Africa’s wealth of wildlife entices many people to visit this continent on safari. The urge to record the experience on camera is both powerful and well-placed. With my husband Dave being a professional in the field, he is often asked for advice about wildlife photography. This is him in action with his favourite Nikon 600mm lens:
The wonderful ladies at Well Designed Journeys in the USA recently featured a two-part series interviewing Dave about it on their beautiful blog. For those inclined to share in the pleasure of this pastime, and keen to know more about equipment, here is an excerpt from the interviews:
“If you have weight and space constraints when travelling, then be practical and limit yourself to:
• two or three lenses, one from about18-80mm (wide-angle), one from 80-400mm or 50-500mm (Telephoto) and possibly a macro lens. Buy the best quality you can afford and try to have lenses with a maximum aperture of F4 or better, but F5.6 at worst (although this does come at a price premium).
• two camera bodies, which helps a lot to prevent dust on the CCD because you do not have to switch lenses in dusty conditions. Also, if one fails, you have a back-up.
• a good speedlight or flash. This helps a huge amount for fill-in photography, and allows great night photography when combined with a high ISO setting.
• a good tripod (or possibly a monopod) with a medium sized ball-head attached, to allow camera pivoting and reduce camera shake.
• plenty of memory on three or four cards – once again to allow for card failures, which could be disastrous.
• a good quality back-pack type camera bag, to keep things compact and allow for any walking you may have to do to find your subjects.
Very importantly, keep a good micro cloth and lens liquid handy to keep those lenses and equipment spotlessly clean, to ensure clear, sharp images you can be proud of.
Prepare your equipment before you leave on a game drive. Ensure that:
* Your batteries are fully charged and that you have spares (do not forget spare flash batteries!).
* Your camera bodies have the appropriate lenses attached for the type of shooting you are planning to do.
* You have the equipment directly at hand to enable you to respond immediately to any opportunity that may present itself. In the bush, things happen really fast, so stay calm and try not to panic. EVER. Get the shot!!!
* Your memory cards have been formatted, or that you have enough space available on them to capture all the images you may wish to take.
* You have accessories like speedlights, tripods, etc., freely available.
Buy the best equipment you can afford.
There is no doubt that modern compact point and shoot cameras can take really nice pics, but do not believe for a second that they can compete with higher-end or professional equipment. Shutter-lag, sensor technology and size, lens quality, and functionality are just a couple of issues to take into account when selecting equipment for wildlife photography.
Wildlife is a difficult genre to master, and using the best gear that your budget and degree of passion allows will certainly give you the best chance to do well at it. Ask a pro for advice, not the salesman at your local store, as you may end up with what they want to sell, not what you actually need!”
For more photography tips for bumpy game drives, crucial camera settings and what inspired Dave to become a wildlife photographer, please take a look at Well Designed Journeys’ posts: Wildlife Photography Tips for Travelers on Safari: Interview with Dave Estment and Wildlife Photography Tips for Travelers on Safari: Part II.
In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here are a few pics that Dave took last week at the magnificent Madikwe Game Reserve (here in South Africa):
For a bunch more images from this trip, showing more of what the Madikwe Safari Lodge and surroundings look like, you’re welcome to view my Facebook album, here: Handful of Highlights – MADIKWE, Jan 2011.