal storm I can always be found out & about when we have a good Northerly blowing. My cameras don’t thank me for it although I do provide them with little waterproof anoraks. I’ve only had one die on me so far due to sea water ingress which isn’t bad considering how many times they have been totally swamped by huge waves & spray!
For me 2018 will always be remembered as the first time I found amber on the beach. In fact I know four other people that found sizeable chunks of amber on the North Norfolk beaches. For me it is the ultimate beach treasure (not counting ambergris) and as a total beachcombing anorak it made me happier than I should probably admit! After a short polish using my dremel and some fine grade wet & dry paper the amber came up a treat….
It must be the scavenger in me but I love trawling the local junk yards & antique shops. We were in our favourite one on the coast road when Leanne spotted an old fishing boat which had been cut in half. We asked the owner, ‘Tony Two Sheds’, how much & decided to buy both halves. I got the bow half and Leanne got the stern half. We have since done them both up & use them as garden seat shelters. Pretty cool huh?
Continuing on the creative theme I also learned how to carve wooden spoons this year (and how to carve my finger which wasn’t so much fun). A great way to while away those long winter evenings in front of the wood burner!
I also had a crack at making my first pheasant feather wreath. I was really pleased with it & after sharing a shot on social media it seemed others were interested in making them so we laid on a pheasant wreath-making workshop which was a real success. Might do another next winter, if you are interested please drop me a line.
I couldn’t do a review of 2018 without including a shot of our gang, between myself & Leanne we have 5 little beauties. For Leanne’s birthday we went out for lunch at the awesome Dun Cow pub at Salthouse (their Sunday Roast Beef is just awesome!) followed by birthday cake on the boat at Morston. Look at all the Coke & sugar, we must be mad!
Another phone shot coming up… this is Dexter, a beautiful little Bengal kitten, I got him as a birthday present for Leanne in November and he’s been a source of great entertainment ever since. I’ve never known a cat so clumsy or funny. A beautiful little character and a welcome addition to our clan of 5 children and now 5 cats!!
…and finally a shot of Leanne & myself at our favourite place – the beach! This shot was taken on my camera by Leanne’s sister Onah, it’s not often I get in photos myself so it was great to have this shot taken by Onah and it now adorns the wall of my lounge to remind us of the best place on earth. Happy New Year, I hope 2019 brings you everything you wish for and more!
I promise I’ll get back to posting some more wedding photos soon but I thought I’d share a short film I made recently, shot all along the North Norfolk coast, showing our beautiful area in autumn.
Wedding couples often tell me they find the non-wedding stuff I post on here interesting and I think it’s good to show the range of work I do alongside the wedding photography. While I haven’t ever filmed a wedding (and have no intention of it to be honest, I’ll stick to the stills, wedding videography seems far too much work for my liking!) I really enjoy making outdoor films and who knows what they could lead to.
I narrowly missed out on a job filming for a travel programme for ITV earlier this year, would have involved 4-6 weeks travelling all around Australia. Sadly (for me) their usual cameraman was able to make it at the last minute so I didn’t get the job but maybe next time!
For more of my short films please visit my Vimeo channel.
• Norfolk Filmmakers • North Norfolk Video • Videographers in Norfolk • Norfolk Film •
Saturday morning saw me getting up at 6am to go out in a small boat. With 40mph NW winds and hail slamming against the windows I have to admit I did wonder what the heck I was heading out into!
The event I was photographing and filming was the Coastal Exploration Company’s 30 foot wooden whelker sailing up the River Glaven from Blakeney Pit to Cley Harbour (next to the wonderful Cley Mill). Salford was to be the largest commercial vessel to enter Cley Harbour in 60 years. The Cley Harbour Committee have been working hard since 2014 to clear the harbour after it had become silted up & overgrown to the point of being more of a stream over the last few decades.
A few hardy souls met in the watery dawn light to brave the elements and head out in Simon Read’s boat – Hesperus to meet Laura & Dom who had spent overnight on Salford anchored in Blakeney Pit ready for the final leg up the river into Cley Harbour. Luckily the rain held off for the journey and we met Dom & Laura and jumped on board. Below are few of my shots from the morning plus a short video I made from some footage I grabbed between stills. The light was pretty awful so apologies for the video but I think it captures the atmosphere and it was a pleasure to be able to record this historic event for Cley.
(The images are watermarked ‘Aquavisuals’ which is the marine-based/nautical side of my imaging business, for more on Aquavisuals click here.)
Below, the cherry on the top was seeing the Cley Harbour Committee receiving the NNDC Environment Award 2018, here they are with the Coastal Exploration Co. Team and their plaque…
Below is the short film I made of the event…
The story & photos have been really well received even making the front cover of today’s Eastern Daily Press and a full page on page 3. Plus a national news agency has been in touch this morning and will be pushing the story out to the national press so watch this space!
