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African Safari 2007




Will I be able to recharge my video camera batteries?
If a camp or lodge is connected to electricity mains or has a generator you may be able to recharge your video batteries. Many camps and lodges have the correct adapter plugs however we recommend that you bring your own plug and converter. One of the best options for recharging video batteries is an adapter allowing you to recharge from a vehicle battery.

to charge your camera battery using the car battery you need an inverter (this converts the car battery power to house current). You will plug the inverter into the cigarette lighter and your battery charger into the inverter. We charged camera, laptop and mini harddrive batteries for 6 photographers on a 17 night trip using inverters plugged into cigaratte lighters so you shoudn't have any problems. Do take a spare battery so you can be charging one and using one at the same time. You can buy them several places.

You can always take an pure sin inverter like:

Leave it behind as part of the tip. This is what I did to insure my computer and camera batteries were charged. Nothing like being 1st in line. These inverters cost a mint in Africa, and you would be a hero.

Can I take pictures of people?
In Africa, you will have an overwhelming amount of opportunity to take quality pictures that look like a picture out of National Geographic. If you do take pictures of people, ask first. Quite often, if you’re in a tourist area, they will want money. How would you like rich people taking pictures of you all day?

Make sure to never take pictures of military people, police or government establishments. In some countries, it’s highly illegal.

For cameras, make sure you have an air brush. I would recommend an air duster. It’s sometimes very dusty on drives.

You will want a lens attachment for your camers that will double or triple your zoom...the animals dont' stand at the side of the road waiting for you, no matter how much the Kenyan and Tanzanian governments pay them. When you arrive purchase an aerosol air duster. The dust in relentless and even the best lens cloth will eventually sratch your lenses. Use your lens cover constantly and here's a great time someone shared with us. When you are not using the camera keep it in a ziploc bag.

Camera - I gave in and bought a Rebel Digital XT 8meg camera with a 300 zoom image stabilizer. I quickly realized it was absolutely necessary for the trip. Although I am a total photo novice (as may be evident with the pics), I shot some photos that would have been impossible without a zoom lens. I felt very bad for the many tourists using a 3x zoom lens on a leopard in a tree 50 feet away. Spend the extra two grand - it is worth it.


Shoot From a Low Angle
Many photographers shoot out of roof hatches. This is a comfortable shooting position because you can stand on the floor of the vehicle and rest your arms on the roof. The camera is cushioned by a bean bag, and you’re in business.

However, when you lower your camera position, something very interesting happens. Wildlife subjects gain stature. Whether you’re shooting elephants, lions or warthogs, a low camera angle makes the animal seem larger, more powerful, and more intimidating. Plus, there’s an intimacy in the photograph that’s often lacking when the camera angle is aimed downward. I shoot from a window, rather than from the roof. If I could get out of the vehicle and shoot from the ground, this would be ideal. But in most game parks this is prohibited for obvious reasons.

Bring a Second Camera Body
There aren’t any camera stores in the bush, nor does FedEx deliver there. If you have a mechanical problem with a camera body, you’re in big trouble. Seeing something spectacular on your photo safari and not being able to shoot it because your camera malfunctioned is much worse than getting three root canals at the dentist.

Trust me on this. The solution, of course, is to bring a second camera body. Even if you have to rent one, it’s worth your peace of mind.

Bring a Pillow Case for Dust
Most photographers travel to Africa during the dry season. The weather is great, but the lack of rainfall means that dust can be a serious problem. There are many dirt roads with no vegetation or gravel to inhibit the giant clouds of dust from forming behind each vehicle. Windows are always open so you can shoot quickly if need be, and this means that camera gear is constantly exposed to damage. There’s nothing worse for a photographer than focusing and hearing grit inside the lens.

One solution to this problem is to bring a cotton pillow case to cover your camera and/or your camera bag. I specify cotton because you don’t want to use a synthetic material that attracts dust.

7/11-Lots of extra zip locks for all kinds of uses. In particular to keep your camera or camcorder in between shots to keep the dust out of the equipment. We had to use a new zip lock every 2 days, it was so dusty.

