Well I was lucky to be selected as portrait: Face category winner in the betterphotography annual contest 2012. I was invited to attend the Face-Off contest in Kenya along with other seven photographers. This was going to be very exciting experience to me.
Basically I am not a wildlife photographer so I started about thinking what equipments I should carry on this trip? I am currently using canon 5D mark II. Though a crop body camera like 7D might be more suitable I was not feeling comfortable with handling two bodies & that too by borrowing. I exchanged my Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS with Canon 100-400mm f/4-5.6 & Canon 17-40mm f/4 with Canon 24-105 f/4 with my friends. I also kept Canon 50mm f/1.8 + extension tubes with me.
The Journey started on 11.5.2013. I reached to Mumbai & got familiar with the colleagues. We all had gone through Yellow Fever vaccination which is mandatory for the travelers to Kenya. we came to know that one guy is going to miss the tour since his bag was stolen & he lost his passport. It was really unfortunate & we all felt sorry for him.
I was a bit worried about missing some important accessories/documents which I was to carry. I made checklist & kept copies of it with me. I also made three set of copies of important documents. one was kept at home for reference. One was in my Cabin bag & one was with me in handbag/camera bag. All the scanned documents were also kept on my skydrive for online access, if needed in emergency.
Following were essential documents which I carried:
1. Passport + Copies
2. Flight Tickets + Copies
3. Travel Insurance + Copies
4. Visa Application Form + Copies
2. Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate
Following equipments other than standard camera & lenses were most useful which I carried in this trip:
1. Universal adapter (Mains plug type is bit different) + Small Extension board
2. CF Card Reader + USB drive + Laptop
What I missed in this trip:
1. I was having 3 cards (8GB) + 1 card (4GB). Though it looked sufficient but in RAW burst mode the memory cards may fall short. one 16GB/32GB card gives you plenty of room & avoids changing of cards during shoot.
2. Macro lens. I missed it especially to take beautiful shots of flora/insects available in the lawn of our restaurants.
Day 1: Nairobi
We landed at Nairobi & after going through getting routine procedure like getting on-arrival visa, currency exchange & immigration forms started towards our stay in Sarova Stanley. After arrival we had our breakfast followed by briefing session about the contest.
We were supposed to work on two themes. Theme 1: Magical Kenya was about submitting total 48 photographs (5 per day mandatory) & Theme 2: Mobile Diary shooting 60 images (10 images per day) & 18 Video clips (3 clips per day). These 60 images & 18 clips need to be presented in a sequence like making a movie telling a story. Hmm... it was really tough than all of us we were expecting. Mostly we were going to travel together & even though producing images not only unique but also interesting was another challenge. After 30 minutes of break we started & visited various places in Nairobi like Railway Museum, Kenyatta International Conference Centre etc. We all were warming up by handling with our gears in this new city. Everybody must be thinking on contest themes though were busy in shooting.
We all visited a shopping mall & got our new local SIM cards. Unfortunately due to some misunderstanding I was left out in shopping mall & when I reached parking lot nobody was there. Due to new changed numbers I was unable to contact our colleagues. I left my message to collect me at the reception center of our hotel & waited for that. But after waiting a long I realized that it was not going to help me. I took help of a local gentleman who guided me for traveling in local bus. Traveling through mini local bus was similar kind of experience as traveling at my hometown local buses. People enjoying the country music busy with their everyday work & activities.
Day 2: Departure for Bagoria Lake
We visited to Bagoria lake in the morning. The soda waters of the lake attract massive flocks of Flamingo, and the lake is often carpeted with pink. The 32 sq km lake (34 km long by 3.5 km wide) is still volcanically active, and the Western shore is lined with spouting geysers, spurting steam and bubbling geothermal pools. Fresh water springs at the lake edge attract an abundance of birds and wildlife.
There are many Fish Eagles, which often prey on the local flamingos. The shores are always lined with Gazelle, Zebra, Baboons and this is one of the best places to see Greater Kudu.
The main attraction here was the sight of millions of flamingos, hot springs & beautiful landscapes. The lake is spread along south - north direction followed by mountain facing towards west. The sunset light falling on the mountains was enhancing it's beauty.
Day 3 : Departure for Rift Valley
The Great Rift Valley is a large trench that runs through Kenya from north to south. It is part of the Gregory Rift, the eastern branch of the East African Rift, which starts in Tanzania to the south and continues northward into Ethiopia. The valley contains the Cherangani Hills and a chain of volcanoes, some of which are still active. The climate is mild, with temperatures usually below 28 °C.
This long drive offered beautiful viewpoint
s of valleys with plenty of opportunities to shoot landscapes but due to limited time we were not able to take frequent halts & mostly busy with observing the views only. We had our packed lunch at the viewpoint. We started for Lake bagoria after a group photo session. The evening at lake Bagoria was exotic. I had taken some landscapes from the viewpoint & near hot spring points.
Day 4 : Departure for Naivasha Lake
Lake Naivasha is a beautiful freshwater lake, fringed by thick papyrus. The lake is almost 13kms across, but its waters are shallow with an average depth of five meters. Apart from transient streams, the lake is fed by the perennial Malewa and Gilgil rivers. There is no visible outlet, but since the lake water is relatively fresh it is assumed to have an underground outflow.
The beautiful views of lake, pure white pelicans, storks was wonderful visual treat to the eyes. Pelicans are a genus of large water birds comprising the family Pelecanidae. They are characterised by a long beak and large throat pouch used in catching prey and draining water from the scooped up contents before swallowing.
Day 5 : Departure for Masai Mara
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is a large game reserve in Narok County, Kenya, contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Mara Region, Tanzania. It is named in honor of the Maasai people and their description of the area when looked at from afar: "Mara", which is Maa (Maasai language) for "spotted," an apt description for the circles of trees, scrub, savanna, and cloud shadows that mark the area. It is globally famous for its exceptional population of lions, leopards and cheetahs, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson's gazelle, and wildebeest to and from the Serengeti every year from July to October, known as the Great Migration.
Well this trip might be not complete without visiting this place. We spotted various wild animals like black spotted Hyena, Elephants, Zebra, Giraffe, Lions with cubs, Wildebeest, gazelles, impalas, rhino etc here along with beautiful birds like crested crane, Secretary bird, Ostrich, Marabou Stork, Southern Ground Hornbill, Lilac-breasted Roller etc.
Day 6 : Departure to Nairobi
Flying from Mara Serenas local airstrips by charter flight to Nariobi's Wilson Airport was fun. No check-in procedures putting our luggage by self in the cabin & sitting just behind the pilot & having aerial view of Masai-mara was all together a very different experience. We were having flight from Nairobi to Mumbai. Most of us all were busy with their laptops in selecting final images for submitting to the contest. Though we were given 2-3 days for processing the images & submitting online we were supposed to give them final file selections before we leave from Mumbai.
It was wonderful experience, I made new talented friends each one blessed with special skills. While reviewing images database I found that I just shoot like a kid trying to capture whatever possible I came across just like a novice photographer. May be I was just too excited by seeing so many opportunities & being bit nervous on the issue of my inexperience in wildlife photography. I missed many shots due to my poor skills in this genre of photography, inexperience with handling canon 100-400 etc. but no complaints. I learned a lot & I am sure it is going to help me!!
You can watch all images in my album : Magical Kenya I will recommend you to watch with the option of slideshow (button top right side) for getting big size previews.