Photography tips and techniques while on safari

Photography tips and techniques while on safari

By Jofie Lamprecht

 

Here is some common-sense advice for packing, techniques, and spots not to miss while on safari in Namibia.

 

Before your leave:

  • Synchronize the times on all your cameras and phones. This way, once you get home you can dump all the images into one file and organize them chronologically to have them in the right order of your safari.
  • Equipment
    • Don’t take too many gadgets – you won’t use them!
    • Take equipment that is as compact and useful as possible.
    • I am a Canon guy. I am often asked to compare Canon and other leading brands – it is like comparing a gorilla with a chimpanzee…

  • My suggestions for a packing list a camera-bag would include:
    • Camera body
    • Lenses:
      • Short lens for trophy photos and scenic shots
      • A telephoto – my favorite is Canon’s 70 to 200 mm f2.8. Lightweight and highly light-sensitive, when combined with a 1.4 converter gives you an awesome all-round telephoto lens, with an aperture of f4 that is manageable by all ages and sizes.
      • Make sure to put UV filters on your lenses. This is to protect the front element from dust and scratches.
      • I am a big fan of polarizing filters. I leave mine on all the time.
    • Your phone
      • Most photos in the world today are taken with phones.
      • Make sure you read up on special features that your phone has before your leave.
      • Yes, even that phone in your pocket has features such as: high-dynamic-range, exposure, focus and different cropping styles.
      • Avoid zooming in on phone cameras – this is usually not an optical zoom, but a digital zoom – simply cropping down your image and reducing quality.
      • Please take note that even if your phone does not have service, the GPS is still fully functional. This is especially important when traveling to places with species like rhino, elephant and lion. Geo-tagging gives poachers locations of animals and you might inadvertently be giving them the information they need to kill these wonderful beasts.
    • Tripod
      • Full size tripods are great, but rarely used, and a real pain to travel with. Try and find a small collapsible tripod for those moments you don’t want to miss:
        • Often you want to get members of the party in the shot, and the camera is handed to someone that has never taken a photo before. Composition and horizon, heads or horns cut off.
        • By setting up your camera and either using a timer or a cable release, you can avoid this.
      • Batteries
        • Make sure you have enough batteries and that they are charged.
        • A good idea is to use a permanent marker and write the date you purchased your batteries on each to see when they are getting old and not holding a charge anymore.
        • Flashes and any other gadgets should have enough spare batteries too.
        • Try and use rechargeable batteries where you can. The wilds of Africa are not the place to dispose of one-use batteries.
        • Find out what charging options there are in camp. Car chargers as well as solar options are very efficient and helpful.
      • Memory card and back up:
        • My advice is to buy smaller memory cards and have a lot of them. A lot of people these days buy giant memory cards and use one or two cards for their trip:
          • What if one of these cards fails / gets lost / is broken?
        • Back up your photos daily onto a laptop / external storage device – today there are so many options.
        • Travel with memory card and back-ups in separate places – hand-luggage and check in – that way you will always have a back-up if something goes missing.
        • Internet is too slow or capped in Africa to store image on the “cloud” while on safari. Do this when you get home.

Tips that will help you take better trophy photos:

 

  • A lot of trophies are photographed between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m:
    • Harsh light bleaches out these images.
    • Try fill flash with heavy underexposure
    • Use a polarizing filter – this will make your sky a beautiful blue

