Cameras and Equipment Technology

Photography Equipment Tips for an Africa Photo Safari

Photography Equipment Tips for an Africa Photo Safari

There’s little question that reserving and planning for an Africa photograph safari is an thrilling time, particularly if it’s your very first enterprise. As a photograph safari tour chief, I’m used to the method. However, I nonetheless behave very very similar to a toddler in anticipation of what Christmas brings. As your departure date attracts nearer, your ideas transfer to packing for your journey. Though the suitable clothes is important, these journeys are actually about superb wildlife encounters, shared experiences and capturing reminiscences. It’s time to consider your images gear, – your gear.

It’s time to pack your digital camera bag!

Writer’s Observe

Earlier than I dive in, I want to state that this text represents my ideas for maximizing your expertise whereas on an Africa photograph safari. It’s a information with a mixture of opinion and details based mostly on my on-location, in-the-field expertise. It’s a abstract, an introduction and never a laboratory assessment and subsequently ought to be handled as such.

Secondly, I all the time advocate images fanatics select a safari designed explicitly with photographers in thoughts. Common ‘tourist’ safaris have their place, however they’re more likely to be ruled by a species timetable. Lion, verify. Transfer on. Buffalo, verify. Transfer on. You get the image. On a devoted Africa photograph safari journey, not solely will you share a car (typically custom-made for photographers) with appreciated minded individuals, you’ll additionally profit from with the ability to spend rather more time with an particular person animal or group of animals. You’ll have the ability to witness uncommon behaviors and discover totally different angles and lighting conditions. Specific and invaluable steerage and recommendation are additionally on faucet.

Thirdly, you’ll discover that I’ve included my digital camera settings under various the pictures. These settings labored for me in these specific conditions, underneath sure circumstances to supply the kind of picture I used to be after. I recommend you employ these posted settings as a information solely. As an alternative, take into consideration how these pictures may look should you have been to regulate the shutter velocity, aperture or ISO. Then, take that info into the sector with you. The connection between these parts can create extensively totally different outcomes and in addition assist you to to outline your type.

Leopard, Botswana. Canon 1DX, Canon 70-200mm(at 105mm), f/2.eight, ISO 400, 1/125th sec handheld. Picture © Andrew Sproule

Cameras for an Africa Photo Safari

Discover I’ve said ‘cameras’ within the title and never ‘camera.’ I like to recommend you’re taking no less than two digital camera our bodies with you. On the floor, this may increasingly look like overkill or perhaps a contact extravagant, however there are legitimate the reason why.

Firstly, it’s peace of thoughts. Think about the heart-sinking second in case your digital camera fails. That emotion is tenfold if it occurs on day one in every of a two-week photograph safari! Whether or not you’re taking two DSLRs, two mirrorless cameras, a mixture of each, or an various answer, possessing a backup prevents any pointless nervousness. Earlier than I bought a second digital camera physique, I used to rent one for my Africa journeys. I nonetheless do that every now and then. It’s a good way of testing and trialing gear within the area beforehand and understanding what works greatest for you.

Secondly, Africa is an terribly harsh and dusty surroundings. Sand and mud particles are the enemies of delicate digital camera sensors. Consequently, eliminating the necessity to swap lenses whereas on location could be a large plus.

Moreover, having two cameras armed with totally different lenses (for instance a telephoto lens and a mid-range zoom), you’ll discover it straightforward to modify between them. Switching between them is beneficial when wildlife comes too shut, or in case you are pulling away for a large shot of wildlife in context of its habitat. With the ability to adapt to shifting circumstances can imply the distinction between capturing, or not capturing the shot.

Not everybody is able to take two cameras. It additionally doesn’t matter whether or not your digital camera is full-frame, crop-sensor or one other sort, as there are execs and cons to all. What is prime is that you realize your digital camera intimately. Follow in your canine, your cat or deer in an area park. No matter you possibly can. The extra acquainted you’re together with your digital camera’s options, the faster you’ll have the ability to modify to circumstances that unfold in entrance of you with confidence.

Lenses for an Africa Photo Safari

Tremendous-telephoto lenses with a focal size of 300mm plus are the staple for most Africa photograph safaris. For crop-sensor cameras, 300mm must be ideally suited. In case you intend to photograph birds in addition to giant recreation, the longer the focal size, the higher. Full-frame cameras often want lenses of 400m+.

