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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Safaris In The Digital Age


Taking a dream trip to Africa to photograph the incredible array of wildlife there is more doable than you think




This Article Features Photo Zoom

In the first light of morning on the Duba Plains, Lepp came upon one of the reserve’s famous big lionesses hidden in the backlit grasses. On photo safaris, photography starts at sunrise and continues until after sundown.
DSLR high-definition video offers another way to record animal behavior without being limited to the single-shot capture. And that big, bright LCD on the back gives you immediate feedback about composition, sharpness and exposure, so you can fine-tune your settings as you shoot. Each evening, you can download and edit your images and think about the changes you could make to improve your yield the next day. It’s eminently doable for anyone with the right camera-and-lens combination to bring back great pictures from a photographic environment as rich as an African game reserve if you go with supportive companions.

It’s not just the picture-taking that has changed in the era of the megapowerful DSLR. Whether you’re in Africa or Alaska or Yosemite National Park, the essential logistics of the photo field trip have become much more complicated. Lepp used to carry 200 or more rolls of film on an extended shoot, but now he hauls a computer, chargers, cables and external hard drives for backup—along with one or more backup DSLR bodies featuring different sensor sizes, a video camera, tripods, battery packs and projected flash attachments. With a tour specializing in digital photography, you’ll get some help with all this stuff while on safari, but you still have to get it to Africa on a commercial airliner, and that takes some planning. Lepp says one of the best investments you can make is to travel with a congenial cohort who’s not a competitor; that way, your travel partner can give you some of his or her baggage allocation. In Lepp’s case, that partner is me, so, although I seldom photograph with a long lens, I always count his 500mm monster as one of my two carry-ons.

The Importance Of A Good Tour Operator
You can choose from a broad range of African photo safaris, depending on your particular interests, physical abilities, comfort level, timing and travel budget. Remember, though, that if you’re heading for the photo trip of a lifetime, you want to travel with like-minded companions and put yourself in the hands of guides who understand your objectives. Look for generous weight allowances so you can take along your big lens, at least two bodies, your chargers and other accessories, and your computer and cables. (On our safaris with Journeys Unforgettable (www.journeysunforgettable.com), an affiliate of Wilderness Safaris, we’re followed around by a second small plane for in-country flights—just to carry all our gear!) Great tours are led by knowledgeable, experienced people who know the ins and outs, are cognizant of the risks, and maintain good relationships with the people at small outback airports and checkpoints, minimizing the stress for you and your gear. Photographers need power in the camps 24/7 to work on their images and charge their batteries. Great photography tours assure that vehicles are open-topped and accessible for gear and guarantee each photographer his or her own row of seats, offering unobstructed views ahead and to each side of the vehicle. You’ll want drivers who know how to get you safely in position for the best shots and guides willing to share their intimate knowledge of the wildlife and how to photograph them. One of the best we know is Dana Allen (www.photosafari-africa.com).

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