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African Photographic Safaris

If you’re a photography enthusiast, you might want to consider booking an African photographic safari. Photography is a hobby shared by many. However, taking great wildlife photos requires dedication. By joining a photographic tour you will avoid ending up with a group of people taking selfies at every sighting. Instead, you'll be with people sharing your passion and dedication. Even if you’re accomplished as a photographer in another field, there’s still much you can learn from an experienced wildlife photographer and the skills of anticipating animal behavior. Wildlife photography on safari is unique in its need for patience and bush etiquette. You should never cross the line where your photography interferes with an animal’s existence.

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6 Questions About Photographic Safaris

 
 

6 Questions About Photographic Safaris

Answered by Ariadne van Zandbergen

Why should I choose a photographic safari?

“You would choose a photographic safari because you have a passion for taking great wildlife photos, and you want to develop the necessary skills. Depending on the type of tour, there might be tuition, tips and workshops. Most of all, a photographic tour is designed to facilitate great photos for photographers. This might mean that the choice of location and lodging is mainly based on photographic opportunities. It also means that you’ll be in great locations for photography when the light is at its best. This is usually around sunrise and sunset (you’ll be photographing rather than having sundowner drinks at that crucial time). As well, on a photo safari you’ll be with a group of fellow photographers. They will share your passion and understand the patience required in waiting for the best possible shot at sightings. Whether photography is new for you, or you’re a dedicated amateur, or a professional, it makes sense to book a photographic tour if photography is one of your main interests on safari.”

1

What level of skills will I need on a photo safari?

“You won’t need any prior skills as such. Almost all photographic tours welcome anyone with an interest in photography. However, to make the most of the opportunities and tuition on the safari, familiarize yourself completely with your own photographic equipment before the trip. As well, freshen up on the basics of photography, such as the relationship of aperture and shutter speed. If you don’t have these basic skills, it might make sense to either take a small beginner’s course before the trip or do some reading or online learning to become familiar with the basics yourself. All of which means you can then practice applying these new skills while on tour on the safari.”

2

Can a non-photographer partner join a photo safari?

“Most photographic tours will welcome partners. Often couples don’t share the same interest in photography, yet it is only natural that they would prefer to go on safari together. Some tours offer optional activities for non-photographer partners. Mostly, partners are allowed to join the tour as long as they understand that the tour will be catering for photographers and their specific needs. Most partners of photographers will be used to this in any case, so this rarely creates any conflict. In fact, some partners of photographers make great assistants.”

3

Is a photo safari led by a photographer?

“Yes, a photo safari is usually led by a photographer. Some African photo safaris are led by high-profile photographers, but that usually comes at a hefty price. There are many photo safaris that are led by unknown photo enthusiasts with lots of experience of wildlife photography. Don’t be dazzled by the photographer’s CV, as the best photographers don’t always make the best guides or tutors. The main job of the photographic tour leader is to facilitate the best photography conditions for the group. A tour leader should never be tempted to put their own photography priorities above the needs of the group. As well as the tour leader’s own photography page or website, check out reviews and tour reports to get a feel for how the tour leader operates.”

4

Do I need special gear to join a photographic safari?

“When you join a photographic tour, you will be expected to have an SLR (Single Lens Reflex), DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) or mirrorless camera, as opposed to a point-and-shoot. Aside from that, there will be recommendations for equipment, but they are not compulsory. However, it doesn’t make sense to invest in a photo safari without the right gear for taking reasonable wildlife photos. It’s a good idea to have at least two lenses, including a telephoto lens. How big a telephoto lens you need depends a little on where you will go on safari. If off-road driving is allowed, as in many private reserves in southern Africa, you’ll be able to get quite close to animals. In these cases, a 200mm or 300mm lens will be sufficient. Even better is a 400mm or 500mm capacity lens, especially in national parks where off-road driving is not allowed. A convertor can also help to extend your range. It is great if you can avoid having to change lenses by having your lenses permanently set on different cameras. That way, you don’t lose time changing lenses during fast-moving action. Another downside of having to change lenses is that dust gets in and settles on the sensor. An off-camera flash set-up is great for night photography.”

5

What should I consider when choosing a photographic safari?

“There are many things to consider when choosing a photographic safari. First of all, is a photography safari what you need? Just because you like taking a few photos doesn’t mean you want to sit for hours at a sighting waiting for something to happen. Or that you would like to be up and out every day before breakfast. So, photographic safari packages are really better suited to quite serious photographers, as casual photographers might prefer a more relaxed approach to photography while on tour. However, if you’re a keen photographer, you might opt for a tailor-made private safari. You’ll miss out on any professional expertise, but you can structure the tour as you wish. Discuss your needs with your tour operator. Another factor is the season. The Dry season tends to be most reliable for wildlife photography. However, the lush Wet season, often called the emerald season, is more beautiful and can offer stunning light conditions. Finally, your price and budget are big considerations when choosing any kind of tour.”

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