Four tips on photographing stationary ‘safari’ animals
Having written an article on photographing moving animals last week I thought I would write one that focuses on tips on photographing stationary or slowly moving ‘safari’ animals this week. This is an area that I normally have more success with but I have come across some interesting tips in preparation for upcoming safaris that I wanted to share with you.
When on safaris, telephoto lenses are in use so it is important to think about how you are going to have a stable base when taking your photos. You certainly don’t want to go away on safari and come back with a whole lot of blurry photos. At the same time, we tend to aim for low ISO speeds which of course also translates to lower shutter speeds.
I have been on three safaris in Africa: one each in Kenya, Tanzania and Kruger National Park, South Africa. Two different types of vehicles have been used on these safaris:
- pop top roofs
- open jeeps.
I have made use of a monopod on all my safaris but there are alternatives. With the pop top roof type vehicle you have a built in camera rest so some recommend a bean bag for this purpose. The same doesn’t apply to the open jeep (but of course you have the advantage of a greater field of vision in this type of vehicle). The other thing to be conscious of with a monopod is to think about your travelling companions – especially if they aren’t photo enthusiasts.
My upcoming safaris consist of:
- a walking safari in Kruger
- a photographic safari in Namibia.
Clearly, circumstances will be different on the walking safari – from a support viewpoint my general plan at this stage is to use a monopod but will see what advice I receive on that aspect when there.
We will be using a pop top vehicle on the photographic safari. I have asked the guide about using a bean bag for that trip. He has indicated he will provide advice on a hand held supporting technique and has suggested bringing along something like a T shirt to lean your arms on. It will be interesting to see how this goes – I will report back on this approach at a future date.
Other steps to minimise camera shake
I have typically left my camera on single shot on my previous safaris. However, I have recently seen some advice suggesting placing it on high speed continuous – the argument being that a single press of the shutter will trigger a few shots with the latter ones likely to be sharper than the original one. Time will tell on this.
Others have made the point that results will be improved by shooting from a low angle (for example, here). This is something that I will definitely experiment with when on my walking safari – it is a bit harder to achieve when in vehicles – but still something to be conscious of.
Think about your desired depth of field
It is worth thinking whether you want a shallow (small f stop) or wide (higher f stop) depth of field. This is all dependent on the type of shot you are taking and your desired effect. My norm is to go towards wider depth of field (shutter speed and relatively low ISO permitting) but there are times when a ‘portrait’ shot of an animal would benefit from a narrow depth of field. This is more important with a distracting background.
There are lots of resources about photographing animals while on safari – I would certainly recommend a google search for both technique advice and also photos taken at the locations you are visiting. There are also some useful tips at the post I did last week on capturing moving animals that you may be interested in.
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