How to prepare for a photo safari

Photographic safaris are outings that should be experienced by every photographer at least once in a lifetime. They provide the perfect opportunity to photograph wildlife and nature. Most offer private vehicles allowing photographers to focus on specific wildlife, spend the needed time with the wildlife to get the shot, and allow for a more flexible approach to the safari.

Most importantly, these safaris are hosted by an expert wildlife photographer to assist clients with getting the perfect shot and then processing the images.

leopard

Preparing for your first photo safari:

• Contact the operator of your chosen photographic safari company and confirm with them what their recommended equipment is. This can vary from area to area, especially with regards to lenses. Some reserves allow vehicles to follow animals off road and one can get away with shorter lenses e.g. 200mm, while others do not allow this and thus longer lenses are required e.g. 600mm.

• Spend time getting to know your camera and equipment. Wildlife photography is definitely not static and you should be able to change settings quickly according to fast moving subjects or shifting light.

• Practice by photographing pets or birds in your surrounding area in order to get a feel for photographing a moving subject.

• If you are a true amateur, don’t worry! This is exactly why an expert wildlife photographer joins you on safari. The host will assist you with the best camera settings and how to get the best out of your camera.

rhino

What you should take:

• A camera and lens within your price range (some operators offer equipment rental). Lens wise, it is good to have a wide angle lens for landscapes and a telephoto lens for the animals.

• An external flash with spare batteries. It is recommended to bring a wireless flash transmitter to avoid “red-eye”.

• A shutter release switch for star trails.

• Take enough memory cards (high speed). I have shot 8GB in RAW images in less than an hour on a safari before, so it is important to have enough backup memory. It is recommended to bring an external storage device to transfer images onto after each safari. The reason why I say ‘high speed card’ is due to the fact that often in wildlife photography one shoots on high speed continuous mode.

• Take spare batteries, as game drives can last for hours at a time.

• A good laptop powerful enough to process images on Photoshop/Lightroom. Some operators offer monitors to uplink to for editing purposes but if not, bring a laptop with dedicated graphics and an RGB LED screen.

• A memory card reader.

• A good lens cleaning kit is essential, as being out in the elements does lead to dust collection.

• Insure your equipment! Weather can be unpredictable and I have had a client lose a Canon 600mm lens in a freak wind storm that caused a log to fall on the lens. The lens was not insured.

• Bean bag or vehicle mount to hold your camera nice and still while shooting.

• Plastic packets or waterproof material! Thunderstorms are common in Africa through the summer months, so bring something just to cover up that lens or camera.

• Bring a lot of patience! Wildlife photography is often about waiting for the right moment, but under the guidance of you host and guide, this wait will be more than worth it.

• A willingness to learn and share. It is important on these safaris to be willing to learn, not just about photography but about the creatures you are photographing. The more you learn about animal behaviour, the better, as it will allow you to anticipate your next shot. Share with the others on safari as everyone has some idea or technique that may just help others.

• An ethical respect for nature is very important. Not only is it unethical to disturb animals to get a shot, but it can at times put you and the rest of the clients in danger.

lion

OnePhotography Photo Safaris

OnePhotography offers the ultimate photographic safari experience. The company utilises the best locations and provides quality tutoring in order for clients to get the “shot.” Safaris are conducted in small groups to ensure each client receives personal attention.

  • StephDK

    I disagree with the suggestion of bringing an external flash. You should NEVER EVER use a flash when taking pictures of wild animals. EVER. It can easily spook them and even temporarily blind them. And when they’ve been spooked, their behavior can become unpredictable.

    If you’re shooting in low light conditions (like dawn or disk), adjust the settings on your camera instead to allow the sensor to pick up more ambient light. You can increase the ISO and adjust the aperture and/or shutter speed. You’ll definitely need a small tripod or something to stabilize the camera when using a slow shutter speed to avoid camera shake. Using a flash will also make the scene look unnatural with the stark brightness of the subject & harsh shadows that result from a flash.

    You’ll be much happier capturing the scene using natural light. And if needed, you can make some adjustments in your photo-editing software afterwards. The animal’s welfare is what’s most important while on safari. Think how much you hate the flash when someone uses it on you.

    • Linda

      I totally agree with the above

      • LM

        Choose your photographic safari carefully, there are experts and ‘experts’!

    • Jim Griggs

      We use fill flash ONLY for birds and ONLY for birds that need it. No mammals, ever. i don’t know of any reason to have an off camera triggering device. No one is going to walk out and hold a flash for you, at least no one on one of my photo safaris. We have an extensive guide for photo safaris in Tanzania that we give to each participant, outlining the Do’s and Don’t’s of being on a photo safari including protecting your equipment from not only rain but the dust that exists on the “roads’ in Tanzania’s parks. It is very important to establish the rules and courtesies of shooting out of a vehicle such as being aware of those around you and making sure you are not moving around excessively while others are shooting; being aware of video being used, etc. Experience is so important to making everyone’s trip successful.

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