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Wildlife Photography

5 In Recommendations

A Beginners Guide to Wildlife Photography

crested crane amboseli safari

If you are someone like me (Prashanth), your only priority with regards to photography is that you want to capture great memories while on holiday. I have never been much of a photography person, but my first safari experience about 7 years ago certainly brought out the ‘photographer’ in me. I suddenly felt the need to understand the basics of ‘wildlife photography’.

There is just something about being in nature and out in the wild that makes you want to pull out that camera and capture shots of everything the jungles have to offer. And now it was time to go from the dense jungles of India to the wide open planes of the African Savannahs.

For those of you who have ever attempted wildlife photography; even if it was with your phone, you would know that capturing wildlife is totally different from any other type of photography. Right before our trip to Kenya, I spent over a month researching camera equipment, watching tutorial videos and reading blogs on how to capture that perfect ‘out in the wild’ picture. After reading this post you will be able to go from knowing nothing about cameras to being able to capture amazing shots on your next wildlife vacation. Let’s get clicking!

 

Full Frame vs. Crop Sensor – What is ideal for Wildlife Photography?

Ideally try and get your hands on a Crop Sensor camera as these camera’s come with good sensors (sensors are vital for image quality) and provide you with that little bit of extra zoom when compared to a full frame camera. Of course a Full Frame camera can do no harm. These are ultimately the high end cameras that professional photographers use, but as a beginner you don’t need to be picky. A full frame camera will add great quality to low light photography but for wildlife photography a crop sensor camera certainly does the job. We used a Nikon D7500 for our Kenyan Safari and it certainly gave us those dream shots of scampering cheetahs, lions lazing around in the open and many more. I am probably going to be using this camera for most of my safaris from here on.

 

Lenses, Lenses, Lenses!

The next big question is what lens should you be carrying? If baggage is a constraint, you ideally want to be carrying just 1 lens for your safari. Also keeping in mind that you might need to be quick to capture that perfect shot, you don’t want to be searching for lenses at a crucial moment. My preference for lenses was a Nikon 70-300mm f4.5 – 5.6. Remember, zoom is vital for those perfect wildlife pictures, so the more you have the better. Since Kenya is mostly open grasslands 70-300mm was the ideal option as the animals do tend to be quite close to you as well. This focal length is however not great for birding.

Elephant

A 70-300mm is perfect to capture any of the many elephants grazing through the open grasslands

 

Bird

Not close enough! You definitely need more than 400mm if you want to capture those majestic birds!

 

If your safari is through dense forests and you are unsure of how close you might get to the animals, you might want to consider a Nikon 200-500mm f5.6. This lens will work great for birding as well as zoom pictures but you might be handicapped if you are trying to capture something reasonably close to you.

If you really want to go pro you can also consider a prime 300mm or 400mm lens. A prime lens is essentially one with a fixed focal length (zoom). A fixed focal length is obviously limiting but the advantage is that a 300mm prime lens will give you much better picture quality than a 70-300mm lens at maximum zoom.

Lion

Up close and personal! This lioness was lazing in the afternoon warmth right beside the driving path. A 200mm to 500mm lens would have been unsuitable to capture this shot.

 

The 3 basic technical’s of photography and their symbols

S – Shutter Speed – The duration for which the shutter remains open to allow light to enter. Using lower shutter speed during the day and a higher shutter speed for early morning and late evening drives would be ideal.

A – Aperture (also called the f stop) – The amount of area that will remain in focus. A smaller aperture number for portrait shots and a larger aperture number for landscape shots would be preferred.

ISO – In simple terms ISO determines the amount of brightness in your photo. The higher the ISO, the brighter your picture.

 

Which of the funky modes should you use?

You should definitely spend 3 to 5 days playing around with your camera before you go on your trip. Of all the options that these powerful cameras give you, selecting a mode is the first choice you need to make. If this is the first time you are using a DSLR then I would definitely recommend sticking to the Auto mode or any of the preset modes like portrait for close up shots of animals, landscape for pictures covering wide areas or sports/action for animals that are running.

Auto is certainly the simplest shooting mode, but I would highly recommend exploring the Aperture priority mode (marked as A on the dial) and then going totally Manual (marked as M on the dial). The automatic shooting mode gives decent pictures but certainly does not help you maximize the features your DSLR comes with. Shooting in Aperture priority or Manual will help you click far better pictures, particularly when you have challenges such as low light.

Thomson Gazelle

Two Thomson Gazelle’s testing their might! Shot this one on Auto. You can see that the Gazelle’s are slightly blur as they were moving. Using Manual or a Preset mode of ‘Action’ would have been ideal for this shot.

 

Should you shoot in RAW?

