For most of us, the opportunity to explore Kenya and capture footage of the “Big Five” game animals may come once in a lifetime. But for VideoBlocks contributor and expert safari guide Steve Kuria Kinuthia, a.k.a. Bushman Steve, getting up close and personal with Africa’s wildest animals is just another day at the office.
Kinuthia is the managing director at Bushman Adventures, a private wildlife safari operator located in Nairobi, Kenya. He first pursued his love for wildlife by studying zoology at Oxford College in the United Kingdom and afterwards went on to become a trained tour guide at Kenya Utalii College. Now with over 25 years in the safari business, Kinuthia knows all the best locations for filming African game and the gear you need for video work in the bush.
These are his top four tips for “footage safaris” in Kenya.
Tip #1 – Bring sturdy equipment.
Kinuthia uses a SONY HVR Z5U to shoot all his safari footage. “I’ve had it for four years now and I’ve never taken it in for repairs. It has fallen off the vehicle several times, but it still works.” He says the camera is also lightweight, which is essential when carrying gear on long safari treks.
Shooting wildlife can require a lot of patience and also a lot of memory space, so Kinuthia recommends packing extra Micro SD cards as well. These, combined with plenty of batteries, ensure that you won’t miss that perfect National Geographic moment when the cheetah starts running or the hippo snaps its massive jaws. Make sure to store such accessories in a rugged, secure container to keep them from getting damaged or lost along the way.
Tip #2 – Know when and where to go.
Kenya is home for Kinuthia, so he has true insider knowledge of its national parks and reserves. His two favorite locations for serious photographers and videographers are the Samburu National Reserve and the Masai Mara National Park.
“Masai Mara is famous for the annual wildebeests migration that happens between July to October,” Kinuthia notes. “During this time, there are literally millions of animals concentrated in a 1600 kilometers squared field.”
But in Kinuthia’s eyes, nothing can beat the wild landscapes of the Samburu Wildlife reserve. “Samburu is comprised of three parks,” he explains, “Samburu, Buffalo Springs, and Shaba.” From rolling hills to table mountain ranges, videographers can frame their shots with a wealth of jaw-dropping backdrops.
Choosing the right time of day is just as important as picking the right park, according to Kinuthia. “Since the best-selling footage is action shots, you’ll want to film active animals in the early morning and late evening. The sun is also soft and reflective at that time,” he continues.
Tip #3 – Don’t try shooting on your own.
Kinuthia stresses how essential it is to work with a professional tour guide–one who fully understands the workings and behavior of the wildlife, which will keep safari-goers safe while also providing them with amazing shot opportunities.
“Guides know where to find the big cats, what hour they may be active, and how to position the tour vehicles for the best shot.” He does warn against trying to capture shots when in the company of other tourists. “They will be moving in the car, maybe shouting in excitement and spoiling the ambient sounds.”
Tip #4 – Embrace the adventure.
After years as a bushman filmmaker, Kinuthia has learned that enjoying the adventure is even more important than searching for the perfect shot. “Though it has its own challenges, shooting safari footage is a lot of fun. Do not always think about money and work. Take time to switch off and listen to the sounds and silence of the African jungle….but do not switch off the camera.”
See the African jungle through Kinuthia’s eyes by browsing his contributor portfolio.
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