In Part 1 I mentioned some of the key things you need to think about when preparing for your special (and possibly expensive) trip: what kinds of lenses you are likely to need, whether there are any restrictions on using some equipment in the country you’re visiting (e.g. tripods). In Part 2 I want to share a few tips (or rules of thumb) that I myself have found helpful in the field.
Perhaps most important is thinking about how you need to adjust the settings on your camera to capture the image you intend to. If you are making a picture of a landscape and you have lots of time at your disposal, then you can set your camera at aperture priority with the lowest ISO setting and a small aperture (like f/16), thereby achieving a good quality image and a longer depth of field. On the other hand, if you are taking pictures of animals or birds in motion then you will probably need to work at a larger aperture (like f/5.6) and crank up the ISO a bit to give an acceptable shutter speed. Depending on the kind of effect you want to achieve you can either set a fast (if you want to freeze animals in motion) or a slower shutter speed (if you want to give an impression of motion). The picture below shows horses in motion (taken at the Epsom Derby a few years ago, with a shutter speed of 1/15 of a second); the same principle could be used to good effect in wildlife pictures as well — you will need to experiment with the shutter speed, depending on the animal and how fast it is moving.
If you are mainly doing travel-type pictures then you will probably be working between f/4 (for portraits) and f/8 (for general scenes). It is usually a good idea to ask people if it’s ok to take their photograph — most of the time they don’t mind and it also gets you talking to the locals …
My second main tip is to use two camera bodies, if at all possible, if you are doing a wildlife safari. Ideally you will want something like a 70-200 mm lens on one body to do most of the work, and then a 500 mm or 600 mm lens on the other body for close-ups. You really don’t want to be changing lenses in a dusty environment! If you are doing mainly travel photography then a single camera body with a 24-70 mm lens will probably do the trick (read my recommendations about which lenses to buy).
My third tip is to start each day with an empty memory card and fully charged battery, with an extra battery and memory cards easily accessible. As I mentioned in Part 1, you don’t want to be running out of memory or power at an inconvenient moment. The picture below was taken during a shoot at Mapungubwe in northern South Africa. We had travelled to a new area on our last day of shooting with no great expectations, but as luck would have it a whole herd of elephant turned up and started playing in the watering hole in front of us. We had prime seats in the hide, but as I had used up almost all my memory cards I was frantically looking through the pictures deleting ones that weren’t as good. I did manage to capture a few good ones, but no doubt there were ones that got away. Don’t let that happen to you!
My fourth tip is to be as prepared as you possibly can be before you set off on your trip. You don’t want to be practicing your camera settings when amazing things are happening in front of you. As I mentioned in Part 1, a specialised workshop can make all the difference in helping you to be comfortable with your camera equipment and its different settings.
My fifth and final tip is to enjoy yourself and look for interesting, unusual or humorous picture opportunities. The picture below was taken on an early morning game drive near Pretoriuskop in the Kruger National Park. This baboon was the sentinel for the group, but his frequent yawns seemed to indicate that perhaps he wasn’t the best chap for the job …