• Norfolk photographer • Photographers in Cley • North Norfolk Photography • Marine photographers Norfolk • Aquavisuals •
It was a gorgeous sunny September day for Daryl & Emma’s Norfolk wedding, one of many sunny weddings I’ve been lucky enough to photograph this year.
I’ve known Daryl for many years after I got involved with the Norfolk Movember fundraising about 7/8 years ago. Daryl was part of the team and it was lovely to catch up with the rest of the guys there at their wedding.
I started the day’s coverage with the ladies bridal preparations at the Black Boys Inn at Aylsham, where Emma, her bridesmaids and brother Ben were getting ready for their big day…
With the ladies all ready I headed down the bypass to the Reading Room at Alby. A really lovely little venue, this was the first time I had seen it and I was really impressed. Beautiful grounds, lovely inside and plenty of places for great photos. Plus there’s a church right next door (not that we used it this time but pretty darned convenient if you did decide to marry in the church at Alby!)
After an emotional service by the lovely ladies of Marry in Norfolk it was time for champagne & canapes…
I also took the opportunity to put the drone up for a couple of quick shots of the venue from the air. It’s included free in all of my wedding packages and can be a great way to show a wedding venue and it’s grounds in one shot.
The musical entertainment was provided by Tim & Chris Wall, again part of the Norfolk Movember team from a few years back. I was also lucky enough to photograph Chris’s wedding a couple of years ago at Blickling Hall, always lovely to see the Wall family!
After a quick shoot with just Daryl & Emma it was time to head inside of the speeches and wedding breakfast…
And so to the first dance, the end of an amazing day and the start of what I am sure was a fantastic night!
For the full gallery of Daryl & Emma beautiful Norfolk Wedding at The Reading Room click here.
• Reading Room Wedding Photographers • Wedding Photographers in Norfolk • North Norfolk Photographers • Wedding Photography Norfolk • Wedding photographers near Aylsham •
It’s been a while since I have managed to post on here but after just finishing processing last weekend’s gorgeous Holkham Hall wedding photos I couldn’t resist sharing some of my favourite shots. Holkham Hall is truly a stunning location, set in the beautiful parkland grounds with their own herd of deer it is a photographer’s dream. The architecture is just breathtaking and the luxurious Marble Hall really must be one of the most impressive wedding ceremony locations in Norfolk.
I started the day’s wedding photography coverage at Row & Richard’s home just inland from the North Norfolk coast where I found Row & the girls getting ready on this beautiful, sunny autumn day.
Anyone for pizza?!
The incredible floral work for their wedding was created by the talented ladies at one of Norfolk’s top florists – Constance Rose. Such a lot of work had gone into these stunning flowers and the many decorations throughout Rowena & Richard’s Holkham Wedding. The colours Row had selected were absolutely beautiful…
With the ladies all set to head off to Holkham I jumped in the car & headed over to get some shots of Richard plus bestman (and brother) Martin and ushers Luke & Joe. Holkham Hall was looking majestic bathed in the autumn sunlight. Definitely my favourite time of year for photography with the low raking light and amazing colours of the leaves.
With everyone in place it was time for our bride’s arrival…
After a quick chat with the lovely registrars it was time to get the show on the road! So lovely to see Charlotte Martin (from Marry In Norfolk) was to be holding the ceremony. I’ve known Charlotte since she worked at Cley Mill, then had the honour of photographing her son’s wedding so it’s always lovely to find Charlotte is taking a ceremony I am to be shooting.
While Mr & Mrs signed the legal documents I got some shots around the hall – we are not allowed the photograph the register itself since it is a legal document so I always use the time to get some shots of the guests and the location.
After walking down the aisle, Richard & Row came back in for a big group shot of everyone on the steps before we released them to the drinks & canapes awaiting in the Lady Elizabeth Wing.
Amazing to think that we could all be outside in the courtyard enjoying the warm weather in mid October, it was genuinely like a Summer’s day!
After making sure Mr & Mrs Chantree had a chance to speak to their guests & enjoy the champagne & canapes we headed out into the grounds for some photos although with the meal looming there wasn’t long so I worked fast to get a selection of shots in the one location. It’s often the way with weddings – I will work with as long as I have available but my one rule is that I will never keep the kitchen waiting for us – if we have to be back at the reception for a certain time for the guests to sit down to eat then I will make sure we are back with time to spare. The chefs work extremely hard to make sure everything is ready for a certain time, the last thing they want is for the guests to be seated late because the photographer got carried away!
Back at the Lady Elizabeth Wing it was time for Richard’s speech before everyone sat down for the wedding breakfast…
The Lady Elizabeth Wing at Holkham Hall is a fantastic asset to this incredible Norfolk wedding venue – spacious, airy & light – perfect for photography!
With the main course finished it was time for Martin’s speech – heartfelt, funny and entertaining, everything a bestman’s speech should be (certainly not as cruel as some I’ve seen this year!)
