A safari tour to Africa’s wilderness destination has been described as life changing experience. You might be traveling as an individual or in a family but the most exciting moment in life is photographing Africa’s most fascinating wildlife species while they are in their natural habitat.
Photographers whether amateur or professional, a chance to shoot these amazing wild animals in their entire wilderness can be tiring and stressing. Shooting wildlife species in the savanna national parks is never same as that in the zoo. Besides just dealing with far distances between you and the species, you will also encounter the dust along most of the remotest protected, traffic jams, shortage of power to charge your gargets and many more.
For those who are planning their safaris and also desire to have lifetime experiences, it is important that you spend time planning your practical gear, backing up tactics and prepare mentally for your safari. Like any photographer, you may have your dream images that you need to capture when you set yourself into one of Africa’s remotest protected areas and at such a moment, you do not wish to encounter any barriers in your equipment, battery or stressful vies to come your way. With this, below are some of the safari photography tips and information to guide you
Be prepared for the safari by investing in a long lens
Wildlife safari destination whether Uganda or any other national park in Africa photographing the wild animals is totally different from taking photos of wildlife species in the zoo. At the zoo, visitors can get nearer to the species and then take the photos with or without any barriers. At the wilderness destinations, wild animals are untamed and move freely.
This however denotes that a long lens is basic in order for you to take the detailed and clear wildlife shots. This applies to photographing big wildlife species from a pop up safari vehicle especially the lions, hippos, elephants, buffaloes, as well as reaching deep into the thick gorilla and bird habitat while hiking. A 400mm lens is recommended for you to take the best photos of lifetime and also texture or patterning the animal skin, feathers or fur.
canons 100 to 400mm, L. Nikon 80 to 400mm or sigma 150 to 500mm and for those who may not in position get one, a short term rental term plan can be an option for you. Further more, best zoom lens, and pack a wide angle of about 10 to 22mm and medium lens 24mm to 100mm to get the spectacular landscapes pictures and in situ animal images. In case you have 2 bodies, maintain a wide or medium lens on one and zoom lens on an alternate. By so doing, you would have reduced the need to change lenses while on a safari.
Respect wildlife species
You can not predict the behavior of wild animals while in the wild. Always follow the guides instructions no matter how attractive an image can be, do not jump out of the car not until you feel it is safe for you. Hippopotami are famous for turning aggressive towards photographers who try to get to access the best shots. In case you are on a walking tour, maintain your wits about you and be near to the guide. Most of these wildlife species have grown up in the area and highly tuned to the sounds and smells in their surrounding and any likely dangers which may be lurking in the close distance.
You need a supportive bean bag
While on walking safaris, you may chance set up a tripod but on a pop up safari or jeep safari vehicle, it can be challenging especially when you are in the same car with the rest of visitors. And incase there are lions around you may not just jump out and set one up. The packing bean bag to support and rest your lens on the side of the car won’t only assist you to reduce Camera shake but will also help you rest your hand while waiting for a cheetah or lion to wake up from sleeping.
Back the camera up-the memory cards, storage and batteries
It hurts setting into the jungle or being on safari and you encounter a lion or mountain gorilla and your camera is dead or its memory is full. Memory cards are very affordable today that you have no excuse of not packing an extra one in your bag for emergency. This doesn’t only meant that you can continue shooting frames at highest speed possible but you will also have replacement in case one dies off while you are in the middle of the forest or open savanna grassland with lots of lions.
Do not limit yourself, get three frames per second or simply get at least one or two batteries as part of your spare especially for those who plan to camp out overnight and may not have a chance to recharge. The other option can be for you to get yourself an inverter to charge the power from the safari vehicle or solar charger.
Or in case you do not have a laptop and a portable hard drive to back up the pictures every night, there are portable photo storage devices which can quickly backup memory cards when inserted, saving you from the heavy load of laptop and also extra costs of getting such electronics. You are advised to safe guard your memory cards and backups in various areas in case one goes missing or gets lost in luggage transport.
You will need a GPS
GPS is very important for safari especially when you want to locate where took the pictures in the destination. You can get at motion XGPS for the iphones which can download the maps to be used offline.
Safari peak hour hassles
At times, you may remain alone with the largest number of wildlife which gives you higher chance of getting the best site for you to take their images. In some other time, it will be completely gridlock as 10 cars can be struggling to surround the lion or leopard; this however requires you to be patient enough. In case you fail to get the best position to shoot, simply relax and enjoy being there in the moment while viewing the action. The fortunate bit of it is that safari drivers and guides have always taken hundreds of tours and are aware of visitor need for amazing shots, meaning soon as they get into an area with the great wild creatures, they will simply make a stop at a better position.
Carry a notepad or book
The picture of a rhino portrays a lot more when you get to know the real species, its threatened status or behavioral characters. Knowledge gives substance to photographs and creates context for the visitor on safari. In case the guide gives a snippet of cultural insight, note it down, along with the local and common names of both animals and plants that you will meet your way. In case you are not in position to keep them while on safari, request the guide to go through it once more when you return to pack and reference the information next to the relevant image number.
You will need a pop up safari vehicle
Unlike primate trekking in the thick forest that you simply walk through the forest, wildlife viewing especially for the big game like lions, you may not get out of the car and this is why you need a pop up roof vehicle that allow you to have clear views and also take photos while in a vast savanna vegetation.
Be creative with composition
The eyes are what attract the viewer into portrait images and this also applies to wild animals. In case you are taking with a zoom lens, target sharply on your subject eyes top get entrancing shots. Do not forget to be creative also with artistic shots which come with the animal and within the context of their landscape. In case they are looking off into the distance to the left, frame them on the right to make a sense of reflection or speculation.
Where there is a striking natural feature or tree around, position it to one side of the animal. Do not forget the rule of thirds when planning your composition and be aware about vegetation clutter immediately behind the wildlife species that can easily bar you from its prominence within the final image. In case you can not escape the clutter, turn to a larger aperture such that it softens out of focus.
Shooting a dawn and dusk
For most safaris in Uganda the pearl of Africa or any other destination in Africa, game drives and most of the wildlife safari activities start early in the morning or late afternoon because at these times, is when the wildlife species are at their most active moment. It is important that you take the advantage of the low and soft light conditions to get some engaging and attracting shots like animals while they are silhouetted against their landscape or long exposure images which depict the naturalness of their area. Simply play with the changing light conditions as the sun slowly emerges or disappears and sight the way it highlights objects on the landscape when it is above the horizon.
Put the camera down
It is so simple to get caught up in capturing via the lens each movement of every wild animal you meet on safari that you forget to experience this remarkable species with your own eyes. This requires you to still force yourself to put the camera down for some minutes during safari and simply take in the magic. Whereas you do your best to covey the drama, beauty and or intrigue of encounters via your images, there are some sensations that can only be grasped by living the moment first hand and you do not need to leave Africa regretting that missed chance.
In conclusion, safari photography can only be enjoyable if the above tips are fully followed. The above tips are important in that they guide you while trekking apes like mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and others as well as when you are in wildlife viewing in savanna grassland destinations where you may not allowed to get out of the car. The benefit the viewers as well as protect the lives of the species in their natural habitat.