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
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to spend a few mornings on the beach with the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, photographing and filming their summer ride-outs on Holkham beach, just down the road from me here in North Norfolk.
When I was contacted by a press agency asking if I would be interested in doing something similar for The King’s Troop I jumped at the chance. I wasn’t sure how much press interest there would be since we had pretty good exposure with the HMRC (my doubts were proved unfounded!) but I love any opportunity to photograph the spectacle of royal horses riding through the surf so I booked out two mornings in my diary.
To ensure that the ride was as safe as possible the times & dates of the ride were not published since the visits to the beach are a serious training exercise, when it is covered in crowds of people it endangers the public, the riders and the horses (to a degree). When one of the riders gets thrown and the horse bolts back to the shore at full speed, straight towards you, it’s a pretty scary sight I can tell you!
On the first morning (Wednesday) I arrived at 7am, we had permission from the Holkham Estate to fly a drone that morning only so I made the most of it capturing aerial video and stills.
On Thursday morning I headed back to get some more ground-based stills & video. Their final beach ride of the year was on Friday, BBC Breakfast were scheduled to come along & do a live broadcast from the beach so I gave it a miss, happy that I had got what I needed. I didn’t want to get in the way.
Sadly there was a press embargo until late Friday morning (to ensure that the riders could have unencumbered rides on all three days). I was the only photographer on the beach on Wednesday and would have had the scoop for all the nationals had I been allowed to put out the shots that day but I totally respect their decision not to allow the word to get out and held back. Sadly (for me!) on Thursday two Press Association photographers were there getting shots also so I didn’t have the monopoly on shots as I’d hoped but as you will see at the bottom of this post we still got some pretty good national media coverage.
The short film I made of the rides is here…
As mentioned earlier the press interest once again has been good. BBC Look East produced a video from my footage which at the time of writing has had 275,000 views on Facebook alone, it was on BBC Look East last night and the video was on the front page of the BBC National News homepage. Today’s press has been good too with photos in The Guardian, The Telegraph and a double page spread in the Daily Express. It seems I’m not the only one who can’t get enough of royal horses on the beach!
I think that’s pretty much all the beach-horse action I’ll see for the rest of this year now but I’ll be back next summer to do it all again!
Many thanks to The Kings Troop, BBC Look East, Apex News, Holkham Estate and Norfolk Locations.
As the dust settles on another incredibly packed summer I have time again to update the blog with some posts of what I’ve been photographing and filming over the last few months.
I’ve photographed lots of lovely Norfolk weddings which I’ll be sharing soon as separate blog posts but I thought I’d do a bit of a mash-up of the other stuff I’ve been photographing on our beautiful North Norfolk coastline.
This year has been a special year for Wells RNLI as they celebrate 150 years of having a station at Wells. I headed over there in early summer to get some drone shots of their boats in action and again on the day of their regatta to document the getting-together of a number of historic lifeboats…
In early June I headed to the Worstead Estate to photograph their Wagyu herd and to sample some of the produce. I was quite excited as I’d never tried Wagyu beef before. We enlisted the talented Alex Firman aka Alex Chef to prepare various dishes to show off the meat and I can confirm that it was incredible!
This year I joined Norfolk Constabulary as a Police Support Volunteer (PSV) to help out on the Police boats operating in the North Norfolk harbours of Wells, Morston & Blakeney. They needed people with boating experience and I guess my 19 years on the crew at RNLI Sheringham probably helped! We’ve had a few interesting trips out on the boat, one night launch on which we noticed the bow & stern waves glowing bright blue with bio luminescence, an absolute treat to see! Below is a blurry shot of it – pretty hard to get a sharp shot in virtual darkness on a moving boat but hopefully it shows the beautiful colour of this natural phenomenon.
