Article by Russell Smith.
When you think about going on Safari and photography one, immediately thinks about long lenses and wildlife! I have been fortunate enough to go to Botswana and the Delta several times on photographic assignments and have only once rented a 200mm lens (the longest lens in my bag is a 100mm). So what am I doing with my camera you may be wondering?
Wildlife photography is a true art and skill and I envy those who have mastered it. But there are other things to shoot on Safari!
I must preface this post with the fact that I have also had the incredible privilege of staying in some of the finest safari camps and lodges in and around the Okavango. This has made it easier to find inspirations and subjects to shoot in my surroundings other than the landscape.
I am one of those photographers who loves to shoot people, landscapes, food, interiors and architecture plus anything else that looks like it could make a good shot. The game drives are traditionally early in the morning or evening around the times of most animal activity and admittedly, unless it is a night drive, coincide with the best light in the day, dusk and dawn. But this leaves a large chunk of time in the day where instead of sipping on your quinine laden G&T you could be shooting the lodge you are staying in or ask one of the guides if you can take a quick portrait shot. The staff on these excursions are always so obliging and even if it isn’t for a magazine or client, would be happy to pose or rearrange the furniture slightly for your shot. Try and build up a report with them first which will show in your results.
So I have some pointers that have been very helpful to me.
The trick is to take a good tripod so you can do longer shutter speeds in low light and when indoors and there is a set up which requires moving things around you can work from a fixed frame. The inconvenience of lugging this on the plane or vehicles will be outweighed by the sharp results you see at lower ISO setting in low light as a result of not needing to hand hold.
The other little trick which is great to take is a fold out white and gold/silver Lastolite pop up reflector. These guys fold up into nothing and can be carried in your travel bag but act as a great fill in for that dark part in the room or to fill in on the opposite side of the light source for portraits. Just master the figure of eight tuck away and fold up when you’re alone as it could be quiet embarrassing in front of a crowd if you don’t get it right!
If one is feeling particularly adventurous and you are traveling with others then try and find a willing person to play along and bring a human lifestyle element to your images. Have a little fun playing up to the Out Of Africa theme and get dressed up in the naturals and khakis and get them to pose for you in a natural sort of way. It is amazing what the addition of someone in a hammock reading a book or lazing on a day bed can do to lift a shot.
Step into the shade. It may sound obvious but hard light during the day is not great for your images if you trying to get detail in the highlights and shadows. If you shooting a portrait or food for example then move your subject into the shade or create shade for them. Move an umbrella or use a tree to create a soft light but be careful under trees that the dappled light doesn’t become too distracting. Or alternatively miss that game drive and stay at the camp and make use of the soft sunrise and sunset light which will make everything look like a million bucks!
These images will complete the bigger story and give a better understanding of your experience. But more than that these shots can be as beautiful and artistic as your wildlife images so keep your eyes open for the opportunities. Happy hunting!