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Secrets for Sensational Safari Photos

Exploring wilderness areas on safari and viewing wildlife in its natural habitat is a breathtaking experience and to capture this experience photographically is especially gratifying. When you’re on safari in Africa, you can expect to take most of your photos from within a Land Rover, car or boat since the vehicle allows a safe approach to getting close to wild animals. Some areas offer walking safaris with a guide, but photographing wild animals on foot is more dangerous and does not permit the close proximity of a vehicle or boat. Remember that stalking and approaching wild animals is potentially dangerous. Although most animals do not view a vehicle as a threat, almost all will run away from humans on foot. As a result, photographing wild animals on foot is far more challenging – plus, you have to carry all your equipment.

For walking safaris, I recommend bringing only your best zoom lens as it offers the most versatility. When photographing from a vehicle, it is best to turn off the engine before attempting to take any photographs. Although the vibrations from the vehicle’s engine may seem inconsequential, they will ultimately be noticeable in your pictures, especially if you are using a telephoto lens. Using a tripod from an open-air vehicle or boat is quite possible if you have a private vehicle or have only one or two passengers per row of seats. If you don’t have a tripod, be sure to use whatever support is available (bean bag, monopod, roof-top) to avoid camera shake.

Tips for Getting Started The following are some tips to get you started on your safari photo adventure: If you plan to be on safari for many days, be sure to bring enough digital storage. You never want to be faced with passing up an excellent photo opportunity or having to delete good images. Know your camera - you don’t want to miss a shot! Because many scenes, especially those with a high degree of contrast, can fool your camera’s automatic metering, practice using your camera’s exposure compensation and also the different metering options (spot, center-weighted and evaluative). Experiment with shooting moving objects and anticipating the action. Some of your best images will be of animal interactions and animals on the move (birds flying, zebras running, lions hunting). Be patient and wait for things to happen - you’ll be rewarded with spectacular opportunities. Also, when you get to a location, really take time to listen and observe- most of my best sightings have come when the vehicle is turned off and listening for clues. Constantly driving around will not yield good results. Try to include something in the foreground to enhance the sense of depth when photographing landscapes. Something as simple as a rock, a termite mound or a person will effectively add scale and interest to your composition.

Always be sure to focus on an animal’s eyes whenever possible. Having the eyes in sharp focus will make the difference between an image which works and one which is a throw-away. Animals don’t stay in one place for very long, so be prepared. Always move cautiously, slowly and smoothly and stay the recommended distance when photographing or observing wildlife. ALWAYS be respectful of wild animals and never pressure or stress them. Don’t hesitate to go out on “bad” weather days--some of the most striking images are captured during inclement weather. In summary, for many people photography is one of the most essential parts of an African safari. Photographs are much more than just a record of where you have been and what you have seen—they are something to look back on in later years or a way of sharing your experience with friends and family back at home. In addition, many people get as much enjoyment out of taking the photos themselves as they do in seeing the animals and sights and they will take great satisfaction in their photos for years to come.


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