Minimize Unwanted Vibration
Even with relatively fast shutter speeds, the vibration from your vehicle’s motor can degrade image quality. You may end up with shots that are acceptable, but not as sharp as they should be. Let your driver know that every time you stop for photos, he must turn the engine off. In addition, there should be an agreement with all the people in the vehicle that when photographers are composing their shots and taking pictures, movement within the vehicle must be at an absolute minimum. No one moves or changes position unless it’s necessary. When you’re shooting with a long lens, the slightest movement is magnified. It’s not only annoying, it will ruin a good picture.

Avoid Harsh Light When Photographing Native People
Most African tribespeople have very dark skin. The worst time to photograph them is at high noon, using harsh, overhead sunlight. The sheen on their skin from the sun, combined with the dark color, produces highlights and shadows that are several f-stops apart. This contrast makes pictures virtually worthless.

Instead, photograph them in the shade, at sunrise or sunset, or under overcast conditions. This will make a world of difference. If you encounter people you want to photograph at midday when the sun is out, find some way to block the sun—a large tree, the side of a hut, or a large diffusion panel used to soften light.

Shoot Early, Shoot Late
The most dramatic lighting in nature occurs when the sun is very close to the horizon. Your nature pictures will dramatically improve when you take advantage of this low-angled, golden light. Most safaris in Africa head out early, come in for lunch, and then stay out until late afternoon. Make sure the group with whom you travel promises to be in search of game just before sunrise and at least until the sun drops below the western horizon.

In countries close to or on the Equator, like Kenya and Tanzania, sunrise and sunset lighting can be measured in minutes. The sun moves very fast, and the "sweet light" doesn’t last long. In the morning, for example, the first 30 minutes is ideal, and then the light gets more harsh until 60–90 minutes after the sun first appeared before the show is over. In the afternoon, the last 90 minutes are ideal, but the best light occurs during the last half-hour before sunset. Don’t let your driver return for dinner until the sun is down.

For the bean bag hint, I have taken several ziplock bags and just filled them with local sand that can be dumped.

4/9-Buy a Kinesis Safari Sack bean bag, either prefilled with buckwheat or empty. You can always fill one up with red beans when you get there.

yes, bean bags are superior!

Another viewon bean/rice bags:I have used the Kinesis "Safari Sacks" filled with rice, polystyrene beads and Buckwheat Hulls. I like the rice best. The weight makes it very stable. Just drop it down anywhere and rest your long lens and camera body on it and it stays put.

You'll want a camera with a minimum OPTICAL zoom of 10x. If you can get 12x that would be even better. Here are two 5 megapixel, 12x optical zoom digital cameras that you should be able to find online for less than $500 -

. How much more memory should I get for a 10 night safari? At Luangwa River Lodge where we will be staying for the first 5 days they can download to CD. I don't want to get a storage device, just more memory cards if needed. Thanks!!

ANSWERS: Get 2 more 512meg cards, at least, minimum. And don't whine about the cost. Will cost you around $40-$50 each. Pocket change compared to the cost of your safari.

Get 2 more 512meg cards, at least, minimum. And don't whine about the cost. Will cost you around $40-$50 each. Pocket change compared to the cost of your safari.
regards - tom

I am going for a 3 week trip, taking 1,000 (approx) in print film (35mm), as well as 2 gigs of memory for my Sony digital (small camera). You would rather take too much, than not enough- it isn't that expensive, or heavy to carry- err on the side of too much!!! Suzic

Yep, I'd get a portable storage device. I can't recommend one as there are so many these days - I use an X Drive but that's quite an old one.
Storage devices are nice, will hold a lot and provide perhaps backup for cards. But they cost what, $200?, and require you to learn them well enough to have total confidence in what you are doing. If you are going to take (only!) around 2,000 photos I would just use memory cards. (Of course you do not have a backup copy but that as you know is a whole other big subject).
regards - tom
If you do go with a storage device, I recommend the iPod Photo -- like most things Mac it is simple and easy to use, and doubles as an MP3 player. You can see the photos to check that they have transferred (very important!).