I’ve had loads of interesting video commissions this year including some for the Deep History Coast project – a great initiative to promote the North Norfolk coast’s rich collection of finds and prehistoric past. One of the film commissions for the project required a helicopter flight along the length of the coast to capture the full length of the Deep History Coast. I had spoken Alistair MacKinnon, a local business-owner and helicopter pilot/owner, in the past about helicopter flights so we got in contact and arranged the flight.
Below are some shots and a short behind-the-scenes film of the flight, Leanne came along to film some footage of me doing my thing, what a great experience!
My home town of Sheringham has had a rocky summer season due to the well-publicised sinkhole which opened up in the high street right at the start of the summer. I decided it would be interesting to see what it looked like from above so one morning took the drone over the hole for some photos & video. These were the only aerial shots taken of the hole while it existed and generated some press interest. The hole was finally filled in & the road re-opened just as the schools went back at the end of the summer holidays and many local businesses suffered, let’s hope it’s all sorted now and we don’t see any more appearing.
…a more natural subsidence happened just along the coast as a huge cliff fall at Sidestrand took place. It was captured in some incredible footage by fellow photographer Brad Damms, I have to say I was very envious of him seeing it actually happen but I consoled myself with some aerial shots of the aftermath which again made the local newspapers.
I’ve also been busy making a series of short films for Visit North Norfolk, showing some of the fabulous attractions that North Norfolk has to offer, I won’t post them all up here but this is one of my favourites…Sea for Adventure….
I’ve been photographing at Sheringham Golf Club for a few years now. I enjoy golf course photography, captured in the right light they can look really beautiful, especially such a special links course as Sheringham. This shoot was more to show some of the lady members in action and the hardworking greens staff working their magic but we still got some shots showing the majesty of Sheringham Golf course, I may be biased but this is the most stunning course I have ever played on….
One project that has taken more time to shoot than any other this year has been the incredible Bacton & Walcott Sandscaping project – a £22 million initiative involving 1.8 million cubic metres of sand being pumped onto the beaches to protect the coastline from further coastal erosion. The pumping ran from early July to mid-August and was a fascinating process to observe. Below are a handful of shots taken over the course of the project, the first in Britain of it’s kind and hopefully the start of many.
Two of the three films I made for the sandscaping project are below, the third & final film is currently in production…
It was really lovely to catch up with Kimberley & Gareth this summer, I photographed their wedding at Cley Mill back in August 2017 and they returned to the mill to celebrate their anniversary, complete with bump! We had a fun afternoon at the mill and Cley beach getting some maternity shots for them. So lovely to catch up again!
Always finish on a sunset! I love the simplicity of this shot taken one evening while we were out for a walk on the cliffs. Some moody clouds were gathering as a commercial ship passed the windfarm. Shortly after the shot was taken we decided to make a swift retreat to the car and got back just as fat raindrops started falling, timing isn’t just about when to release the shutter!
Most years we are lucky enough to have some really calm weather over the summer while allows the sediment to drop out of the water resulting in great visibility for snorkelling on the North Norfolk coast.
This week has been one of those times and I’ve tried to get out there at low tide as much as I can to take in the beauty of the ecosystem that is the unique North Norfolk Chalk Reef. As you can see from the short film and photos below it is a really magical place, teeming with marine life across the whole spectrum of colours.
The reef stretches approx 20 miles along the North Norfolk coast, dubbed ‘The Great Barrier Reef of Britain’, it is the longest chalk reef in the world and a designated Marine Conservation Zone.
People are always amazed to see the variety of life only a stone’s throw away from the sandy beach, the safe waters off our coast at this time of year mean that the reef is accessible to anyone with a mask & snorkel.
The still photos below were shot on the new Olympus TG-6 – an incredible compact underwater camera. Most of the wider video footage was filmed on a GoPro Hero 7 Black – the stabilisation on this little camera is just amazing although the picture quality underwater doesn’t compare to the TG-6.
UPDATE: Nice to see that my pics have been picked up and are currently on the BBC News site here, also on The Metro site here, and I was pleased to see the shots made the front cover of yesterday’s EDP and pages 2 & 3, that’s a lot of fuss about some crabs & lobsters!
