Photography guide Hilton Kotze of South Africa gives us the ins and outs
of a photo safari in Africa. Hilton clues us in on everything from what gear
to bring, to what to expect, to what types of photo safaris are offered.
*Please scroll to the bottom of the post for more images from our guest.*
Preparing for an African Photographic Safari
with Hilton Kotze
“You need to be able to adapt your shooting style to your environment and to what nature is presenting you with that day.”
This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Be prepared for it. Make the most of it. Is the sky really overcast? Create high-key images, convert to B&W, blur out the background or try panning.
- Best time of year for safari – winter (mid-March to October-November)
The air is cooler.
Animals stay active for longer periods in the morning and evening.
Water holes are shrinking, bringing a higher concentration of animals to the remaining water and increasing your chances of sighting game.
The night sky is incredible and clear.
- Best time of year for landscape images – the rainy season (mid-November to mid-March)
Sporadic thunderstorms create a beautiful, lush, green landscape. Warning – the bugs are bad.
The best landscapes are NOT to be found on safari.
Before you Go – Know Your Gear
- Understand and be familiar with your camera.
“Things happen at the spur of the moment. We don’t have time to explain camera settings in the field. You need to be comfortable and proficient.”
- Take a basic photography course (like our 4 Weeks to Proficiency!) and learn to shoot in manual.
- Your lens is very important. A better lens will give better images.
Recommend 300-400mm reach for safari.
You can RENT a long lens for about $50/day from Africa Photographic Services. (Transportation and delivery fees are extra if you’re not using Hilton as your guide.)
24-105mm is a good general lens to have on hand.
28-300mm has good versatility.
17-40mm is good for general images, sunsets, and stars.
- Take a camera with a high ISO capability. Predators are most active at dusk.
- Lodges supply heavy beanbags for support and most vehicles are equipped with support systems for your camera.
A tripod won’t work on the vehicle but is good for landscapes and long exposures of the stars.
- An external flash is useful. A leopard in a tree is partially shaded. The flash can be used to fill in and add a glint to the eye.
Public or Private?
- Safaris within public parks are cheaper and are a great experience. There is a sense of adventure as you drive through the park yourself.
Drawbacks – you have to stay on the main roads and animal sightings may end up with a 20-30 car traffic jam.
- Safaris within a private reserve give a more authentic bush experience.
The vehicles are geared for off-road driving and can follow the animals.
You are paired with a GUIDE and RANGER who communicate with you, as well as a highly skilled TRACKER to make sure you don’t miss an opportunity to see the wildlife.