Taking amazing photographs on a safari is a very worthwhile experience. It will not only give you remembrance of your life-changing trip and adventure, but it will also satisfy your love for 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?
We believe these are important questions to ask ourselves, and some of the most powerful practices to cultivate this engaged life is through exploration and travel. And photography.
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, larger ways of seeing. 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 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. So here are seven words, seven of the best tips we’ve accumulated over the years to ensure your safari photos are the best they can be.
Variety photographs opportunities
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.
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, its often quantity that will increase your chances of ending up with quality.
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. Chances are your local photo store rents out high quality lenses that are too expensive to purchase unless you’re a professional photographer. On safari, you will often have to keep a distance from wildlife, so rentals can get you closer to the action.
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.