When one talks about safari what things come to mind? For most it will be lions, leopards, elephants, rhino and buffalo – the Big Five. It will be the whoop of a hyena at night, the smells of flowering plants and array of bird calls each morning. This environment of safari creates moments we wish to retell to those who haven’t yet experienced it, so we take along cameras to capture the moments and tell the stories, but most of the time the subjects are those previously mentioned – the iconic animals. We can get lost in the one dimensional focus on these iconic animals and don’t often stop to take in the scenery around us; the diversity, the weather and the night sky. These aspects can provide jaw dropping photographs that capture the full essence of safari and this environment we have all come to love; it complements the story of the animals we view and captures the diversity, wildness and separation from city lights and modern society. So instead of posting photographs of animals we are lucky to see, here are a few images of the wildness, remoteness and essence that add to the experience and a few tips on how you too can capture such images to add to the story we all look forward to retelling.
The start of summer. Hot days are drawn to a close when clouds roll in, winds pick up and the sky becomes electrified with lightning bolts. The textures of a drying waterhole with lightning in the background tells a story of the time of year. This image was captured with a 20mm lens, ISO 100, a narrow aperture of f16 to add detail to the entire image and a slow shutter speed of 2″. A trigger release was used and locked. When sorting through the images I looked for one that showcased the setting sun with textures in the clouds and a lightning strike.
Giving one a 180 degree perspective of the milky way in the open grasslands of the south west. This is a stitch of 9 images captured in portrait mode. Focus was done in live view on the brightest star after switching the lens to manual. Settings were ISO 2000, a wide aperture of f2 and 15″ shutter speed. After the first image was captured on the far left I rotated the camera by a few degrees to get a 50 percent overlap with the previous frame before taking the next shot. Images were grouped and blended as a panoramic stitch using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Ideally this type of photograph requires a nodal rail to counter the point of parallax and an even blend in images with no distortion.
An intense lightning storm approaches. Multiple strikes in quick succession allowed for this photograph. These multiple strikes were captured with a 20mm lens at ISO 100, shutter speed of 8″ and a medium aperture of f8. I quickly inserted a trigger release and locked it allowing multiple 8″ shots. It’s a hit-and-miss technique but I was happy with this dramatic result.
It’s always fun seeing the rotation of the stars. In the southern hemisphere the first trick is to find celestial south. This can be done with the Southern Cross and two pointers. Set the camera up as if to take a single still image of the night sky with settings of ISO 2000, a wide aperture of f2 and a shutter speed of 15″. By using live view and the manual setting on the lens, focus on the brightest star. Take a test shot. If it looks sharp and well exposed then using a trigger remote lock it in place and sit back for the next 40 odd minutes. All images were then blended in StarStax using gap filling which resulted in this spiralled effect and the path the stars follow. Note: make sure you have enough battery life and an empty memory card or enough space.
Nothing beats sunrise in the African bush on a mist-filled morning. This image was captured on a medium aperture of f8, the image was underexposed to -1.7 as not to blow out the bright light from the rising sun. This was shot in aperture priority at ISO 800.
Details of the full moon. This does require a long lens and a sturdy camera. This was shot at ISO 500, f6.3, 1/100 and slightly underexposed in Lightroom.
Nothing beats the quintessential African sunset over this fast landscape and of course to break it up a Londolozi Land Rover stands parked in the foreground to add to the story of where we are and what we are up to. This was captured with a 20mm lens at ISO 800, underexposed to -1.3 and in Aperture priority.
This image captures a story of stories being told around a camp fire isolated out in the bush. This is a tricky one as direct light from the fire can easily blow this image out and no stars will be able to be seen what so ever. It can either be done with a double exposure – one of the stars and one of the people and fire – or it can be done with trial an error in one exposure. This was taken with a 20mm lens at ISO 2000, f2.0 and at 15″. The camera was set on a tripod and on a 10″ timer. Post processing required a little underexposure to be applied to the foreground as it initially appeared very bright.
The rising full moon. This is a series of images captured using the cameras built in interval timer with 1 minute intervals. Auto-focus was used first before switching the lens to manual. This is a stack of four images merged in StarStax. Settings were ISO 2000, f5.6, at 2″ with a 200mm lens.
A stitch of a number of images up on the large rock outcrop called Ximpalapala koppie. It captures the changing winter to summer landscape over Londolozi and the first burst of greenery as the sun begins to rise. The series of images were blended in Lightroom using the panoramic stitching tool.
A scene that reminds all repeat visitors to Londolozi where they are and the landscape we experience, which is where we spend time looking for many of the iconic animals and inhabitants. The biodiversity and varying terrain is key to why we are so lucky with the abundance and diversity of animals and birdlife at Londolozi. Who knows how many leopard, how many lion or even elephants are somewhere within this single frame?