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In Focus: A Photography Guide to Wildlife Safaris

Photography enthusiasts joining our Grand Safari to Kenya and Tanzania will find endless opportunities for snapping animals great and small. Here, a few tips that’ll have you taking professional-quality wildlife photos in a flash.

Rattrays on MalaMala Lion-1.jpg

Smartphones are not that smart — For taking wildlife photos, that is. Camera phones and iPads simply don’t have the zoom capabilities you’ll need to get those stunning close-ups. Bring a quality SLR (single lens reflex) digital camera with a quiet shutter so as not to scare the animals. You also may want to bring a small point-and-shoot as a backup. Forget the bulky bag and go for a lightweight, roll-up one, preferably not black to avoid overheating your camera. Now, as for that zoom ….

Big game means big lenses — Go for the longest telephoto zoom you can comfortably manage — a good 100-400mm will give you plenty of sharpness. (If you’re a birder, up to that a 500mm.) To capture animals in motion, use a shutter speed of at least 1/125. The standard 50mm and a wide angle lens are good for panorama and those striking African sunsets.

Steady does it — To keep that big lens stable, bring along a collapsible monopod (also called a unipod). There isn’t room for tripods in the safari vehicles, so this one-legged camera support system will assure you get that precise, steady shot. Bean bags are another option; to save precious luggage space, bring empty ones and fill them them with local beans.

Commit to memory — Odds are, you will be taking hundreds, nay, thousands of frames on our Grand Safari journey. So pack plenty of memory cards, at least a few 32GB to be safe. Also, bring a backup device to download your images, or upload them to the cloud each evening (all our lodges and camps have WiFi facilities, although it can be limited.)

Feel the power — Disposable batteries are difficult to come by in Africa, especially on safari, so bring plenty of spare ones. Even if your camera battery uses a charger, outlets can be scarce in camps, so pack a travel power strip; that way, you won’t have to switch out chargers for all your gadgets.

Timing is everything — The best time to take photos on safari is in the early morning and late afternoon; the natural light is ideal, and the animals are at their most active. Always have your camera at the ready, because those action shots can happen in split second. Finally ….

Patience is a virtue — Nature moves to its own rhythm. Those iconic shots of a charging rhino or leaping leopard that you see in photography magazines can take literally hundreds of hours to capture, so don’t be discouraged. Just be patient, and let the perfect shot come to you.


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Topics: Africa, Safari, Grand Safari, Photography