Category Archives: Photo Safaris

Posts about our safaris, preparing for your safari, African wildlife, and safari guide reports.

Manatee Photography Tips from my Manatee Photography Workshop

Cinemagraph of a Manatee

 manatee-cinemagraph

My next manatee photography workshop will be in February 2015

Get details

We will be in the water nearly all day with the manatees which gives you plenty of time to practice your techniques and get some really great shots.  Unlike other underwater creatures that are gone in one exposure, manatees are slow and linger. Take advantage of this by planning each shot and doing some in the field analysis and learning from images you just made.

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Getting a Great Shot of a Manatee Up for a Breath

The Situation:

There is a manatee asleep on the bottom near you.  Regulations say that you are not allowed to disturb them – especially diving down to get pictures of them asleep.  They can stay under for 10 minutes which is way to long to hover just underwater and wait. How do you get a good image of them coming up for a breath?

1) Choose a manatee who is facing such that there will be light on its face (not in the shade from a tree) and is preferably not facing such that you will be shooting into the sun.

2) Decide your angle; 3/4  shot, directly on, full side pose, vertical or horizontal camera position.  Scan what will be the background and plan to place undesirable elements like people behind the manatee or out of frame.

3) Get into position and float relaxed. Think about your settings, take test shots, adjust.  Take special note of the view of the sky through the water. The deeper you are the more sky will show. This may not be ideal.

4) When it is time, you will want to force some air out of your lungs which will make you sink a bit (you have already tested this and set your weights correctly). Push water up slowly but firmly with one hand to get you under – Do not move your legs or you will cloud your own picture and possibly freak out the manatee.

5) Watch the manatee. They usually have a “tell” when they are preparing to surface. Their body will rock a bit then begin to rise.  Exhale and sink, snapping pictures and keeping your body still and compact to limit movement.

6) snap shots  while the manatee is on the way up. Watch the framing of your shot to get the whole animal – nose to tail- in the shot.

7) Get a shot as he breaks the surface and takes in air. Then some on the way back down with the ripples on the surface.  The manatee may fall pretty fast.  Sometimes they dont get enough air and go right back up or linger.  Just hold your breath and be still .  Get the shot. You will have 10 minutes to rest and try again.

8) While you wait for the next breath examine your shots. Make a new plan.  Try a different manatee if this one is not in a good spot.

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Look for the Picture within a Picture

I have been playing around with cropping lately and practicing techniques to turn mediocre pictures into great pictures.

This elephant photo in its original form is not a great composition.  I was concentrating on the baby elephant hoping he would do something fun and cute and I didnt really pay attention to the very touching interaction between the large female and the juvenile elephant.

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Some lighting and color correction and a crop with a vignette all completed in Lightroom gives me a very nice portrait with lots of warm fuzzy motherly vib.

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Don’t disregard a photo before examining it closely for details and emotions you did not know were in there.

Four Very Nice Species of Hornbills

Southern Ground Hornbill
Southern Ground Hornbill

On my recent self-drive ride through Kruger National Park, I photographed three types of hornbills: Southern Yellow-billed, Red-billed, and the Grey Hornbill.  Not spotted this day was the ground hornbill.  These birds are frequently seen, except the grey which I see less often.  They like to grab bugs off the roads.  At the lodge they fight their own reflections in the mirror to my horror as I know one day they will break the glass with those tremendous bills.

Yellow Billed Hornbill
Yellow Billed Hornbill
Grey Hornbill
Grey Hornbill

Hornbills have a cooperation with mongoose in that the hornbills eat bugs dug up by the mongoose and in exchange the hornbills warn the mongoose of aerial threats such as raptors  which normally are of no concern to the hornbills.

Red Billed Hornbill
Red Billed Hornbill

Safari Clothing: Dress for Success and Comfort

 

clothing for safari

Over the years I have assembled a wardrobe of trusted and proven clothing favorites that go with me on every safari and many of my other trips. These shirts, pants, and shorts are comfortable to walk and ride in and stand up to the thorns and hand washing. Some of the pieces were not cheap, but they last forever. Here I would like to present themes for you to keep in mind when assembling your safari and travel wardrobe.

Go Neutral, not colorful
Camo is not necessary, but neutrals are essential.