New-1/26/06-Not necessarily the cheapest option, but we ended up with a FlashTrax. It is an overgrown mp3 player, but also designed as a downloadable photo storage device. It (the one I got) has a 30gig hard drive for storage and has a 2 1/2 inch lcd screen and it will actually show you your pictures. That was the turning point for Carol, in that she wanted to know that the pictures were there before erasing the flash card. There are some downloadable devices that will take a variety of flash card, but many of them will not show you the picture.

Regardless of if we take the laptop now or not, will take that gizmo regardless, as it will probably last longer under battery power than the laptop, as it really is a single function device for how we are going to use it. Then will probably sell it upon our return, as I don't really think we will have a long term need for it. The Flashtrax does have an option to take other types of media (with an adapter) if you camera is not a compact flash card. When comparing the prices, given the number of cards were were going to have to buy it was a simple choice. Also I got a refurbished one with factory warranty for basically 1/2 off the retail price, so that helped a lot also. If you use compact flash I can tell you where you can get it.

As a guideline -- on my first trip to Africa, I found that I used about 512K a day (roughly) with the 4 MP camera I had at the time. And that was with editing on the fly and trying to cut down on redundant pictures.

If you do download to CD, either make 2 CDs (and check that the images have transferred correctly) or keep the images on the memory cards. Backup, backup, backup!
What will you do to backup your photos after you leave LRL? Will you stop taking photos?
I can't imagine going without a backup device, because you will take more photos than you have ever taken before
And you'll still need more cards. You could use up all the cards you have if you have one good encounter with some cute lion cubs.
One idea: Buy your extra memory cards at somewhere you can return them if you don't use them-- but of course you'll have to carry them in the packaging, which is a big pain. Memory is expensive in Africa (when it is available

Buy a small portable hard drive ( size of Cig packet) I have one from smartdisk with 20gb and it cost about €170. Money very well spent
Buy extra cards. Upon return, they are fairly easy to resell on eBay


We were able to recharge ours in most camps - some had outlets in the tents, others only had central outlets in the office and we'd leave chargers and spare batteries with them overnight or during a drive (taking the other one out with us).

I wrap all the cameras and lenses in bubble wrap and put them in my backpack which I carry on. This includes the lead-lined bag for film and other items. Then I pack in my checked luggage the small empty camera bags. When I get to Kenya I transfer the cameras to their own individual cases and take those two small bags with film and supplies on each game drive.

Any driver who is worth his pay will gladly stop and shut off the engines for you to take any kind of photo, whether video or otherwise. If he doesn't just politely ask him to do so.

We took about 1500 photos. We had three 1GB cards. This allowed me (on the 765) 2000 photos per card and DH (on the 8080) about 800. He filled one card, I didn’t. We also brought a 40GB Woverine portable photo storage device as a backup. It worked great when I practiced with it but I bought a new 1 GB xD card before we left and it didn’t work when I tried to use it in the Wolverine. It worked fine with the CompactFlash cards and the smaller capacity xD cards, though.

Photography Film is sometimes available at safari camps and game lodges even in remote areas, but stocks are usually small and of a common type only. We suggest you buy plenty of film and bring spare batteries with you before leaving home. Film is expensive and, in addition, may not be very fresh; batteries are expensive and difficult to obtain. For game and bird photography, a telephoto lens of between 200 and 300 mm is strongly recommended. Larger lenses, which require a tripod, are generally impractical for photography from vehicles, as are double lens reflex cameras. Binoculars are invaluable for game and bird viewing, and each traveler should have their own pair. Out of respect for the local cultures, seek the advice of your driver before photographing people. Note that certain Government, military and police buildings may not be photographed. Video cameras can be recharged at many safari camps via the camp generator at the discretion of the camp management. The following guidelines on quantities to bring may be helpful: Minimum of 12 to 15 rolls of film 40% Fast (400 ASA), 60% Normal (200 ASA), 1 x 1000 ASA 2 Lenses (50 mm and zoom 200 mm minimum) Lens tissue, dust cover, fresh batteries, filters Spare batteries Camera. I recommend at least a 200mm telephoto lens. You'll get great shots without toting around a big heavy lens. A 300mm lens is even better, if you don't mind the extra weight. Camera film is expensive and it may be old or not stored properly, so bring your own. If you take a digital camera, make sure you have a big memory card (or buy a digital wallet) -- you'll take more pictures than you think. A video camera is a great way to share your experiences with friends and family at home. The smaller the better. Bring extra batteries and a car charger so that you can recharge the battery in the jeep.

