A Site for Photographers by Photographers

Home > Travel > Africa > Safari Tips

Featured Equipment Deals

Ten Steps to Get Creative & Authentic Family Photographs Read More

Ten Steps to Get Creative & Authentic Family Photographs

Photographer Stacy Bostrom shares ten tips to make your family photography more creative by capturing the beautiful imperfection of life.

Latest Equipment Articles

Choosing a Mobile Photo Printer Read More

Choosing a Mobile Photo Printer

In today's mobile, digital world, we carry hundreds or even thousands of pictures around on our smartphones and tablets. Tom Persinger looks at 4 different mobile photo printer options for getting...

Latest Learning Articles

Advanced Printing with Lightroom (Video Tutorial) Read More

Advanced Printing with Lightroom (Video Tutorial)

Building upon last week's Basic Printing with Lightroom video tutorial, this advanced printing tutorial will teach you to print contact sheets, print multiple images at a time, use Lightroom's present...


African Photo Safari Guide

by Philip Greenspun, June 2007


Africa is the easiest place in the world to photograph wild animals. In most other portions of the globe, animals live in environments that are inaccessible as well as uncomfortably cold and wet. African animals live in a climate very similar to Southern California's. Getting to them is as easy as calling a tour company and having them arrange a Cessna flight to a game lodge's airstrip.

As noted elsewhere on photo.net, taking a trip to Africa is easier than going to Los Angeles for the weekend. To visit LA, you would have to decide in which of its 50 subcommunities to stay. You would have to choose a hotel within one of those subcommunities. You would have to rent a car and navigate to your hotel. Waking up the next morning, you would have to decide which of 5000 potential activities to engage in, make a reservation at one of tens of thousands of restaurants, and then pick one of 1000+ nighttime entertainments. By contrast, an African trip might start and end with one email to a travel agent in your home country. They make all of the arrangements with local tour operators and send you an itinerary. After that, you show up at the first airport and the rest requires no thought, planning, effort, or choice. Guides pick you up, tell you when to be ready for dinner or a game drive or whatever, and take you back to your room when it is time to sleep.

How Safari Works

The daily schedule at a game lodge will be something like the following:

  • hour before sunrise: wakeup knock at your door
  • 30 minutes before sunrise: light breakfast at the lodge
  • sunrise: depart on game drive in a six-passenger open Land Cruiser/Rover
  • 9:00 am: guide sets up a tea break on a camp table in the bush
  • 10:30 am: arrive back at the lodge to wash up
  • 11:00 am: enormous buffet brunch
  • 12:00 noon: siesta
  • 3-4 pm: quiche, pie, sandwiches, and other high tea items
  • 4-4:30 pm: depart on the afternoon game drive
  • sunset: guide sets up table with alcohol, snacks
  • sunset+1 hour: drive back to camp with spotlight, looking for predators in action
  • sunset+2-3 hours: enormous buffet dinner

The main health hazard on this kind of trip is obesity. Feeding people five meals per day makes sense when they are spending 12 hours per day toting a heavy rifle through the bush. It isn't such a great idea when all that the guests need or can do is sit in a Land Rover. Very likely you will be less active than you are at home, so try to force yourself to eat less than you would when at home.

Most tourists stay two nights at each lodge. For the best photographic results, try to stay a minimum of three nights in each location. The first day or two will be good for figuring out what is worth photographing on the last day or two.


The Challenges

Here are the fundamental challenges to taking pictures as good as what you see in books or on television:

  • animals don't usually do anything very interesting and, often the most interesting activity is at night
  • animals tend to be skittish and keep their distance from humans, even when those humans are sitting in Land Rovers
  • objects that are far away require high magnification (long telephoto) lenses
  • high magnification lenses magnify camera shake
  • you are in a vehicle on springs with a handful of other people, some of whom may be moving about and adding camera shake
  • high magnification lenses offer very limited depth of field, especially at the wide apertures required for high shutter speeds to freeze camera shake (see above)
  • the environment tends to be dry and dusty, increasing the risk of getting crud on the sensor

Challenge: Animals Don't Usually Do Anything Interesting

You can cope with the challenge of "animals typically don't do anything interesting" by lowering your expectations. One camp that I visited had leased out an area to a BBC television crew. They had been filming all day every day, and most nights as well, for three years, all in hopes of putting together just a few hours of broadcast-quality footage. Don't expect to get a competitive photo of a common animal; those are typically taken by photographers with months or years to spend in the bush. A great wildlife photographer is someone with a big lens, a big tripod, a big bladder, and a lot of patience. The best photos are taken by people who are competent users of their equipment, but don't necessarily reflect artistic genius.

