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How to take great photographs in the bush

A South African safari may be a once in a lifetime experience and one that can be a lot of fun for photographers. If you are planning a trip to Morukuru Family Madikwe, take a look at these tips from our Ranger and General Manager Armand Steyn, a keen and experienced wildlife photographer.

What to do before you leave home: Spend some time getting to understand how your camera works. Not everyone is a camera buff - so practicing a bit is a great idea - especially if you are working with new equipment.

Preparation: Take some time to understand a bit about animal behaviour - this will give you a better chance of spotting them, and you will be able to predict their actions and get better shots. When we have guests on the game vehicle, we share some of our knowledge and are always available to answer questions. Building enthusiasm for the bush is all part of the experience. Sit, listen and wait: Morukuru Family Madikwe is part of the Madikwe reserve which is a true wilderness. It is helpful to remember that even with the experience of our rangers and trackers, you can’t just drive and expect to see animals in every direction. Be patient. Allow your guides to put the work in. You will be rewarded with super opportunities. Composition: Don’t always feel you have to put your main subject right in the middle. When photographing an animal, take note of what it’s doing and the direction it’s looking or moving in. This can help with the placement.  Use the rule of thirds when composing your picture. Taking Close-ups of animals: Focus on the animal's eyes as this creates an interesting photo. Think about taking a range of shots:  For example, when taking photos of an Elephant, take a portrait shot; include one more with the general habitat in context to the subject, then another with close-up detail, such as horns and face.

Create some context:  Photos are more interesting if you capture some of the foreground and background that will enhance or detract from your photograph.   Look for unique opportunities: We like to mix things up so that it is not just the Big Five. Remember, different wildlife situations give different viewing and shooting opportunities. You can capture brilliant bush moments with shots of birds, insects and other creatures like bats and frogs.     Take lots of shots: The top professional photographers take loads of images - then they have plenty to select from. Best times to shoot: The best time to take photos is in the early morning and late afternoon; this is when the natural light is best for taking photos and when the animals are most active. Luckily this is also the time of day when most game drives take place. Don’t chase the shot:  Sometimes, it is just as important NOT to take a photo. Savour the moment with your own eyes and not through a viewfinder. No camera can capture the pure joy of an unforced encounter with a wild animal.  

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