I first learnt about Instameets in 2015. At the time I was just getting into photography and was looking for every opportunity to shoot. When the Worldwide Instameet 16 for Nairobi was announced, I didn’t hesitate to attend. What an experience it was! You may be wondering what an Instameet is. Allow me to educate you. An instameet is an event where Instagrammers meet and get to know each other beyond the screen, and for a specific purpose. For photographers, that purpose is, well, to shoot. After being away from these meets for 2 years, I was excited to attend one this year.
Photographer meetups have been organised in Nairobi before, but the 6:00 AM beginning time has always been a deterrent for me. In fact, I was only able to go for the 2015 one because it was in the afternoon. This one was to start at 4:00 PM, so I had no reason to miss it. I was still in church at 1: 00 PM when the sky started turning grey. I just hoped the rain would have mercy and let us finish shooting first. We were to congregate at the National Archives then proceed to Uhuru Park for the sunset. As it was still early, I walked around the CBD before heading to the Archives. Turned out to be a wrong move.
By the time I arrived, I was tired not only from the walking, but also the intense sun and humidity. My friend, Shalet, called me as I was trying to figure out where the group was. Guys were huddled in different clusters and there didn’t seem to be any co-ordination. Already a mood killer for me. Shalet and I chatted a while then walked to Kimathi Street where we were informed other photographers were.
When we got there I was shocked. There was a sea of people with their gear out. They were already actively shooting and there was scarcely space to walk. I have to admit I was a bit intimidated. For someone who doesn’t like crowds, the turnout was overwhelming. Shalet encouraged me to get out my cam, which I did after catching my breath. Everyone seemed to be doing portraits. That didn’t appeal to me so I went for something else – cityscapes.
Every couple of moments one of my Instafollowers would come to say hi. Shalet commented that I’m such a celeb. (I wish!) It was great meeting them in person after a long time. The crowd wasn’t the only surprise. People had come with their own models in full make-up and high-fashion outfits. With props to boot! It seemed I was the only one who didn’t get the memo. Someone even had a softbox! (Insert shocked emoji here). I joked that they had come to make portfolios, and that may very well have been true.
We moved through the streets shooting. While everyone else seemed so engrossed, I just wasn’t feeling up to it. What an anticlimax. I had looked forward to this yet here I was, bored. Maybe it was the aforementioned crowd? Softboxes and umbrellas? My lack of enthusiasm for portraits? Someone I had invited who didn’t show up?
At around half past 6, one of the organisers called out to us from NIC Bank’s rooftop. I went up the 7 or so floors hoping to get different shots (and maybe some enthusiasm).
The view was amazing! I haven’t been to any other rooftop in Nairobi apart from the KICC. From this building we enjoyed the panorama stretching from Hilton Hotel to City Hall, with Upperhill area in the distance. Sadly, the sun denied us the light show we were expecting. After taking it all in, I got down to shooting (literally). I had to kneel to get interesting angles. For the long exposure shots I used my camera strap to support the lens so it wouldn’t shake and cause distortion. Anything to get that shot. Don’t let lack of equipment stop you.
I had my fair share of shots as others got creative with props and doing portraits on the ledge of the roof. People can be so daring! Taking the saying ‘Living life on the edge’ a bit too far. Anyway, Nairobi is beautiful by day and even more stunning at night. I could have stayed up there for hours enjoying the scenery, but fatigue was setting in so I went back down to the street.
Fellow photographers were still shooting, milking the opportunity for all its worth. Given that shooting in Nairobi comes with it’s own hurdles, I couldn’t blame them. I hadn’t been to a meetup with such liveliness before. It was amazing.
I wrapped up at 7.30 PM since I had to begin the long journey home, and my head was pounding. I watched a group of skateboarders showing off their prowess briefly before bidding my pal goodbye. All in all, it was one awesome Instameet. With a turnout of more than 300 people and no negative incidents, it was a success.2