Kenya is undeniably one of the top destinations for photograph expeditions. It offers a broad category of subjects, ranging from the Big Five to the iconic Mt. Kenya to stunning landscapes. Photographers, skilled or not, have numerous opportunities to capture fascinating scenes while exploring the country.
So, you have browsed Kenyan photo safaris and settled on the perfect destination. However, as the day of your trip nears, you get nervous about how to land those beautiful shots. Professionals might already know what to do, but even a pro who’s new to wildlife photography or photo safaris could use a bit of help.
Photographing the picture-perfect views you will encounter demands more than the right equipment. You must know how to leverage opportunities when they present themselves, work with your guide and the rest of the group. This post offers some best practices to help tourists get frame-worthy snapshots, whether capturing a hunting lion, cascading waterfalls or a glowing sunrise.
The Gear to Bring Along
You want the photo trip to be memorable, and that means shooting different subjects. So, ensure you get the best camera for a photography expedition. Check out the leading SLR cameras for safari photography. A decent one should have a lens of at least 300 mm, although you can get away with 200 mm. If the budget permits, you can have two cameras, for close-ups and long shots.
Go for a high FPS (frames per second) rate to allow quick shots of moving animals. Consider the weight, as well, because it determines how well you move around. The Nikon D5000, Fujifilm X-T3, and Canon EOS M50 are some options suitable for photo safaris. Keep in mind that your photography skills also dictate the type of camera you get. Additionally, weigh the pros and cons of buying vs renting a camera.
Besides the camera, you need a variety of lenses. Different shots require separate lenses. Therefore, find out the best ones for your chosen tour. If you plan to stick to one lens, then it should be telephoto.
Adequate support is important, especially if you intend to shoot at night or use a heavy lens. Hence, invest in a high-quality tripod. Alternatively, you can use a bean bag, which is less clumsy than a tripod when shooting from inside a vehicle. Most tour operators can secure beanbags and other support equipment for you. You could also carry an empty one, then fill it with grains when you arrive.
Make sure you have enough storage for your images. Most people underestimate the number of photos they will take on a safari. So, be on the safe side and pack several SD cards. Your gear bag should also include cleaning essentials, extra batteries, a spare charger, and cables to transfer pictures.
Get Familiar with the Equipment
One thing to realize about photographing wildlife is that the perfect shot doesn’t wait. Fumbling with your camera even for a few seconds could cost you a magical scene. For this reason, know the tools you are using inside-out.
Learn everything about your camera’s settings. Even though there isn’t one setting that is perfect for safari photography, you should know how to adjust the equipment when necessary. Educate yourself on the depth of field manipulation, freezing action, and eliminating camera shake.
Familiarize yourself with the lenses and what they can do. Be careful when switching lenses too. Besides wasting precious seconds, dust can enter the sensor, leading to blemished images.
Learn About the Subjects
Whether you intend to photograph wildlife, birds or people, know a few basics in advance. For example, if you are hoping to shoot a leopard, then keep in mind the animals are shy, meaning you might have to get creative. A photographer looking for captivating shots of the Samburu people should learn about the local culture.
Understanding different subjects prepares you for when you are on the ground, enabling you to take striking images.
Before heading to the Tsavo for your photo expedition, how about a bit of practice? If you have pets, use them as subjects. See how well you photograph when they are on the move. Alternatively, go outside and find other animals that are not used to your attention. For example, you can go to the local zoo and snap a few shots. If you have a new camera, this is the right time to test it and get comfortable using it.
Leverage Lighting Appropriately
How your photos turn out depends on your use of light. Even the best camera won’t save you from poor lighting; too much to too little will ruin your shots. Therefore, early mornings and late afternoons are the most opportune moments to capture subjects.
Shooting with the midday sun, although sometimes may be necessary, means dealing with long shadows. Overcast weather is ideal because it lets you work throughout the day.
Another aspect that influences how images turn out is composition. You might have to look up the fundamentals of composing a shot. However, it comes down to how you frame photographs before taking them. Ensure you have the subject in focus, highlighting all the vital features.
When shooting landscapes, you will have plenty of time to get the image you want. With animals and birds, you might have to be a tad faster. Good composition requires you to eliminate distractions. The picture should only incorporate elements that contribute to the subject. Show intention on images if the subject is in action, for example, a lion stalking its prey.
Remember to include the background because it could add personality to the shot.
Also, don’t be afraid to shoot wide. Concentrating too much on focal length prevents you from getting most of the environment the subject is in. You want to make shots appear as natural as possible. Hence, practice shooting wide angles that tell a complete story to the viewer.
Listen to Your Guide
Our final and critical tip is to pay attention to the safari guide. Tour operators include trained and experienced guides in photography expeditions. These professionals are familiar with everything about shooting during a safari. Thus, listening to them helps you get awe-inspiring images.
A guide knows how to position the 4×4 vehicle, so the group can land good pictures. Some of the guides have been around animals hundreds of times and comprehend their behaviours. The same goes for local communities. Thus, you can get tips on the best times to take snapshots, how to carry yourself, the most flattering angles and so on.
Photo safari guides know the rules to observe on various destinations. Hence, tourists can avoid getting into trouble when shooting. You should also communicate your requirements with the guide. For example, if you wish to photograph a particular bird species, ask the guide if it’s possible.
Photography safaris in Kenya are enchanting experiences that will have you wanting to return. So, grab the chance to take beautiful pictures when you are on one. Even beginners can get photos worth displaying on mantles with a bit of help.