Expert Tips on Wildlife and Nature photography in Africa
For the novice and experienced photographers, there can be no experience more exciting and exhilarating than wildlife and nature photography on an African safari. Photographic safaris are the perfect way to ensure you finish your vacation with the highest-quality, most impressive, and memorable images.
The best tour guides will have you supremely prepared as regards equipment and expectations, and they will verse you well in safari etiquette.
Whilst they might get you to the right places at the right times, you should rely heavily on the professional photographer if you’re lucky to have one included on your tour. With their combined knowledge and experience, tour guides and dedicated safari photographers will ensure you get albums full of spectacular images.
Expert Tips for Safari Photography
Capturing perfect images isn’t all about the best camera – surprisingly. One of the main requirements of a safari is patience. Remember, you are in the animal’s backyard and they won’t just appear on demand.
Wait quietly but remain alert, the perfect photo opportunity may arrive with a split second’s notice.
Lighting is the Key
Photographs should tell a story and create a mood or feeling.
Setting a mood is best done with the powerful use of natural light. The best times of day to take full advantage of the soft, golden glow of the sun are at sunrise and sunset.
The low angle of the sun can illuminate the subject from its side, creating a striking and spectacular shot.
Animals are at their most active at these times as it avoids the oppressive midday heat, that’s when they tend to laze about and seek shade. There are still some amazing opportunities to be had then. Cheetahs reclined across the branch of a tree or a lion yawning showing off those almighty teeth that can cause such devastation, look magnificent when contrasted with the brilliant sun.
Try to avoid the very tempting call of the bar late at night so that you can be clear-headed and ready to leave very early in the morning.
Having a dedicated wildlife and nature photography expert on your safari is hugely beneficial. They combine forces with your qualified tour guide to get you and your fellow group members perfectly positioned at dawn and dusk to get the most amazing pictures from the superb natural light show.
By setting the scene for a shot you are saying much more than “look, I saw an elephant”!
You are giving the viewer an insight into the environment, the conditions, and the climate.
Your subject needn’t be dead central; consider placing it to one side of the image, slightly off-set. This creates more interest and leaves room for another element in the shot to balance out the picture.
Plain backgrounds or those with limited color or distractions enable the subject to ‘pop’, to come to life. These are great pictures to blow up and display to make everyone envious!
Trust the range of your camera and scope the area that it comfortably reaches to ensure the best quality image. Horizon shots are spectacular but may suffer in quality if they demand too much from a lens. Learn the balance and trust in your equipment, some amazing shots can be achieved at long range.
If photographing an animal, whether it be alone or in a herd, focus on the eyes. This is the first thing the viewer looks at, what catches their attention. When the shot is in perfect focus, it will illuminate the eyes and flood life into the entire picture.
Utilize the single autofocus point function of your camera to maintain total control. Move it to the eye of the subject, keep your striking distance, and take the shot. You will be rewarded with an awesome image, that focuses on the animal and not the background. Even better if you’re lucky enough to catch the beast staring down the lens of your camera, companies pay a fortune for those images!
Animals in motion can look truly stunning when the photograph is sharp and crisp. Pay heed to the shutter speed as you try to keep up with their sometimes almighty pace.
Play with different angles
Try turning the camera through 90-degrees to get a vertical shot. Ideal for tall animals, yes, we did all just think of giraffes, but also long-legged creatures such as flamingos and ostriches. Close-ups of animals faces look terrific in portrait and have high-impact value.
Use a wide-angle lens to showcase large groups of animals. Not only does this give huge insight into their natural environment, but it will also help you to differentiate their habitats. Leopards live in delta and desert, great photography helps the viewer determine the setting in an instant.
Keep talking with the photographer, pick his brains, and feed on his knowledge. His knowledge of wildlife and nature photography will be second to none. He will suggest angles, composition, and bombard you with tips to help capture spectacular images.
Don’t always feel you have to get exciting shots, you won’t be lucky enough to spot a hunt or a kill every time you go out. The anticipation and the build-up as you wait adds to the excitement.
Instead, look for the beauty and tranquillity all around. Look skyward at the beautiful cloud formations, the way the water splashes around rocks, the stripped-bare trees that have offered nourishment, shelter, and home to many creatures. All of this and more are part of the story of an African safari.
Wildlife and Nature Photography – herds or solo?
Many wild animals will gather in herds at watering holes or in the delta. It’s hard to know what makes the best image, a group shot maybe? Just like at the latest family wedding, it’s difficult to squeeze everyone in and Uncle Bill gets cut off at the end (much to the long-suffering Auntie Ann’s delight).
Whether it is elephants, zebra, or impala, we suggest using the group as the background, whilst focussing in on one or two of the animals in the foreground. This creates that story that we keep rambling on about, gives your photograph history of the environment.
If you’re fortunate, you might be just in time to catch a hungry crocodile attempt to sneak up on a herd of wildebeest.
Never worry if you don’t get the shots you wanted at the first attempt, there will be plenty of opportunities. Early morning light will show all animals at their best, but don’t forget, evening shadows can give an extra dimension to any photograph.
The best wildlife and nature photography may require patience and quiet, but with the help of a professional team, you will undoubtedly be highly-reward and return home with countless amazing memories.