Video Ring

Your Timeless Journey Awaits...

You have booked your trip, countdown to departure, and packing lists are ready and excitement growing by the day. You review the itinerary and lodges you will be staying at and marvel at the beautiful wildlife photos shown.

Close-ups of Lions with playful cubs, a Zebra’s fine black and white stripes, the textures of an Elephant’s tough trunk skin, and even a video of a leopard climbing up a tree with its fresh prey, to hide from fellow predators.

You remember your travel manager asking if you are interested in photography while travelling. But of course… who is not while visiting the beautiful African continent?

So you pack your phone as a photo device, surely if you can use it at home, it is good enough on safari too?
Well, yes and no.

 

These days phone cameras have evolved to be the best they have ever been and many travellers choose to travel with a mobile phone camera only.

Keep in mind that the photos you take will not only be the ones you share back home with family but often the only keepsake of your adventure in Africa. You do not want to be dissatisfied with the outcome, spending two weeks on safari but ending up with tiny lions in the far distance, out of focus.

I am a keen phone photographer and use my mobile phone a lot while travelling, both on safari as well as in general travel photographs. This is me on a hot air balloon ride in the Serengeti – and yes, I used the selfie mode camera on my mobile device for this photo.

One of the most important tips I love to share with fellow travellers is to keep in mind that the wildlife photos you see on travel and safari lodge websites are probably taken by Professional Photographers, with proper photo gear and long lenses (not phones), photographers who waited patiently at wildlife sightings and always had their cameras ready to shoot.

The photos you see are most probably also the few best selected from thousands of photographs taken.

Phone vs. Professional Gear?

Do we all have to lug around heavy packs with professional photography gear to have good photo memories? No, but it does help to know a little bit about the opportunities you may have and arrive prepared.

The good news is that you do not have to have all the latest, biggest cameras and lenses and complicated things to get a good photo or ten while on safari. Casey (pictured) on her gorilla trekking safari prepared with her mobile, GoPro and camera.

 

This is a comparison between capturing a leopard in a tree  trunk taken with a mobile phone vs taken with my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera

Phone photo of a Leopard

Phone photo

Camera photo

The 3 camera options to consider when planning for safari:
  1. Mobile Phone Camera
    I use mine for general travel photos, rural areas, cities, landscapes, video memories – even on safari. Also good for sharing on the go.Plus one of the below:
  2. A Bridge Camera
    This is a good option for someone who wants zoom capability but does not want to worry about changing lenses on a big camera and complicating things.Or
  3. An SLR Camera
    The big camera is where you can change lenses. Our suggestion for great wildlife photos!

Some newer models have the option of sharing to your phone so you can share on social media on the go.

Here are some ideas of cameras to consider for wildlife photography:

Bridge camera for wildlife and travel, an example is the Sony – RX10-IV-with AF-25x-optical-zoom or Panasonic LUMIX Super Zoom Bridge Camera DMC-FZ2000

If you do want to venture into the bigger SLR or mirrorless cameras, consider these:

Ps, you will need to buy lenses for the above mentioned cameras or rent them at your destination.

Sony Bridge Camera -RX10-IV-with-0.03s.-AF-25x-optical-zoom

Sony Bridge Camera - RX10-IV-with AF-25x-optical-zoom

Canon EOS R7


So … what do we (as normal travellers) pack when going on safari?
  • Mobile phone: And a little cloth to clean its lenses. A good phone protection case and maybe even a sling to hang phone around your neck works great while on safari to not drop your phone.  Plus:
  • 2 Camera bodies – DSLR, or mirrorless – with/without converters
  • 1 Wide angle lens – 24-105mm, or a basic 18-135 to cover all ranges
  • 1 Long lens – 70-200mm, 100-400mm (my favourite for wildlife photos, but heavy), 70-300mm (a more cost-effective lens)
  • Memory cards – bring more than you think you will need
  • Batteries – 2 per camera and a charger
  • Lens hoods
  • Accessories like cables, chargers, card reader…
  • A blower or a cloth/duster for cameras and lenses – to keep things clean – ESSENTIAL!
  • Scarf or cloth to wrap the camera in while on dusty drives.
  • Backpack to hold it all safely (also used as a general travel backpack)

My Photography

Here are some of my personal photos taken over time on my mobile vs taken on my camera:

Mobile Phone Photography
Phone photo of a Leopard
Phone photo of a Leopard
Camera Photography

Charging while travelling:

Most safari lodges and camps provide proper electricity in your room/tent. It may be that they run on solar energy and have one shared charging station at a central area (away from your room). Please make sure to bring charger as well as adaptor plug to fit the local electricity supply.

When you are out on a full day safari, there will be no charging opportunities. Ensure to bring enough batteries (we suggest 2 per camera).

 

Top Tip:

Charge every night so that you always have 2 fully charged batteries.


Luggage restrictions:

If you are travelling in East Africa, Southern Africa you may be travelling by small plane with very limited weight allowances. Travellers are generally allowed a maximum of 15-20kg (33-44lbs) for all luggage – that’s all luggage, checked-in, carry-on, as well as cameras.

Here’s a link to view our luggage to use on a safari guideline.

If you pack anything like me you will know that 2 camera bodies, 2 lenses and some gear already take at least 5kg (11lbs).

If you need extra weight allowance for photography gear please discuss with your travel manager as you do have the option to buy up luggage allowances.

 

RENTING GEAR:

Some luxury lodges have photographic rental options at the lodge, while another option would be to rent gear in the first town you stop (then return on your way out).

Speak to your Travel Manager to help you figure out the most suitable option.

* I was recently hosted by GreatPlainsConservation and stayed at their Selinda and Okavango Explorer’s Camp. They supply all guests with a Camera body and 100-400mm lens to use while staying in their reserve camps.


Top Tips:
  1. Place your chargers, lens hoods cables, card reads and other bulky accessories into your checked luggage, this will make more room for valuable and breakable items in your camera bag.
    If your main luggage is delayed you will still be able to take some photos with the gear you have on you and you can charge and back up once your luggage arrives.
  2. Keep your lens clean
    always pack something to clean your camera and lenses after each day (I like to travel with a little duster and blower and a cloth). If you take care of your gear it will take care of you.
  3. Never miss an early morning drive!
    Yes, 5am is very early. But not once was I sorry that I missed a morning drive. The most beautiful light on safari, the most action as nature awakens and the sounds are just so beautiful too.
  4. Always keep your camera ready to shoot. Not in your bag.
    Only pack away your camera once you have returned to the lodge. You never know what waits around the corner and you may miss a beautiful photo opportunity. Nature waits for no one.
  5. Please take note of all serial numbers for your photographic gear while packing. This may be required upon arrival at your chosen destination as part of a customs check or for other reasons such as insurance.

In this article
  • Introduction
  • Phone vs. Professional Gear?
  • What equipment to pack?
  • My Photography
  • Charging while travelling
  • Luggage restrictions
  • Top Tips

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