Try to stay at least three nights at every lodge if your goal is to photograph rather than experience. You will need the first day to figure out where the best photographs are typically made and what kinds of lenses and perspectives are best. You will also use that day to scope out interesting backgrounds such as unusual trees.

Pay extra for a private guide and vehicle (or organize a trip with friends in a group of 6 total). You will be able to leave early, stay out late, skip meals, etc. Maybe you can't stay in the bush for months or years, but you can improve your odds by being in the bush instead of at the buffet.

Challenge: Animals are Far Away

Animals in Africa have evolved a healthy distrust of humans. They don't want to let you get close enough for a clean shot with a spear or even with a rifle. Despite the large size of many animals, you will need a magnification similar to that afforded by a set of binoculars, which are typically 8-10X. On a full-frame camera, a 50mm lens is normal and 8X multiplication from there corresponds to a 400mm lens or 300mm with 1.4X teleconverter. A lot of exciting views through a pair of binoculars, however, have the subject occupying only a small portion of the field. For birds and far-away larger animals, the most successful images are taken primarily with 600mm and 800mm lenses on a full-frame camera.

The French philosopher Rene Descartes noted that animals move. Thus you might not have time to change lenses for the perfect composition before the animal moves away. The most obvious solution to this problem is a zoom lens. Unfortunately, high magnification zooms tend not to offer the best image quality. For small sensor Canon body users, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM, (compare prices), is probably nonetheless a good choice. The image quality isn't competitive with prime lenses, but you're only using the sharp center portion of the image circle illuminated by the lens.

If you're using a full-frame sensor camera, the mediocre image quality of the long-range zooms at the long end is going to be noticeable. It is probably better to bring one or two prime telephotos and a 1.4X teleconverter.

Springbok captured with 300/4 lens and 2X teleconverter. Note the lack of contrast and punch in the image. It is rarely possible to get a satisfying image with a 2X teleconverter. You are probably better off using a 1.4X teleconverter and cropping.

Springbok captured with 300/4 lens and 1.4X teleconverter. A little better image quality, but the problem is lack of patience; the animals are simply too far away.

Red-billed Hornbill with 300/4 lens and 1.4X teleconverter. It is tough to fill a significant portion of the frame with a bird with any lens shorter than 800mm, but this is a very common species and they like to hang out at the side of the road. Nonetheless, due to their shyness and propensity to fly away as a vehicle approaches, it took several days to create this image.

Meerkats at Jack's Camp in Botswana. The camp employs a guy to stay with the Meerkats all day every day so that they are accustomed to humans. Successful images may be obtained at 20mm or wider (right).

Challenge: Camera Shake

When an interesting scene presents itself, your guide will stop the Land Rover and shut off the engine to reduce vibration. Nonetheless, at 450mm or 600mm, the magnification of the lens will necessitate high shutter speeds to eliminate blur due to camera shake. The standard rule of thumb is that freezing camera shake requires a shutter speed of 1/focal-length, e.g., 1/600th of a second or faster for a 600mm lens. Fast shutter speeds force a photographer into using very wide apertures, which reduce the depth of field, or high ISO settings, which reduce image quality.

One way to reduce the problem is hiring a private guide and vehicle so that either there are fewer people in the vehicle or all of the people are vibration-conscious photographers and assistants. If you are sitting down in a still vehicle, you could probably get an acceptably sharp image with a 600mm lens at 1/300th of a second. Another path to slower shutter speeds is an image-stabilized lens or camera body. Note that the in-body stabilizers are not that effective for long telephoto lenses. The traditional techniques of tripod and beanbag are not very effective since the Land Rover itself is not perfectly steady. The most important benefit of having a beanbag is that it reduces the strain on your muscles when using long heavy lenses, e.g., anything larger than a 300/4. Sitting in a reasonably still vehicle with an image-stabilized lens, you could probably go two f-stops slower than the standard, e.g., 1/150th of a second instead of 1/600th for a 600mm lens.

