About this assignment

Rich in landscape and culture, the Maasai Mara is a photographer’s sandbox where anything photographic is possible. It seems that every knob on the camera goes can be dial-up to 11 as it relates to contrast, shadows, highlights, and color. Personalities are three dimensional, pushing the limits of modern imagery. My first visit to the Maasai was nothing less than transformative for both my work and my spirit. It was on this trip that I shot my most acclaimed photograph to date, “The Tree of Light.” There is very little about that photograph (other than timing), a photographer could add to its natural awe. So, I guess I was the chosen one that day to freeze it in time.

The people of the Maasai Mara will also leave you hopeful. Their very simple lives are a pure convenience. After several trips and experiences there, I can’t help but wonder if we would find greater joy and peace amidst a simpler existence.

Maasai Mara National Reserve (also known as Maasai Mara, Masai Mara and by the locals as The Mara) is a large game reserve in Narok County, Kenya, contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Mara Region, Tanzania. It is named in honor of the Maasai people (the ancestral inhabitants of the area) and their description of the area when looked at from afar: “Mara,” which is Maa (Maasai language) for “spotted,” an apt description for the circles of trees, scrub, savanna, and cloud shadows that mark the area.

It is globally famous for its exceptional population of lions, leopards and cheetahs, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, and wildebeest to and from the Serengeti every year from July to October, known as the Great Migration.

When it was originally established in 1961 as a wildlife sanctuary the Mara covered only 520 square kilometres (200 sq mi) of the current area, including the Mara Triangle. The area was extended to the east in 1961 to cover 1,821 km2 (703 sq mi) and converted to a game reserve. The Narok County Council (NCC) took over management of the reserve at this time. Part of the reserve was given National Reserve status in 1974, and the remaining area of 159 km2 (61 sq mi) was returned to local communities. An additional 162 km2 (63 sq mi) were removed from the reserve in 1976, and the park was reduced to 1,510 km2 (580 sq mi) in 1984.

In 1994, the TransMara County Council (TMCC) was formed in the western part of the reserve, and control was divided between the new council and the existing Narok County Council. In May 2001, the not-for-profit Mara Conservancy took over management of the Mara Triangle.