is a nature photographers dream. Everywhere you turn there
is a picture ready to be created.
The magnificent wildlife,
spectacular birds, endless
landscapes and vivid sunsets make
you feel like this is where you belong. Also, there are the
colorful tribal people who have been
living in cooperation with nature since time immemorial.
Soon you will be in Africa to participate in the ultimate
travel experience - an African safari.
Your experience will be recorded through your photographs.
Tips for photographing wildlife
there is one major problem with making photographs while
on safari, bar none, it is camera movement. The simplest
solution comes from Ralph Clevenger, Brooks Institute
of Photography faculty member and nature photographer,
in the form of a rice bag. All you need to buy is an
ordinary 5 pound bag of rice at the grocery store and
carefully wrap it in 3" gray duct tape (added puncture
protection). This can be laid on practically any surface
of the vehicle you are in to act as a steady bag.
To insure that when the bag is completely wrapped it
will remain pliable to contour to your lens, we suggest
the following procedure:
Tightly pack the rice to one end of the bag eliminating
wrinkles in the plastic by rolling one end like a tub
of toothpaste (it's sometimes easier to secure this
rolled end temporarily with a small piece of tape).
Wrap the duct tape carefully from the center to the
end of the bag where the rice is tightly packed.
Remove the temporary tape and repeat the process on
the other end.
rice bag can be left with your driver/guide for future
safari participants, and you won't have to carry it
home. A steady bag will also work.
Africa is a photographers paradise.
you look there is a picture. If you bring a good
camera, a quality lens, lots of film, and your
rice bag, you will surely come back with a lot
is the vacation that never ends.
images will help turn the magic of Africa into
a lifetime of memories for future travelers, and
preserve Africa's wildlife for future generations
wildlife photography is done with a 35mm SLR, while
some shoot with a medium format camera.
serious photographer should go on a photographic safari
with only one camera body. When you consider the cost
of an extra body, it is a small price to pay for the
additional security in case your main camera should
fail. If an extra body is not in your budget, at least
bring a pocket size 35mm camera.
auto focus over manual focus. Canon and Nikon have the
fastest auto focus system, which is important on safari
when the action starts.
Digital cameras have been on the market for several
years now. If you are considering getting a digital
camera to photograph birds, get one that has the longest
zoom length as possible. Teleconverters are available
for these digital cameras as well. Digital camcorders
are also an option. You can slowly play the movies,
freeze a frame and print off that one image onto paper
or display it on the web. (top)
lenses to take on safari:
15 mm f/2.8 (fish eye)
17-35 mm f/2.8 L
50 mm f/2.5 macro
70-200 mm f/2.8 L
300 mm f/2.8 L
recommend that you bring the fastest and highest quality
lenses available to you. If you use a tele-converter,
it should only be one that is made specifically for
the lens you are using and then it should only be used
is very important to protect your lenses with a filter.
At minimum you should use a UV filter. I prefer an 81B
over a UV filter which serves to warm up the colors.
I bring an 81B and 81C for all my lenses.
will also want to bring a flash unit. This is useful when
using fill flash. For those wanting photographs of the
accommodations while on safari, a flash may be useful
for photography inside the rooms. For night photography
and fill-flash at long distances, We recommend purchasing
the Project-A-Flash which gives you 3 more stops of light.
yourself to a small tripod. A tripod will be useless on
game drives (remember this is where the rice bag is essential).
However, tripods can be very effective when photographing
the accommodations, night shots around the camps and lodges,
etc. Those traveling to Namibia may want a tripod in order
to photograph the beautiful landscapes. If you do bring
a tripod, we would suggest one that is lightweight, such
as one made of plastic available from Tristar.
we find the Lowepro line the best quality made. The
zippers of their bags are durable. The main criteria
is to see which one will hold your equipment. The LowePro
Commercial AW holds all of my gear comfortably. Rather
go with the smaller Lowepro and carry your big lenses
bag we find useful is the one that straps to your hip.
This is great when walking with your camera. It will
hold a body and 70-200 mm zoom lens easily.
the following misc. items in your camera bag:
Passport, Wet & Dries (anti-bacterial wipes), Small
flashlight, Pens, Notepad, Micro-cassette recorder and
extra tapes, Small Camera, Extra Camera, AA and camera
batteries, Labels for film , Lens cleaner and tissue,
Small can of canned air, Sunglasses, Flash, Film, Model
release forms and Business cards.
with three bags: one bag for clothes, one camera bag
and one small carry-on size bag.In
the carry-on bag, which is not taken on game drives.
