Photo Insight with Andrew Scriven: Maasai Dance
August 3, 2016
As a photographer, in fact as a person, there are certain areas of the world in which I feel most comfortable. For example, I like big, open, undeveloped places, such as the Arctic, and particularly the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. I love the African plains, and the Serengeti is wonderful. Basically, I like anything with a sense of wilderness. After a while, I recognised I was enjoying being out in these spaces because I felt very calm and centred. It was a form of meditation. On reflection, I look back and realise that’s exactly why I liked being there. That was what made me really consider ways to bring back that feeling to my everyday life in London and apply it to my overall approach to photography.
I don’t enter a lot of photography competitions, but of the ten I’ve entered I’ve been recognised in eight. Perhaps I should enter more! The prize for one of the competitions I won was a trip to Tanzania, and that’s where this particular shot was taken.
One evening in May, I was in the Serengeti with a number of Maasai villagers. This was part of the prize for winning the Digital Photographer Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award. The men danced and sang freely, and I felt their joy.
I soaked in the scene. I moved behind them with my camera as they took turns to leap into the sky. They moved, I moved. The sun was setting before them in nature’s cyclical closing symphony.
Peering through the electronic viewfinder of my Sony Alpha 99, I overexposed the sky to bleach it out. I then made sure to reduce the shutter speed to capture an essence of their movement.
To achieve this totally, I had my camera set to 1/6sec at f/13 and an ISO of 500. With all this in mind, and just by using the simple technique of motion blur, I was able to create an image that truly expressed the moment and the energy of these people I was honoured to spend time with.
I now realise that what it all comes down to for me is confidence. I was a finalist in the National Geographic International Photography Contest with my photograph of a humpback whale taken during my time sailing through the Antarctic Ocean. If I hadn’t taken that shot, I probably wouldn’t have entered that competition. In fact, before I entered I was trying to decide whether to be a photographer or run a cycle tour company. But after the success in the National Geographic contest, I tried selling my images in London’s Covent Garden and online, and was able to make a living out of it.
Selling my images in Covent Garden is great because I get to talk to people and I can put up whatever photos I want. It’s like my own little competition. At the end of last year two men actually started crying when they looked at some of my images. That’s rare, obviously, but it’s nice to see people having an emotional reaction to something I have created.
Photography competitions are also good in that they make you think about your images critically. You’ll get plenty of exposure, and this is how I got to work with Sony. I was made a Global Imaging Ambassador in 2015, along with Joe Cornish, Nick Webster and Gavin Evans.
I consider myself fortunate in that I can enjoy exploring the world – from my little back garden in the UK to the expanses of Antarctica.
The camera is a tool for observation, interaction and sharing. Every camera and photograph can capture a new perspective and a new reality.
About Andrew Scriven
Sony Global Imaging Ambassador Andrew is a travel and wildlife photographer whose exotic portfolio has won him a series of accolades and awards in competitions such as the Sony World Photography Awards and the National Geographic International Photo Contest. To view more of his work, visit www.andrewscriven.co.uk.