Four months ago I decided that I would try something different and not take my camera out on game drive. The initial reason behind this decision was to guide myself to focus more on the bush, the animals and their behaviours without being distracted by a camera screen and the possibility of a great photograph.
Here is what I learnt…
Photography is an important element on a safari. Taking photographs of the incredible natural phenomena we witness out here allows one to capture rare moments that one will probably only see once in a lifetime. Photography allows one to reflect on the memory of those unique moments at a later stage, even years afterwards. Using a photograph to tell a story opens up a new dimension to storytelling; it provides listeners with a real visual representation of the moment. Photography and social media allow others all over the world to see the animals that are being protected and conserved; many people will never even get the chance to see them in the flesh!
However, photography also has the ability to distract you from what is really in front of you. Through not taking my camera out I have had more time to observe not only the animals but my guests as well.
I have seen how people can watch a leopard cub approach cautiously, the young animal having seen only a handful of vehicles and human beings in its short life, leap up a giant Jackalberry tree and start feeding on an impala kill hoisted in the branches by its mother the night before, all through the viewfinder of their camera. I have had guests missing out on actually seeing unique moments, which are sometimes a quick glimpse of a rare animal for example, because they are wildly swinging their lenses around whilst trying to get the settings right. I have done the same.
Some people feel frustration when they cannot get the ‘right’ shot for there is a misplaced blade of grass in front of a lion’s snout. Would that anger be there if one was observing and appreciating being in the presence of that animal without the stress of taking a ‘perfect’ photograph? Probably not.
So, what is the solution?
In my opinion the solution is to have your camera there. Have it with you and have it ready to take a photograph when you are watching something rare or exciting. However, remember to watch through your eyes too. Find the balance between taking what will never be an entirely perfect photograph and appreciating the incredible sight in front of you.
Remember the reason why you came to the African bush in the first place. Was that reason to get a photograph? If so, that is also fine. If not, was it perhaps to observe and be in the presence of some of the largest and most unique animals on the planet?
With the safari industry having been largely rebranded as the photographic safari industry, it’s always important to remember why everyone came to Africa before digital cameras, 10mp cameras in iPhones and social media.
The simple delight of being in nature, surrounded by truly wildlife. Therein lies the experience that will never lose the power to move you.