(CNN) – Despite his surname, Félix Rome never wanted to settle in an urban area. The native of Salisbury, England trained as a photographer and eventually landed the job of his dreams – staffing a group of safari camps in East Africa.
Although one of his professional responsibilities was to join resort guests on their excursions to help them document their experiences, Rome found himself largely alone in the country. And it provided a different opportunity – to take intimate photos of wild animals that suddenly had no tourists looking at them.
Rome arrived in Kenya in March and planned to stay in the Masai Mara National Reserve for three months before moving on to the next property. But as travel to Kenya and across Africa became increasingly difficult amid the ongoing pandemic, he found himself sticking around.
The entire country is currently under curfew between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Masks are mandatory in public and large gatherings are prohibited until further notice. International flights were allowed to resume from June.
Like domestic cats, lions spend a lot of time sleeping, which means patience is key if you want an action shot.
Pandemic regulations have reduced tourism to La Mara, normally one of the top bucket list destinations in the world, to next to nothing.
“The lack of tourists was a big factor. I was driving, I think it has been about five weeks, where I haven’t seen a single other car,” Rome said.
But it allowed him to dig deep and not obsess over the amount of photos he was getting each day.
For a single trip traveler, this is of great concern. The faster you take pictures, the more likely you are to end up with great photos. But Rome’s unique position gave him the option of just hanging out and waiting for the perfect shot.
Rome explains: “I often wake up around 5:30 am, then I go out at 6:00 am just before sunrise and stay outside until 9:00 am, sometimes 10:00 am. Come back, have breakfast. I’m going to edit the footage, do little reports on what’s going on. “
Rome has the capacity to spend eight or nine hours a day alone in the bush – no TV, no internet, no air conditioning, just him and a camera. But it’s not just a matter of patiently waiting for a great photo. He also had the increasingly rare opportunity to be alone with his thoughts.
One of his big projects was to document Marsh Pride, a group of lions made famous by the BBC’s “Big Cat Diary”. While they may look scary, lions – like their loved ones, the house cat – sleep most of the day, which means that getting a good action shot takes a lot of waiting.
“What I love about wildlife is that you forget your troubles right now. You are so focused on that lion or that elephant that you are almost part of their world during that time. taxes and get your bills on time. “
A group of elephants crosses the savannah.
Once the tourists can return, Rome will remain in his role, which he alternates with another photographer. Many travelers love Rome to join them on safaris and other outings so they can focus on the experience while still having amazing photos to share afterward.
Tips for wildlife photography
“I felt like I was the only tourist in Kenya,” says photographer Felix Rome.
You might not have top-of-the-line equipment or unlimited hours to spend near a lion pride, but it is possible to snap some great wildlife photos on your next trip, when it does. .
Here are some suggestions from Rome:
– Make eye contact. Just taking a picture of an animal is no feat in itself. A photo can go from good to great when an animal makes eye contact with the camera. Rome says it’s the eyes that really cement the feeling of engagement in an image.
– Do not rely too much on the zoom lens. Of course, the close-ups are great. But you don’t want to miss the savannah for giraffes, and showing off the background can make your photos different from those taken in a zoo or nature reserve. “We can take a picture of this herd of buffalo with the escarpment in the background. And then you look at it afterwards and think, yes, that’s what we saw. Not just a portrait of a buffalo, which could be taken by anyone. “
– You don’t have to always take pictures every second. “If you get a really nice photo of a lion, it’ll open up the memories to all the other times you’ve looked at them. And I think that’s really the key, rather than taking thousands of photos of it. rear of a lion sleeping in a grass or an elephant moving away. “