Shenton Safaris

Photography tips for field guides

Over the past decade or so, advancements in technology have enabled everyone and anyone to take great photographs. 

The safari industry is one such area that has becoming synonymous with photography and guests from all corners of the globe flock to Africa to experience the wonders of its biodiversity in the flesh. What better way to immortalise these memories than by documenting the experience in photographs.

It is therefore imperative that a field guide has photographic knowledge in order to enhance a guest’s experience (this is guiding in a nut shell – it’s all about the guest!).

lion, profile

A guide should be able to explain the basic functions of a camera and advise guests of the settings to achieve the best possible photographs, and perhaps more importantly, understand how they position the vehicle in order to allow guests the greatest opportunities.

It is also a good idea that a guide familiarises themselves with the main manufacturers, such as Canon and Nikon, so that they can help guests using different equipment.

Bushwise has integrated a wildlife photography module into its course in order to equip its guides with these skillsets.

Here are a quick list of tips that guides can use whilst out on drive:

♦ The guest comes first!

Perhaps the most important thing for a guide to remember is that the guest comes first. Regardless of your personal interests, it is imperative that the guest gets a good view ahead of you.

If this means that your head is in a bush in order to make this possible, then so be it. A guide should never compromise the guests’ opportunities for their own benefit! For many safari-goers this might be their one and only opportunity to see these great animals, whereas a guide is exposed to these sights at least twice a day.

elephant, wildlife, bush safari

♦ Ethics

As a guide, you are an ambassador for the bush and all its inhabitants and facets. It is your duty to set an example to your guests and ensure that appropriate behaviour is upheld at all times.

A guide should never try to disturb an animal’s natural behaviour in order to manipulate a better shot, and nor should they allow a guest to do so. This includes making noises to distract an animal, using a vehicle to ‘herd’ an animal to a better position, or even worse, attempting to provoke a charge or manipulate an opportunity for a predator to make a kill.

♦ A clear view

The positioning of the vehicle is paramount in attaining a good photo. Take into account where the subject is, or where it is heading and try to ensure an uninterrupted view. There is nothing more frustrating than that single blade of grass across a lion’s face!

Obviously this may not be possible, but moving the vehicle a metre forward or backward may just make all the difference in the search for that perfect shot.

leopard, wildlife, bush safari

♦ Light

Understanding light and how to use it your advantage is the key to any photograph. The ‘Golden Hour’ is the first hour, or so, after sunrise and before sunset and is the prime time for photography.

Be prepared to leave early to ensure being in the right place for this small window of opportunity. Taking photos into the light can also produce a powerful image by using silhouettes.

For these images, a faster shutter speed is essential to avoid overexposure, but there are many different settings that one can use for these circumstances. The best training is practice – know your camera and the best settings for these different conditions.

giraffe, sunset, wildlife, bush safari

♦ Elevation

The angle at which you are viewing the subject can also have a major effect of the image attained. Where possible, it is best to be at eye level with the subject – having a photographer in the front seat of the vehicle provides a lower vantage point.

Otherwise see if you can position the vehicle in a dip. This in turn may help the subject to stand out by having the sky as the background, instead of losing it in the surrounding undergrowth.

♦ Anticipation

A field guide should be able to anticipate an animal’s movements and thus position the vehicle accordingly. Even if that means the initial stopping place is not the prime position.

For example, if you know that an animal is heading towards water, rather than following it and taking photos of its backside, go and set up at the waterhole, taking into account the position of the sun and be ready for the classic drinking shot!

hyena, black and white photography, wildlife, bush safari

Bushwise
About

Bushwise offers comprehensive 50 and 23-week FGASA Professional Field Guide courses and Hospitality Internship Placements at safari lodges in Southern Africa – a life altering experience and ideal platform for a successful career in the challenging and competitive ‘Big 5’ industry.

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