Savvy visitors to Africa’s great nature reserves and national parks know that a half-decent camera is essential if you want your photographs to come close to reflecting the amazing sights and panoramas that you see here. To help capture those most jaw-dropping moments on film, we asked our resident photography guru Peter Lemon for some top tips on how to take the perfect wildlife snaps – follow the guidance below and you’ll be taking gilt frame-worthy portraits of the Big Five in no time.
Focus on the eyes
“Try to focus in on the eyes of the animal as the central point of your photo. You might think that the magnificent coat of a leopard or a male lion’s mane should be central, but really everything is secondary to the eyes – capture them and you’ll capture the viewer’s interest.”
Lower your height
“Unless you’re in front of the really big game, photographing standing up or from atop a 4WD often means taking pictures of your subject from an elevated height – and therefore at an angle which is sure to flatten the image, and make for a less involving photo. Unless the subject is an elephant at 20 metres, or a lion or leopard up in a tree, try to shoot from as low down as you can get in your vehicle for a better angle.”
Choose your light
“Early morning, late afternoon – look in any safari brochure and more often than not, that’s when the photos displayed will have been shot. The light’s more atmospheric and less harsh then, and it’s also the time of day when animals are more active. The counterpoint to this is to make sure on safari, no matter what time of day it is, you have a camera on you – you never know what’s going to happen!”
Get the right gear…
“Viewing game in Africa is not like getting up close to the fearless creatures of the Galapagos or South Georgia, where penguins can literally bump into you. In Africa, your vehicles are often restricted to set routes and animals can be wary of humans. So, having the right kit is essential. A decent telephoto lens is a must. Not just that, be sure you know your way around your kit before you head off – it’s hugely frustrating if you buy the latest gear then leave it until you’re on game drives before you try to figure out how it all works.”
…and protect it
“An obvious one perhaps, but it’s difficult for people who haven’t been on safari in Africa to appreciate how damaging the dust there can be, and how determined it can be to get in amongst your kit! Protecting your gear with the right accessories is absolutely essential – keep a good stock of wipes, bags and cases.”
So there you go. Add to that some patience and remembering to keep your batteries charged, and you’ll be on your way to taking National Geographic-standard snaps – good luck!