Extra film, Extra batteries, Zip lock bags for exposed
film, Flash light, Macro lens, Canned air – large,
Safari vest and Tripod.
deciding on shooting with print film or slide
film, here are some things to concider:
1. Slide film with processing is less expensive
2. Slides are easier to edit and store than negatives.
3. Slides show true color.
4. Black and white prints can easily be made from
color slides or negatives.
5. Magazine editors and publishers prefer slides
6. Slides are difficult to expose correctly
7. You have a larger margin for error in exposure
with print film.
8. Slide film is more sensitive to age and heat.
9. Slides are much more expensive to print, but
give more saturated colors.
10. Negative film holds more exposure information
than slide film. (top)
first decision of film selection is selecting
a speed (ISO). Since most of your photography
will be done in daylight, from the stable platform
of a vehicle or with a flash, high-speed film
is not necessary. Your skill level and speed of
your lenses will be the determining factor regarding
the film speed that will work for you. The safari
that you go on is another factor. In southern
Africa game viewing is done in open land cruisers
and a platform for your camera is not always where
you want it. So, you can use a faster speed film
in southern Africa. It is recommended that you
stick with films with an ISO rating of 50 to 200.
has a 200-speed film called E200. This is an amazing
film which has characteristics unlike any film
ever made. Lab tests have shown that this film
can be pushed to two stops (ISO 800) and still
have an acceptable image. This film is perfect
for the serious amateur who doesn’t own
expensive fast lenses or if you are in a low-lighted
situation.. However its color saturation is not
as rich as other films, but sharper than other
200 speed films. It is worth bringing a few rolls
for those difficult times when the light is low.
makes another excellent film called E100S, E100SW,
and 100VS. This is a 100-speed film with great
pushing characteristics, however avoid pushing
more than one stop. Kodak states it can handle
more, but this is debatable. After one stop, you
start gaining more contrast and inherit a blue/magenta
color shift. The E100s has more saturated colors,
the E100sw has a warming layer built into the
emulsion equivalent to an 81A filter, and the
E100VS is has a saturation characteristic equal
to Fujichrome Velvia.
film of choice for nature is Fujichrome Velvia
ISO 50 (really it is ISO 40, so you must adjust
your ISO on your camera or ask the lab to push
every roll one-third stop.) It gives the tightest
grain, best color saturation and the sharpest
images out of any film on the market. It should
only be used by someone who has tested it and
knows its limitations. We recommend using only
top of the line lenses with this film. It can’t
be pushed more than 1/2 stop without gaining contrast
and color shifts and is not for low light situations.
We do not recommend shooting people with this
film either. Skin tones go too warm. Fujichrome
Provia ISO 100 is similar to Velvia and gives
you one more stop. (top)
films like Sensia ISO 100 and Elite II ISO 100
are very similar to E100 and Provia. Sensia and
Elite II are cheaper and very similar. Only a
lab technician or a trained professional can notice
you trek off to Africa, you should test your film
and determine its true ISO. When film is made,
the batches made are not consistent. Some batches
could be slightly slower or faster. The Velvia
50 you just bought could be as low as 25! The
manufacturer is not the only variable. The shutter
in your camera can also make a difference. A shutter
speed of 1/250 could be as low as 1/200! The lab
you bring your film to is also a variable. You
should know what your adjusted film speed is before
you go to Africa.
do not recommend going with any other films other
than those made by these two companies. My recommendation
is that you test the different films and select
the one that works for your ability and the type
of camera system you have.
to the most common question. How much film should
I bring? Remember, you have to edit all those
rolls when you get home. It is recommended that
you bring a minimum of three rolls of 36 exposures
for each day you are on safari. On regular safaris,
clients average 20 rolls on a two week African
film in Africa will be expensive and may not be
available at all locations. Therefore, if you
are shooting Kodak film bring your film with you.
Fuji film is available in South Africa at a reasonable
price, but not recommended. Most high volume film
users buy their film through mail order before
leaving home. You can also buy film with processing
included, which is another way to save money.
will be able to get print film processed in Africa’s
main centers as well as any E-6 slides (Ektachrome,
and Fujichrome). The cost is slightly less than in the
U.S. and Europe but the quality is inconsistent. It
recommended that you rather process your film at a professional
lab back home..
there have been changes in airport security that haven’t
been favorable to photographers. The best solution to
this problem is having your film hand inspected, or
putting it in your carryon. If you still do not trust
the carryon machine, follow these steps: First you must
take all the film out of its packaging and remove it
from the canister. Place all the rolls in a zip-lock
container so someone can easily inspect it. You can
save the canisters if you want. Since you are at the
mercy of the security officer, you should make it as
easy as possible and your attitude should be at its
best. Before you place your bag through the Machine,
ask the attendant if your film will be safe. NEVER PUT
YOUR FILM IN WITH YOUR CHECKED LUGGAGE AS IT WILL DEFFINATELY
can also purchase lead bags to put your film in. However
lead bags attract attention from security officers and
takes up much needed room in your camera bag. I do not
and sunlight are other factors that can ruin film. Never
leave your film in direct heat.
ON LUGGAGE (top)
safety precautions in the airline industry have brought about
tougher guidelines about what you should check and what you
should carry on. Most international flights allow two checked
pieces and one carry-on. Carry-on’s should not be larger
than 45” total area and 25 lbs. in weight. That is the
size of large camera bag. What do you do about the 400 F/
2.8? Call the airline before you travel and explain your situation.
There could possibly be fee for an extra or overweight item.
Camera equipment should never be checked.
is very important that you bring labels so you can mark your
rolls after they are exposed. Use the date to mark your film.
So, if the date is March 25, 2002, then mark the film as 3/25
if you are on a safari that lasts over one month and, simply,
25 if you are there for less time. If you shoot more than
one roll that day, the next roll would be marked 25A and so
on. The next day would start with the number 26. When you
return you need to mark your processing envelops so that you
can then edit your slides in the order that you exposed them.
Put your name - 25 on the envelope for the rolls that you
take on that day. You should also consider keeping a log of
your rolls. Then you will know if that great leopard shot
was at Moremi or Chobe. It is also imperative that you mark
film that you plan to process.
bags are a great invention! These are great for storing film
and batteries and protecting them from dust. Bring some in
of camera gear has not been a problem in Africa in the past.
There is not much of a market for expensive camera equipment,
and film is so expensive that the people who would buy black
market equipment couldn't afford the film anyway.
check expensive equipment in your luggage. In both Africa
and the First world, this is a sure way to never see that
piece of equipment again.
a precaution, write down the serial numbers of your cameras
and lenses and register the equipment with your insurance.
often have people ask about registering their equipment with
customs on departure. This is only really necessary if ou
are traveling to the Orient where you might purchase equipment.
Customs personnel usually know that you will not have purchased
equipment in Africa.
IN AFRICA (top)
is important that you look like a tourist when going through
customs in Africa. You may be asked the purpose of your visit.
Your purpose is to go on safari. If asked whether you are
a professional photographer, the answer is no! To avoid any
potential problems, do not put photographer or photojournalist
on your entry cards supplied by immigration. African governments,
in general, do not like photojournalists. The last thing you
do not want to do is show up at customs with a big Zero aluminum
case and professional photographer stenciled on the side.
and taboo's about safaris.
Never take pictures of government officials, government buildings,
radio stations, military bases, equipment or personnel, or
police. This includes border crossings. If in doubt, ask your
guide. This is a big one.
Do not take pictures of people without their permission. In
Africa, the colorful tribal people have learned that they
can sell their photograph to tourists. Let your guide help
with the negotiations.
If you are on a group safari and are traveling with others,
there will be a need for co-operation and compromise. For
everyone to have a good time and to achieve harmony, you will
need to get along with the other photographers in your safari
Communicate your photographic needs and goals with your guide.
Do not ask your driver or guide to break park
rules. Their jobs would be placed in jeopardy.
Be on time for game drives. If you are not going on a game
drive, it is polite to let someone in your van know, so they
won't be waiting for you. The rule on safari is that if someone
does not show up at the designated time, it is assumed that
they have chosen not to go out with the others.
Don't view Africa entirely through a camera. This is a mistake
that you can made from time-to time. Once you are more relaxed
about the photographic aspect of your safari, your photography
Tomorrow will be a new day. No two game drives are alike.
There is no way to predict how a day is supposed to turn out.
This is one of the great things about a safari.
Listen to your guide's advice. While you may want to stay
out from 6 am to 6 pm every day, it is not practical to do
so. Wildlife is inactive and in the shade during the day.
Animals are most active and photogenic in the morning and
late afternoon. (top)