For many travellers, taking photos is a part of the travel experience and they provide wonderful memories of their vacation. Taking a good photo isn't always as easy as it seems, however. And, for those lucky enough to experience a South African safari, taking photos can be a real challenge since the photo subjects are a little, well, wild.
The well-known South African Londolozi game reserve runs a blog that showcases the images and videos that some of the reserve's rangers manage to capture while out on safari with guests. If you ask any of the rangers -- at Londolozi or elsewhere -- who are consistently taking great shots, they will tell you that the thousand shots they have missed have taught them lessons that now help them to get great shots.
We asked the Londolozi rangers to share some of their most important tips about how to get the best photos out of your safari (or any vacation). They told us:
1. Don't cut off the tail
Or the wing, or the hoof, or the ear -- unless you are going for an abstract shot, images generally work far better if all parts of the animal (or person) you are trying to photograph are in the frame. Long elements such as a leopard's tail dangling off a branch, the tip of an elephant's trunk or the horns of a kudu are obvious things to watch out for. Cutting off these aspects of the subject in any way, leads your eye to the edge of the frame and detracts greatly from the image.
2. Do cut the grass
Vegetation in front of your subject matter rarely works. If you are trying to highlight an animal in camouflage, then a vegetated foreground can be great, but even the smallest leaf or blade of grass can spoil an otherwise great image, particularly a portrait shot.
3. Shoot at eye level
Eye-level shots can dramatically enhance the impact of a photograph. The visual dynamic of a photo taken at eye level is compelling compared to one taken from above the subject. It is far more effective for drawing you into the photo.
4. Check your settings
With digital photography advancing at a rapid rate, newer cameras are able to compensate for changing light conditions that allow the photographer to take shots in almost any light. Higher ISO levels (a measure of the sensitivity to light of the camera's sensor) in particular, insure cameras are able to produce sharper images in much lower light than in years past. The problem with a high ISO is that it creates what is known as "noise" and can result in a grainy image. Brighter conditions, such as daylight, mean more light, lower ISO and a clearer image.
One of the challenges people have on a safari drive at daybreak is that their camera settings are from the night before when it was much darker outside. Try to make it a rule to check your camera's settings before heading out to take photographs. The practice will help guarantee that you don't miss the shot of a lifetime.
5. Be aware of the vehicle
On a safari, animals move around the vehicles and the tendency is to follow them with your camera, eye on the viewfinder, waiting for the best shot. Be aware of all that surrounds you -- the back of a seat, a piece of the safari vehicle or even your fellow guests, as you don't want to inadvertently catch even the smallest part of them in your frame.
James Tyrrell is a ranger at the Londolozi Game Reserve.