As we all know, photography is a really important part of going on safari. Whether you want to have some snaps to remember the journey, some top notch selfies or some really spectacular shots of the wildlife you see, everyone wants to get this right. So a question I hear a lot is what sort of camera do I need? Or indeed, how big a lens should I get? These are no doubt good questions to ask, but they are based on the assumption that to get good photos, firstly, you need an expensive camera and secondly, you need the photo to be as close as possible to the subject.
Nowadays you can get really high spec bridge cameras, that can take all kinds of photos really well. A lot of people are attracted to the big digital zooms they offer, 50x, 80x or a millions x zooms. Now, these cameras are very good and I am not saying they aren’t, I am challenging the notion that a huge zoom should be the main attraction. The zoom is digital, so when you get towards the end of its range, however long it is, you start to lose a lot of quality. So, you might be able to see a tick on the backside of a buffalo at half a mile but the picture itself will be of poor quality (undefined, lots of noise). Not only that but you would have spent 10 minutes lining up the shot and trying to get everyone in the vehicle to remain absolutely motionless as the tiniest movement will throw you completely off. If something interesting is happening, you missed it. Ease of the zoom a little.
The same affliction also applies to users of DSLR cameras, myself included. Selling your car to buy the biggest lens you can possible get (yes I did this). You can buy lots of cars for the price of some of the biggest lenses out there. Recently people have been very attracted to the more affordable zoom lenses from smaller brands that can get you out into the dizzying heights of 500 and 600mm and beyond! Again, these are quality instruments, and being able to zoom in is crucial for some shots. But certainly not all. Even here you will lose quality at the far ends and the temptation is always to start firing away with your lens fully extended.
Portraits of animals are marvellous, everyone loves a good closeup of a lion or an elephant. In some situations, opportunities for even more marvellous shots might present themselves if you lower your camera for a second and consider the context. Where is the animal? What is it doing? What is the background like? Are there other animals in the shot? Can you tell a story about the animal or that moment by including more than just the eyes in the picture? Think about the rule of thirds, the motion of the animal, direction and distraction. Don’t forget you can always crop your image, in various ways, when you get home. This is not easy, in fact it’s a very challenging thing to do, but when you get it right the results and can be very rewarding.
Not so close up
A closeup shot has already gone, so it makes sense to try and capture the moment as the leopard vanishes into the grass
This has a lot of locally specific meaning but even if you have never been to this particular spot you might find the numbers of buffalo in the landscape appealing in a wilderness sense