  • Be respectful to the game and our sport:
    • Clean and free it of blood
    • Ensure tongue isn’t hanging out
    • A packet of baby wipes or a bit of water will help clean you and your trophy
    • Motivate your staff to help you
    • Don’t ride the trophy like a rodeo bull
  • Take your time:
    • You can’t go back, so take a few extra minutes to make sure everything is perfect before you start photographing
    • Work on different angles for different trophies
    • Don’t get stuck in a rut of always taking the same boring trophy photos
  • Look for beautiful backgrounds and composition:
    • Allow the horns to have skyline
    • Horns are lost with cluttered backgrounds
    • Make sure there are no distractions such as fences or vehicles in the background
    • If you must, load and move the animal to a better location – do so quickly so the animal does not stiffen up (especially cats)
    • Try to make best use of location where the trophy was taken
  • Keep the sun at your back:
    • If possible, but try breaking this rule – you might be surprised with the result
  • Take the photo from as low as possible to show the animal at its best
  • Be sure to remove any grass or leaves between the photographer and the trophy
  • Cameras are coming with flip-out LCDs – this is great for not getting dirty!

  • Black & White, Sepia & Colour
    • Rather shoot in colour – in post-production you can always convert images. You cannot convert a black and white or sepia image to colour
  • Dust and flash
    • After sunset – make everyone stand still so that the dust can settle – it looks like snow in your photo
    • Use a tripod
  • Don’t sit three meters (9 feet) back to make the trophy look bigger. Have the hunter put their hand on the animal to give the viewer a reference point
  • Try different poses
    • Classic broadside animal with the hunter behind it
    • Head-on, with the hunter sitting behind the animal’s tail
    • Be sure to take a few vertical shots and frame your subject tightly
    • Be sure to get a few pictures with hunting buddies and trackers – and don’t forget the PH
  • Look at other hunters’ trophy images and try to replicate the image you like.
  • Take photos of signs you pass so that you can remember them and write them down later

Wildlife photography tips:

  • Decide before you get there: Do you want a ‘check list’ photographic safari that you try and see as much as you can, get a quick photo and carry, or do you want quality images?
    • The best and most memorable images require patience. Get your guide to suggest a good waterhole and spend the day there.
    • Get set up and wait. Observe.
    • Window mounts and / or bean bags are useful to hold your camera for a steadier shot.
    • Anticipate movement, shoot a lot and often. With digital photography you can simply delete images you don’t want later.
    • In first, out last with a nice long lunch break. Light is one of your most important factors with photography. The ‘golden hours’ being the first and last hours of the day. Get set up and wait. Take a nice nap at lunch time when the light is brightest and flattest.
    • Be aware of what is going on around you.
    • Remember to take a break and enjoy your surroundings. Hiding behind your camera will sometimes make you miss magic moments on safari.
    • Have fun!

See more than your hunting area. A lot of visitors land at the airport, go to the hunting area, and then once finished hunting, return to the airport and leave. You have traveled at great expense to get there – you might as well stay a few more days and explore the country.

7 best photographic spots in Namibia:

  • Sossusvlei or NamibRand – the iconic red sand dunes. Sossusvlei is incredible, but can be crowded. Miss the crowds and go to NamibRand. Year round.
  • Skeleton Coast – the historic town of Swakopmund, sand dunes, dolphin cruise, desert tour, and fishing. Year round.
  • Damaraland – stark scenery with an amazing amount to wildlife.
  • Etosha National Park – wildlife Mecca and is good year-round. From late May into the dry season wildlife viewing becomes exceptional.
  • Mahango and Bwabwata National Parks on the Okavango and Kwando rivers – both rivers have an amazing variety of mammals as well as bird life. Make sure to read up on your military history of this part of the world. Stick to marked roads and listen to officials.

  • Koakoland – not for the faint-hearted. In the far north-west of Namibia lies this culturally and scenically beautiful area. To drive you will need some expertise, and multiple landing strips give easier access via air.
  • Bushman Land – to the first hunters. A trip to Bushman land is both heart-breaking as well as humbling. You are swept up in this ancient and dying culture of people, and mesmerized by their talents and way of life. A must bucket-list stop.

In closing. When you have tagged out, go and see more of the country. Ask your PH if he would like to go home to his family? He has done his job already – and arrange another guide to show you around.

 

Contact us if you have any photography or safari related questions: jofie@jlsafaris.com

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Photography by: Jofie Lamprecht