Wildlife Photography tips for the amateur photographer.

If you have an interest in wildlife photography and wondering where to begin there is light at the end of the tunnel by just following a few easy steps.

The first thing to do is get the right equipment for the job, depending on what you think of shooting like landscapes, animals, or birds. The right equipment is crucial to get that perfect shot.

For a good all round choice get yourself a DSLR camera of your choice with 2 exchangeable lenses, one wide angel 18 -70mm is a good option and a zoom lens, the 100-400mm has a good range for the photos that needs a bit more zooming.  Of course, there are always the more expensive telephoto lenses as well that the top professionals use but if you know the basics you don’t necessarily need that to take high quality wildlife images.

When shooting wildlife like animals or birds you would always try and get the best angle, which is not always possible when on a game viewing vehicle. Patience is a big part of wildlife photography, you can sometimes sit for hours at a water hole waiting for the one shot that will make the wait worth wile.  For landscape photos light is the most important, the best time for landscape shots is early morning or late afternoon when the light is much softer, you will end up with more quality images compared to shooting in full afternoon sun.

The DSLR cameras have a lot of functions that you can adjust, you definitely don’t need to know all of them, but to know a few and what they are there for will make a huge difference in your photo quality.  The last thing you want to do is shoot on full auto, that will make your photos look very amateurish.

The first setting that you need to adjust and place your camera on is apateur prihority, this is where you adjust your f stop of your camera (the lens opening), the camera will automatically adjust all other setting for you accordingly, it all depends on your lens but you can adjust the range anything form F4.5 to F22. The higher you go on your f-stop setting the more in focus everything will be from your focus point to whatever is behind it, F16 and higher is good for landscapes just keep in mind you need a lot of good light for high f-stop shots or a tripod.  The lower your f-stop the less light you need and its more used for close ups, such as the head of a lion through a zoom lens, where there is only one object in the shot.

The next important thing to look at is your ISO setting, the ISO controls the sensitivity of light going through the camera, you would generally want to keep the ISO as low as possible, a good ISO for wildlife on a good day will be between 250 or 400. The higher you go on your ISO settings the darker it can be like for a dusk or dawn shot you can move it up to 800, just remember the higher you go the grainier your photo will be so keep it as low as possible.

The last thing you need to look at is your white balance setting, this is one of the easiest setting to adjust on your camera, there is an auto white balance setting that you can use but it is better in the end to adjust it yourself for the most accurate image color. White balance is where you adjust your camera to the lighting conditions in your environment, for example inside a room there will be fluorescent light bulbs so you will need to switch your white balance to the fluorescent setting.  There are white balance settings for incandescent, fluorescent, flash, cloudy, open shade and sunny.

For wildlife photography, you will only use the cloudy, sunny, and open shade options, so you will need to set it to the setting according to the weather conditions.

You will have to play around with the settings and find out where they can be found on your camera (refer to the manual if unsure), but in the end the most imported thing to do is have fun and enjoy the beautiful world we live in.

(written by Riaan Geldenhuys)

Botswana Sunsets & Waterways

Botswana, what an amazing experience it was indeed! I have only driven through Botswana on route to Namibia, this was my first time to enjoy the privilege of spending a few nights in this lovely country.

Our first 2 nights were spent at Tuskers Bush Camp, a small bush camp situated approximately 2-3 hours from Maun in the private Kwatale concession on the eastern edge of the Moremi Game Reserve.  What a lovely place! Very rustic whilst imparting that true sense of an African Safari.  We enjoyed magical African sunsets and sundwoners at the end of both days.  It is such a relaxing moment absorbing the sounds of nature all around you.  Here you have the real ‘In Africa’ feeling. If you love and prefer to sleep in the middle of nowhere, then this is the place to be.  Accommodation is in a tented camp with all the needed facilities that you will expect in your typical bush camp. There are no electrical points in the tents and your telephone and camera are charged in the main area if needed.  Tuskers offer a stunning view over the waterhole from their dining area where you will most definitely see giraffes and elephants visiting the waterhole in the afternoon. They have lovely staff and good food.

