Photography on your Safari

There is no better place to indulge your passion for photography than on safari
               Capture an instant of time in this timeless land

Especially a RASABI SAFARI KENYA in a vehicle that is for your own exclusive use and driven by an expert Safari Guide who is himself a keen photographer.

Safari photography brings unique pleasures and challenges in equal proportions. The three main subject areas for safari photography are – wildlife, landscape and people.

1. Wildlife

It almost goes without saying that animals will feature in the majority of your safari photographs. Creatures of all shapes, sizes and colour with be the focus of attention.

Your Safari Guide will get you as close to the wildlife as safety, ethics and common sense allow. Some animals will themselves approach closely because, in most circumstances, they perceive safari vehicles as a totally innocuous part of the landscape.

The animals you see on safari are truly wild creatures and it is essential to respect their fundamental right to roam free and live their lives undisturbed by the actions of visiting tourists.

While on game-drives you should refrain from making loud noises and sudden movements. Remember to speak in quiet tones (not always easy in the excitement of coming across amazing wildlife spectacles) and try to keep your movements smooth and unhurried. These basic considerations will really enhance your safari experience.

Carefully listen to your Safari Guide because he knows the animals and is able to interpret and anticipate their behaviour. Your safety is his first priority, therefore, please promptly follow any instruction he may give you.

Flash is a no-no. Please do not use flash when photographing wild animals. A sudden burst of bright light may startle wildlife and will almost certainly cause them to be extremely wary, making them more difficult to photograph again. Causing confusion to animals is to be avoided at all costs. When they flee and scatter from what they consider to be a threat, it can result in families being separated leaving youngsters isolated and defenceless against predators.

Hover over image to enlarge

great grey shrike
(Lanius excubitor)

leopard
(Panthera pardus)

Sally and Stuart reviewing their photos from another truly amazing game-drive

Mount Kenya
Africa’s second highest mountain

2. Landscape

The varied terrain of Kenya, from the wide open expanse of rolling savannah to the towering summits of snow-capped mountains, offers you endless opportunities for amazing landscape photography.

If you are a landscape novice you may find it advisable to employ the “rule of thirds”. This is a very simple way to capture pleasingly composed landscapes. Imagine the scene divided into three equal horizontal bands. By composing your photograph so that the sky occupies either one-third or two-thirds of the entire image you will achieve good results. Many cameras allow you to select to have grid-lines superimposed in the view-finder or LCD screen. Where available, this grid is the perfect aid to the rule of thirds.

Whenever possible try to include some point of interest in the fore or mid-ground to add greater depth to the image.

3. People

Before photographing people there is a golden rule that should never be broken, i.e. always ask permission first.
In some cultures making an image of someone is taboo and akin to removing a part of that person’s spirit and strength. There are also numerous other reasons why a person may object to being photographed.
Some people will be very happy for you to take photos but they may expect a small payment in return.
The right approach is all important.

warriors of the Samburu tribe

spotted hyena
(Crocuta crocuta)

elephants
(Loxodonta africana)

rufous-crowned roller
(Coracias naevius)

great white pelican
(Pelecanus onocrotalus)

Cameras 

Whatever your camera, be it an entry-level point-and-shoot or a flag-ship SLR from a major manufacturer, you will get the opportunity to capture some great images on safari. All digital cameras available today, from the simplest to the most complex, have sufficient sophistication to create good photographs at a reasonable resolution. As technology improves at an ever increasing rate, cameras of all types continue to get better and better with new models coming off the production lines all the time.

Compact cameras

The convenience and portability of small, pocket-sized cameras make them extremely popular. Prices vary widely according to the feature-set and build quality. The simplest models are fully automatic requiring the user to simply point the lens at the subject and press the shutter. All decisions regarding focusing, aperture, shutter-speed, white balance, metering and ISO are made by the camera’s on-board microchip, usually with very satisfactory results.

A potential problem with using compact cameras in automatic point and click mode as described above is that decisions taken by the micro chip can include use of the flash. Therefore, the flash will operate automatically if conditions determine it. You need to ensure the flash is turned off.

