Wildlife Photography Hints and Tips
Non invasive and sustainable.
1) Clients need to carefully select their camp operator and photographic guide. Ensure due diligence is done prior to making any reservations. Investigate using reputable and well-known tour operators. Cheap safaris are attractive, but they can compromise the quality of the safari experience that is delivered to a client. For example, a) poor guiding which includes; a lack of sensitivity to the clients’ needs and requirements whilst on game drives, and also a lack of sensitivity to the animals they are viewing and photographing or, b) Wrong information or a lack of, given on cameras and basic camera and editing techniques as well as general wildlife stats and animal behavioral interpretations. C) Vehicles that are not roadworthy and continually breaking down means valuable time lost in the field photographing animals!
2) Ensure you have a checklist of equipment needed to take on your safari that complies with whatever your photographic guide recommends. There are weight restrictions on local flights into the Parks, so its important to pack only the essential camera equipment needed. Some operators do offer camera and lens hire at the camps which relieves clients of heavy luggage and excess baggage costs, so it’s worth enquiring whether these are available or not.
3) Clients are encouraged to talk quietly on the game drives so as not to distract the wild animals. Most wild animals have hearing capabilities that supersede our own by at least 3-4 times. Loud people voices, as well as loud car noises naturally will disrupt normal wild animal behavior and possibly scare the animals into running away. Deliberate noise making to prompt an animal into looking towards a camera lens is also disruptive to any natural behavior and considered unprofessional and invasive. Digital camera beeps should also be turned off as they too are distracting and upsets the natural sounds of the bush.
4) Many people are tempted by applying unnatural sounds to attract an animal’s attention as well as using food to entice animals into approaching closer to their cameras. Habituating animals to cars and lodges using food results in the animals losing their inherent fear of man. This ultimately can result in serious injury and in some cases, death to both man and beast, and should be avoided at all costs. Examples Elephant, baboons, vervet monkeys, hyenas..etc. Monkeys biting the hand that feeds them!!
5) Irresponsible behavior on the game drive such as alighting from the car in close company to wild animals, is a definite no go. All too often, people who feel restricted in the vehicles would prefer a rather less obstructed view or alternatively, a view from a lower angle. A human in or out of the car standing, is immediately identified by their human form/profile by any wild animal and this will trigger an immediate response of “fight or flight!”
6) Approaching too close to animals unnecessarily, to get those big close ups of faces, teeth or eyes for example, can make animals feel very uncomfortable and in some instances cause an animal to move from where it had been comfortably lying up and resting. Some animals will react as though the car or human might be a threat to them and result in a “fight or flight” scenario. Animals can be displaced from their food, water or shade and some quickly learn that the car/human can be a potential threat or nuisance to them. It’s advisable for photographers to shoot large RAW files using long lenses so as to enable the cropping of one’s images, which in turn discourages “close proximity” photography.
7) Photographers when embarking on their daily game drives, need to ensure that their camera settings are correct and that all equipment is primed and ready for “quick shooting” photography. So often one sees a potentially great shot while driving along through the bush, however, by the time the car comes to a stop and you have set up your camera settings, the animal or bird has changed its position and the composition and light of your subject has been compromised. Some cameras allow you to use custom presets for quick shooting at different settings depending on whether a slow or fast shutter speed is required.
8) Always check your images back at camp and refrain from reviewing them on your game drive. One can do brief reference checks on your cameras LCD screen to crosscheck that your settings are correct, however, too many times people get caught out while they are busy referencing their images and “miss” a great photographic moment. When you return to camp, make sure you download your images onto an external drive such as a 1TB or 2 TB drive. If you can afford to and have enough cards and memory, rather don’t clear your cameras compact flash cards after a download, but keep them until you return home. They are always a good back up in case the external drive might get damaged during travel.
9) If you are without a very experienced guide and specialist on interpreting animal behavior, and driving your self around through the bush, take the time to learn as much as you can about the animals you are photographing. Use of good reference guide books can help you learn more about your animal subject and helps you to anticipate and predict the animal’s behavior. This in turn, lets you position your camera at the right place and the right time to get the best possible image. Eg Lionesses rubbing heads – sociality amongst lions..etc. Cheetah climbing on to a mound..etc.
10) Its always a good idea to have more than one camera body and lens on the game drive with you. For example, you could carry a camera body fitted with a wide to mid wide lens which you would use for taking quick scenic wides, or if there are many animals involved in an event that you wish to capture, you could record them all in one frame and then switch to another body with a long lens to capture specific close ups of individual animals and any action shots. There is always a lot of valuable time wasted when changing lenses if you have only the one camera body. Added to this, any lens coming off a body leaves a camera sensor prone to collecting dust, which sometimes only a camera agent back home can clean.
11) Avoid taking pictures of people without their consent. This applies to others on a game drive with you as well as the local residents in the country you are visiting. Respect their privacy and always ask to take their picture. Some local tribes people are particularly reactive to pictures being taken of them, as they believe it robs them of their souls.
12) Photographers can be a guide’s worst nightmare when they put him or her under a lot of pressure to get the “perfect shot.” Often this means to the detriment of the animal they are following and photographing. If the photographers have chosen a reputable operator who employs professional guides, then the guides call the shots and it is up to them to determine how close or where to park the photographic vehicle relative to the animals. If the guides are experienced, they will know how to position clients correctly for best photography. Clients should not bully the guides or corrupt them with promises of lucrative gratuities which will inevitably result in bad behavior, animals being scared away, or their natural behavior compromised. Eg following predators such as lions and cheetahs hunting. Crossing in front of hunting animal, distracting it from its prey and also attracting attention of the prey being stalked to the stalking predator. Parking behind the cat…etc
To find out more about us and get in touch click here