I still can?t believe I went on safari without a zoom lens. I bought a Nikon FM 10 with a 35-70 mm lens just before leaving, and by that time I had burnt a hole in my budget with all the pre-trip shopping, so I made the fatal mistake of not buying a lens with a longer range.. 200 mm is bare minimum, but 300 would be Please carry AT LEAST a 300 mm lens with you. I got a lot of great landscapes, and at times we were lucky with getting animals close enough so I could get good results with my lens, but by the 2nd day, I was wincing every time I saw a Japanese tourist with a lens that looked like a bazooka.

I agree that a zoom lens is worthwhile but wouldn't recommend going ABOVE 300mm unless you buy an Image Stabiliser (also known as Vibration Reduction) and those are expensive! Above 300mm for a regular lens is very difficult to hand hold and you'll end up with blurred images. Beanbags are great, wouldn't bother with tripods unless you're intending to get out and take pics or if you have a private vehicle and can stop and take time to set the tripod up. Re the engine - I simply asked drivers to switch it off if necessary and they were happy to do so.

On the camera subject, I agree w/ Kavey to tell drivers to switch the car off if they don't automatically

Remember, you cannot drive off road while in most parks in Northern Tanzania, so make sure you guys have a good zoom lens.

Under 8 power is too weak. Over 10 power is too strong (unless you are skilled in holding the binoculars steadily when the vehicle is moving, idling or starting).

We took about 1500 photos. We had three 1GB cards. This allowed me (on the 765) 2000 photos per card and DH (on the 8080) about 800. He filled one card, I didn’t. We also brought a 40GB Woverine portable photo storage device as a backup. It worked great when I practiced with it but I bought a new 1 GB xD card before we left and it didn’t work when I tried to use it in the Wolverine. It worked fine with the CompactFlash cards and the smaller capacity xD cards, though.

New-1/31/06- QUESTION: What do you all use to clean cameras, lenses, filters of dust, grit, in the field?

ANSWERS: My most used item is a small anti/static brush for cleaning dust off the filter (which always covers the lense). It works, it is fast, and you can do it regularly on a drive, much faster and more easily than fooling around with fluids anyway. Do it regularly (many times on a drive).

I would also carry an extra lense cap. Even if you attach the cap to the lense, it is easy to lose it. That could be a real pain (it has happened to me, and I've seen it happen to others in my vehicle).

I also take a sensor cleaning kit which I would only use in the relative safety of the tent, not on a drive.

Got a lens pen a short while back and I LOVE it!
I have been advised by American photo hobbiest friends that one can buy the exact same pen less expensively from a sporting store (or even the sporting section of a large store like Walmart) where it's sold for cleaning rifle scopes than one can buy it for when it's sold to camera buffs for cleaning camera lenses! Either way it's a genius little tool!

4/17-QUESTION: Have noted the tips so far in this thread, but tho't of an additional question. If the camera is out mostly during the game drive, you are likely to pick up dust on the camera body at least. Then when you put the camera back into your bag, you have transferred dust and the camera bag is no longer a 'clean environment'. How do you avoid/minimize that?

ANSWER: I try to wipe the camera body and lens body with a damp cloth. I rather hesitate to use "canned air" because it can also blow the dust inside the body etc. (Use it for the lens glass etc.)

6/30--If leaving your camera while you eat or take a walk:When it comes to cameras, especially digitals, many here have mentioned, they remove the memory chip if leaving the camera in their tents/rooms.


You will need a Hurricane Jumbo Blower and a Lens Pen. We used ours extensively in TZ to keep the dust off the lens.

Also, ziplock bags to keep on the camera in between use. Each ziplock lasted about 2 days before we had to replace with a new one and it was still the wet season.
Take a silk pillow case: that way you keep the camera covered when not in use and use it as a changing "bag" when switching between lenses.