Taking Photos on Safari — Part 1

by Jan 12, 20206 comments


they kneel on their knees to eat

Travel photography has its challenges.

You are shooting through fences, out of moving vehicles, from odd angles, and the animals are moving or hiding behind things! One of the biggest challenges is that you can’t see everything at the best time of day to be shooting it. But don’t let that stop you. Good shots can still be had.

In Part One I will cover some challenges, goals and expectations; Part Two will cover photo shooting opportunities off the safari jeep; and in Part Three I will review some of my favorite photos from this trip to Victoria Falls and South Africa, with some comments on why they work for me.

When you are trying to take photos of animals on a safari trip you are limited in where and how you can shoot. While it would have been nice to get a shot of these lions without the grass in front of them, you cannot get out of the vehicle to get down to ground level in front of them — for lots of very good reasons. So take the shot. It might be the only shot of a lion you get all trip. Let go of perfection for a little bit — you might do better than you expected. For me, the main idea is to document the journey and share some memories.

Think about what your goals are. If you are looking to create award winning masterpieces then you might need to travel on your own, so you can set your own time schedule, and wait hours for the perfect conditions.

If you are traveling on an organized trip and you are looking to share your adventures, a “less than perfect” photo might be just right. For example I love how bizarre the warthogs are. They can’t bend their necks so they kneel on their knees to eat. They are also quite skittish so it’s hard to get close enough to get a photo of them. But at The Victoria Falls Hotel they are eating on the front lawn and are not afraid of people.

Initially, I wasn’t going to take this shot, but it was the closest I had gotten to a good photo of this animal. If I get a better shot later nobody would see this shot, but if I didn’t, I’d have a good image of the animal and a story to tell about the unusual guests at The Victoria Falls Hotel!

My goal on this trip was to get some great animal shots. Knowing the conditions were variable and out of my control most of the time made me really appreciate the shots that I did get. And sometimes I keep a shot that is photographically imperfect because “it was the only Kori bustard that we saw” and I want to document that.

I couldn’t get a good shot of the weaver birds (they are fast), but I did get a series of nest building shots. This series helps to complete the story. Remember your goals — if I was going to enter a contest I’d want to see the bird’s head, but to show the nest building process these shots tell the tale nicely.

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I like this shot because it captures the challenges of the environment so beautifully. You can see it’s mid-day, we are in a vehicle with visual obstructions, and the surrounding environment is not very photogenic behind our rhino friend. But the animals move around and we will visit prettier landscapes.

Make your own footprints…

Recognize challenges and adjust expectations

Not every trip is going to have great conditions for animal viewing or photographing. Visit a location that you find challenging and see what kinds of images you can get. Visit the site a few times and see if you can find other opportunities with fresh eyes. This kind of practice can make you more nimble, and better able to adapt, to less than perfect conditions.

When posted, Part Two will cover photo shooting opportunities off the safari jeep; and in Part Three I will review some of my favorite photos from this trip to Victoria Falls and South Africa.

Enjoy the journey!

Karin H Wilson

Karin H Wilson

Artist | Designer | Photographer | Traveler | Storyteller

I am Karin and I just love to share a good story — preferably with snacks! I’m particularly interested in capturing the world’s beauty and wonder in photographs.

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