Wild canine, Botswana. Canon 1DX, Canon 500mm, f/5.6, ISO 200, +2/three EV, 1/160th sec, monopod. Picture © Andrew Sproule

Though my go-to lens is a 500mm, I consider the flexibility of zoom lenses make them perfect for African safaris. There’s such all kinds of birds and mammals of a level of various sizes and distances that a good lens choice can be one thing just like the 100-400mm.

A brief-zoom lens within the vary of 24-70mm can also be a fantastic choice because it supplies the pliability to tug away to current wildlife inside its surroundings, including actual context to an picture. As a result of I’m additionally a panorama photographer, I additionally favor super-wide lenses within the vary of 16-35mm or 14-24mm.

A lot of Africa’s wildlife is lively within the early mornings and late evenings which means you’ll be battling low ranges of sunshine. Lenses with bigger apertures, corresponding to f/2.eight, permit extra obtainable mild into the digital camera, so that you’ll be capable of use a fairly excessive shutter velocity for for much longer. These lenses are a luxurious merchandise although, so an various answer is to extend the ISO. Doing so most definitely will increase noise, however most photographers would moderately have a pointy shot with an acceptable quantity of noise than an out of focus shot with no noise. In lots of instances, you’ll be able to eradicate most noise in post-production.

Filters for an Africa Photo Safari

I typically use filters when composing panorama photographs, and on an Africa photograph safari there are most definitely circumstances when using a filter is advantageous. For filters that scale back glare, saturate colours and darken skies, I like to recommend utilizing a polariser filter.
For those who need assistance to appropriately expose shiny skies, whereas preserving publicity element within the foreground, then I like to recommend an ND filter.

Digital camera Help on an Africa Photo Safari

Burchell’s Zebra, Kenya. Canon 1DX, Canon 500mm, f/four, ISO 200, 1/50th sec, bean bag. Picture © Andrew Sproule

Bean Luggage

Bean luggage are my go-to help, particularly in East Africa. They’re a easy, but extraordinarily efficient help for your digital camera. Bean luggage can be utilized to relaxation your lens on a car’s doorsills, window frames, roof rails and the precise roof itself. Additionally, wildlife is usually on the transfer, so that you’re not restricted to at least one place inside the car. Many respected Africa photograph safari tour operators present beanbags. Nevertheless, that stated, it’s all the time worthwhile double-checking beforehand. Bean luggage can pack mild and get full of rice or beans on arrival. Some photographers choose to fill their beanbags with light-weight polystyrene balls earlier than they depart. It’s bulkier however a light-weight various. I’ve been utilizing a few Kinesis SafariSacks four.2™ for some time. In addition to being an awesome help, the fast launch straps safe the luggage in place, so that you by no means lose them within the bush.

A typical East Africa safari car. Picture courtesy of Governors Camp, Maasai Mara, Kenya

Sadly, bean luggage will not be a common answer, opposite to what you’ll have learn in sure books or journal articles. Though they’re a incredible answer in East Africa, they’re not as helpful in Southern Africa (together with South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). The reason being that the automobiles there are radically totally different. Safaris in Southern Africa use open Land Rovers and Land Cruisers with no sides in any respect – typically there isn’t even a windshield! So, there’s nothing on which to relaxation the beanbag. In Namibia, each open Land Rovers and closed automobiles are in widespread use.

A typical Southern Africa safari car. Picture courtesy of Motswari Personal Recreation Reserve, South Africa


If a bean bag is just not an choice, a monopod provides a light-weight and extra sensible various to make use of inside the confines of a safari car. Particularly in Southern Africa. You don’t want to increase it completely, and it takes the pressure out of your arms and shoulders whereas seated. It’s shocking how efficient it may be. I’ve examined many monopods through the years and have discovered that Gitzo Monopods™ greatest go well with my wants. I additionally use a Actually Proper Stuff™ lever-style, fast launch that makes the method of taking lenses on and off the monopod very quick.


A tripod is beneficial and even an important piece of package for night images, longer exposures or for across the camp. Though, the wide-spread tripod legs make them impractical and ill-advised for most safari automobiles. Nevertheless, in case you’re in an open car by yourself, or maybe with one different, a tripod may be rigged to offer an wonderful platform for bigger lenses. To keep away from badly damaging your digital camera from car shake, all the time take away your digital camera from the tripod whereas on the transfer.