Tip for the travellers: Use water sparingly when you shower as salt cold water is always readily available, but the fresh warm water needs to be attained from the staff before you can shower.

After Tuskers we took a road transfer to the Delta where we enjoyed a boat transfer to Xobega Island Camp. Forests, pans, rivers, open grassy plains – all just breathtakingly beautiful.  So in other words; it is not just a transfer – but more of a great experience.

When we arrived at Xobega we were warmly greeted by the staff and the manager is an absolute delight.  We sat in the main area and the camp manager explained all the safety rules and logistics of the camp.  The camp is neat and clean and the staff also very friendly.  The tents are clean and comfortable and perfectly functional with a “bucket” shower and a chemical toilet.  I love the idea that they are so eco-friendly.

In the late afternoon we took a boat cruise through the channels of the delta which opens into huge “lagoons” which is just absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.  The sunset was amazing and the birdlife outstanding! I have honestly never seen a sunset so beautiful as like that afternoon.  Even the hippos popped up every regularly to admire it.

Xobega is a must for all bird lovers! The boat cruises really caters for this.  Our cameras were constantly snapping away at the rich variety and considerable numbers of birds in the Delta.  There is currently a resident Pel’s fishing owl nesting on Xobega island.  We had the privilege on going on the Mokoro’s between the channels.  This was really an awesome experience and I would recommend this to anyone.  The local guides who steer the mokoro’s through the winding waterways are exceptionally skilful as poling a mokoro is not for the unexperienced.

Tip for travellers: Use water sparingly at Xobega.  Other than at Tuskers; cold water is also limited.  So when you shower, be sure to close the shower, then wash, then open to rinse again as one will not be able to get water at night as you are not allowed to walk alone at night to the main area.

After we visited the Delta, we made our way to Ghoha Hills for 2 nights.  We were met by Zambo, who was also our guide for the stay.  What a pleasant and lovely guy he was.

The lodge is set on the highest mountain (Goha Hill) in the area and has a spectacular view of the Savuti Plains. Ghoha Lodge is a stunning lodge! The décor and facilities in the tents are lovely and the views from the rooms are breathtaking! A big thumbs up to the chefs of Ghoha as the food was really divine.  The lounge and swimming pool areas beckon you to relax for a while. The fire-pit/boma area is so delightful. The view from the main area is great and there is also a water hole where animals go to drink at various times of the day.

The rooms are very spacious and allows for a lot of privacy. The shower is absolutely amazing as you look out onto the bushveld while taking a shower. The tents are well appointed with luxurious products and personal touches to make you feel at home.

The overall experience at Ghoha was the best we had on our trip. Accommodation, game viewing, food, service and the list goes on!

Tip for travellers: Stay for more than 2 nights only.  It is totally worth it! ?

Our last night we spent in Mankwe with Africa Ecco Mobile Safaris at their mobile camping set up.  I must honestly say that they offered much more than what I have ever expected from mobile camping. I didn’t expect to have such a full and detailed service as what we received with Ecco.  Their attention to detail was superb. The food was made over an open fire which made it really special in a true African safari way.  Water to wash your face in the mornings was readily available and provided by the staff.  Towels and body wash was ready when one wanted to go take a shower.

I will easily spend a 2 week tour through Botswana with Africa Ecco Safaris!

Botswana was truly an amazing place! I would do everything all over again in a heartbeat! The educational would not have been so great if it was not for our awesome guide, Wilson.  I have been on a few safaris before, but never have I met such a knowledgeable, friendly, and spontaneous guide.  Normally things that I would not find interesting he managed to make it truly absorbing. A very big thumbs up to him!

I would just like to thank each and everyone from the Sun Destinations team for affording us the opportunity to take part in this Botswana educational and to gain first-hand experience in your properties.  It was an amazing experience and one I will treasure forever.

(written by Monique Streicher)