You will find many wildlife photos around my house which I have proudly framed and hung up to be admired. These images remind me of a time when I picked up a camera and thought that wildlife photography would be easy. For those of you who have tried it – you will know that it’s not! To capture wildlife is an art and takes a lot of practice. It’s for this reason that I have sat down with wildlife photographer Nick Sims. He has helped me answer a few questions on wildlife photography in Kruger. The Kruger National Park – arguably one of the best wildlife photography locations in the world.
When did you get into wildlife photography and how did you go about learning?
I only got into wildlife photography when I began working at Londolozi. The Londolozi Ranger Training course has a photography module as we get many photographically inclined guests. Once I grasped the basics of photography, the other rangers were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful in helping me improve. One of the best tips I have for new photographers is just to get out there and start taking photos. You will improve naturally over time.
The Kruger National Park is well known for wildlife photography – what makes it so special?
The Kruger is a vast wilderness area with a huge variety of animals and landscapes. Kruger is home to the famous Big 5 as well as many other iconic species. Many of these are not easily seen anywhere else in the world. Wildlife photography in Kruger gives you an excellent opportunity to photograph these incredible wild animals up close.
What are your top species to photograph and why?
This is a tough question! If I had to pick my top three species to photograph, I would have to say: leopards, giraffes, and klipspringers. I love leopards because of their beautiful coats and mesmerising eyes. No matter the situation, if there is a leopard around, there is a chance of coming away with an amazing photograph.
Giraffes are iconic. People instantly recognise their shape. I like to photograph them from far away in order to capture their true size relative to their surroundings. Giraffes also make great subjects for silhouette photographs. I like photographing klipspringers because they make quirky interesting subjects. They often stand dead still on top of high rocky outcrops which provides an opportunity to frame them in interesting ways.
What are the top three wildlife images you’ve taken?
What is the best time of day to photograph wildlife?
When it comes to wildlife photography, soft light is best. Soft light allows you to capture an image without harsh highlights or dark shadows. The best times of day to get that soft light are known as the golden hours – the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. Overcast weather provides a fantastic opportunity to photograph for longer into the day since the light is diffused through the clouds and there is no harsh light.
Do you have any tips for low-light photography?
Low light photography can be tricky! I would suggest opening up your aperture and lifting your ISO. Use a dead-rest to prevent camera shake. You can also change your light-metering setting on your camera so that the camera takes a light reading from a specific point in your frame, this can help you achieve the shot that you are looking for. You could also try adjusting your white balance of using soft-filter spotlight to create a bit more light.
What is the best season for wildlife photography in Kruger?
We get asked this question a lot – here are some of the differences of each season.
What is summer photography like?
Summer is a magical time in the bush. In order to capture the essence of summer photographically, try to use light and colour to recreate energy of the bush at this time of year. Thick bush, heat and are some of the challenges that face a photographer in the summer months, however these factors can also be seen as opportunities to take some unique photographs. There are many benefits of visiting the Kruger area in summer, including the myriad of colourful migratory bird species, lots of baby animals and spectacular lighting in the early mornings and evenings,
Is there ‘camera etiquette’ around certain animals?
Yes! When it comes to wildlife photography it is crucial to remember that the animal itself is more important than any photograph. No matter the animal, always allow the animals right of way and don’t block them off or harass them while pursuing the perfect shot. In addition, never try to get too close to an animal, rather use a bigger lens or your creativity to get the shot. In moments when there are no photographic opportunities to be had, put your camera down and simply enjoy the rare privilege of being able to spend time with one of Africa’s animals.
In your opinion what camera and lens would you bring on safari and what other essentials should you have in your bag?
Depending on your brand preference there are many suitable cameras to choose from. I would opt for a camera with a full frame sensor, as opposed to a cropped frame. Although full frame sensors provide higher quality images, a cropped frame sensor can still yield very impressive results.
When it comes to lens selection, your subject choice will be the main determining factor. Personally I think something in the range of a 100-400mm lens is the most versatile as you have the option to photograph the animal in its environment as well as taking close-up pictures. For those that are keen on bird photography, a big lens like a fixed 600mm might help you get a closer shot. If you’re interested in landscape photography, a wider-angle lens such as an 18-55mm lens may do the trick. For those not wanting to lug camera gear around – hire your equipment from the Photographic Studio.
Do you have any editing advice?
When it comes to editing wildlife photographs there is no right or wrong way to do it, however I suggest trying to make the image look as natural as possible. When editing a photograph of an animal, try to make the subject the hero by making small adjustments that help to draw the viewer’s eye towards the subject. Shoot using RAW files because these files contain more information about the image, thereby allowing you more scope to edit later on. Londolozi also offers editing sessions for those looking for some advice as well as the option to print.
Would I be able to experience night photography in Kruger? What advice would you give and what are the best subjects to photograph? Is spotlight photography an option in Kruger?
Yes – night photography is available in Kruger and at Londolozi. Night time photography can be tough but practice makes perfect.
Leopards and lions often start to move around as night falls and they make great subjects for night wildlife photography in Kruger. Additionally, there are many nocturnal animals that emerge after dark that are also exciting to photograph. Look out for bush babies, honey badgers, porcupines and more as you discover a whole new suite of creatures.
Try to get a shutter speed somewhere between 1/80 – 1/150 second as that will allow enough light in. Use a dead-rest to prevent the camera from moving as that will make your photos blurry. If the animal is moving, you may need to increase your shutter speed for a sharp shot but that may compromise the amount of light you can capture – experiment! Try to find the balance of shutter speed and light according the the situation.
Open your aperture (small f-stop) as wide as possible in order to allow as much light in as possible.
Don’t be afraid to push your ISO up as high as 3200 or 6400.
Spotlight photography is commonly done at Londolozi and we have written many night guide photography blogs to help those looking to improve. Do not hesitate to take a look at it if you are interested:
Does Kruger have opportunities for macro and landscape photography?
It certainly does! The Kruger has amazing, varied terrain with a myriad of landscape photography opportunities. When it comes to macro photography, once again the Kruger can produce the goods. There are many small animals, such as chameleons, frogs and butterflies that make excellent subject macro photography subjects.
What are your three bird photography tips for Kruger? What is the biggest bird photography challenge you’ve experienced?
If you are trying to capture a bird in flight, make sure to have a fast shutter speed and try to minimise camera shake in order to insure a sharp image. Try to use a tracking auto-focus if your camera has that feature.
If the bird is still, try to compose the photo such that the bird stands out clearly. This can be achieved by zooming in with a big lens or by using the background to help the viewer’s eye focus on the bird.
Whenever possible use a wide-open aperture (small f-stop) to make the bird sharp and the background blurry, this helps make the bird stand out more in the photograph.
While wildlife photography takes patience and time – the end result is so rewarding. Not only do you end up visual reminders of your wildlife encounters but also with exquisite pieces of art. If you have any other tips for wildlife photography in Kruger please leave them in the comments below…
For any photography safari queries email us here.
Learn more about Photographic Safari
At Londolozi, wildlife photography holds an important place. We use it as a way to reconnect with nature, with the animals that inhabit the Game Reserve with us. This is why this article isn’t the only one we written in this photography series. If ever you want to learn more about wildlife photography, please feel free to consult:
- Photography Series episode 1: The Ranger’s eye
- Photography Series Episode 2: Generations through the lens – Londolozi Blog
- Photography series episode 3: People in nature
- Photography Series Episode 4 – Country and Critters – Londolozi Blog
- Photography Series Episode 5: Londolozi’s Eye
If you want to know what wildlife photography is at Londolozi, check out our Photographic Safari experience page!