Challenge: Shallow Depth of Field

If you've been a casual photographer until now, the use of long lenses and their shallow depth of field will challenge your focusing skills as never before.

Autofocus is a great feature, but keep in mind that the camera is not artificially intelligent. It will autofocus on something, but probably not, by default, the thing that you want it to focus on. What do you want to focus on? If you can't have the entire animal in focus, which you usually can't, focus on the eyes. If the eyes are sharp, viewers will accept unsharpness in the rest of the animal.

With Canon bodies, use Custom Function 4 to move autofocus from the shutter release to the exposure lock button on the rear of the camera.

Challenge: Dusty Environment

Keep your camera covered with a shirt or jacket while driving. Keep the camera bag closed. Southern Africa in tourist season is dusty and dry. Bring two bodies along so that you don't have to change lenses in the field.

Where to Sit

The typical game drive Land Rover has four rows of seats, each one successively higher. Some professionals prefer to sit in the front seat next to the guide, putting them more at eye level with the animals. One advantage of this seat is that placing a beanbag on the hood is an effective way of reducing arm strain.

As you move farther back in the vehicle, you are sitting progressively higher. This has the advantage of clearer views of animals, who are less likely to be obscured by long grass and low bushes. The disadvantage of being farther back is that more dust blows up from the tires, making changing lenses riskier.

Aerial Photography

If none of the seats in the Land Rover are working out, consider an aerial perspective. Helicopter charter is available from Maun, Botswana, Victoria Falls (both sides), and a variety of places within South Africa.

More: photo.net introduction to aerial photography

Tourists, Guides, Lodges, etc.

On a one-week trip to Africa, it is tough to take the world's best picture of a lion. A lot of photographers have pointed cameras at a lot of lions for a lot of decades. But maybe you can take the world's best picture of your guide, a fellow guest, or the lodge itself. And even if you don't, pictures of the people and facilities behind the scene will be enjoyable souvenirs.

Exposure

Taking a picture of a moving animal from a moving vehicle is challenging enough. Why add the additional challenge of getting exposure perfect on the spot? That is what you're doing if you store images in JPEG format. Set up the camera to capture RAW instead and you can fiddle with exposure when comfortably sitting at home, or, better yet, deliver the RAW file to a print lab and let their professional technicians optimize a print from the RAW image.

A JPEG is like slide film. An image can be an aesthetic failure due to a 1/2 f-stop exposure mistake. If the animal is posed against an 18-percent gray background, you'll get a perfect exposure from any camera every time. If, on the other hand, the scene is mostly dark trees or light sand, the camera will be fooled into thinking that the light is weaker or brighter than it actually is.

RAW files are like color negatives. The sensor captures a larger range of tones than can be represented on paper. A photographer or lab technician will decide post-exposure which of those tones should be rendered in a final print and at what intensities.

The disadvantages of RAW capture include the following:

  • larger files, necessitating buying larger and more memory cards (count on approximately 60 RAW images per GB from a 13 megapixel camera or 1000 images on a 16 GB card)
  • slower processing and viewing
  • requirement for special software on any computer used for editing or viewing

Many digital cameras offer the opportunity of simultaneous storing of both RAW and JPEG versions of every image. The JPEGs are useful for quick emailing and printing; you still have the RAWs if you find a favorite image to enlarge.

Most digital cameras can be set to bracket exposures, taking three images in rapid succession for example. The first image will be at the meter's recommended exposure. The second will be 1/2 f-stop underexposed and the third will be 1/2 f-stop overexposed. This is pointless if you are capturing RAW files, which have an exposure latitude of at least +/- 1 f-stop.

Animals in Motion

Animals tend to move, especially if you drive close to them in a Land Rover. There are two basic approaches to dealing with a moving subject: (1) freeze the motion, or (2) follow the motion.