RAW is an image format that captures the maximum detail of a photograph and hence the file sizes are quite large in comparison to JPEG. I would recommend shooting in RAW only if you are going to be doing a lot of post image processing. If not, shooting in the highest JPEG quality available on your camera should be good enough. Remember that if you do shoot in RAW, converting them to JPEG is mandatory before you can start sharing them.

 

Going beyond Still frames

If a picture is worth a 1000 words then imagine how much a video is worth! Great pictures offer those #throwback moments but a video of Lions strolling towards their pride can give you goosebumps and help you relive an experience like nothing else. One thing we are glad we did is carry multiple cameras on our trip to Kenya. So, while I was capturing still shots, Andrea was capturing some breathtaking videos. You can however also use the same camera for both stills and videos. But be sure to pick your moments. If you are shooting videos using a zoom lens, remember that it is important for you to carry a tripod. A video being shot on full zoom will be too unstable for you to store in your ‘Great Vacations’ library!

 

Rental vs. Buying

Before you start going crazy about how much all this equipment is going to cost you, here is a tip! Unless you have a lot of money that you don’t know what to do with, consider renting a camera. There are plenty of companies that offer camera and lens rentals. This is a great option if you are looking at a wildlife vacation as a one time holiday and something you may not do for another 2 or 3 years. Also, remember that technology changes very fast. So, think twice before you go spend half your holiday budget on an amazing camera that you may use very infrequently.

There are plenty of camera rental options available across all the major Indian cities. For those of you in Bangalore, here are some options:

PS: I have used Tapprs a few times and have been very satisfied with their equipment quality and pricing.

Want more of a perspective on the kind of pictures a Nikon D7500 with a 70-300mm lens can give you? Check out our post – 39 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Kenya

If you have any further questions or would like more details, please let us know in the comments section below or drop us an email. Hearing from you guys makes us super happy! 🙂

7 In Destinations

39 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Kenya

Lion Maasai Mara Safari

“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa, for he has so much to look forward to” – Rich Mullins.

It was this very quote and Prashanth’s passion for wildlife photography that inspired us to visit Kenya. I don’t think we’ve ever experienced such a successful wildlife safari. Spotting the Big 5 was a huge cross off our bucket list. Not to forget, witnessing all the different animals in their various habitats, kept us on edge of our seats. By the end of January 2018, we returned home with a repository full of captures that took us months of shortlisting and editing. So here it is – discover the wild surprises of Kenya, one image at a time with our giant photo story.

 

Majestic Elephants

You might already be overwhelmed with their enormous presence. But the extent of their size and intelligence may surprise you. African elephants are the only largest living land animanls with trunks. On average they are over 10 feet tall and can weigh upto 18,000 pounds. To sustain their enormous size they consume close to 50 gallons of water and 220 pounds of food a day.  Throughout their lives migrating from place to place, they remember the location of water sources along their migration routes. African elephants aren’t endangered like their Asian cousins. But did you know that elephants can’t jump? Or that baby elephants lose their first set of teeth and tusks, just like humans?

Elephants amboseli safari kenya

Elephants eating their way through the open grasslands in Amboseli.

 

elephants amboseli safari kenya

It’s time to go home! Moving back to base at sunset, closer to Mt. Kilimanjaro.

 

elephant maasai mara safari kenya

A baby elephant abandoned by it’s mother, looking for food.

 

elephants maasai mara safari kenya

They use their trunks to fight and also show affection. What do you think is the case here?

 

Shaggy Waterbucks

These sub-Saharan gregarious antelopes are grazers that are highly dependent on water. They cannot tolerate dehydration; hence they inhabit grasslands or scrub areas that are close to rivers or other sources of water. The rump has a characteristic white ring, while their large rounded ears are a prominent feature.  The male waterbuck has a unique ability to secrete an oily liquid that makes its coat waterproof while it enters a waterbody. It also puts off predators with its noxious odour, while making itself attractive to the female of the species. Now that’s a perfume a man should invest in!

waterbuck amboseli safari kenya

What you looking at, mate?

 

waterbuck lake nakuru safari kenya

Well rounded ears = great listeners

 

Conspicuous Grey Crowned Cranes

The Endangered Grey Crowned Crane is a monogamous species that mates for life.  These pedantically walking birds put up quite a show, making them a photographer’s delight. Did you know –  that these cranes are the the national bird of Uganda and over the past four decades, it’s population has plummeted by 80%! So now is your best chance to see them in the wild.

grey crowned crane amboseli safari kenya

That’s one cool looking mohawk!

 

grey crowned crane amboseli safari kenya

Nobody likes a show off; but with the grey crowned crane it’s different.

