Like most photographers, I have a “Bucket List”; a set of locations that I want to photograph before I kick the bucket. Africa has always been on that list, and it was at the top. This last June 1st I got to mark that one as done. The safari I signed on for was a 10-day expedition, which meant it gave me 8 days to see and photograph Kenya. It takes a day each way to travel. The safari company I used has a great reputation and has a good track record for giving you the ability to see the “Big Five”. The Big Five is a term relating back to the big game hunting days and includes the Lion, Leopard, Rhinoceros, Elephant, and Cape Buffalo. And they delivered; I got the chance to see and photograph each one.
During my 8 days of travel in Kenya, I got to experience the 3 best Game reserves, Amboseli, Lake Naivasha, and Masai Mara. I shot with 3 cameras, a natural color camera, a Super Color Infrared camera, and a Hyper Color IR camera. I now realize that I overloaded myself, and will not try and carry all 3 again. In total, I captured over 1oK frames. I am still reviewing images now, 3 months later.
I wasn’t sure if I would find myself using my color camera more than my IR cameras, but I think I shot about half color and half IR. Infrared does lend itself to the images and in the end I think some of my IR has been the best images.
This was shot in Super Color.
And this was made in Hyper Color and then converted to Monochrome Sepia
The trip for me was life-changing; the chance to experience these magnificent creatures roaming free in their natural environment was amazing, to say the least. At the end I found I had fallen in love with the giraffes most all.
So, Now what?
I want to go back, and I want other photographers to have the opportunity to experience what I did, so I negotiated an amazingly low rate for an expedition in 2019.
Wanna know more about it? Click here
Now, some of the things I learned.
You probably Won’t need a Tripod Much
The majority of your time is spent inside a vehicle, like a Range Rover or Land Cruiser. There literally is no space to set up a tripod. You might have the opportunity to shoot with a tripod at the end of the day, but during the day you won’t need it.
This leads me to the next thing.
You do Need a Photographers Sand Bag or Bean Bag
A photographers sandbag is exactly what it sounds like, a small bag to balance your camera on. I found mine on Amazon, and then cheated a little. With beans or sand in it, the bag was over 5 pounds, which made it a hassle to transport. So instead I filled it with Polystyrene beads like they put in stuffed animals. Now the bag works great and weighs way less than a pound.
Africa is Not always hot
If you are like me, you’ve seen too many movies and think Africa is always hot and sweltering. Uhh….. no, that’s not the case. I live in St Louis, MO and when I left home June 1st it was almost 20 degrees warmer than when I arrived in Nairobi. The entire time I was there it never got much above 75 degrees. I wore a light jacket quite a bit of the time.
Pack Light and Pack Right
You are going on Safari, you need to be comfortable, not fashionable. Fight the urge to overpack and if possible use a non-hard sided suitcase. Your luggage is going travel quite a distance by vehicle, and you will be better off with something not rigid. As for your camera gear, I suggest taking everything out of your bag or backpack and then deciding what really needs to go. Things like a rain cover are a good idea, but we all have things in our camera bags that we have for that 1 in a million situation. Be realistic and only take what you need.
This leads me to my next thing.
You need a good Telephoto Lens
There will be plenty of situations where you are a slight distance from a creature and will want to close that gap and still be alive afterward. I did some research before I left and found a great Ultra-telephoto, the Tamron 150-600mm. You can read that review here I also had a 70-300mm Lens which also came in handy. Those two were what I used most and then occasionally used my 24-105mm.
Believe it or not, I shot this with the 70-300mm
The area is so expansive, that a 70mm image looks like a wide angle.
You need lots of memory cards. More than what you think. Have you ever filled up a 64GB card? You will, and that may be before lunch. Also, bring enough storage to hold everything you’re going to shoot. I do a double back up each day to separate hard drives. You’re going all that way; it would be a shame to return empty-handed.
There is a ton of dust everywhere; I cleaned my gear every evening.
Cellphone coverage is spotty at best, and most call plans are expensive. One option is to buy a Sim card at the airport and swap it out with the one in your phone. I found an even better way to stay in communication, and it was free. There is a phone app called “Duo” that works for both Android and iPhone. As long as both parties have the app loaded and you have a wifi single, you can call or video chat with them anywhere in the world. It’s a great way to stay in contact.
So, I have completed an item on my Bucket List, and if you’d like to see all the images I’ve made so far, you can click here
If you’d like to join me next year, click here
Here are a few more images just for the heck of it.