To freeze the motion of a subject, select a high shutter speed, e.g., 1/250th or faster. To follow the motion of a subject, pan the camera to keep the subject centered in the frame and press the shutter release once the pan is well-established. A shutter speed between 1/30th and 1/125th will generally render the subject sharp and the background blurry. This is a riskier photographic technique, with a lower yield than freezing motion, but the successful images are more interesting than ones taken at a high shutter speed.

Camera panning to follow the running baboon. Note the blurred background. 420mm. f/8 and 1/125th of a second.
A shutter speed of 1/640th of a second was selected to freeze all motion. 420mm and f/8.

Camera Setup

These are recommended starter settings for taking pictures on safari:

  • file format: RAW
  • white balance: auto (AWB); this has no effect on RAW files and you can reset the white balance later on your computer
  • ISO 100 if animals are standing out in the mid-day sun; ISO 200 for average lighting conditions, giving you the ability to use faster shutter speeds; ISO 400 near sunset or sunrise; ISO 800 just after sunset.
  • autofocus mode: "AI Servo" on Canon, for continuous autofocus tracking of moving subjects
  • autofocus start: moved to a button on the back of the camera, separated from the shutter release, enabled with Custom Function 4 on most Canon EOS bodies
  • exposure mode: aperture-priority autofocus; you choose the aperture and the camera chooses a shutter speed
  • aperture: one f-stop down from the maximum, e.g., if you have a f/4 lens, use f/5.6. This improves image quality and increases depth of field to make focusing less critical. The camera will select an appropriate shutter speed
  • rear control dial: disabled; you probably won't be trying intentionally to set exposure compensation, so disable the rear wheel from being nudged accidentally

Tape the autofocus and image stabilization buttons on the lens so that they aren't accidentally disabled while you are cradling the camera in a bouncing Land Rover. Gaffer's tape will not leave adhesive sticking to the lens. If you are using Canon EOS lenses with ultrasonic motors and Custom Function 4, you will have manual focus available even if the lens is always in autofocus mode.

Image Storage and Organization

If you're slightly antisocial, unable to relax on vacation, and are willing to carry a bit of extra weight, a laptop computer is definitely worth bringing to the lodges. When everyone else is napping or chatting, you can be transferring, sorting, organizing, rejecting, and captioning images with Adobe Bridge, Picasa, or a similar application.

If you don't want the hassle of carrying a laptop and its power adaptor, simply bring enough memory cards to hold all of your images. Try to sort and caption them as soon as you get home, however, or you're very likely to have forgotten the names of the various animals.

Recharging Batteries

Game lodges are generally off the grid, not that there is much of a grid to begin with in most African countries. Lodges operate generators for at least 12 hours per day. Some high-end lodges have power available in every room, but traditional lodges only have power in the main bar/dining room. They will generally have a power strip to fit European two-prong plugs. It is worth bringing a small adaptor, not a voltage converter, through which to plug in your camera battery charger. Note that laptop computers and camera battery chargers are powered from switched-mode power supplies that accept any voltage between 90 and 240V.


Security and backups

The game lodges are safe, probably safer than any hotel in the U.S. You can leave a camera bag stuffed with the best lenses in the bar while you go back to your room and sleep. You can leave a Rolex on the night table while you went out for a game drive. The rest of Africa is chancier, however, and you may want to take precautions such as having your suitcases sealed in plastic before checking them (this service is available at most African airports for $5 per bag).

As soon as you finish a memory card or a backup, place it into a separate bag from the rest of your camera gear. If your camera equipment is stolen, at least you will have all but your most recent images.

Equipment Recommendations

Outfit for the heretofore casual photographer:

[If you're a Nikon system user, the equivalent lenses are Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX, (compare prices) and Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED Autofocus VR Zoom Nikkor, (compare prices).]

Make sure to prepare yourself before the trip so that you aren't reduced to the "green idiot all-automatic mode". Read the owner's manual and take the outfit to a sports event such as a soccer game, trying to follow the players with autofocus. Learn how to capture in RAW and convert to JPEG; you won't have time to get exposure right when you're out in the bush.


Outfit for the serious photographer:

Arranging a Trip

However you book your trip, do it far in advance. Roads are few and poor in Africa, making air travel essential. In an effort to protect small domestic carriers, governments set tight limits on air travel. The result is that flights are few, far between, and five times as expensive as in the U.S. or Europe. Even if you can get a place in a lodge, you might not be able to get there. People typically book Africa trips six or nine months in advance. If you book last-minute, be prepared for some days cowering in a Jo'burg hotel room or bored in a dusty provincial Botswanan town.