Here’s the film:
And finally a couple of shots of me in action, admittedly taken on a much murkier day than the one in which I captured all of the shots above!
It’s been an amazing month for photographic opportunities and the highlights have been the three times we’ve been lucky enough to photograph and record the Household Cavalry on their ride-outs on Holkham beach.
This latest one was a very special ride and one which none of us present will ever forget – we arranged it as a special ride for Major Richard Chambers who is soon to retire after 33 years in the regiment. Richard has ridden with the regiment on their Holkham rides since they very first started coming to the iconic Norfolk beach.
To keep things simple they brought one horsebox with seven horses for this sunset ride and boy did we get lucky with the weather. It wasn’t the best sunset I’ve seen at Holkham but it was certainly the most memorable. To see these magnificent beasts running through the surf with their highly trained riders was a photographer’s dream.
Below are a handful of the shots I took that evening…
I would personally like to wish Major Chambers a very happy retirement and thank him and all of the chaps and ladies of the regiment for the opportunity to document their visits to Holkham this year. A huge thanks to George at Norfolk Locations and the Holkham Estate for allowing this extra ride to go ahead and to ‘Woolly’ the Land Rover driver extraordinaire who drove us to & from the beach, he can handle those deep sand tracks like no other (even when he has a landrover packed with 10 people!)
The full gallery of shots that evening can be seen here: https://galleries.everybodysmile.co.uk/cgi-bin/public.cgi?Id=364682
My talented partner,Leanne (Samphire Films), made another beautiful little film of the evening’s ride….
I had been looking forward to this week for a long time, in 2017 I filmed the Household Cavalry on their annual summer ride-out on Holkham Beach here in Norfolk from the drone. I missed the ride last year but managed to organise access to the two regiments (Life Guards and the Blues & Royals) this year and went through the necessary permissions to be allowed to fly at Holkham again.
As you will see below we were blessed with incredible weather on Thursday & yesterday (today it is raining!) so we got some stunning stills & video footage. My partner Leanne (currently setting up her own independent film company – Samphire Films) came along on both days to film some ground-based footage to add to the aerial footage and since I wasn’t able to get clearance to fly both days (to minimise disturbance to the wildlife) I shot stills on a long lens yesterday. I’m very grateful to the Holkham Estate and Norfolk Locations for allowing me to fly on the Thursday, there is a rare nesting colony of little terns at the west end of the bay so I had to make sure I avoided flying too close.
A huge thank you to the lads & ladies of the Household Cavalry for allowing us such amazing access, particularly Major Chambers and Captain Perera who even drove us to & from the beach to save our little legs! It was a huge privilege to meet them all, a real credit to the the British Army.
Thank you to Jason & Graham from Norfolk Constabulary who came down on the Thursday to police the beach for any rogue drone users and keep an eye on things. And finally thank you to our friends Leigh & Steve who came down to assist us – Steve was my drone-spotter for the day and didn’t take his eye off the drone once, while Leigh assisted Leanne as she filmed some incredible footage – including filming from the army truck as they sped alongside the horses at full gallop. What an incredible opportunity!
Below are some of the shots and at the bottom of this post you will find the finished video by myself and Leanne and a link to the full gallery of the photos. As per 2017 the shots & video this year have proved very popular with the front cover & pages 2 & 3 in the Eastern Daily Press (see bottom of this post), a shot being used in today’s Guardian newspaper in their ‘pics of the week’ spread, Country Life magazine, the Daily Mail Online (here), and on the BBC. Enjoy!
Your eyes don’t deceive you, there is actually a naked man in the below photo – the west end of Holkham is a nudist beach, bet they didn’t expect 26 army horses & soldiers to ride towards them that day!
In today’s Guardian…
The full gallery of my still images can be seen here.
Our film of the two mornings on the beach is here: