If you're planning a day-trip to a safari park based in the UK or are venturing to Africa for a week-long safari holiday, have a read of our tips first so you're armed with the right gear as well as knowledge for capturing great wildlife shots.
The time of year can reflect the sort of pictures you're able to find so it's worth doing your research when you're planning your trip if you're after specific shots.
Cameras And Lenses
Photographers have the choice of a wide variety of equipment ranging from compact cameras to DSLRs, but for a safari one of the most important things is the lens. While it's possible to get fairly close to many animals there will be some that will be too far away for a short zoom lenses to fill the frame. Ideally in these circumstances you'd need a lens of 300mm or longer. A zoom's the perfect choice for a safari as you'll be able to use it for close up and distant subjects and you won't need lots of different lenses meaning you'll have more room in your case.
A DSLR will be more suited to a safari than a smaller compact and one which offers a fast continuous shooting speed, such as the Canon EOS 70D, will help ensure you capture the wildlife in your frame. As well as offering 7fps continuous shooting at full resolution, the Canon EOS 70D also has a 19 cross-type point AF system to help you follow the action.
Dust And Safety
When it's dusty avoid changing lenses on your DSLR as the dust can easily get inside the camera and cause damage.
Keep an eye on your camera and avoid having too much on show to tempt potential thieves. If you have a camera holdall don't leave it unattended. Tread on the strap if you place it on the floor when taking shots to avoid it being snatched. Keep your camera strap around your neck or wrap it around your wrist.
There isn't much room when travelling in safari jeeps to be carrying lots of gear. DSLR owners who are shooting using a 300mm or more could consider taking a monopod to support the camera but in most cases it's better to use the roof bars or the frame of the window of the vehicle you travel in as a sturdy support when it's stationary. Wait until no one is moving in the vehicle before you take a photo as you don't want camera shake spoiling your shot. A camera, such as the Canon EOS 70D
, that features a Vari-angle screen can be useful, too, when space is a premium as you'll be able to adjust the screen so you can frame up even if you have the camera up in the air above other people's heads.
Use a polarising filter to reduce glare and increase saturation. A lens hood can prevent flare, that in turn, reduces contrast. If you don't have a hood shade the lens with your hand, but watch you don't get it in the viewfinder.
Carry spare batteries and a pair of compact binoculars is a handy item to have with you to look at animals that are too far away to photograph. Take a pocket torch if you intend on going on a night drive so you can see the controls on your camera.
Look out for smaller birds in the treetops, they are often disguised and the safari guide is more interested in finding the large game that he often neglects the smaller creatures. If you see one in a branch and want to take a photo ask to stop - you're paying and they will oblige. You'll usually need at least 500mm to get a shot that fills the frame.
Many scenes can confuse your camera's automatic metering. If the scene is bright and light toned the camera may compensate and make the picture too dark, resulting in the animal in the middle becoming a silhouette. This will happen when shooting a bird on a branch with the bright sky as a background. To avoid this, point the camera at something of similar tone to the main subject and either lock the exposure, manually change to the indicated reading or use exposure compensation.
Many cameras have an automatic flash. If you try to take a picture of a sunset or night scene the flash will probably fire. Most can be switched off for more natural results. Plus, if you use a camera
with higher ISO capabilities, flash isn't always needed.
In bright mid day the harsh sunlight will create deep shadows and these can be reduced by using flash as a fill-in source.
Try to include something in the foreground to add a sense of depth when shooting landscapes. A rock, tree stump or person will add scale and interest.
Use the focus lock when using autofocus to shoot a subject that's off centre. Point the camera at the main subject, press the shutter release halfway down and hold, recompose and press fully down to take the picture.
If you can't get all the subject in the frame, either because the lens isn't wide enough or there isn't enough room to step back, you could try taking several pictures from the same viewpoint, but with a different part of the image in each shot. These can then be stitched into a joiner once you're back home from your trip. Try doing this by shooting a landscape in several sections and joining them to make a super-wide panorama.
When capturing movement, such as herds of impala running, use a panning technique with a fast shutter speed and follow the action as you press the shutter for best results. As mentioned above, make use of continuous shooting mode when capturing action so you can follow the action and increase your chances of capturing a great shot.
If you have the opportunity to take a boat cruise try and pick one that goes with smaller parties in a smaller boat. It may cost a little more but they can often get to more secluded locations and you don't have to worry about people getting in the way of you when taking a photo.
The larger carrier may give you the opportunity to meet and chat with other photographers but it has its downside. Passengers are encouraged to sit evenly on the boat to distribute weight across the deck and ensure that the boat doesn't lean over dangerously. When it goes to the edge of a bank after spotting wildlife photographers naturally want to rush to one side, which would cause the boat to lean. There is a chance that you may miss the action if it's all on one side of the boat.
The guides will take you to watering holes and riverbanks to look for wildlife that are drinking or bathing. The fish eagle has to be one of the most beautiful birds of prey and can be seen by the river side on decaying tree stumps or high in the branches of nearby trees. Watch the angle - the sun creates high contrast, which often makes the bird almost silhouetted. If the bird is on a tree that you're passing, see if the shot from the other side offers better lighting and take a second one from there.
Canon EOS 70D - Capture the moment at seven frames per second. Click here for more information on the high performance EOS 70D, featuring 7fps full resolution shooting, an advanced 19-point AF system and Canon’s unique Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology.