If there is one item that you must bring on your trip to Londolozi, it is a digital camera. No matter what your budget or level of skill is, the beauty of photography is that it allows anybody to be an artist. Whilst photography is about experimentation, capturing moments and the sharing of knowledge with fellow photographers it is also useful to have a basic understanding to begin with.
There is a large photographic culture at Londolozi. Many guests, rangers and staff are always on the lookout for great shots and thus the conversations are often about photography. So regardless of whether or not you are coming to Londolozi; have already been or are going elsewhere on your African Safari, this is the first installment of a weekly Friday Photographic series which aims to provide some assistance and guidance as to how to take great photographs whilst on safari.
There are many cameras to choose from, so many in fact that it is almost impossible to feel like you have made the right choice. So here is my advice: Canon and Nikon offer the best professional and semi-professional photographic equipment. They are both the big brands of photographic equipment and consistently bring out great products. Neither is vastly better than the other and you can’t go wrong with choosing between these two.
Body and Lens
It is better to spend the majority of your money on a great lens than a great body. The lens you buy will determine the quality of your photograph whilst the body you buy will determine how much functionality you get whilst photographing.
For wildlife photography it is worthwhile having a telephoto lens that allows you to zoom. Anything from 70mm – 500mm will work well for wildlife photography.
For landscape photography anything below 70mm all the way down to 10mm will give you amazing flexibility of shot.
It is worthwhile getting one camera body per lens so that you don’t have to change the lenses whilst out in the the field. Every time you remove or change the lens from the body, dust particles get inside and dirty both the sensor and the lens. Trust me when I say you want to avoid this as I still have dust on one of my sensors from two years ago which I have been unable to get rid off.
If you have a big budget to spend on bodies and lenses here are my suggestions:
Body: Canon EOS 5D Mark II Digital Camera
Lens: Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM
Lens:Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM Autofocus
Body: Nikon D3x SLR Digital Camera
Lens: Nikon AF VR Zoom-Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED
Lens: Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D ED
Body: Canon EOS Rebel T1i (500D) SLR Digital
Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
Coupled with a reasonably priced 100 – 300 Lens you have a camera that will get you really nice photographs. This combination will work very well in nice lighting and provide you with high resolution pictures. They do not have the same amount of flexibility as the more expensive bodies and lenses, but will be more suitable for getting the job done.
Body:Nikon D700 SLR Digital Camera
Body: Nikon D300 SLR Digital Camera
Body: Nikon D90 SLR Digital Camera
Lens: Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4-5.6G
Nikon is a slightly more technical camera which offer a few more functions than Canon in the mid-range department. Some people like the choice of options whilst others prefer not to be confused with such a wide range of choice. I have found that Nikon’s photographs off slightly more full bodied colour than Canon. The end result of what you like in an image is of course a matter of preference.
Point and Clicks
Owing to the fact that we are able to experience the animals close up, you can often get great wildlife pictures with a point and click camera. Sometimes these cameras work well as they are lightweight, simple and easy to use when you need to capture a moment. They also offer the flexibility of a tight and wide zoom in one. They can fit easily onto the side of your belt, in your backpack and come with built in flash and video capabilities.
Any one of the below options will work well:
Canon Powershot S95 Digital Camera
Canon Powershot SD4000 IS Digital ELPH Camera
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 Digital Camera
Sony DSC-TX5 Cyber Shot Digital Camera with Deluxe Accessory Kit
Olympus Sstylus Tough 8010 Digital Camera with Deluxe Accessory Kit
Nikon Coolpix L22 Digital Camera
It is important to get a bag that will carry everything in it. Many bags have different compartment, zips and pads which offer protection, separation and ease of packing. With bigger pieces of equipment, I would highly recommend these backpacks as you can carry them with ease and be comfortable knowing that your equipment is secured and protected in the luggage.
Make sure you bring your battery charger, an international adaptor, car adaptor, duster & cloth as well as a few extra memory cards.
A beanbag is also very useful (sometimes even more so than a tripod) as you can use and rest it anywhere ensuring that your shot is stable. This little gem will dramatically enhance the crispness and quality of your photographs.
A great place to buy all your gear is the B&H Store in the US. Even though I live in South Africa, this online store offers an amazing range of equipment as well as very competitive pricing.
I am sure that I have left out many other pieces of photographic equipment such as flashes, different lenses, infra-red sensors, tripods and bodies. Please feel free to add your thoughts on which photographic equipment has worked well for you in the comments section below. Your advice will be greatly appreciated by others as well as myself.