Over the years of planning and guiding safaris, we at Anderson Expeditions have come to realise that photography is a key component of any safari. Should you be an aspiring wildlife photographer, or simply wanting to capture some memories of your safari, the list below contains the critical points to consider when packing your camera.
Anderson Expeditions top 10 tips on how to make the most of your safari with a camera…
Given that safaris are not inexpensive outings, we really do recommend that you bring along a decent camera to capture some memories and learn / hone the art of photography.
There are a number of wonderful camera brands out there, but the two we tend to see the most of on safari and have the best understanding of as a result, are Nikon and Canon. A decent DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) or mirrorless option from either of these 2 brands will stand you in very good stead. Even their entry level products will not disappoint.
If you are traveling with Anderson Expeditions, you can rest assured that you will be getting some great views of animals and wilderness, expertly positioned by top guides and there will be some wonderful opportunities to capture incredible images. To make the absolute most of this, you will need a decent lens to get you even closer to the action. To avoid disappointment, pack a lens with at least a 300mm zoom. The ideal option would be to carry a 100mm – 400mm and then keep a little point and shoot / cellphone camera handy for the really close action.
Many of the lodges we frequent are really beginning to embrace the idea of photography being a significant safari value add, and as such are laying on photo studios at the camp. At these studios one can edit photographs, develop pics (some even have the facility to print onto canvas) and just generally manage all your content on a daily basis. Useful items to have in your camera bag would thus be enough compatible memory cards and a larger portable hard drive to save images on. This portable hard drive should be stored separate from the camera, just in case.
Batteries have been known to do rather odd things at the most inopportune times so it is always good form to have a spare, charged and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Obviously, cameras have unique batteries and one can’t rely on their being a replacement anywhere nearby – these are items not easily tracked down in the middle of the African wilderness.
Excitement, old age, nerves, heavy cameras and a bumpy safari vehicle are all very good reasons to bring along some support for your camera. The “go to” camera support for all intrepid safari photographers is the bean bag. A significantly low-tech option to rest your camera on, but quite often the best and most versatile – the bean bag can be squished into most camera bags and even offers some cushioning to a camera in travel. The bean bag will require something to rest on – the arm rest of a safari vehicle works well – but that “something” is not always at the right height or in the right place for that perfect picture composition, and thus we recommend packing a small collapsible tripod or monopod. The emphasis here is on small, as you don’t want to be lugging too much stuff around. More and more safari operators are incorporating these into their vehicles, but the tripod can still be very useful to have along. It is great for that family portrait on the deck of your room as an example.
Now you will no doubt travel with a smartphone and if you were planning on leaving it at home to avoid being bothered, don’t! By all means switch it to airplane mode to remain incognito and then use it as your second camera. The technology is such that you can get some really interesting pictures with these cameras and it makes for a great little video camera too. Lens adaptors for smartphones are a great add on that can make a big difference to the kind of picture you can capture with your smartphone, but if you have your 100mm – 400mm (or similar) then these are not really needed. Although, given that they are small and not as expensive as the DSLR option, we suggest packing one to have some fun with. Similarly, if you are not convinced about the whole photography thing and really don’t fancy lugging around a camera bag – then we recommend that you get a Moment Tele Portrait lens for your phone and take that along as your primary camera.
Now that you have a decent camera and you have your world-class safari booked and sorted with Anderson Expeditions, it is time to learn a few basic skills. Visit your local photoshop or go online for some basic tuition to help you distinguish your f-stop from your aperture. Even the simplest understanding of photography basics can make the world of difference to your final picture and save you from frustrating fiddles out on safari. Do this quite some time before you go and practice a bit on the dog.
No matter how much or how little camera gear you decide to bring with you on safari, it is always best to have a dedicated camera bag for all your camera equipment. Make it one that you can comfortably and easily carry and one that will not only protect and house all your gear, but also allow for a few other key items – that way you can have it as your one and only carry on piece too. Here is a nice backpack option to consider.
If photography really is your passion and you want to dedicate your safari time to capturing that National Geographic cover shot or you simply want the luxury of deciding your every move, then there is no better option than the private game drive vehicle. This option does come at a price, but the value add is enormous. A few operators are beginning to introduce photographic safari vehicles completely dedicated to helping you get that perfect shot and these are also options to take your photographic experience to the next level. Combine your private vehicle with a specialist photographic guide who will be on hand to help you every snap of the way.
Anderson Expeditions has a terrific “guest camera” that we will gladly lend to any of our guests who travel with one of our specialist guides (obviously subject to availability). This Canon EOS 7D comes complete with 100mm – 400mm lens and is housed in a protective carry case. Once you have captured all your amazing images – please share these far and wide on social media and tag us @andersonexpeditions #andersonexpedtions