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Serian: Time is the Secret

The true secrets of photography are elusive. I’m realising that time, rather than the latest and most expensive equipment, is the key to great shots. After all, even the best of cameras can't create insightful shots when left to their own devices.

Early light like this is tough to capture on auto!

It’s making time that makes the difference: time to learn the dark arts of photography; time out in the field finding our creative voice and style; time spent agonising over the shots we miss and mess up; and time to celebrate when ’the shot’ comes together.

Making the most of our precious time on safari is part of that continuum. Surely it is better to slow down, cover less ground and really connect photographically with our subjects than to just whizz from one creature to the next, snatching a shot and ticking them off a ‘seen that’ list?

It takes patience to see so many giraffes so relaxed

So our choice of safari camp is crucial: many fabulous camps fall down, for me, on their approach to time and space. They are perfect if you want to skim the surface, see animals fleetingly, and be insulated from your surroundings by opulent luxury, but they are not for me.

breakfast on the deck at Serian - elegant but simple and immersed in the bush

Here at Serian, real luxury lies in small groups, extended wildlife encounters, exclusive vehicle use, terrific personalised service and a charming intimate space designed for you to feel at home and at one with nature. And the ultimate luxury is allowing yourself time to let the place work its magic, for this is a place to slow down and explore.

Enjoy many sunrises and sunsets along the way

Stay a week or more: you’ll never run short of inspiration and opportunity. Spend days with lions, hours with leopard and hear hippo honk through the night. Linger while the light is at it’s best, no matter how mundane the subject may seem - plains game looks epic at dawn and dusk, and time spent with them will usually yield some sort of whacky behaviour that’s great to capture.

Drink in the drama of African skies. Stay a night or two in a sister camp, sleeping under the stars in the Ngare treehouse and experiencing the great migration crossings at Nkorombo. And in the conservancies you can connect with the land on foot, exploring the tiny gems of flora and insect life you’ll never see from a car.

tiny plants may only be revealed when on foot

Make time for all these things along the way: you won’t regret it, and your photography will reflect the quality of your safari experience. You could even challenge yourself to create the ultimate selfie!

self portrait with stars, Serian Nkorombo, Masai Mara

A snap grabbed in haste won't reflect the true nature of an animal - or person - and an image controlled by the camera will invariably lack soul. But thoughtfully crafted shots capture all the nuances of light, dynamics and expression that make a moment unique. And time to experiment is the secret to creating your own style.

zebra stallions battling for dominance

Time is the key to lifting our shots beyond the ‘we saw this animal’ stage and telling a meaningful story, so it’s time to slow down, find new inspiration and enjoy a truly authentic African photography experience.

I’ve been working in the Maasai Mara throughout the month of September, encouraging a slower, more creative approach to photography and life in it's time for me to put it into practice in the wider world!

A huge Thank You! to Alex Walker for inviting me to return to his Serian Kenya camps as Photographer In Residence. And a massive Asante Sana! to all the camp staff, guides and drivers who have made my stay here so special....see you all next year!

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