Charlotte Simpson show in Abu Dhabi

Dubai photographer tells us about wildlife-inspired exhibition

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How long does it take to catch a lion’s gaze? A whole afternoon, apparently – that’s how long it took Charlotte Simpson to capture the magic moment on camera. In the artist’s own words, photographing wildlife takes a lot of patience. Waiting for the perfect image requires a huge amount of focus and dedication. And it’s also apparently very rare to find a lion facing you with its ears pricked up, which makes Simpson’s photograph particularly special.

Simpson’s new show, ‘A Journey through the Masai Mara’, is the seventh in the Crossroads exhibition series at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Viceroy hotel. It’s a breathtaking window on the Kenyan Mara-Serengeti, with its abundant wildlife and indigenous people. We asked the Dubai-based photographer about the wild encounters behind her pictures.

Why Kenya?
I’ve made several trips to Africa over the years: Mombasa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya. Kenya is world-renowned for being the most abundant with wildlife, mainly in the Masai Mara.

We know you used a telephoto lens, but what was the closest you were able to get to some of your wilder subjects?
The guides are amazing in these parts. As long as we weren’t disturbing the game, we could get within six metres of the animals.

The River Crossing is a particularly powerful image, showing thousands of wildebeest during their annual migration. What was it like to be there?
This shot was a case of waiting for the wildebeest to gather from the drier pastures to make their way across the fast-flowing river. I waited and watched as they stampeded across the dusty terrain to stop at the top of the bank. A few wandered down to the water’s edge and nervously tested the water. Something startled them and they nervously ran back up the bank. This process can go on for hours: it takes a brave few to instil the confidence in the others, before they all follow into the crocodile-infested waters. When this frenzied crossing starts, there’s no stopping them. It’s spectacular to watch. Sadly, the migration is delayed this year because bush fires from political arson, set alight for miles around the area, are preventing the wildebeest from migrating.

Were the photos shot in monochrome, or edited later?
I always capture colour RAW files, then I can adjust them however I like afterwards. As wall art, I feel the sepia tones look more classy in large-format images for the wall. It’s also in keeping with the contemporary look and feel of most interiors at present.

There are some colour images too, mostly of the Masai tribespeople. Any particular reason why?
The Masai Mara are a colourful tribe. The mix of vibrant colours and textures they wear is their identity. Taking away the colour would have meant taking away this identity.

For more of Charlotte’s work, see www.hotshotsdubai.com. ‘Crossroads #7 – A Journey Through The Masai Mara’ runs until Monday September 10 at The Light Box Gallery, Yas Viceroy Hotel, Abu Dhabi (02 656 0000). Combine your visit with a hotel stay: see page 86 for packages.

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