PROFILE

Clement Kiragu

Two wildebeest in silhouette against a bright orange sunset.

Patience is key for Kenyan wildlife photographer and Canon Ambassador Clement Kiragu. "If you wait long enough, you may be rewarded with the chance to capture something special," he says. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens at 400mm, 1/500 sec, f/11 and ISO640. © Clement Kiragu

Canon Ambassador Clement Kiragu is renowned for his striking wildlife photography, and his images often show animals captured at sunset, bathed in an ethereal golden glow. "I feel like I have a voice for the animals," he says. "I want to show them in the best way possible, in their best light and at their best angle, illuminating how majestic they are."

Clement grew up in Kenya, and studied Fine Art Graphic Design before spending 10 years working as an art director for advertising agencies. He unlocked his love of photography in 2013, after meeting photographers through his work. "It all started when I wanted a packshot done in a certain way and it didn't come out like I'd had in my mind," he says. "That's when I thought, let me invest in a camera, then I can try it myself. Soon, I knew I wanted to do photography for the rest of my life."
It was during Clement's first trip to the Maasai Mara on his birthday in 2014 that he discovered his passion for wildlife photography. "That was when I took pictures of wildlife for the first time, and some of my favourite images are still from that trip," he says. "It was so special. After years of going back there, I recognise how amazing it was because I got to see so much in just four days."

His work soon caught the attention of judges at Africa's Photographer of the Year contest in 2017, and his iconic image of cheetahs hunting a wildebeest was acclaimed across the continent.

"That image was the product of four days' work," he says. "The hunt happened right in front of me, which was absolutely amazing – the way the cheetahs handled the wildebeest was so tactical. To win the award, that really gave me the feeling that I was doing something right. I was very young in the industry, and there were thousands of entries, so that was very rewarding," he says. "It also feels wonderful to be a Canon Ambassador. I'm completely self-taught, so it shows how passionate I truly am about photography."
Canon Ambassador and wildlife photographer Clement Kiragu.
Location:Nairobi, Kenya

Specialist areas:Wildlife, commercial

Favourite kit:

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM (now succeeded by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM)
A black and white image of a small bird perched on an elephant's back. The peak of a distant mountain can be seen rising above a layer of clouds in the background.

Clement's distinctive style and razor-sharp eye were honed during trips to the Maasai Mara National Reserve. "I love the golden hour," he says. "But If I don't have that, I tend to favour a black and white image." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens at 100mm, 1/800 sec, f/4.5 and ISO200. © Clement Kiragu

Clement's career-defining award win paved the way for him to become one of Kenya's most in-demand wildlife photographers. He also runs a photographic safari business, sharing his knowledge with aspiring photographers at his favourite Kenyan wildlife spots, as well as working on commercial shoots. As for the future? "I hope to publish my own books," he says. "I'd also love to shoot for National Geographic; that is my main goal and what I am putting a lot of energy towards."
Flamingoes flying in front of a herd of elephants that are drinking from a shallow body of water.

"For me, this image signifies what a wonderful destination Kenya is," says Clement. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens at 371mm, 1/2000 sec, f/5.6 and ISO400. © Clement Kiragu

Having travelled all over the world capturing wildlife, for Clement, there is no place like home. "My most special place is the Maasai Mara. I've been to many parts of Africa, even to India and Kruger National Park in South Africa, but there is nowhere that compares to the Mara," he says. "There is something about it that is unlike anywhere else on Earth."
What's your most memorable wildlife experience?

"There are many special moments, but there are those few that you know you won't see again. In 2018 I was on a photo safari. We were at the bank of the Mara river waiting for a big crossing during a migration safari. I'm always looking around because when you start studying animal behaviour, you start noticing when predators are close, and I saw a disturbance and spotted a lioness lying flat on the ground. She was just waiting for the crossing. I was praying for the light to improve as it was very cloudy, and just when the crossing started there was this beautiful backlight at sunset, and the lioness began hunting. There were all these huge clouds of dust and it was such a dramatic frame. A scene I don't think I'll see again."


How important is understanding animal behaviour when it comes to photographing wildlife?

"It's so important. When you know animal behaviour, you can predict what is going to happen. It helps me get ready for the perfect frame, especially when photographing hunts. You must know the predator behaviour so you can be in the right place at the right time. If the action is already playing out, it's too late. Watching a hunt is amazing, it never gets old and every single one is different."


What would you say are the biggest challenges with wildlife photography?

"I would say the expenses. If you want to work in the Mara, you need at least two weeks to capture proper footage. You're paying for accommodation, and a private car or guide – that expense as a freelancer adds up. In terms of wildlife interaction, when I was shooting the tigers of India, that was the toughest time I've ever had. The parks are separated into different zones and I had not planned way in advance and for four days, I saw no tigers. I talked to the owner of the hotel I was staying at, and he told me most of the tigers are seen in a particular zone. I thought, I've come all this way from home, I need to see them! On the fifth day I finally saw them. But the process of getting that image was so tough, plus the weather was extreme – it was about 40°C."


What's been the most valuable lesson you've learnt during your career?

"In 2020, my studio in Nairobi where I do my commercial work was broken into. I was working until 10pm and went to sleep, and in the morning my kit had been stolen. My camera and lenses that I had worked so hard for were gone. The biggest lesson I learnt was to have several sets of back-ups. I had some hard drives from 2014 to 2019 and I lost that work. It was a very tough lesson to learn."

One thing I know

Clement Kiragu



"You want your camera to be your paintbrush; what is important is what you're creating. My advice is always the same: find a brand that works for you and stick with it. That's what I did. For me, Canon cameras are easy to use and have the best technology in the world. The simplicity made my learning so much easier. Don't keep switching brands when new technology is released."

Facebook: @clementwildlife

Instagram: @clement.wild

Twitter: @clementmwangi

Website: www.clementwild.com

Clement Kiragu's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Clement Kiragu's kitbag containing Canon cameras and lenses.

Cameras

Canon EOS 5DS R

Designed to deliver the ultimate in DSLR image quality, with 50.6MP resolution and a low-pass cancellation filter that maximises the sharpness of the camera's sensor. "I use this for my commercial, product and portrait photography," says Clement. "I took my award-winning image with this camera. The resolution is amazing. The clarity and colours are incredible. I also shoot landscapes with this as it gives me that definition and detail."

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

The successor to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III that Clement uses is beautifully engineered and a thoroughly accomplished all-rounder. "The 5D Mark III is my back-up camera," says Clement. "You never know what might happen, and I've never needed a back-up in my career, but I always have it just in case!"

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

The ultimate creative toolkit, with superb low-light performance, deep learning AF and 5.5K RAW video. Clement says: "I use this for my wildlife photography. The speed is amazing! It was my dream to get this camera, and it's incredible. I never miss a shot with this."

Lenses

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

With its incredible f/1.2 maximum aperture, the super fast EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is a consummate low-light performer. "I mostly use this for portraits," says Clement. "It has the most beautiful bokeh."

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM

The latest version of the lens that Clement favours is fast, flexible and built for any assignment. Clement says: "The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM is my most-used lens. I use it on portraits in the studio, when shooting commercials. I love that it's a 2.8, so when I'm outdoors you still get that shallow depth of field. This is also my second wildlife lens."

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

An ultra wide-angle zoom lens that offers excellent image quality and a constant maximum aperture. "I use this for architecture photography and landscapes," says Clement.

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