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Behind Robert’s Lens

Capturing all the magic moments in the Mara is a job that runs from sunrise to sunset. Spend a day in the life of Robert from The Angama Photographic Studio
Above: Robert in his element

It’s 05h15 when my alarm jolts me awake. It’s a photoshoot day here at Angama Mara and we need to be in the Mara Triangle as the gate opens at 06h00. Last night, Adam and I met the family of four and told them how a fun half-day photoshoot in the Reserve captures beautiful imagery of the wildlife, the family on safari and their experience in the Mara. Happily, mum loved the idea, so it’s off on safari we go.  
Batteries charged: check
Memory cards formatted: check
Tripod, monopod and bean bag packed: check

Behind the scenes: shooting a photoshoot in progress

After some steaming hot cappuccinos, we are ready; the chill in the air at this time of the morning can be bracing. As a photographer, I am constantly chasing light, and I still get a twitch in my ‘trigger finger’ as we descend down Angama Mara’s private road into the park. Just below the escarpment, we start our photoshoot. This is where everything comes together: the gentle but warm sunlight; the iconic escarpment providing the perfect backdrop; the energy and expectation. Guests always look lovely at this time of day, glowing and radiant. The mother’s smile is larger than life with her entire family tucked in around her — next year’s Christmas card already in the bag. A few minutes here and a few dozen photographs later, we are ready to move on.

Everything glows at golden hour

We continue driving along the winding tracks flanked by golden fields of grass. I take advantage of every sighting and maximise every opportunity to capture images of the family with the animals of the Mara in the background. A herd of elephants silently walk by and a giraffe inspects us inquisitively. These are often the hardest shots to take — the shadows inside the vehicle, the bright light illuminating the animal and the proximity to our subjects (guest and animal alike) — but these are also the most rewarding, memories that will bring such joy for years to come.  

When you're shooting in the park, sometimes the animals play right along

Tummies start to rumble so we choose a tree under which to have a delicious and well-earned breakfast. The family climbs out of the vehicle to stretch their legs — another great opportunity to capture more photos of everyone surrounded by wild and pristine Africa.
By midday, after some more shooting, we make the decision to return to the lodge. The sun is directly above us now and photographically, things are getting tough. Not to mention lunch is calling.

Processing sometimes hundreds of photos a day, organisation becomes key

Back in the Studio, I begin transferring all the imagery onto various hard drives. It pays to be thorough when it comes to file management and shortcuts at this stage could mean misplacing great photos that we have worked so hard for. For this reason, I am slow and methodical, backing up and arranging — workflow is key. With the images safely filed away, I know I will be able to return to them and go through each, process them to bring out the best of every image. Then I head off for lunch and a quick shower. 

I love to share photography tips and often find that children have such creative ways of seeing things

In the afternoon I have a session booked by another guest who is interested in renting one of our cameras for tomorrow’s safari. This one-hour ‘crash-course’, which we call ‘Getting Off Auto’, allows guests to become more familiar with photographic concepts and build on their understanding and confidence with the camera. Some learn on their own cameras, while others use one of ours available to rent. We look at the exposure triangle first and then dive into aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. We discuss focusing, white balance and a myriad of other technicalities, as well as the basics of composition and what makes a great and memorable image. Eventually, the guest feels confident enough to take the camera into the field. Tomorrow I will meet up with him for a follow-up session, helping him to edit his favourite images.

Guests learning the magic of editing — a crucial step in getting a brilliant photograph

Another guest comes into the Studio requesting help with editing and post-processing. We sit down and talk through Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. It’s always rewarding to watch their expressions as they see their images transform into something even more beautiful.
After I am done with the classes, it’s time to go through my photographs, editing, rating and keywording them as I go. I reflect on what camera setting and photography techniques could have yielded better results and sometimes mull over that missed shot. The best photos, outside of guest photoshoots, will be featured on our social media channels and weekly blog, This Week at Angama, and a source of pride for us.

Capturing one last photo of another beautiful day in the Mara

As the sun starts to dip at the end of another magical day in the Mara I head off to the deck with my camera in hand. There has been a special request from our marketing team for a specific photograph of the guest area — one last shot last for the day.
In the Photographic Studio, we are always on the lookout for gorgeous light, unique angles, fun moments, fresh perspectives and beautiful imagery, doing our best to delight guests and create lasting memories.

Filed under: Inside Angama

Tagged with:

Angama Team , Photographic Safari , Photography , Wildlife Photography

About: Robert Sayialel

A passionate photographer and videographer, Robert started his career working with Amboseli Trust for Elephants in Amboseli National Park, close to where he was born and raised. He honed his skills photographing the famous big Tuskers and travelling with guests through Kenya’s National Parks, documenting their safaris. A kid at heart, some say he never stops smiling.

Browse all articles by Robert Sayialel Meet the angama team

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Join the Conversation (2 comments)

Comments (2):

Harriet Le Voir

3 February 2024

I cannot thank Robert and Joseph in the photo studio enough for helping transform some images from our stay and visit to the Mara and also inspiring me to investigate the photo editing process on my return home! They are both very talented. May I ask which Nikon lens type I was able to use during the stay? Many thanks!

    Charlotte Ross Stewart

    5 February 2024

    Dear Harriet, I have passed along your comment to Robert and Joseph and they are so pleased to hear you're putting their lessons into practice at home. Robert also said he has emailed you regarding the lens you borrowed but please reach out again if there's anything else we can help you with. Wishing you all the best and hoping to see you soon — the Angama team! X

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