Pack clothing in neutral colors: khaki, light brown/green, tan.

It might look  cliché, but neutrals serve an important function; bright  colors and white will distract and alarm the game.  We do not want the wildlife to see or react to us: nobody wants to face a curious leopard. White may not come clean after exposure to the red dirt. Dark colors usually blend into the bush, but they might start to feel too hot in the mid afternoon.

Continue reading Safari Clothing: Dress for Success and Comfort

Is a Photo Safari for Me?

 

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General Interest Safaris vs Photography  Centric Safaris

Wildlife travel is a very popular niche and many destinations offer both general tours and those with a skill based focus such as wildlife viewing or guided photography tours. Africa is one such destination that can be experienced as a wildlife photographic adventure or just as a resort destination with cultural experiences and activities.

On a photo safari you will most likely have a a professional photographer  guiding your adventure, applying their experience to present the most and best photo opportunities, and provide knowledge and advice about photography. The small group will be comprised of  serious  and amateur photographers.

Is a photographic safari right for you? Your decision to choose this route to Africa will depend on your goals and interests.

A general safari is designed for all types of guests. The tour operators plan a wide range of activities as part of the whole of experiencing Africa. The game drives and wildlife will only be one of many activities scheduled but  not necessarily the main focus. The itinerary will include time for relaxing,  shopping, and  luxury offerings.  The other guests are probably not serious about photography and may be only passively interested in wildlife; they might be more interested in getting to the hot tub than taking the time to photograph the perfect  fireball sunset.  This can be frustrating for those willing to put in the patience for great images.  Some general safari operators only allow small point and shoot cameras (no large lenses allowed!) on their vehicles and the vehicles might be entirely enclosed and you will have to shoot through glass.

On a photography specific adventure photo opportunities are the goal, not relaxation, entertainment, or shopping.  Many large lodges only want to show you as many species as they can on short game drives with no pause to watch the animal and wait for an excellent shot. A photographic safari will spend more time with each animal and teach you about the animal so as to anticipate a good shot and return you home safely with the best photographs and memories possible.

You do not have to have a camera to enjoy a Photo Safari : these wildlife intensive  adventures are perfect for Wildlife Lovers and those interested in Conservation.

Learn about photo safaris with Africa Wild Safaris hosted by Gregory Sweeney

Advantages of a Photographic Safari

  • The focus will be on finding and spending time with all of Africa’s charismatic species – not just the high profile ones.  A photographer group  leader can also design the game drives to suit special interests such as birds or wildlife you have not yet seen.  
  • The small groups and exclusive locations will afford the opportunity for bush walks and other special opportunities not allowed in other parks and reserves.
  • Photo safaris utilize smaller lodges on private reserves where the staff are dedicated to good wildlife encounters and providing a personal experience.
  • An experienced wildlife photographer guide has spent loads of time observing animals and knows an amazing amount about the animals you will see. The rangers and guides are also very knowledgeable and ready to pass on what they know.
  • You will have discussion, comparison, and collaboration with the other photographer guests in an open learning environment.
  • Being at the right place at the right time in order to catch the optimal lighting will be the driving force behind your daily schedule.
  • Photographers use open vehicles, and travel at the optimal times of the year such as when grass is short or animals are courting
  • Your photographer host will mentor you in photography topics that interest you and help increase your skills in taking pictures and processing them. 
  • You will come back with more and  better pictures than on a general tour

Disadvantages

  • Photo safaris are not for everyone because of the concentration on photography and the more active pace of your days together with the patience and tenacity necessary to find and photograph wildlife. 
  • You will stay in small, family owned, exclusive and comfortable lodges with lots of character and close to the best animals, but they will not be the large 5 –star resorts of the luxury tour operators and probably will not have  spas and extensive luxury facilities
  • You will not get much sleep. To get the best lighting and animal encounters requires you to operate on the animal’s schedule so morning departures are early.
  • You will have many photos to process so some “homework” time is required

Photo Safaris are really Wildlife Intense Safaris and are great for all levels of photographers and non photographer wildlife lovers

Photographic safaris are a bigger adventure than your standard African Safari and provide serious fun and learning for both professionals and amateur photographers. Your photos will tell the exciting stories of your life-changing adventure.
photo safari group
A photo safari group with both photographers and camera-less friends