|Collection of photos that received 150 or more favorites.|
|Collection of photos that received 150 or more favorites.|
As you can tell from my gallery, cats, big or small, are the love of my life. I'm also interested in photographing anything else that comes my way AND has beautiful shapes or colors, and I wish my busy work schedule would allow me to dedicate more time to photography.
Current Residence: FL
Print preference: larger is better
Favourite genre of music: Jazz
Favourite photographer: Too many
Favourite style of art: Music
Operating System: MacOS
MP3 player of choice: iPod
Personal Quote: A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it's not open
I have recently returned from a trip to Southern Africa lasting a little more than 3 weeks, and I would like to sum up my experiences here.
There is an impressive number of coffee table books available documenting the very best that wildlife photographers can do, and neither this entry nor my most recent or upcoming deviations are an attempt to compete with those professional photographers. Instead, the following guidelines are aimed at the traveler who has a serious interest in this genre of photography and is willing to carry around equipment that some would consider heavy.
It is of paramount importance that you know your gear and what it can and cannot do. In essence, that means don’t go out and purchase a brand-new DSLR in the month before your departure.
Having said that, unIess you call an 80-400 mm lens your own, I would definitely recommend to bring two camera bodies at least, the reason being that a typical African safari is a very dusty as well as an action-packed affair. You do not want to change lenses in Africa for two reasons: Changing lenses will let allow dust to accumulate inside your camera, and when all of a sudden the elephants come too close, your long telephoto lens will not be appropriate anymore. Regarding the dust, even with two bodies and lenses never being exchanged, always protect your lenses with neutral density or UV filters and carry soft brushes and/or lens cleaning paper. While on safari game drives, I found myself cleaning the lenses once per hour or so, sometimes more often.
On my trip I used a Nikon D300s fitted to an 18-105 mm/f3.5-5.6 (equivalent to 27-162 mm) and a Nikon D600 fitted to the new 200-500 mm/f5.6. While not ideal, I had a virtually uninterrupted range from 27 to 500 mm, and I was happy with this setup 95% of the time. The exceptions were that I sometimes wished I had more reach in the wide-angle department, but that has to wait until I can afford a second full format body like the D800 or D750. In addition, I brought along a 50 mm/f1.4 Nikkor that I used on occasion. As for longer lenses or a teleconverter, I didn’t miss either one of them for one second. Bear in mind that, with modern DSLRs shooting images of at least 16 MP, you can crop the picture after the fact and still end up with image sizes that may be acceptable.
External flash? Not really necessary or appropriate in my experience. OK, for the occasional indoor shot it is nice to have it.
The next thing I want to talk about is the support for your camera(s). I basically used two items: in our rented SUV I mostly used one of those very lightweight cushions that you wrap around your neck on long-distance flights. You just roll down the window and use the cushion to park your camera with the long lens on top of it. It works! In other words, I didn’t miss a beanbag that so many people use or recommend. In open safari vehicles that we encountered in Botswana, a monopod is very helpful to keep your camera steady. For most of the time I set my camera to shutter priority using a shutter speed of 1/4000 to 1/1000 sec. This, combined with an ISO of up to 3200, allowed me to shoot even at dawn and dusk. Although I didn’t bring one along, I felt that a tripod would be too cumbersome to set up, and therefore useless. A tripod will only be helpful when you want to capture landscapes in low light or when you are stationary (i.e. having a drink at your camp) and the animals are not.
On one particular day, I shot more than 1,000 images, but I never ran out of battery power. Nonetheless, bring spare batteries and the associated chargers, not to forget the electricity adapters for Southern Africa. Luckily, both Namibia and Botswana operate with the same outlets that you’ll find in South Africa (type M). With the assistance of a travel power strip from Monstercable, you can get away with bringing along just one adapter, and you can charge you camera batteries, cell phone and iPods all at the same time. Reliable access to electricity was no problem in any of the hotels/lodges we stayed at.
It goes without saying that you want to carry a sufficient number of memory cards. I took well over 5,000 pictures in about 3 weeks time, with my cameras capturing high quality jpgs and RAW images. This raises the question whether or not to bring along a backup system. Since lodges in Southern Africa rarely, if ever, provide computers for guest use, you have to bring your own. Many photographers, particularly professional ones, bring a laptop as well as external hard drives to back up their images not once, but twice. For someone whose livelihood depends on his or her images surviving the trip, this is obviously a must. Another alternative is provided by external drives that theoretically allow you to upload and view your pictures. I say theoretically, because I have no personal experience with such devices, and the reviews I have seen so far suggest that they are not consistently reliable. The bottom line is that I took the risk not to rely on backing up my photos, and they all made it safely back home! As for our next trip, I learned that I can easily skim on quite a number of clothing items as well as other things, so I’m inclined to take my laptop with me next time, although I have to say that I very rarely felt like reviewing pictures at the end of, mostly exhausting days.
