Photo by Clinton Friedman
Every time you go out on an early morning or early evening game drive around Nambiti Private Game Reserve, you will have numerous opportunities to take great wildlife photographs. Many of the Nambiti Hills game guides are photographers themselves and they will always do their best to get you up close and personal to whatever you want to shoot with a camera.
Whilst I personally have a long way to go in terms of developing wildlife photography skills, I grew up with parents who were avid wildlife photographers and endured many, many hours of sitting quietly in the middle of massive game parks waiting for the perfect shot. So I suppose I have learnt a thing or two that may be worth passing on. Please feel free to post your wildlife photography tips here, too, or on the Nambiti Hills Facebook page.
Between Nambiti Private Game Reserve and the Le Sueur Cheetah Project, you have some unique opportunities of both seeing much more game within a short period of time, and of getting closer to certain wild animals than you would in many other game parks or reserves. So please take advantage of this. And then share your great shots with the other guests when you get back to Nambiti Private Game Lodge. Don’t forget to also upload the best of your shots onto the Nambiti Hills website and social media pages.
In the meantime, here are 10 tips that will hopefully help you raise the bar of your own high standards of wildlife photography:
1. Know your camera gear and be prepared. For most of us, we’ll have to make do with what we’ve got in terms of camera equipment. We can’t all have the latest Canon with the massive kilometre-long telephoto lens (slight exaggeration). But, even if it is a simple point-and-shoot, understand the parameters of what it can do, how to hold your camera so there is maximum stability optimisation, how to set it for minimum depth of field, or for fast shutter speed, or whatever effect you are after. Make sure any distracting alert sounds and other beeps are switched off. And have a sense of the weather and lighting conditions you are driving into and how you can turn those to your advantage. Be prepared to be patient and also spontaneous, and know that even what is supposedly common wildlife can be vividly portrayed as an amazing subject.
2. Be patient, be persistent. Animals don’t work around the busy schedule of humans. You have to wait for your perfect and compelling shot. It could take days. It might happen sooner than you expect. So keep your camera ready at all times. Sometimes the most interesting shots are those that happen whilst you’re waiting for something else.
3. Backgrounds can be as important as your subject. Backdrops give context to your subject matter. Whilst you may choose to blur them and focus on an animal, you may also want to include part or all of the background to emphasize the starkness of the terrain or the size of the animal or something else.
Photo by Clinton Friedman
4. Follow the light. The earliest and later hours of daylight, when the sun falls on the subject less harshly, usually provide the best natural lighting for wildlife photography. It is also the time when diurnal animals are most active, so there is more chance of seeing wild animals during the beginning and end of the day.
5. Use motion blur. Well, not all the time, obviously, but an image that captures an animal in motion is always fascinating. It adds excitement and drama to your photography and helps tell (or imply) a story. Try panning in a creative way to capture the movement of the animals.
6. Be unobtrusive. You’d think that goes without saying but I’ve been on game drives when people have pulled out their cell phones and engaged in conversation with friends or family back home. Leave your cell phone back at the lodge! Really! The more you can quietly blend in with the environment and patiently observe what is happening, the more likely you will get that great candid shot. Switch usual camera noises to silent if you can, and don’t use the flash. Besides, flashes scare and temporarily blind the animals. Be respectful. You’re in their territory.
7. Use a telephoto lens. Well, that’s if you’ve got one, of course. The advantage of a telephoto lens is it allows you to safely, from a distance, isolate your subject through framing. Which is the best way to capture a wild animal’s personality or essence.
8. Use manual focus rather than automatic. Again, your camera might not give you that option, unless it is a compact prosumer camera or a DSL. Manual focus allows you to focus on the animal whereas, with an automatic sensor, often the camera focuses on the environment which takes up the majority of the image, or gives equal attention to the animal and the environment so that neither stands out.
9. Put your camera in continuous shooting mode. Or burst mode. This helps ensure that you never miss that perfect shot. Shoot a lot – the privilege that digital cameras affords us – because there’s more chance of getting that winning image. , even when you’re in doubt because you never know what will end up being the prize winner.
10. Compose your shot. Sure, your composition time is determined by the movements of the wild animal on which you are focusing, but look for rich textures and colours, and try and frame the photograph in a way that best tells a story. Shoot from interesting perspectives. Whatever it takes to create a compelling visual narrative.
- Siobhan Gunning, writer, wildlife enthusiast and snaps hotter