Can you imagine walking through the expansive planes of Kruger National park in South Africa as the sun beats down on your head? You have failed to see any wildlife signs up until this point, but suddenly in the distance, you catch a glimmer of grey; a herd of beautiful elephants emerges on the horizon and what’s more, there are babies too! You breathe a sigh of amazement, raise your camera and take your first shot of a baby hiding in-between its mother’s legs – perfection!
A safari adventure can be a life-changing experience as you can imagine – places such as the Okavango Delta, Kruger National Park, and the Masai Mara reserve are truly legendary and give you a once in a lifetime chance to see a fantastic range of wildlife up close. If you enjoy photography then you will, of course, want to take some superb shots of your safari adventure – to help we have provided a host of tips and advice to help take your safari photography to the next level!
Step 1 – Camera equipment and settings
The main point to remember when traveling on safari is that you will have to pack light. Unless you have a private safari and have the luxury of a private tour, you will have limited space and luggage capacity. Furthermore, it will simply be too hot to carry a heap of expensive camera equipment with you. Finally, remember that you are traveling in the wild – ensure you have a protective case, and that you keep your camera lens covered at all times unless you are taking photos.
An example equipment list could include your DSLR camera and standard mid-range zoom lens, an additional zoom lens (300mm+), a minimum of three batteries, several 32gb+ memory cards, and a lens cloth. You could consider taking a small portable tripod too such as a Gorillapod to give you stability. Ensure that your camera batteries are all fully charged before you set out for the day and that your memory cards have been pre-formatted and have sufficient space available.
Concerning your camera settings, it is advisable to use shutter priority mode. For the most part, you will be traveling in a moving vehicle and thus must have fast shutter speeds to create focused shots. Switch to AV (aperture priority) mode during walks, but always switch to shutter speed mode when capturing wildlife – the movements of the animals are unpredictable and you must have a fast shutter speed to capture their movement properly.
Step 2 – Safari safety tips and misc info
Before you head out on your Safari adventure, it is advisable to perform a little reconnaissance and research. If you learn about the places you are visiting, you can better prepare yourself to take photos and to make the most of your time. Let’s say for example you are visiting Chobe National Park in Botswana – you could look at the geography of the area, where the elephants and hippos are usually situated, and where the safari tours typically travel.
Concerning safari safety, you should always listen to what your guide tells you – never ignore any of the safety instructions given. Safety tips are provided for your own benefit. By adhering to the safety guidelines, your tour guide can concentrate on providing you with the best possible experience to take some fantastic photos.
Step 3 – Ethical behavior and respect for wildlife
The ecosystem and wildlife of African national parks are fragile and thus due care and consideration must be given. If you behave in an ethical and respectful manner then you will reap the benefits through your photography, and you will also help preserve these natural havens.
Firstly you should always leave a site exactly as you found it – be sure to remove any waste and try to cause minimal damage to the ecosystem. Secondly, you should never approach the wildlife or disturb them – try to be as quiet as possible and cause no distress by using flashes or camera sounds. Finally, you should only travel in designated areas and refrain from leaving your tour group as you could pose a threat to the wildlife, and put yourself and others in danger.
Step 4 – Composition and shooting tips
Always remember basic photography rules such as the rule of thirds and leading lines – by using these basic tips you can improve your compositions instantly. Furthermore, safari photos should be natural and provide a sense of moment or a sense of scale.
Consider shooting a mix of landscape shots together with close-up shots of the wildlife. Landscape shots should give a sense of scale – consider using wide-angle shots or panorama to show just how large and expansive the planes and deltas are. Also, consider including animals in your landscape shots to show how they fit into the natural surroundings.
When shooting wildlife specifically, try and capture them doing interesting and natural movements – a photo of a herd of elephants standing in the long grass is interesting, but a photo of a single elephant reaching up and taking leaves from a tree is infinitely more exciting. Don’t be afraid to take photos of natural acts too such as mating and feeding – these are all natural and help show nature in all its wondrous glory.
By now, you should be ready to embark on your safari adventure with camera in toe – we hope you have gained insight from this article and feel confident that you can capture some world-class photos on your next trip in