So this is a bit of a story about the first day that we were on in the Masai Mara in Kenya, from pickup to the drive to (most importantly), the animals and photography. It is going to be more of a photos only post, but I’ll try to add a bit of context in as well.
The tour company we booked with is Kenya Budget Safaris, and I’d give them a solid 4/5. The price we paid was cheaper than any others we could find, but they didn’t feel super budget. The camp we stayed at, Rhino Tourist Camp, was not the lap of luxury by any means. Of course, I also have gone on exactly one safari in my entire life, so I don’t have a lot to compare it against. I do know that some are super fancy, champagne in the morning, super luxury camp, etc.
The Drive In
Anyway, when you go on safari, you’ll most likely be picked up at your hotel in Nairobi and driven out to the Mara. The drive I took was with three other people plus the drive in a van that was modified with reinforcements and a roof that would pop up so you could stand and look out when you’re in the park.
The drive itself takes about five hours. Our drive stopped along the road on a long downhill drive with an amazing view of the Great Rift Valley, and (and I’m sure it was a coincidence) a bunch of people selling their wares.
The view of the valley was pretty impressive though. If you look carefully you can see the remains of the old volcano towards the middle right of the photo below.
The drive was long and bumpy. The last two hours or so of road was unpaved, full of potholes and diversions, and while the driver was pretty good, it was still a rough, rough ride.
Along the way we saw lots of locals on their own transportation. As I said in my last post, things like helmet laws don’t seem to have made it here, and it’s not uncommon to see three people on a motorcycle, including a mother and infant strapped up against her.
There were also long stretches where there didn’t seem to be anything around, no houses, farms, nothing… but you’d see a Kenyan just sitting beside the road, or slowly walking along. Kinda bizarre.
Our schedule for the safari had us come into the came for food (the food exemplified the “budget” part of this trip sadly), and then out for an evening safari.
At the camp I found a cat (of course I did).
There seems to be a breed of Kenyan cat, this sort of grey tabby. At most places we were that were out of town there was one of these hanging around, and very happy to receive some love. After this we hit the gate of the park that we were closest to.
I’ll go into the gear and setup really quickly. I brought two cameras with me, the Fuji XT-1 and XT-2. The lenses were the Fuji 18-55/2.8-4 (the kit lens), 50-230/4.5-6.7 and in the hopes to get a second lens with a bit longer reach, the 56/1.2 Pentax Limited 77/1.9 (with Pentax K to Fuji X mount adapter).
My wife loves long zooms, so most of the photos from the trip were taken by her with the XT-1 with the 50-230. A couple of things that were needed for this camera though, as it was set mostly on automatic mode was to set the minimum shutter speed to 1/180th, up from the default 1/60th. Because the lens is so slow, and the light wasn’t great (it was later afternoon), shooting at f/6.7 even at ISO 5000 or more led to some low shutter speeds and lots of blurry photos. After I reset it it wasn’t bad.
Shooting with the XT-2 and the Pentax went ok. Because it was on an adapter it was all manual, but the manual focus assist in the XT-2 worked really nicely. Having the extra megapixels in the XT-2 (24 vs 16) I have a bit more flexibility for cropping as well.
The one mistake that I made was before the trip I set the XT-2 to use compressed RAW as its file format, thinking I could save space on the cards. The downside of this was that the iPad (more on this in a second) can’t read the compressed RAW format, so when I tried to download and view the photos after, all I got was “unsupported file” 🙁
My plan for this trip was to not bring a laptop and to use only the iPad (10.5″ iPad Pro if you care) and the SD to lightning adapter as the photo downloading and editing technology. Importing into Lightroom mobile means that the original files were going to sync up to Adobe Creative Cloud and end up on my computer at home, including any edits and star ratings I was making. I also took some photos with Lightroom Mobile on my iPhone, which also went into the same collection and were put into the same album that ended up on my home computer. I’ll do a longer post for those who care about this later.
Just Get To The Animals Already!
Anyway, who cares about cameras and little cats, let’s see some photos from the actual safari that we went on after our mediocre lunch, that was the real star of the show!
There were a few other people in other vans driving around as well. Whole herds of them sometimes….
And amazing vistas, like this one with a rain burst in the distance.
More importantly, lots and lots of animals, which was pretty awesome for our first day there.
Including some zebra having a bit of a disagreement over something.
Note that all these photos, and more will be available for sale when I’m back home and have a chance to polish them a bit more and set up a store. Please email me if you’re interested in any in particular.
That’s it for now, I’ll update from the next day of the trip soon!