Cake cut (and sampled by Edie) it was time for the last official duty of the day – the first dance…
A huge thank you to Row & Richard for having me as their wedding photographer, it was a fantastic wedding to photograph and they all made me feel so welcome.
For the full gallery of their Holkham Hall wedding click here. If you were guests at the wedding the reprints are available from the gallery at a 50% discount for the next seven days.
• Holkham Hall wedding • North Norfolk wedding photographer • Wedding photographers in Norfolk • Holkham weddings •
I got back last night from a fantastic few days photographing the action at Lendy Cowes Week 2018.
As part of my Aquavisuals maritime photography brand I wanted to get a good range of sailing photos and yachting photography for some magazine features so I booked a few days out in my diary earlier this year and made the trip down south. I had found a fantastic AirBnB place literally a stones throw from the quayside and about as central to the action as I could possibly get. I love it when a plan comes together!
I arrived on the Monday evening, Day 3 of Lendy Cowes Week and got straight to work catching some shots of some of the yachts crossing the finish line with their beautiful spinnakers bulging in the evening breeze, backlit by the setting sun…
While on the quayside I overheard someone saying that these boats had all their pennants up because the Princess Royal, Princess Anne, was in Cowes for the sailing. I then suddenly realised there were quite a few police around and some black cars parked behind me, seconds later I saw a small boat come into the marina and sure enough Princess Anne was on board. She disembarked the boat and walked straight up the jetty towards me, talk about right place, right time!
Biggest binoculars I’ve ever seen!
Gonna need a bigger boat…
For the rest of the week I had managed to secure a place on the Lendy Media boat which was fantastic, although the weather on Cowes Week day 4 wasn’t ideal initially with torrential downpours…
…but it soon brightened up and the sailors all seemed to be enjoying themselves on what was Cowes Ladies Day…
Cowes Week, Day 5 brought some great weather, sunshine, 25 knot gusts of wind and some good clouds in the blue sky to add some interest to the images. By far the best day for photography of the time I was there…
Fever Tree were handing out goodie bags to the yachts as they came back into the marina after a day’s sailing. Sadly they didn’t give any to the media boat!
RNLI Cowes Lifeboat were busy on the Wednesday with three shouts, this one made me smile – the Pig has gone belly up so who do you call? Cowes Lifeboat obviously!
Not a happy sight…
Cowes lifeboat off on their next shout…
So to my final day at Cowes Week, sadly another overcast day so I concentrated mostly on getting close ups of the action, trying to eliminate as much of the drab sky from the shots although I couldn’t resist still getting plenty of wider shots showing these beautiful boats in action…
Oops, slight touch there as some of the yachts struggled against a strong tide & little wind to get round one of the course markers…
Hauling in the spinnaker!
Joy at finally getting round the bouy after a tense few minutes of drifting the wrong way with the strong ebbing tide…
So there’s my favourite shots of this years Lendy Cowes Week, I’m already looking forward to heading back for next year plus a few other major yachting events in the diary.
I am open to commissions to any yachting events so please drop me a line or see my Aquavisuals site, aimed specifically at maritime & boating photography here.
For the full gallery of my 2018 Cowes week photos click here.
• yachting photography • yacht photographer • sailing photographer • sailing photos • marine photographer •
Last week with the fine weather and calm seas I decided to make a short film showing some of the beauty that lies beneath the waves just off our beach here at Sheringham.
In 2016 the unique chalk reef ecosystem stretching from Weybourne to Happisburgh was designated to be an official Marine Conservation Zone. The MCZ covers an area of 321 square kilometres and is home to a vast and rich diversity of sealife. The MCZ is apparently home to over 30 species of Sea Slug, I haven’t spotted any yet but I’ll keep looking!
The problem is that for much of the year the sea is stirred up so much that the water resembles a muddy gravy which is no good for snorkelling or scuba diving. Most years we have a few weeks in the summer when the sea is calm enough for the sediment to drop out and the water clears up providing some great visibility for underwater exploring. Last week was one of them and with the beautiful sunshine beaming down on us I couldn’t resist a venture into the water, I wasn’t disappointed. I don’t recall the water ever being quite this clear, the visibility was great!
Below is a short film I made using the drone for some aerial footage and a GoPro Hero6 for some 4K underwater shots. I think the results have surpised a lot of people as to just how clear the water can get and also how beautiful this environment is, just under our noses but often totally unexplored by the vast majority. At the time of writing the FB video has had over 30,000 views & 500+ shares on my Facebook page, plus an edited version appearing on the BBC East of England social media pages (another 33,000+ views) and stills/clips of it being used by the EDP & BBC in other areas. I’m due to be interviewed for a piece about the chalk reef for BBC Look East next week too. Jacques Cousteau was always my hero as a kid so this is my chance to emulate him!
Below are some still shots I took while down there, not as sharp as I’d like but not bad for a little GoPro I guess!