(CNN) – Despite his surname, Felix Rome never wanted to settle in an urban area. Salisbury, a native of England, trained as a photographer and eventually landed his dream job – staff shutterbug – for a group of safari camps in East Africa.
Although one of his job responsibilities was to include resort guests on his excursions to help document his experiences, Rome found himself essentially alone in the country. And it offered an opportunity of a different kind – taking intimate photos of wild animals that suddenly didn’t have tourists staring 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 in Kenya and across Africa became difficult amid the ongoing pandemic, he found himself at a standstill.
At present, curfew is in force across the country between 10 pm and 4 am. Masks are required in public and do not limit large gatherings until further notice. International flights were allowed to resume from June.
Like housemates, lions spend most of their time sleeping – which means patience is key if you want an action shot.
The rules of the pandemic dropped tourism in Mara, usually one of the world’s big bucket list destinations, to almost nothing.
“The lack of tourists has been a big factor. I was driving around, I think it was about five weeks where I didn’t see a single car,” Rom says.
But it gave him the freedom to dig deeper and not pay attention to the amount of photos he finds every day.
For a once in a lifetime traveller, this is a major concern. The more photos you take in less time, the more likely you are to end up with some great people in the mix. But Rome’s unique position has given him the ability to just hang out and wait for the perfect shot.
Rome explains: “I often wake up at about 5:30 in the morning, then go out at 6:00 just before sunrise and then sometimes 9:00, out until 10:00. Come back, breakfast Do it. Then I’ll edit the pictures, write a little bit about what’s going on.”
Rome alone has the potential to spend eight or nine hours in the bush – no TV, no internet, no air conditioning, nothing but a camera. But it’s not just about waiting patiently for a beautiful picture. He has also got the rare opportunity to be alone with his thoughts.
One of his major projects is documenting Marsh Pride, a group of lions made famous by the BBC’s “Big Cat Diary”. Although they may look terrifying, lions – like their relatives, the house cat – sleep for most of the day, which means getting a great action shot takes a long time to wait.
“The thing I love about wildlife is that you forget your problems for the moment. You are so focused on that lion or elephant that you become a part of their world for the time being . And you forget to pay taxes and get your bills on time.”
A group of elephants walks across the savannah.
Once the tourists are able to return, Rome will remain in his role, which he replaces with another photographer. Many travelers like Rome join them on game drives and other outings so they can focus on enjoying the experience but still have incredible photos to share later.
Wildlife Photography Tips
“I felt like the only tourist in Kenya,” says photographer Felix Rom.
You might not have the top-of-the-line equipment or unlimited hours to roam near a herd of lions, but it’s possible to take beautiful pictures of wildlife—whenever it is—by your next trip.
Here are some tips from Rome:
— make eye contact. Just taking a picture of an animal is not an achievement in itself. When an animal makes eye contact with the camera a picture may be larger than good. Rome says that it is the eyes that really reinforce the sense of connectedness in a photograph.
Don’t rely too much on the zoom lens. Sure, close-ups are great. But you don’t want to miss the savannah for giraffes, and showing off the background can set your photos apart from those taken at a zoo or nature preserve. “We can take a picture of that herd of buffalo with a slope in the background. And then you look at it afterward and think, yeah, that’s what we saw. Not just a picture of a buffalo, that anyone can take. “
– You don’t always need to take pictures every single second. “If you get a really good picture of a lion, it will open up all the memories you were seeing of them. And I think that’s really important, rather than taking thousands of pictures of the back end of a lion. A wasp Or an elephant is running away.”