Some airways take a dim view of tripods, and chances are you’ll discover it troublesome to influence them to allow you to take it within the cabin as a part of your hand baggage. If it’s going within the maintain, it may possibly take up extra of your baggage weight allowance.


I typically use a ball head or gimbal head on a Manfrotto® Superclamp that may be bolted virtually anyplace, together with a car’s roof bars. If I’m alone, or a part of a tiny group, I’ll even have a number of of those clamps positioned in strategic factors across the car making it extraordinarily straightforward to modify back and forth and again to entrance.

Manfrotto 035 Superclamp. Picture courtesy of Manfrotto®

Storing Photographs whereas on an Africa Photo Safari

Laptop computer

You possibly can simply take 300-500 photographs a day. Set off-happy photographers might even have over 1,000, so a small laptop computer with exterior onerous drives are helpful for securely backing up your pictures. If weight restrictions permit, two exhausting drives that mirror one another is a superb answer. Keep in mind to pack important gadgets akin to connecting cables, chargers and reminiscence card readers.

Reminiscence Playing cards

An alternate answer to exterior onerous drives is to convey additional reminiscence playing cards. You possibly can file these away on the finish of every day. That approach, you’re protected within the information that your knowledge stays untouched till you arrive residence. In case you don’t like the thought of swapping out reminiscence playing cards too typically, go for bigger capability ones comparable to 32GB. That stated, I don’t wish to put all my eggs in a single basket, and subsequently I choose for 2 or three smaller playing cards in favor of 1 bigger one.

Equipment for an Africa Photo Safari


Get to know what you’ll be able to anticipate out of your digital camera almost about battery life and take sufficient spares to get you thru every day. Chilly is a battery’s nemesis, so ensure that they’re not getting too chilly in a single day. I’ve two spare batteries for every digital camera physique, and that’s all the time been greater than satisfactory for my functions.

Lens Cleansing Material

Keep in mind lens cleansing cloths. I might additionally advocate a digital camera and lens cowl that helps shield your digital camera within the occasion of a rain bathe and for defending your gear towards the mud talked about above.


Don’t overlook your smartphone, binoculars, head torch, notepad and pen, private medicine, malaria medicine, toiletries, cash, your passport, and visa.

For detailed, up-to-date info on vaccinations and extra, you’re greatest to seek the advice of an official web site.

Packing for an Africa Photo Safari

I like to recommend packing high-value gadgets like cameras, lenses, and laptops in your hand baggage. Some airline security necessities require you to pack batteries in your hand baggage, so make sure you cost your gadgets, as airport safety typically requires you to reveal that laptops and cameras are all in full working order. A easy rule of thumb is to pack gadgets important to your images, journey, and well being in your hand baggage.

Pack your gear very rigorously with disruption in thoughts. Some Africa photograph excursions can include two or three successive flights to get to varied locations in Africa. There could also be two and even three layers of airport safety on every of those flights. Chances are you’ll be required to unpack giant cameras, lenses, and laptops. Should you can, keep away from putting smaller equipment on prime of bigger gadgets that you could be have to take out repeatedly and re-pack. Pack cables and batteries collectively in small pouches somewhat than unfastened in your bag.

Your digital camera bag ought to be giant sufficient for your gear however small and lightweight sufficient for all cabin limits. When packed you must be capable of safely carry your bag out and in of the overhead lockers with out help. Verify the utmost sizes and weights for all of the airways and remember that totally different flights typically have totally different guidelines.

For small inner constitution flights inside Africa, complete baggage allowance (hand baggage plus maintain baggage) may be as little as 20kg and luggage have to be tender and pliable.

Typical Southern Africa inner constitution flight. Picture courtesy of Moremi Recreation Reserve, Botswana

Remaining Ideas on an Africa Photo Safari

An Africa Photo Safari is an unimaginable expertise. For a lot of, it’s a-once-in-a-lifetime alternative each to expertise unimaginable surroundings and wildlife and to take superb pictures.

There’s little question that it may be a frightening expertise packing costly and important images gear for a safari. Even for seasoned photographers. Simply keep in mind to hunt out recommendation. In case you are booked on a photographer-specific tour, you possibly can request help out of your guides and or Africa safari tour facilitator. They’ve the expertise and information that will help you make it the via this course of with as little stress as attainable.


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