Viewfinders are usually absent from these models, the LCD screen being used instead.

More complex compacts offer more features and allow the user some control over image exposure. Many includes the facility to select pre-set scene modes including landscape, portrait and macro. Only a few models offer full manual control.

Image quality from these compact machines can be excellent with plenty of depth and detail.

Bridge cameras

Bridge cameras are those that bridge the gap between the economically priced compact models and the more expensive SLRs (single lens reflex). Many are comparable to SLRs in size and weight but unlike SLRs they do not have interchangeable lenses. They offer full manual control as well as preset scene modes. These are excellent cameras for safari use because of their zoom-lenses which allow not only wide-angle shots of expansive landscapes but also close-ups of distant subjects.

SLR (single lens reflex) camera

If you are serious about your photography you will probably consider the acquisition of an SLR (single lens reflex) camera. The great advantage of SLRs is their facility to accept different lenses for different situations. Telephoto lenses are the ideal choice for safari photography. These high-tech optics can be expensive but the results they achieve can be absolutely stunning.

SLRs are the choice of professional photographers. However, recent advances in manufacturing processes have seen the introduction of new models priced economically for the amateur market. In fact some entry-level SLRs are now available at prices below that of top-end compacts. SLRs allow the user full control over every aspect of the photographic process.

Buying a new camera?

If you are considering buying a camera to bring on safari, our advice is firstly to decide how much you are prepared to spend and then research photography magazines and websites to identify which model best suits your needs at a price within your budget. Desirable features include the ability to zoom-in to get closer to your subject, a generous number of megapixels for greater resolution and vibration reduction mechanisms to counter the effects of camera-shake.

topi
(Damaliscus korrigum)

yellow-necked francolin 

(Pternistis leucoscepus)

tawny eagle
(Aquila rapax)

Image Resolution

Your camera will give a choice of resolution settings. Always select the highest resolution as this will produce the best possible results. This will use more digital memory and consequently you will get fewer shots on your memory card, but it really does not make sense to compromise on image quality.

JPEG v RAW

The images your camera captures on its sensor are stored as electronic files on the memory card. All cameras can store these files in a format know as JPEGS (or JPGS). These JPEG files are compressed in order to reduce their size and therefore reduce the amount of memory required for their storage. This file compression is achieved by restricting the amount of electronic data transferred from sensor to memory card. This means that not all the information received by the sensor is passed on to the memory card. The camera will discard certain information it considers to be unnecessary.

Does this loss of data matter? That depends on what you are eventually going to do with your safari photographs. If you know that you will be printing them at a size no larger than 100 x 150 mm (4 x 6 in) then the answer is definitely no. JPEG files will produce perfectly satisfactory images up to this size without any perceivable loss of resolution.

However, if you plan to produce finished prints larger than this you should consider shooting in RAW format. RAW files contain 100% of the data captured by the camera sensor. No information is lost and so, in post-production (e.g. Photoshop), you have the complete set of original data to work with. This means you can produce photographs of any size at full resolution. Because of the large size of RAW files, they occupy a lot of space on your memory card.

Consider what you are eventually going to do with your safari photographs. If you are happy with traditional sized photographs then shoot in JPEG format. If you wish to produce large prints and/or have maximum flexibility during post-production then opt for RAW format.

Memory cards

How many memory cards will you need? Lots!! During a 15 day safari tour Bill and Sally will each take 3,000 to 5,000 shots at the highest resolution setting. Make sure you have more memory cards than you think you need. Believe us, you will need them. Don’t risk the frustration of having to delete your earlier images just to make room for your later ones. On game-drives you should always carry sufficient spare memory cards

Batteries and chargers

Don’t forget your batteries and charger. If your batteries are getting old it may be time to replace them. Rechargeable batteries progressively hold less and less charge the older they get. Always carry fully-charged spares on safari. At the start of each game-drive you need fully-charged batteries in your camera and at least one fully-charged set in your camera bag.

elephants (Loxodonta africana)

All photographs on this website are available from the photo-library at Fox Hollow Photos