A majestic elephant against a fiery sunrise; lion cubs yawning as they wake from slumber; the “red lipstick” on a cheetah after a kill.
The Masai Mara tells a never-ending story, and to help guests preserve these incredible moments, Ishara features an exclusive Canon Brand Experience Centre. The ultimate complement to their safari experience, guests have free access to high-quality Canon cameras and a professional-grade editing and printing studio. At the helm of the photography centre is Eric Averdung, Ishara’s resident pro, who uses his expertise to help guests capture the remarkable scenes that unfold before them and hone their photography skills.
From teaching basic camera use and photography principles to editing techniques in the Canon studio, Eric’s passion for photography and wildlife is palpable. As a young child in awe of the Mara and intrigued by the workings of a camera, Eric’s curiosity and artistic eye forged a path that led him to Ishara.
A Photographer is Born in Kenya
Sharp and quick—the clicking sound of a shutter ignited Eric’s passion for photography. Growing up near Nairobi National Park, Eric would admire the weight of his father’s camera in his hand as a child. At age four, he took his first trip to the Mara with his family and fell in love with the landscape. “I vividly remember a lot of the sightings, the most memorable one being a giraffe giving birth. From then on, I would beg my parents to take me back.”
It took a while before Eric could return to the Mara but he made the most out of the little things like photographing plants, butterflies and sunsets around his neighborhood with his brother’s phone, experimenting with light and shadow, while training his creative eye.
Eric was surrounded by cameras his whole life, from his dad taking pictures as a hobby to his cousin working as a professional photographer. A work shoot across Germany with his cousin solidified Eric’s passion, and propelled him to buy his first DSLR.
As a teenager, Eric spent most of his time working as a freelance photographer, funding trips to the Mara whenever he could. He was acutely aware, however, that this artform relied on protecting the environment. “I knew that without the animals, there would be nothing to take pictures of.”
His interest in wildlife led him to pursue a degree in Sustainability & Environmental Management at the University of Leeds in England. Upon returning to Kenya, Eric combined his two passions, and landed a job as resident photographer for a safari camp in the Masai Mara.
Canon Photo Studio at Ishara
Smartphones, while ubiquitous in everyday life, aren’t ideal for capturing the magic of a safari. They lack the powerful zoom and ultra-sharp lens to pick up the detailed pattern of a leopard’s fur or the fierce eyes of a lion.
Eric immediately “knew the Ishara-Canon collaboration is something incredibly special.” The first of its kind in the Masai Mara, the Canon Brand Experience Centre gives guests access to professional grade Canon cameras, lenses, accessories, and binoculars at no cost. “When the Ishara offer came, I jumped at it. A free photography experience is truly unique, as is a partnership with Canon.”
“The Canon Brand Experience Centre gives guests the opportunity to shoot and edit on-site in the Mara, and then hang a dramatic print in their home, a piece of work they are emotionally attached to and feel proud of.” – Eric Averdung, Ishara resident photographer
Visual Storytelling through a Photographer’s Lens
Building an intimate connection with the animals is a big part of Eric’s love for his job. Following their stories and observing the changes in their lives takes him on a journey and connects him to the land.
“One of the most exciting things about photography in the Mara is that I get to be a part of the ecosystem and witness it change over time, documenting the stories happening within.”
From Eric’s perspective, photography and conservation go hand in hand. He says that photography is a form of storytelling, and is one of the most impactful ways of spreading a message and raising awareness about the importance of conservation.
“It doesn’t matter what language you speak or where you’re from, as soon as you see a photo you’re able to associate with the emotions in it. It’s something that transcends linguistic boundaries and communicates beyond what language can describe.”
A Moment Captured
Life in the Mara is constantly moving. Bones of the once living return to the earth, becoming part of the soil for new life to grow. Prides are broken and formed, with new leaders taking the reins after the fallen. Newborns inhale their first breath of the savanna’s fresh air, while conquered prey exhale their last.
These moments remind us that change is the only constant, and to be able to savour them is a true gift. For Eric, giving others the opportunity to tell these stories through the art of photography is invaluable.
“It’s so important to give everyone access to this artform. It’s a different way to experience the wildlife, and adds a whole new element to the safari experience.”
Along with giving Ishara’s guests a unique photographic experience, the Brand Experience Centre collaborates with the Canon Miraisha Programme that will train local Maasai children, guides and community members on how to photograph. This will give them the chance to tell their own stories, and opens up a world of possibilities for them. “Equipment is expensive, and not everyone has that opportunity—so Canon is stepping in to collaborate with us to provide that opportunity.”
Eric’s passion for the Masai Mara lives through his own incredible work. He has a strong following on Instagram and continues to photograph for both work and pleasure. With complimentary equipment and a dedicated resident pro, Ishara’s Canon Brand Experience Centre gives every guest the opportunity to save spectacular moments in time, and take a piece of the Mara home with them.
Photo credits: Mary Beth Koeth, Eric Averdung, Samy Ghannam, Altaf Jiwa