Occasionally we’ll re-run similar posts or at least come up with a new take on them. Sometimes old posts get buried in the archives but the information they contain is still just as relevant.
Today’s post is one of those. We ran a similar one a few years ago but thought that we’d revisit the theme, seeing as how wildlife photography is only growing in popularity..
Aside from the obvious equipment (a camera), including a few extras and a bit of variety in your gear will go a long way towards ensuring you maximise the photographic potential of an outing.
Here then are ten things you should really never leave the lodge without when on a photographic safari:
While prime lenses are renowned for their razor sharp image quality, they come at a cost, both financially and in versatility. Since wildlife moves, it is important to be able to recompose your shot quickly, and without having to move the Land Rover in order to do so. Zoom lenses are the best way to do that, and believe me, you are sacrificing very little image quality with a lot of the lenses that are being produced these days.
We’d recommend either the 70-200mm f2.8 (for both Canon and Nikon), or the 80-400mm Nikon or 100-400mm Canon.
Wide Angle Lens
A wide-angle lens is essential for landscape and star photography. Not all the wildlife you see on safari is going to be far away, particularly in a reserve like Londolozi, where less zoom is often better than more zoom, so a wide-angle lens is a very useful addition to your lens arsenal.
If astrophotography is what you’re interested in, you’ll need a fast lens with an aperture of at least 2.8.
Simply a must for safari, whether you’re interested in birds or not. A photographic sighting can take take a while to develop, and while you are waiting, a pair of binoculars can help you spot other interesting things around you that might also lend themselves to a great picture.
Fully Charged Batteries
I can’t stress this one enough. Having a fully charged battery already in your camera is one thing, but you’ll be shocked by how quickly it can deplete when you are shooting on hight burst mode, checking your photos all the time, using the autofocus etc…
Ideally have two spare batteries with you, and make sure you charge after each outing, so that they are constantly being topped up.
Empty Memory Cards
Some people go with option of only one or two really big memory cards, like 128GB. Aside from the expense of this extra space, they can be a liability when it comes to uploading your photos. The tendency will often be to simply keep shooting until the card is full, and by the time this happens, you’re so far into your safari you can’t remember which sighting was what or when. When it comes to cataloguing your photos, it’s usually far less complicated to do it after every couple of drives. Using smaller memory cards helps force you to do this.
Also, if you only have a 128GB card and it gets corrupted for whatever reason, you’re in a pickle. I much prefer using 16 or 32GB cards and keeping them in constant rotation. If one of them goes on the brink, I don’t lose too many photos.
I remember I was once driving a photographic group and we were in a particularly photogenic sighting of the Tamboti female leopard and her two cubs. I had been keeping my shutter button down and had rapidly run out of space on my card (like a rookie I only had one with me). Just as the two cubs leapt onto a log to play, I ran out of space completely! Desperately turning to the group leader, who was an award-winning photographer, I asked if he had a spare memory card on him.
Slowly turning his head towards me with a look of disdain he calmly said, “Of course, I’m a professional”.
Needless to say, I learnt my lesson!
Lens Cleaning Kit
Winter is dusty and in summer there’s a lot of moisture around (and dust as well sometimes). Make sure your lenses are clean, as you don’t want a smudge or a speck of dirt ruining an amazing photo. A glassed cloth can work well if you don’t have a specific cleaning kit.
Although not often used on safari, particularly if you have a Wimberley arm or some kind of decent support actually on the vehicle, a tripod will be more for the times you dismount the Land Rover; either photographing your own group at a drinks stop or getting out to practice some Landscape photography. Most lightweight tripods these days fold up to a nice compact size that can easily attach to the side of a camera bag. Heading out after dark for astrophotography, a tripod is absolutely essential! Although heavier ones are more stable and therefore better at what they’re meant for, they can be a big hassle to travel with.
The latest GoPros are simply phenomenal little bits of technology. The Hero 7 was released last year, and its in-built stabilization is revolutionary. Bumpy footage comes out smooth, and the dirt tracks of Londolozi would seem like a tarred highway given how stable the video looks.
GoPros are small and highly versatile, allowing one to take photos, film and even shoot timelapses. The movie quality is 4k, so you aren’t lacking in anything there!
The one disadvantage to them is that they are by necessity a wide-angle camera, so don’t expect to be getting close-up shots of an elephant’s eye! They are far more for in-vehicle stuff, showing the behind-the-scenes action. A very hand little extra to have with you.
You never know when you might need to do a quick DIY job out in the bush.
Not as appropriate now during winter, but summer will be here soon, and at Londolozi it is the time for rain.
Rain should not be seen as a nuisance when it comes to photography as you can capture some surreal images, but make sure you are keeping your gear dry. Although modern cameras tend to be quite robust, a torrential summer downpour can cause serious issues, so a rain cover is going to be one of those things you don’t often need, but when you do you need it badly.
I guess it can also double as a dust cover in winter.
A lot of the items mentioned here are pretty standard in people’s gear bags, we just thought we’d reiterate the usefulness of some of them.
Please let us know in the comment section below if there are any other items you feel you can’t do without when on a photographic safari.