Three years and thousands of images later, Angama Mara Safari Lodge’s Alison Mitchell unveils some of the exciting changes that have been rolled out for The Greatest Maasai Mara Safari Photographer of the Year.
It feels like it was just the other day when after much dreaming, scheming, planning and excitement, we launched The Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year. I clearly remember the 1st of January 2018 when we celebrated our very first entry and waited with anticipation for more.
At first, they trickled in, but it wasn’t long before the entries became a frequent delight in our inboxes. It has been a joy to watch this initiative gain momentum and to see the community of Mara-loving photographers and appreciators show their support by entering the competition, engaging with us and each other through our social media channels and by sharing the incredible photographs and stories with their own communities.
It’s fair to say that this is no longer a “new initiative”; we’re well past the toddler phase now, but we always said that after three years, we’d take stock of where things were at and what we could do better. And so, in the early days of 2021 we did just that and decided to make some changes that we hoped would be well received and assist us in taking the competition to the next level.
The first change was to increase the number of annual finalists from 10 to 50 (5 each month) thereby giving more photographers the recognition they deserve as well as the opportunity to win. And what a wonderful collection of finalists we already have for 2021 – 15 spots filled and 35 still to come…
Another change we made was to migration entries. Without wanting to decide on a particular headcount of wildebeest or zebra that constituted a “migratory herd” and with the unpredictability of these herds coming and going during many months of the year, we decided that only crossing shots would be restricted to the months of June through October.
On the judging side, we welcomed three new professionals to the team. Hailing from the USA, Kathy Moran is National Geographic magazine’s Deputy Director of Photography and the magazine’s first senior editor for natural history projects; Kenya’s own Paula Kahumbu is one of Africa’s best known wildlife conservationists and CEO of WildlifeDirect; and from the UK, Charlie Hamilton James is a photographer, television cameraman and presenter specialising in issues pertaining to conservation, natural history and anthropology. Together with long timers Federico Veronesi and Adam Bannister, we are humbled to have such an incredible panel of expertise. We wish them well with the very difficult task that lies ahead of choosing the monthly finalists and, of course, the grand winner later this year.
And finally, we wish to once again thank the incredible community that continues to support this competition – the old names that we have seen entering for a number of years now. You have all played an invaluable part in raising over US$120,000 for our six hard working conservation partners that continue to care for the reserve which has captured so many of our hearts. With your support we hope to reach this number many times over in the future.