AnthonyAntony was the guide for photographer Paolo Torchio when he captured the winning image for the Greatest Maasai Mara Photography Award. Here, he talks about how the image was captured and gives some great advice on securing the best images possible when on safari in the Masai Mara.

Could you tell us about the sighting that enabled the winning image for Greatest Masai Mara Photographer

Our Initial sighting of the leopard was just 500 meters from the spot where we had a bush breakfast. We noticed she had a cub which was good news for us as it meant she would not travel too far. We followed the leopard for two days. The first day there was not so much action and she was just caring for the cub. On the second day, having followed her for six hours, it was nearing sunset and it started raining so the leopard went up a tree to see if she could look out for a place to seek shelter. It was this moment where we were so lucky as she sat there for a full minute and the light was perfect. Paolo said “this is our jackpot” and he was right. 

How does your planning differ when taking out professional photographers verses regular guests on a game drive

I am a photographer as well, so I regularly go out with my own camera. This means that I have a particular rapport with fellow photographers and have good knowledge of what is required. I focus on the positioning of vehicle and take advantage of light, particularly the golden hours – when sun is coming up or going down. At 6 pm the angle of light reflecting on the subject gives the best results. We also take a longer amount of time focusing on one subject. 

What are your tips for capturing the best photography on safari

Very early mornings. This is where the action is, lions are moving and hunting, animals are coming out of hiding and going to drink water. Live action makes for better images. I would recommend a 5am departure as the sun is so low and can make a brilliant back drop. You also need patience when trying to follow animals. Focus on one animal and stay with your subject.

Where do you learn about photography 

I learnt at Elewana Tortilis Camp in Amboseli where I was guiding a group of photographers from England for 14 days. They taught me so much about the positioning of vehicles, how to focus on subjects, background, lenses etc. I asked lots of questions. I started on a phone and now have a camera. I also spent time with the photographer David Yarrow at Tortilis Camp - he is my photographer hero.

What’s the best time of year to take images in the Masai Mara

Most people want the action shots of the migration, but this is a double edged sword as you have to compete with the crowds which is not good for photography. I would recommend January when it is quiet so you can spend quality time with animals. Animals don’t know it is low season.

Do you have a favourite spot in the Mara to capturing images

We are lucky at Elewana Sand River as there Is a spot nearby where there is a resident leopard called Kazuri – meaning ‘a good thing’ in Swahili. This is a perfect for guests very keen to see leopard, which also happen to be my favourite animals. 

We hear that you won a holiday as the winning guide for the Greatest Masai Mara photograph, can you tell us about that?

I was originally supposed to go to the UK to see a football match but that was changed due to the pandemic. It worked out really well as we were able to spend longer visiting Chobe in Botswana, Victoria Falls and also enjoy a selection of activities along the Zambezi. I loved the water activities particularly the canoeing.

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'Blessing Rain' taken by Paolo Torchio in aid of Angama Foundation while staying at Sand River Masai Mara. ©