And suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of a herd of African elephants. My heart was beating frantically and I felt so incredibly overwhelmed that I actually had tears in my eyes. For as long as I live, I will never forget my first meeting up close with the pachyderms of the Tarangire National Park in Tanzania. We would have been able to touch these wonderful animals if we had stretched out our hands beyond the vehicle! Instead I chose to capture the rough, crumpled, wrinkled, and yet beautiful elephant skin with my camera. Our trip to Tanzania was in many ways a very special experience for me. Not just emotionally, but also a totally new challenge to my photography.
When people ask me about my photo equipment on this trip, I can only emphasize again and again how useful it was to have thought carefully about photo situations on safari even as we were planning our travels. I wanted to be well-prepared and, after a lot of deliberation, I decided to purchase a 150-500 mm telezoom lens in addition to my allround 18-200 mm travel lens, which is usually more than adequate. I also bought a second camera body, because changing lenses on the go is not only impractical and slows the photographer in his or her reaction to a photo situation, it is also not good for the equipment, because there is always dust in the air which can enter the sensitive interior of the camera when changing over. On safari, we traveled in a jeep with a sliding roof and not on foot. Therefore the weight of my photo equipment wasn’t an issue. I stored everything securely in my Slingbag Agile V. The white color might seem impractical at first glance and too easily soiled, but it had the advantage that compared to a black photo backpack, its color is less attractive to mosquitoes and tsetse flies.
Here are a few very practical tips for those planning a safari trip:
Even if more or less all good lenses are by now equipped with picture stabilizers to avoid shaky pictures, it still makes sense to ask the safari guide to turn off the motor during a photo stop.
A bean bag comes in extremely handy for a safari tour in a jeep. I helps to stabilize and prop up the camera on the edge of the open car roof or on the rim of the open window. Ask beforehand whether your safari jeep (as ours) is already equipped with bean bags. If not, it is definitely worth it to bring one along from home. Maybe you even have the necessary DIY talent and feel like sewing your own bean bag? In any case, you can bring along your empty bean bag and only fill it with peas, beans, rice, or sand when you get here, in order to save on baggage weight.
It is vital that you have enough memory cards with you. There is no such thing as too much memory space and if you run out of storage room, it is difficult and sometimes very expensive to stock up locally. The same applies to camera batteries, which you should also carry in sufficient numbers. You should also ask about charging options at your destination and adjust to the local circumstances. Multi-plug connectors and adapters should always accompany you on travels at any rate. Some camps don’t have any power in their accommodation, but only offer collective charging stations in common rooms. Sometimes this leads to a shortage of free plug-in slots. Nowadays many safari jeeps offer the option of charging via USB cable inside the vehicle. If this convenient extra isn’t available, it might be expedient to purchase a powerful external charger which you can take along anywhere.
Even if you are ordinarily not a fan of using lens filters, using a neutral UV filter on safari makes sense. It protects the lens from dust and jolts while traveling and is easy to clean.
Whatever equipment you take along, always have your camera ready – at all times! When you’re on safari, you never know what breathtaking photo chance will be just around the corner! 😉
Nic aka “Luzia Pimpinella” has been passionate about blogging since 2006. She loves traveling and good food. She is a freelance textile designer, compulsive do-it-yourself person, and keen photographer.