The easiest thing to do is what I did: contact James Weis at Eyes on Africa and let him book the entire trip. He is an experienced wildlife photographer and knows the lodges, the seasons, and the animals.

Books

More


Text and pictures copyright 2007 Philip Greenspun. Most of the photos were taken with a Canon EOS 5D, (compare prices) (review), Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, (compare prices) (review), and Canon EF 1.4X III Extender, (compare prices) (review).

Article created June 2007

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Jeff Davis , July 20, 2007; 08:46 A.M.

There is a nice article on the Luminous Landscape site for more serious photographers (or at least ones with more money who want to decide between taking a 400/2.8 vs 600/4).

It's also worth mentioning that the dedicated photo trips like those run by Joe McDonald or the Gerlachs are a different world in terms of opportunity to do more serious photography. On a trip like that you will have 3 photographers each with their own bench so you can shoot from either side of the land rover. The drivers/guides are both very good and cognizant of issues relevant to photography; i.e. they will always stop the motors in the cars and are patient about waiting for animals to actually get around to doing something interesting. You also go out earlier, stay out longer and spend a lot less time eating.

I went on the Kenya trip with the McDonald's in 2002 and give it an extremely enthusiastic endorsement. The local drivers they used were from Origins and were fantastic.

Nathan Callender , August 10, 2007; 11:26 A.M.

I've lived in southern Africa for a number of years and went on quite a few safaris. While you could go the route of making one phone call and not planning anything (which may work for some people) I think you would really miss out on what Africa is all about. Half of the fun is planning what you want to do (there are heaps of things to do and places to go that people can get to but aren't covered in these packaged tours).

This is what I would consider as a pretty good trip to South Africa. Plan for 2 to 3 weeks because it's just not worth going for a week with flight times and jet lag. Things take longer in Africa and life follows a different clock, so don't cram too much stuff into a short trip.

Fly into Johannesburg and rent a car and drive to Kruger National Park (or take the bus and rent a car close to there). Kruger is a huge park that has many different camps. You drive through it and stay at the camps at night. The park offers so many different terrains and animals depending on where you are that you can plan to hop through the park and not get too bored.

You drive yourself in Kruger and that gives you the freedom of finding the wild animals and staying as long as you want at certain spots. You can also arrange night rides, guided tours, and all that stuff too. The animals are harder to find than at other game reserves, but you get to see them in the authentic natural habitat doing what they normally do. I've seen all sorts of animals, and I've seen a cheeta stalking impalas, which is unbelievable.

You can plan on being in Kruger for 7-10 days and then you can tour the drakenburg mountains that are to the west. They offer some really beautiful African landscapes. There are other game parks you can stop at as well as cheeta farms and the like.

It depends on how much planning you want to do. If you spent the whole trip in Kruger you could plan it all with maps and info off of their website and would know much more about the region and be way more excited once you get there. A travel angency in South Africa could probably make planning other stuff outside the parks a little easier.

Anyway, that's just a different view. If you are comfortable with traveling abroad, this may be an option that would be more gratifying in the end. BTW, no matter how you get there, Africa is an amazing place.

Jonathan Fortner , November 02, 2007; 10:26 A.M.

Phil,

One of my family's dreams is taking a photo safari in Africa. Can you give us an idea of the costs, or point me in the direction of some good resources? Thanks.

Owen Shaw , November 04, 2007; 05:04 A.M.

Highly recomended for thos who are on a budget but wish to avoid the crowds at Kruger. Make your way to Tembe and ndumo in N KZN South Africa

Michael Svihura , November 08, 2007; 05:23 P.M.

I've been on two photo safaris in Africa, and I highly using recommend the Cheesemans. Doug Cheeseman is a photographer, and his trips are probably a bit more expensive than the average outfitter, but the photo opportunities are stupendous. But no matter what, avoid safaris that use big buses. Those are called Sardine Safaris, for obvious reasons, and the photo opportunities will be limited due to the sheer number of people in the vehicle.

