Africa Safari Photography Guide

Before going to Africa on Safari, I knew I wanted to travel as light as possible but have the best gear for the trip. I researched by reading many websites and took what I felt would be best. I know people will benefit from my thoughts, reflections and also have a look at some of the photos.

I will explain the kit I took, a review on the kit I used and what I wish I had.

We flew into Johannesburg on an organised tour with Nomad. Our journey took us through Swaziland, Mozambique and Kruger South Africa.

The kit I took:

  • Nikon DSLR D300
  • Compact Camera
  • Spare Memory cards (I shoot in RAW)
  • Decent Compact Binoculars
  • Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5
  • 50mm f/1.4
  • 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6
  • Aero Backpack
  • Small camera bag (used to hold all the chargers/wires in checked in luggage)
  • Macbook Pro (Light Room / Photoshop)
  • Card Reader
  • Camera chargers
  • Freeloader Pro / Globetrotter Pro SC9065
  • Mains Power converter – be careful most universal adaptors DO NOT include
  • Africa socket
  • Decent Head Torch

 

We were lucky to see the big five, but one notable issue was that Lions are most active at Dusk/Dawn – basically when its hard to see which is a dangerous time to be out in the wild also any camera will have trouble focusing or taking a good shot.

In Swaziland (and again at Kruger) we had an organised tour to see Lions, this consisted of a tour guide driving a modified Landrover at dusk or dawn. The Landrovers were equipped with a tungsten lamp that the passengers could share and use to try and spot something in the wilderness.

This didn’t help me as a photographer, as the tungsten lamp didn’t provide enough light or breadth/depth., and also you can’t control the light if another passenger isn’t holding steady.

Wish List:

  • Flash (should have taken but was travelling light!)
  • Purpose Torch for dusk/dawn photography
  • Bigger lenses!

 

I have not done any research on torches but a quick google reveals products like this
http://xenoled.com/en/Gallery/Products/48/index.html
also this review site http://fonarik.com/test/indexen.php

Optional – but ideal if you can cope with the weight

  1. Tripod or monopod.
  2. Take some zippo bags in case you want to make a beanbag rest with rice (cheap and easy) This is ideal if travelling on a truck/Landrover that is stationary.

End of trip facts:

  • 2 Weeks – 2739 Photos – Filtered down to 517 photos (basically pick of the best)
  • 182 Photos with Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 (Picked 54 as best)
  • 275 Photos with Nikon 50mm f/1.4 (Picked 84 as best)
  • 2138 Photos with Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 (Picked 319 as best)
  • 144 Photos with Compact Camera (Picked 60 as best)
  • RAW files on the D300 are around 16MB each
  • My data was 41GB

 

Summary:

  • I didn’t need the Freeloader much as we were lucky to have electricity in most places, but there were issues as sometimes electricity is on a generator and resorts have a lights out time, or areas are prone to power cuts. The Freeloader is still handy as it can help keep phones, cameras and any entertainment topped up. Unfortunately that won’t help you with laptop batteries.
  • We had a universal power converter, but discovered that was absolutely no good in South Africa as they have something completely different. 3 Round Pin sockets. This is a cheap accessory or can be bought in a big supermarket – if you can find one!
  • I would have managed with leaving either the Nikon 50mm prime or Sigma 10-20mm at home but they both came in handy, but not as much as the 300mm which I needed nearly all the time.
  • Kruger was much more wild than Swaziland and wildlife was typically much further away – I wish I had a lens that could reach further than 300mm but you then need to consider stabilisation (might be hard on a truck with other passengers bouncing around)
  • If you have a teleconverter or bigger lens definitely take it if you can cope with the weight and if the quality will be good enough. There would have been no point in me taking my Sigma 50-500mm lens as it would have added too much weight, there is no image stabilisation (OS/VR), and you need a tripod and to be on solid ground (which you can’t do in Kruger if you want to tell the tale!) – I can get reasonable photos from a 300mm cropped.
  • The computer helped in the evenings to keep a backup of files, and also do favourite selections and minor edits to save so much workload at the end of the trip.
  • Take spare memory cards if you can’t take a computer. 3 x 16GB memory cards served me and I had computer for backup or transfer if I needed more space.

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