Photographing Africa’s Big 5. Imagine spotting a leopard in a tree, a rhino grazing through the bush, elephants on their stately trudge, buffalo at the watering hole, and lions – the king of them all.
For those with a passion for wildlife, these are moments we live for. The adrenaline and anticipation of seeing such beauty firsthand, the jolt of excitement you get as you click the shutter button capturing a moment in time — it’s exhilarating!
Whether you are a seasoned wildlife photographer, an amateur or a newcomer to photography, a safari in Africa is a phenomenal experience and the ideal opportunity to bring out your camera and take in those once-in-a-lifetime moments around you.
If you’re heading out to Africa on safari, here are some useful tips to help you photographing Africa’s Big 5.
It’s important to know where you are going and what to expect photographically. If you’re planning your own itinerary, take the time to research where and when the best wildlife spots are. Involve a travel agent or tour operator if you are unsure. The Big Five is on everyone’s bucket list, but don’t forget that Africa has a plethora of other unique and extraordinary wildlife, birdlife and plant life too.
It’s tempting to move on from the herd of elephants after snapping a few shots, but patience pays off. If you’re looking to capture some truly amazing photos, you need to spend time watching your subject. By simply observing an animal, you learn to better understand its behavior and relationships, which will lead to better photography.
We recommend taking in different perspectives on your photo safari. Game drives are by far the most common type of safari in Africa, but there are several other safari options. Walking safaris provide opportunities to get on the ground and see things that might be overlooked in a vehicle. Low-level scenic air safaris give you a unique view of the landscape and animals while on route to your destination. Self-drive safaris offer travelers the opportunity to explore Africa at their own pace. There are also boat safaris, ocean safaris, private guide safaris and group safaris. Each safari offers a different experience, and if you’re lucky enough to try them all, we highly recommend it.
This solitary spotted creature is famously elusive, and the hardest to spot out of all the Big Five. Over the years, we’ve learnt a trick or two when it comes to spotting this graceful animal— all you have to do is, look up. Not only do these predators hang around in branches, they also store their kills in trees where they are likely to return to and feed, making for some great action shots.
Arguably one of the most photogenic animals on the planet, let alone during an African safari, the prestigious lion is the most sought-after capture for any wildlife photographer. Having been fortunate enough to capture the king of the African pride lands on many photographic safaris, we found early mornings and evenings the perfect times to spot this regal animal in action.
Elephants are social creatures, which makes them all the more fun to photograph. To best capture these majestic giants, we recommend experimenting with different camera lenses. A telephoto lens is ideal for those up-close-and-personal shots that emphasize their incredible skin textures. Something to keep in mind – a baby elephant will hang around its herd, primarily near its mother, so be sure to look out for those endearing creatures.
We’ve been lucky enough to spot and capture both the white and black rhino on our safari excursions. We’ve found white rhinos to be more active during the day and black rhinos more active in the evenings. The most generic angled photograph of the rhino is a straight-up head and horn shot, but from our experience, it comes across more striking and original to shoot from an angle showing the head and horns unusual shape. We vote to play around with your angles and see what works best in your frame.
Thought to be the most unattractive of the Big Five, the beastly bulky buffalo offers some of the most original and natural photographs. When photographing these animals, you’ll need to be careful with your exposure, as the animals’ dark bodies will challenge your camera’s light meter. We recommend photographing buffalo in the early morning or late afternoon light as this is the best time to get even tones and details of the animal. We’ve been fortunate enough to capture some great actions shots of the buffalo. We’ve captured a buffalo shaking off a yellow-billed oxpecker, and another of a buffalo covered in a group of oxpeckers. With a little bit of patience, action shots like these will be lined up in your photo gallery.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Our love for African wildlife is as infectious as our love for Defender classics. We just can’t get enough of it! We’d like to leave you with one final piece of advice; as much as capturing photographs of wildlife moments around you are amazing – Photographing Africa’s Big 5, take the time to pull yourself out from behind the camera and take in the experience with your travel companions.