Anyway, the vehicles used by the Cheesmans are similar to the Land Rovers that Phil described, except that these are pop-tops, meaning that the cab is not open and you stand up and shot your pictures. (e.g. See this page.) The advantages in using these vehicles are that there is better dust control, you can prop a bean bag on the edge of the roof for better stability, and the Cheesemans limit the number of people in each vehicle to 4-5.

Phil's tips on equipment are pretty much in line with what I've experienced. I used the Canon 100-400 Zoom, and had good results with the Canon EOS-D60. Doug had the whole shebang: multiple bodies and a big 600mm prime lens. He let me borrow it for a couple of shots of birds that were farther away than the 400mm would allow.

As Phil also mentioned, the limitations in getting good pictures is usally not in the equipment, but in the amount of time that you're limited to in the field. In this regard, the Cheesemans are excellent, spending at least three days in the prime locations, and sometimes up to five days. Also, he doesn't believe in down time, meaning that we're up at dawn, doing game drives all morning. Sometimes we'd take lunch in the field, rather than going back to the game lodge. Regardless, after lunch we'd get right back at it until dusk. Even if the midday sun was not so good for pictures, you'd still see excellent animal behavior. So even if you cannot spend years in the field, the Cheesemans maximize your opportunities. Again, I highly recommend them.

Dave Wiltse , November 12, 2007; 09:40 A.M.

I agree with Nathan. Don't let the exotic locale dissuade you from going it alone in South Africa. I have taken a couple of trips myself and have had a wonderful time with ample opportunities for good photography on my own. The cost can run you less than $100 per day if you?re willing to stay in your own tent. Don't worry, a large, electrified fence stands between you and the predators. A self-drive safari allows you to go where and when you want at your own pace. And, you can reserve spots on night drives, game hikes, etc. to make the trip all the more memorable. This doesn't preclude all advanced planning however, as Kruger has limited space, even in the camping areas. Reservations should be made several months in advance to guarantee a spot. I did find however, that once I had secured a week's worth a camping at one specific camp, I could stay at other camps if necessary; thus giving me a lot of flexibility.

A self-drive trip, in the end, is much less expensive and more rewarding than a fully guided and catered safari. I highly recommend, however, that you rent a rather tall vehicle simply to clear the top of the grass. I had a Fiat Palio which I wound up standing on the window sill to photograph some mating lions; not the safest thing to do. In addition to Kruger, there are several other parks that offer good opportunities for the photographer. Hluhluwe-Umfolozi in KwaZulu-Natal is one such place, and is worth a few days of your time.

Kent Black , November 16, 2007; 12:26 A.M.

Small question/observation on camera setup for Canon 40D: Instead of disabling the rear wheel, why not set it to select the focus point? Yeah, I vainly hope to manage a little composition with that tiny blip of a dik dik. ;-) I also find using the multicontroller for focus point selection somewhat aggravating - it ought to be faster (direct selection), but it doesn't happen to work that way for me.

One tool I use is a light, compact monopod and mini ball (currently trying out a Bogen 676b + 484RC2, which collapes down to ~23" but may be too flimsy when extended to standing height). I frequently use it collapsed and tucked into an old leatherman tool sheath on my belt for support while sitting or walking. No, it's not a tripod, but it makes it possible to keep that 400mm lens up for hours without additional shake from fatigue.

Yes, I would prefer to use a tripod, but I have found that not to be feasible on other standard tours in India, Venezuela and elsewhere.

I'm off for my first African safari in a few weeks - thanks for a very timely and helpful article.

David Schoppik , December 23, 2007; 10:53 A.M.

