No stranger to remote locations and extreme conditions, photographer Florian Wagner took on the challenge of documenting wildlife in Kenya by way of a safari on horseback. His camera of choice to document this adventure was the Leica S2. See what Florian thought of the experience and the camera in this video and interview about the trip.
Q: As an enthusiastic photographer you find your motives in the remotest corners of the world. In August you visited Kenya to participate in a safari on horseback. Which parts of the country did you visit with your team?
A: We went to the Masai Mara, the region with the greatest amount of wildlife in the country. Kenya is the country from which safaris originated. With roughly 60 national parks, as well as public and private reserves, the country is a true paradise for all lovers of nature. The most renowned reserve is the Masai Mara, which is situated to the west of the Rift Valley. The reserve borders on the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
Q: How did you hit on the idea of going on a safari on horseback rather than riding by Jeep through Kenya?
A: A safari on horseback in Kenya with the highest wildlife concentration is the most intense way to watch the animals of Central Africa from up close. Thus, we had the chance to watch herds of wandering gnus at places no tourists in their cars ever get to see because they must follow the regular roads. On our whole safari we only met two cars in total. But apart from the advantage of being close to the game, a safari on horseback also means an exertive effort for the horsemen. We had to ride several hours per day; altogether we travelled roughly 200 kilometres on horseback in the Great Rift Valley.
Q: Besides having close contact to the fascinating wildlife of Kenya you have also visited the region’s inhabitants. Tell us about that experience.
A: It gave me the opportunity of taking some fascinating photographs of the Maasai in their everyday life. One picture shows some kind of a ritual; I could take this photograph because our guides had built up close relations with the people of Kenya for many years.
Q: Your companion during this safari on horseback has been the Leica S2. Why did you choose the S2 to take your photographs?
A: The S2 is special in combining two features that had been believed incompatible, namely the outstanding optical quality of a medium-format camera and the handiness of a compact system. This unique feature of the Leica S2 has always been fascinating to me. Another point is the high image quality of the photos. I could choose even tiny details from picture without any loss of quality – look for instance at the pictures of the herd of gnus at the notorious river crossing.
Q: Another very important aspect for your project: Did the S2 withstand the strains of a travel on horseback?
A: It did perfectly! Using a camera on horseback is a very demanding task for the whole equipment. In such a situation, the S2 could prove its advantages – the special, ergonomic grip is invaluable when photographing from the back of a galloping horse. Furthermore, the camera had to withstand spray water, blows, dust, and heat while nevertheless performing reliably. That it did excellently!
Florian Wagner, thank you!
-Leica Internet Team
Further information on Florian Wagner, his projects and publications may be found on his website: www.wagnerphoto.de.