If you speak to any wildlife photographer, Africa will most likely be on their list of aspirations if they’re not already been. Every day in Africa is special with many opportunities at every turn, but it’s not without its challenges!
Most morning or evenings you will be blessed with a beautiful sunrise or sunset with beautiful golden light flooding the valley, but it doesn’t take long for this light to become harsh, washing out any contrast or colour in your images. Overcast days will be your best friend, but make sure you make the most of your small slot of time in the mornings and evenings when the light is ideal. It’s always worth leaving extra early to ensure you find the wildlife and are set up before sunrise! Trips that set off after sunrise or throughout the day are in no way ideal for photography.
Overcast conditions will be your best friend and ally in Africa.
Depending on where in Africa you go on Safari, as well as the time of year, you may or may not find yourself surrounded by other vehicles and people when you locate wildlife. Vehicles being in the background of your images are the least of your worries as they are usually considerate of others, but it’s not uncommon for vehicles to intentionally block off, disturb and divert wildlife in order to get good images.
Getting something different
One of the biggest challenges with wildlife photography in Africa is capturing something unique and different. Over your first few days you may find that you keep capturing the same images over and over again. Being primed and ready for unique behaviours from wildlife will help you to get a varied portfolio.
Dust gets EVERYWHERE in Africa, with vehicles kicking up dirt from the paths and roads and general dust in the air. This can make changing lenses difficult and cleaning the front elements of your lenses will be necessary throughout the day. I’d never needed to clean my sensor before, but left with over 20 dust spots on 2 separate cameras.
Rather than focusing on the Hippo, I chose to focus on the Oxpecker in this instance to highlight a harrowing story.
Whether your vehicle limits you or not will depend on where you’re on safari and the type of vehicle you’re in. Some locations like Mana Pools allow you to do safari on foot where others only allow viewing from vehicles. This means you’re unable to shoot low to the ground but could also restrict how wide the window is for you to take images out of. Typically windows towards the back of standard 4×4 vehicles don’t open as wide as the front windows. Many photography specific tours give you your own row in the vehicle to ensure you can capture the action no matter which side it’s on, but you will often be sharing with other people which means there’s a risk of the action being on the wrong side of the vehicle. Sometimes it’s worth paying extra for your own row so this doesn’t happen.
Consider monochrome or infrared
There’s something about the colours, textures and light in Africa which works extremely well in B&W. Although this may not be anything new or unique it’s worth considering when processing your images.
Something about the simplicity of this image convinced me to convert it to B&W.