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If you want to make the most of your photo opportunities whilst on safari, have a look at these tips from Mike Myers, an experienced professional photographer from Wilderness Safaris.
Compact cameras come in many shapes and forms. If you simply want photographs as memories of your safari any one of the small, compact, all in one type cameras will be perfect.
At the top end there are great offerings from all the manufacturers. Have a look at this comparison at dpreview.com if you need some help deciding what’s best for your needs. The compact superzoom camera will give you a longer telephoto lens needed for photographing wildlife - slightly bigger and heavier but still an all in one solution. Again, dpreview.com has a useful comparison page for these types of cameras.
The EVIL Camera
The Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens, also called the Micro 4/3 for Panasonic and Olympus or NEX 3 and 5 for Sony. These are excellent cameras with better image quality than the compact cameras and are smaller than DSLRs. I have a Panasonic GF 1 with a 20mm pancake lens which I carry everywhere with me – I love it.
There are excellent telephoto zoom lenses available. These cameras are an excellent alternative to DSLRs, take great quality images and are light and easy to use
DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex)
The modern high-resolution digital cameras are outstanding and give superb quality images. The traditional brand leaders are Nikon and Canon. My advice is: buy the best you can afford and don’t rule out buying used equipment. Match the camera body with two zoom lenses: a wide angle to mid range zoom like an 18mm – 55mm for a cropped frame sensor, or 24 – 70 for full frame and a 70 – 300 telephoto zoom. I personally prefer not to use Teleconverters, but if you want to then stick to a 1.4x converter.
Consider a second camera; digital cameras do occasionally fail. Apart from providing backup it is also ideal to put a wide-angle zoom lens on one and a telephoto on the other.
Spare batteries are essential and a back up storage device is strongly recommended. If you bring a laptop computer an external hard drive is essential, if not bring a portable storage device. Make certain you have enough card storage – most people take more photographs than they expect. Take a few compact flash cards, you can pick these up quite cheaply. Try investing in the newer generation UDMA cards, they write data so much faster.
Camps have facilities for recharging batteries. Strips for charging more than one device are advisable for more serious photographers.
All the Extras
Camera bags are the ideal way to transport all your camera gear. Remember to pack something to cover your equipment and minimise dust. A small new paintbrush is ideal to remove unwanted dust from a camera for general cleaning before doing lens changes in the field. A rain-proof cover for your camera bag is wise, particularly for African safaris in the rainy season when afternoon thunderstorms are frequent. Carry a Petzl headlamp in your camera bag for hands-free help when changing settings after dark and packing up after night drives.
Supports on the back of a safari vehicle’s monopod can be a compact, light-weight solution for providing additional stability for longer telephoto lenses. Image stabilisation and better high ISO ability of modern digital cameras means that hand holding of cameras is now the norm– as mentioned earlier; the ability to react quickly is a great advantage.
1. Knowing your equipment is vital – By the time you come on safari using the camera must be second nature.
2. Ask your guides to help you anticipate what animals are going to do so you can be ready with your camera.
3. From a composition perspective find out about the Rule of Thirds and apply it – great subject with bad composition makes a bad photograph.
4. Take photographs in Aperture Priority – most professional photographers shoot this way as controlling Depth of Field is key.
5. In poor light don’t be afraid of using higher ISO’s – you will read lots about noise at higher ISO’s but there is nothing more important than getting the photograph.
6. Learn about post processing of pictures on the computer – if you know what can be done on the computer after you have taken the photograph it helps you think at the critical moment.
7. Try not to be obsessed with the subject - look around the frame to see what aspects of the environment you can include in the image to make it better.
Lastly, good luck and have fun.
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