Smartphone photography course for conservatin storytelling in Naivasha a huge success.

Smartphone Photography Boot Camp: An Odyssey in Naivasha

Smartphone Photography Boot Camp: An Odyssey in Naivasha
Fisherman at sunset on Lake Naivasha by Paula Kahumbu

When one thinks of photography, sprawling landscapes and hefty camera equipment might come to mind. However, our recent three-day workshop in Naivasha showcased how powerful the humble smartphone can truly be.

24 excited particpiants from accross Kenya travelled to Naivasha for the bootcamp

The Venue: I chose Naivasha for this course due to it's dramatic landscapes, access to wildlife, the water and the spectacular light. This location is right in the Great Rift Valley which is rich in wildlife, lakes, geothermal activity, and diverse cultures and communities. We were fortunate to find incredible hospitality in the historic residence of Joy and George Adamson, figures etched in history due to the acclaimed film "Born Free" and their association with the celebrated lioness Elsa. The ambiance and history of this location added layers of depth to our learning experience thanks to our amazing guildes and fellow participants Anthony and David.

At Elsamere the wildlife literally comes to you

Our trainer: Professional photogrpaher Jeroen Swolfs famed for the Streets of the World project,  joined us from Amsterdam as the trainer. He runs smart phone courses in Holland and was invited specially to do this coures as part of his other work with WildlifeDirect in Kenya. Jeroen's impact was nothing short of amazing, he was patient and helpful to all the students including tough ones like me.

A selfie by Jeroen Swolfs on the shores of the gorgeous Lake Oloiden at dawn

Guidance from the Best: Under the watchful eye and experienced guidance of Jeroen Swolfs, our group of 24 diverse individuals from across Kenya embarked on this enlightening journey - composition, lines, light, timing, settings, editing, you. name it we covered it in 3 days.

Each day we talked through our shots and selected our best
And we practiced and shared with each other 
We enjoyed the picturesque lakes Naivasha and Oloiden during the course

The Curriculum: While many courses simply gloss over the basics, ours dived deep. Participants were introduced not only to the myriad features of their phones but also to advanced techniques to truly capture stories. Our journey took us to notable spots such as Lake in the Great Rift Valley, Hot springs, a fishing village Hells Gate National Park, Lake Oloiden, and the Naivasha Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center.

a student holding up and looking at his smartphone as he follows the smartphone class course
Students in smarphone photography class - photo by Nyuso
After a few hours in the classroom we were unleashed outside

Growth and Reflection: It was heartening to witness the palpable growth of participants. Many came in with self-doubts about their photographic skills. By the culmination, all were capturing moments with confidence and flair. A notable mention is Larry, an 11-year-old prodigy, whose shots were nothing short of remarkable.

Proof is in the pudding: Just a few shots from our students

children using iPads to photograph a colobus monkey on a log
The kids always found inventive ways of getting close to animalsJ
Portrait of a colobus monkey looking left
Colobus Monkey by Paula Kahumbu
Dawn over Lake Oloiden 
Remarkable photos of fishermen by Sherry_mc.Victoria 

Boats at the shore of Lake Naivasha in the mist
There was beauty everywhere. This photo by Ondieki - an intern at WildlifeDirect 
A silhouette of a man and trees at a silvery lakeshore at dawn with orange sky
Some of us used each other as subjects - Lake Oloiden by Mary Mumbi
Mist rising off the lake completely changed the mood one morning
Fishermen at dawn splash in the shallows to chase fish into their nets
Fishing is a mans business, but woman clean the boats for pay in fish - story by Paula 

A Shared Victory: The end of the course featured a friendly competition, emphasizing more on the journey of learning rather than a mere win. It was evident that each participant had undergone a transformative experience, leaving with enhanced skills and a profound appreciation for nature and storytelling.

Students of the course having a laugh - photo by Nyuso 

"In the heart of every African are amazing stories waiting to be told. With smartphone photography, we harness the power of the tools that are already in our grasp, empowering us to chronicle our nature, environment, and our peoples and reclaim the narrative of our unique heritage, one story at a time." - Paula Kahumbu

In Retrospect: Three days was just about right but it's never enough is it? After  the workshop, the attendees expressed enormous gratitude at what they had learned, and shared their intent to use their newfound skills regularly, intertwining them into their conervation work, home life, and leisure.

Sharing and learning from one another from dawn to campfire - by Nyuso 

Students wrote to Jeroen to thank him and gifted him a beautiful print of an iconic fish eagle

Next Steps: Given the huge success of this course, we intend to make it a regular feature of training by WildlifeDirect. If you've ever felt the allure of capturing moments and narratives but felt confined by the lack of equipment or expertise, a workshop like this might just be your call to explore.

Let me know what you think and join us in our next endeavor. Dive deep, hone your skills, and let your smartphone become your canvas. Contact me on with Smartphone Photography Course in the subject line to sign up for our next course.