Wildlife photography: tips from the African Safari Pro’s
What Is Wildlife Photography?
“Photography is a love affair with life.” – Burk Uzzle What are some ways we can live intimately with this planet? How might we participate with greater care and attention, curiosity and compassion?
Wildlife photography is a type of photography focused around taking photos of animals in their natural habitat (specifically wild animals). We’re sure you’ve seen a mesmerizing wildlife image (or two) on National Geographic, set in what seems to be a fantastical world full of golden light. The image quality is always brilliant, too! These are what we call a lifetime shot, and we at Easy Travel want to help you get the perfect photos to take home with you.
Here’s the thing
When you travel, you are scrambling the conventional lens through which you view the world. When returning home you arrive with new, perspectives. Central to this transformation are certain tools that can help you stay focused, stay attentive to detail. And if there is a single best tool we know of to engage with people and place while traveling it’s this: a camera.
On a safari, the camera is an appendage of the traveler. To show up on safari without a camera seems sacrilege, like going to the beach without a swimsuit. With mesmerizing landscapes full of supersized wildlife and texture, a safari is one big masterpiece. You, dear traveler, are tasked with capturing that magic and become your own wildlife photographer. So here are seven of the best tips we’ve accumulated over the years to help you get the perfect shot on a safari, whether you’re already a pro wildlife photographer or just starting out your journey with wildlife photos.
The Serengeti plains roll on forever, and a safari experience is incomplete without photos of these sun-soaked, golden acres of acacia-dotted landscapes alive with animals. But as you capture these moments, don’t forget to look closer, for the smaller joys. Think texture, think pattern and nuance. Get as close as you can (while being safe and listening to your driver, of course) to photograph the macro and the micro, the big and the small. Such variety will result in a diverse set of images to bring home. There is an ocean of variety to snap, from landscape photography to bird photography, nothing is out of bounds here in Tanzania.
Professional photographers will sift through thousands of photos after a day’s shoot, and, if they’re lucky, will come away with a handful that are worth sharing. With today’s digital technology, the modern photographer (hint: you) can store thousands of images on a single memory card. To ensure you get the best safari images, don’t be shy in letting that shutter fly, and be sure to pack extra batteries and memory cards. Because with photography, it’s often quantity that will increase your chances of ending up with quality. Be sure to get familiar with common camera settings and manual mode so that you can use features like image stabilization, manual focus, shutter speed, etc.
Most people don’t know this but if you own a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera or any body with interchangeable lenses, consider renting a telephoto lens or one with longer range, such as a wide-angle lens. These will be great for any time of day. Lens’ with wide aperture specifications are great for nature photography. Consider renting a tripod head too so that you can let the camera do the work. Chances are your local photo store rents out high quality equipment that are too expensive to purchase unless you’re a professional photographer. On a safari, you will often have to keep a distance from wildlife, so rentals can get you closer to the action. Just be careful, and keep your gear safe!
This goes without saying, but one thing I love about nature photographers is they look deeply at what they’re trying to capture, to see, to stay present, to scan a landscape for what’s beautiful and unique. On an African safari you will have likely traveled halfway across the world to enter these incredible landscapes, so be sure and set yourself up to remain focused for long periods of time. Ample rest, proper hydration, and proper eyewear are some things that will help you endure long stretches of focus on a landscape.
Here’s a good rule of thumb on safari: where there’s water, there’s action. The Grumeti River crossing is a great example. During the Great Migration, 1.5 million wildebeest move across parts of the Serengeti each year, and hundreds of thousands cross this river, full of hungry crocodiles and ungulate traffic jams. The scene makes for a chaotic battle of survival and drama, and, you guessed it: unbelievable photographs. Head to water and you’ll undoubtedly find something worth capturing.
One of the most popular photo tips is worth repeating here, and it’ll make your images a thousand times more professional. Think in Thirds. You don’t always have to position your elephant or cheetah in the center of the frame. Instead, think about capturing your subject in the left or right third of the photo. This invites the viewer to engage with where the animal might be going, or what he or she is doing. Review professional photographs and you’ll see this Rule of Thirds used everywhere.
Breathe. Take your time. Know that the world doesn’t exist purely for our entertainment. On safari you will surely experience wildness in ways previously unimaginable, and sometimes that lion kill, that hippopotamus gathering, or that cheetah hunt will take time to discover. So pack your patience along with an additional lens, batteries, and memory card and you might be rewarded with some life-changing safari action. And in the end, you may just have to put down that camera and fully experience your safari reality; it’ll be too good not to.
Getting You There?
Easy Travel offers 5-7 day safari experiences that will take you to all the most photogenic regions of Northern Tanzania. Learn more about your options here