No matter how well equipped you are, the best thing you can do is to…
This, to me, is one of the most, if not the most, important prerequisite. Everything else flows from there. Rather than clicking away upon arriving on a scene, observe and study the animals, and be patient. The magic moment that you were waiting for may never come, but when it does, be ready. It is my experience that good, let alone outstanding, animal photography is surprisingly difficult, first and foremost because most animals have no interest whatsoever in posing for you. Secondly, there will be perhaps the occasional beautiful moment, which often, but not always, consists of two or more animals interacting with each other, but, and this is a big BUT, either the lighting conditions and/or the background/foreground may be far from ideal at THAT very moment. Realize that for all conditions (animal pose, lighting, surroundings) to be optimal, in addition to your best skills you have to invest time, most often much more than is available on a typical safari outing. It may not be a big deal to happen upon a big elephant or antelope herd, but when it comes to predators, the photos you can shoot will also depend on the willingness of your guides to go the extra mile. So, if you end up with one or more outstanding shots, don’t forget to thank them, too.
For planning a trip to Africa I found the following website incredibly helpful
These two “genres” are remarkably similar. Thus, before you go on safari, visit your nearest zoo some time before your trip and practice. It helps. Do this more than once to get a feel for the animals’ behavior. Most of the time, most people, myself included, aim for zoo photos that are not obviously taken in a zoo, which means, they’re trying to generate close-up portraits or at least shots without fences or bars or other manmade objects. To top it all off, most shots feature a wide-open aperture so that the animals are well separated from their surroundings. In the wild, on the other hand, there are no fences or bars, and it is tempting to use your long lens to also just shoot animal portraits with that sought-after bokeh effect, and while there is nothing wrong with that per se (I’m guilty of this myself), an unbiased viewer will often say, oh, you could have taken this picture in a zoo. My advice is, in order to create something unique, break the rules, at least from time to time. For instance, when in a zoo, try to capture aspects of captivity, or try to capture people watching animals. Regarding wildlife photography, not just in Africa, there are two aspects that I would like to emphasize. First, the distances between you and the animal in the wild will more often than not be far greater than those encountered in a typical zoo. So, a long lens helps to bridge that gap. Second, and this is perhaps more important, making photos of animals in the wild affords you to show them in their natural environment. So, don’t hesitate to mix it up a little and use wide angle, “normal” or short telephoto lenses occasionally to do just that.
Finally, don’t be upset if you don’t manage to line up five lions drinking in synchrony at a waterhole. Appreciate what you do get to see (and there will be plenty) and make the most of it.
Don’t be upset if you don’t see all of the Big Five on every day, or at all (!). For instance, we didn’t see a single leopard during our trip. But this is just one more reason to return to Africa. Maybe we’ll be lucky next time around.
Enjoy the silence, the sounds, the lights, the drama, and the people of Africa. I know we did, so much so that we can’t wait to return.
To sum it up, let me finish by freely quoting Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: You don’t get to know anyone unless you love them.
And these are the wildlife and zoo photographers whose work has consistently been an inspiration to me:
Feel free to contact me if you have any specific question(s).
4 June, 2012:
It's been one year ago today that I submitted my first photograph. I am thoroughly enjoying my activities here, and I am particularly glad about discovering great artwork. Although I don't have the time anymore to respond to each and every favorite, I am very grateful to all of you, and I'm trying to at least reply to all your comments.
28 September, 2012:
20,000+ favorites since I posted my first photograph back in June of 2011! A good reason to be happy and to celebrate. I would like to thank all of my watchers and friends here on dA for their continued interest and support.
15 January, 2013:
Now here's a mystery: I have a photo in my gallery that is entitled "Two Jaguars in Love" that, as of yesterday, had accumulated 227 favorites and had been downloaded 78 times. Today I got notified that, after a seemingly long time, this photo has attracted another favorite, so the count went up to 228. However, at the same time the download count increased to 203!!! Assuming that dA's counting procedures work properly, that suggests that 125 people downloaded my photograph, but only 1 (one) of them picked this as a favorite. Isn't that odd???
I would completely understand that blatant discrepancy if this was some kind of (semi-)pornographic shot, because in that case, who would want to admit to the fact that they picked this as a favorite (for everyone else out there to verify). But hey, this is just wildlife photography. Maybe someone can enlighten me??!!