For most people traveling to Africa, photography is an integral part of their trip. The amount of photographic opportunities are truly unique. There are many ways to maximize your photography experience while on safari and in this quick blog, we will go over some tips to capitalize on those opportunities.
1. Pack The Proper Equipment
Having the proper equipment can completely make or break your photographic experience on safari. First things first, investing in a quality SLR camera and a couple varying lenses. Try to include at least a 300mm lens for subject matter that is at a distance. If you are limited to a vehicle, a good lens will be the only way to bring all the action closer to you. Another useful tool to bring in a vehicle safari is a small bean bag or camera clamp to stabilize your camera. If you are anticipating being on foot during your safari, a tripod is a must have. You can use it to provide support as well as steadying your camera and help focus. One accessory a lot of people overlook is extra memory cards. There is nothing more frustrating during a photoshoot than switching over memory cards or even worse, going through on the spot and deciding which photos to delete to create room. If you are traveling with your laptop, it is a good choice to upload your photos to your computer and delete them off of your cameras memory card. Be sure to check during preparations for weight and size limitations. Last but not least, do a little homework on how to control your cameras settings. It's a good idea to understand the basics of photography and the relationship between aperture and shutter speed. This will enable you to freeze action and avoid camera shake, as well as to manipulate the depth of field. I recommend experimenting with different settings in your backyard or local park before your safari trip.
2. Composition & Perspective
All the technical stuff can get a bit overwhelming, but an eye for composition is just as important. Although some people might have a natural eye for composing the perfect image, practice goes a long way in acquiring that photographic eye. A good starting point is to really look at the framing and all the edges before clicking the shutter. What doesn’t add to the photo usually distracts from it. Also make sure not to inadvertently cut off limbs or treetops, or anything else that would look better in full. Check to ensure that your subject matter is in focus. It’s also fun to play around with angle and perspective. Try not to take all your shots from the same sitting position in your safari vehicle or at eye level. If possible, get down in the dirt and take images from ground level and your subjects can become more imposing. Or you can add to your depth of field in landscape shots. Be sure to mix it up and find your comfort zone.
Photography is hugely light dependent. When to take pictures is almost as important as how to take pictures on safari. The early morning and late afternoon offer the most beautiful lighting with the sun low in the sky. Overcast weather works like a huge softbox, offering workable light conditions to photograph throughout the day. The harsh midday sun is not very flattering, but you might still get some good photos at a waterhole with animals coming to drink during the heat of the day.
A safari offers great wildlife photography opportunities, but hopefully you’ll have some rewarding human interactions as well. You’ll probably make a close bond with your guide and at the end of the day, the people working in your lodge are usually happy to hear about your adventures. So, don’t put away your camera when leaving the safari vehicle, but take some photos of the people that cross your path. Just make sure to always ask permission first, and to be respectful.
3. Location, Location, Location
Your driver-guide is there to help you make the most of your African safari. Most guides are good at spotting animals and they can also offer interesting information relevant to the sightings. Don’t be shy to ask the driver questions or if you would like to move to a desired location. The guide will accommodate if possible but remember the guide knows the safari best and knows what the situation currently dictates. Also, it's a good idea to turn off the engine at sightings.
Locations are endless but if taking spectacular images is a priority for your safari, there are some destinations that are a photographer's delight. The vast open plains, savannah and acacia trees of the Serengeti always make for a truly iconic safari backdrop. And you’re unlikely to find anywhere better in Africa for capturing big cats on the hunt. For swimming elephants, staggering birdlife and beautiful, lush riverine surroundings Botswana’s Chobe River and the Okovango Delta is spectacular. Namibia’s vast and arid Etosha National Park, with the moon-like expanse of the Etosha Pan at its heart, boasts particularly striking sunsets. It also offers lots of rhino and the special experience of floodlit waterholes. Private game reserves in South Africa, especially those in Sabie Sands have a great reputation for photographing leopards. Be sure to mention certain sites or animals you wish to photograph so the guide can plan accordingly.
4. Be Safe & Patient
Arguably the most important of all African safari photography tips is to always stay safe. In pursuit of the perfect photo, one can sometimes get carried away, but no photo is worth risking your safety. One should never forget that all animals on safari are wild and unpredictable. Each safari has different guidelines and the safari guide will inform you of the rules. Another important aspect of any safari is patience. Patience is the key to great wildlife photos. Instead of trying to drive from animal to animal, it pays to stay with a potentially good sighting. Spending time at one location will offer an opportunity to see some interesting animal behavior and interactions. Some of the most rewarding photos of wildlife are usually those showing interaction or action, and this often requires anticipation and patience.
5. Respect The Wildlife
At the end of the day, our goal here at Live Life Safaris is to preserve Africa's beauty. As a photographer, one of my main goals is to capture the beauty of Africa and share that with the world. Also I understand as a photographer, I am there observe and never to interact. Photographers should harass animals in pursuit of a better picture. Tourists and photographers should only be present as observers. We should never try to impact the scene in front of our lens. Also, never whistle or shout to wake an animal up in order to get a better photo and definitely never interfere with a hunt.
We hope the information above helps you capture lasting memories while on your safari trip to Africa but also helps you create great photos throughout your life's travels. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words!