Lens Choices for Photography in the Masai Mara | Kenya

Andrew Beck All Authors, Andrew 15 Comments

Photography in the Masai Mara is spectacular but with so much diversity, what lenses do you choose to take with you? The mere mention of the Masai Mara should conjure up images of big skies, big cats and of course, the massive herds of wildebeest that dominate the open plains during the second half of the year. I think that it is safe to say that anyone visiting this place will be taking photo’s of some variety (be it on an iphone, ipad, DSLR or point and shoot) in order to capture their experience.

photography in the masai mara

I really struggled when putting this post together as there is phenomenal diversity in the scenes that you will want to photograph in the Masai Mara, which makes it rather tricky to recommend the best combination. As with my post on lens choices for photography in the Pilanesberg National Park I will break things down into”The Dream Team” and the “Real Deal”. Think of the Dream Team as the pick of the crop and as ideas on what to rent if you are looking to treat yourself, and the Real Deal as the lenses that most people will already have access to.

Given the diversity of the region I thought it may be best to break this post down into three major categories of images that I would imagine people wanting to walk away with from the Masai Mara irrespective of season. The first is the “animal in Environment” shot, the second; the “Landscape” shot, and the third; the “Wildlife Portrait” shot.

Animals in their Environment

What makes the Masai Mara system so unique and so appealing for photographers is the vast open plains which provide uninterrupted views for miles. This means that it is possible to capture “animal in environment” images with almost any lens, including a 600mm! All of the images below would typically be associated with a mid-range zoom of between 200-400mm but were in fact taken with a 600mm lens.

Photography in the Masai Mara - Wild Eye

Photography in the Masai Mara - Wild Eye

Photography in the Masai Mara - Wild Eye

The Dream Team

OR

The Real Deal

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The Landscape Shot

Typically one would want to convey the sheer scale of the Masai Mara system in a landscape image and, more often than not, you will want to go as wide as possible. All of the following images were taken at a focal length of between 14 & 21mm so you will want a good wide angle lens which will allow you to capture the “bigger picture” whilst you are out on  your photographic safari.

Photography in the Masai Mara - Wild Eye

Photography in the Masai Mara - Wild Eye

Photography in the Masai Mara - Wild Eye

The Real Deal

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Animal Portraits

This may sound strange but this is quite honestly where anything go’s! You never know how close or how far away you will be to the game in this part of the world. Often sightings take place right next to the road or near enough that guides are allowed to venture off-road and approach the sighting. The mating lions below was taken at a focal length of 200mm whilst both the cheetah and zebra were taken at a focal length of 600mm.

Photography in the Masai Mara - Wild Eye

Photography in the Masai Mara - Wild Eye

Photography in the Masai Mara - Wild Eye

The Real Deal

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What would I take?

Taking all of the above into account and looking at it from a fairly realistic perspective (knowing that we can’t all afford the the big toys) I would take the following gear:

 

That being said, both comments on facebook from Werner and Richard would do equally well in this environment:

MM lens 2

MM Lens

 

 

 

All of the images use in this post were taken during one of our dedicated photographic safaris to the Masai Mara during the wildebeest migration. Photography in the Masai Mara is a dream and one which we love to share with our clients!

Andrew Beck

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Comments 15

  1. Dean Bricknell

    How do you get a 600mm and camera equipment on the aircraft im just back and just got my 300 f2.8 and 5dmk3 on the aircraft , airlines are making it harder to put your stuff in the cabin, my insurance will only cover my photography equipment as hand luggage but with most airlines now only allowing between 5-7kg its becoming an issue, im also looking to re-book Kenya but would like to take my 600mm but i cant, unless you know how i can, thanks
    Dean

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      Andrew Beck

      Hi Dean and thanks for the comment.

      Getting all gear on-board a flight as carry on is always a sticky issue. When travelling to Kenya from South Africa we make use of Kenya Airways and have a really good relationship with them and have not experienced any issues with our carry on gear.

      Generally speaking the airline staff are happy to make concessions for the gear when they understand the value of it and actually prefer not to be held liable – that being said it doesn’t make it easy to plan does it!?

      When will you be heading back to Kenya?

  2. Dean Bricknell

    Hi Andrew im not sure yet when im coming over hoping to catch migration river crossing ( shot in the dark ) timing, i live in Scotland and this is my problem with hand luggage i will need to fly to and out of London, the only other option is 100-400 lens but i always hold back with this lens, a little soft at 400mm so no 1.4tc or 300mm f2.8 with 1.4tc both over 7kg with camera, would of like to take 600mm but dont think its possible, but it will not stop me from coming back its not just about the wildlife photography for me its the sounds and smells you get when you are out on a safari, thanks
    Dean

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      Andrew Beck

      I know how you feel about spending time in the bush Dean! Cant wait to head back up there for our migration safaris later this year – you should join us!

      My suggestion would be to look at the 300mm with both converters as your best bet and see what can be done in terms of pre-authorisation on the hand luggage before you leave – usually the airlines are quite understanding if you chat to the right people.

      Alternatively, and we do this for a lot of clients that travel with us, you could rent the 600mm for the duration of the trip and leave it to us to get it there and back!

  3. Martin

    Andrew
    I hope that the lens choise’s also count for the northern parts of the serengeti and the Ngorongoro crater.
    I have a D90 with the 18-105 and a Sigma 150-500mm.

    1. Gerry

      Martin, the D90 and 150-500mm Sigma will be perfect for the crater and Northern Serengeti. It is a very versatile lens that is perfect for East Africa where you sometimes need a little more reach. 🙂

  4. Charmaine Joubert

    Hi Andrew

    I have read on two of your forums now about lens choices and on both you recommend the Canon 70-200 f2.8 lens. I am looking at buying a new lens in that range, I would love the f2.8 but it comes with a very very expensive price tag. Will the f4 be just as useful on our annual trips to Kruger and KTP?

    Charmaine

    1. Gerry

      Hi Charmaine. The 70-200mm is a great lens for wildlife and always the first one I pack in my bag regardless of destination. Both Nikon and Canon have a 70-200mm f4 lens and the reviews I have seen are pretty impressive so it would definitely be something to look at. The f/4 is not a concern at all as if you understand that distance to subject and focal length also affects depth of field you will still be able to blur the background sufficiently in your images. From a budget point of view this might a great choice! Andrew will be back in the office tomorrow and I’m sure he’ll also pop in with his thoughts! Good luck and let us know if you have any further questions!

    2. Andrew

      Hi Charmaine

      I will echo Gerry’s sentiments here on the 70-200 f4.0. This is a great bang for buck lens but, if you have any hesitations and are able to save up for a little longer, the 2.8 version will be an absolute gem in your camera bag. The other benefit which you may not have been aware of is that you can use both the 1.4x and 2x converters with the 2.8 version – I wouldn’t recommend combining this with the f4.0.

      In terms of focal length though, this is an incredibly versatile lens and one which will always come in handy no matter where you are travelling.

      1. Charmaine Joubert

        Hi Andrew & Gerry

        Thank you so much for the replies. I have a R20 000 Canon gift voucher which I won with the “My Addo Photography” Competition and was wanting to get the 70-200 f4 and the 100mm IS macro lenses but I love my wildlife photography the most so I think in the long run buying the 70-200 f2.8 is going to be the most beneficial to my kit.

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  5. Pingback: Lens Choices for Photography in the Sabi Sands

  6. Nilesh

    I am planning to visit in August. I got 600 canon , 400 do is , 100-400 is2 & 18-200 is which stuffs will be best to carry . I am trying for 8-9 days wild tour . Thx Nilesh T

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