Excellent article. A couple thoughts I'd like to add, based on the safari through Kenya and Tanzania that I took in 2001.
1) If you've got the flexibility, choose your season wisely. Some areas, like the Ngorogoro crater, are moist all year round, while others, like the Serengeti, will dry out quite a bit and transform from lush, tall grassland to dusty, dry, prairie. Depending on where you are, the weather will profoundly impact your photo opportunities.
We were in Tanzania in January/February, which was an excellent time, as it was between the short and long rains. The grasses were high, which made it a bit difficult to spot animals, but it meant a large concentration of herbivores, and (naturally) with them came carnivores and scavengers. The wildebeest give birth en masse around that time; we missed the actual birthing, which takes place over a short span of time.
2) I second the "go it alone." Particularly if you are comfortable staying in a tent, it is fairly easy to hire one of the many drivers/guides to take you around. The money you save on expensive lodges will easily cover having an entire vehicle to yourself. When I get to do it again, though, I'll be sure to hire a cook as well. It sounds luxurious, but not having to make dinner means another hour on the trail at dusk, which is prime time for animal activity. It also means that you can dictate your itinerary much more precisely: if the light is good in a particular area, you can wait around for a few hours, or you can shadow a cheetah for a few hours until it decides to give chase. The guides/drivers are often excellent resources as well.
3) Read up on animal behavior before you go. There are plenty of field guides that will give you an excellent idea of what to expect, given the time of year that you are going. Being able to recognize what the animals are actually up to will both give you a sense for what photographs are possible, but also enrich the experience of watching the herds.

Jehnavi pat , June 22, 2010; 02:04 A.M.


African Safari

Fly into Johannesburg and rent a car and drive to Kruger National Park (or take the bus and rent a car close to there). Kruger is a huge park that has many different camps. You drive through it and stay at the camps at night. The park offers so many different terrains and animals depending on where you are that you can plan to hop through the park and not get too bored.

Thanks

African Safari

William Cowger , February 16, 2011; 10:57 P.M.

Great post overall. 

Having led 19 photo safaris to the Serengeti, I do have a couple comments.  When moving, I recommend my clients with long lenses pre-set their body to shutter priority at a speed fast enough to shoot hand held.  Many times as we pull up to an exciting sighting, the animals/birds get spooked and as a result there is no time to setup for the potentially one and only shot.  Once we find there is no need to rush, we then switch to aperture priority to get optimum depth of field, contrast and saturation.  If you only get to Africa once, getting the shot is more important than getting the best shot that is blurry.

Find a group that has no more than 3 people in a car that seats 8 so that everyone has a row to themselves. It's also easier to get 2 others to stay put while composing and shooting which cuts down on lens movement.

Going without a plan is anything but optimum. Anyone can find and capture more wildlife in Africa than anywhere else.  However, to maximize your opportunities, going with someone that knows not only where to go but when to go there, is far better.  The great migration in the Serengeti happens year round, but the roads are so bad and with the stops for what you see on the way it's a 10/12 hour drive from one end of the park to the other.  So if you are staying in a lodge/camp at one end of the park when the mega herds are elsewhere, you will likely miss one of the great natural wonders of the modern world.

We seldom are out for less than 8 and often 12 hours a day.  It does make a difference that in the Serengeti the average high year round only varies between 78-82 degrees F... so the middle if the day is not as much of an inactive time as it is in many areas that have hotter mid-days. In addition to loving photography, I am a lover of animal behaviors even at times when the light is not optimum for shooting and would be climbing the lodge/tent walls to spend 6 hours a day in camp.

 

 

Image Attachment: filexNwSBG.jpg

Debi Sen Gupta , February 23, 2011; 10:48 A.M.

This article was a great help during my trip to South Africa last November. A bit late but thanks.

Scott Kasden , December 25, 2011; 09:38 P.M.

Nice article.

I would add this based on my trip to The Serengeti, Tanzania, March 2011.

solar chargers- cigarette lighter don't always work for inverters

consider Hyperdrive Colorspace UDMA to store pics (http://www.hypershop.com/HyperDrive-COLORSPACE-UDMA-Casing-Only-p/hdcsu-000.htm  add your own hard drive)

I found my 70-200 f4L IS to be most useful, followed by my 300 mm f4L IS, followed by my 400 5.6L.  I used both a 50D and 5DII.  No teleconverters etc.

Extra batteries or rechargable batts for flash, and better beamer for better reach.

Most importantly, there are all types of safaris for photographers.  I went with Africa Dream Safaris.  They planned a custom safari for me and my son.  There were only two of us.  We got so close to the animals we could smell some of them (literally).  A guide is essential, as you will be amazed at how invisible even the largest animals can be, and they are right in front of you.

 

Enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1


Add a comment



Notify me of comments