 

Cunning Hyenas

Hyenas are crafty killers, especially when they are hungry. They have a reputation as scavengers; but as we know it they can hunt and bring down prey far bigger than themselves, by using the strategy of the pack. And when they’re not hunting they indulge in another favourite past time – taking a dust bath.

hyena amboseli safari kenya

Never trust that smug face!

 

Mighty Rhinoceroses

There are five different species of rhinoceros, of which two are distinctly seen in Kenya. We were lucky to spot the black and white rhinos. Both are actually gray, so they are different not in color but in lip shape. Black rhinoceroses have a sort of attack-first-and-ask-questions-later attitude. When a rhino catches the scent of a human or anything else unfamiliar, it is likely to charge. White rhinoceroses graze on grasses, walking with their enormous heads and squared lips lowered to the ground.

black rhino safari lake nakuru kenya

A female black rhino looking after her young one. Despite their fierce reputation they make attentive mothers.

 

white rhinoceros safari lake nakuru kenya

Do not disturb!

 

Tempestuous Cape Buffaloes

Like a tank it’s heavy and massive, measuring 7 feet from nose to tail. As herbivores, they can usually be found grazing in the open grasslands of the African savannas. A Cape buffalo is a deadly opponent – one sweep from it’s defense mechanism (black horns mounted squarely at the top of it’s head) could kill a lion. Like the elephant, the cape buffalo isn’t a predator. But when raged it becomes a terrifying force.

cape buffalo maasai mara safari kenya

Buffalo Soldiers

 

Towering Giraffes

No other creature on the planet is quite like the giraffe. Their high and long necks, powerful hearts and staccato sleeping style easily make them unique. A reticulated giraffe and a Rothschild’s giraffe are the two giraffe sub species widely seen in Kenya. Noted as the tallest land animals in the world, they can grow upto 18 feet tall. This exceptional height allows giraffes to eat leaves and buds from trees tops, unreachable by other animals. This also helps them to look out for predators and other oncoming dangers. Their strong muscular heart allows the body to defy gravity by pushing blood up it’s long neck and into it’s brain. Did you know that giraffes have the same number of neck bones as humans? And that number is only 7?

giraffe amboseli safari kenya

Aim high and get spotted.

 

giraffe lake nakuru safari kenya

Why fit in when you are born to stand out?

 

Striking Zebras

Zebras are born to run. It is a necessary ability for survival of the fittest. A healthy adult zebra can gallop at 40 miles per hour; just fast enough to out pace a lion or a leopard. For better protection they’ll often congregate in large herds, sometimes mixing with other grazing animals like wildebeest and other antelopes. Predators can get easily get confused by their sheer numbers running in tandem. It’s suggested that their stripes camouflage them to distract predators and also provide a way to identify individual herd members. No two sets of stripes are alike.

zebra amboseli safari kenya

Striking a pose!

 

zebra lake nakuru safari kenya

Celebrate those beautiful stripes as they’re uniquely you.

 

Deadly Lions

Lions are some of the most formidable creatures on the planet. Their impressive size and appetite, strong social cohesion and regal appearance make it clear, why they are considered king of the jungle. They have significant roars and can be heard upto 5 miles away. This allows them to claim their territories by communicating their presence to potential intruders. Known as they only cats that lives in prides; family units that can go upto 40 lions with usually one dominant male and sometimes 1-2 leading males. The rest of the pride’s adult members are females and are often related to each other. They give birth around the same time, which allows their cubs to nurse from multiple females. This may come to you as a surprise but lions are not the most successful hunters, but they do consume a lot of meat. Lionesses who are the primary hunters of a pride, only succeed in making a kill less than 30% of the time.

lioness lake nakuru safari kenya

If looks could kill!

 

lioness lake nakuru safari kneya

The lioness is not submissive. She merely lets you be king for as long as it pleases her.

 

lioness maasai mara safari kenya

What doesn’t kill me… better run!

 

lioness maasai mara safari kenya

Do not announce your every move.

 

lion hunt safari maasai mara kenya

Lions don’t dream of hunting. They just hunt.

 

Racy Cheetahs

You may already know that cheetahs are the world’s fastest land animal. They can go from 0 – 60 mph in 3 secs. But did you know their tails play a crucial role in hunting? The tail acts like a rudder, allowing cheetahs to quickly change direction while running. It provides counter balance as they zig zag across grasslands during a chase. Relying on their exceptionally keen eyesight they primarily hunt by day. But they are also one of the few big cats that can’t roar. Instead they purr and chirp much like a house cat.

cheetahs maasai mara kenya safari

Basking in the sun before they set out on their next chase.

 

cheetahs maasai mara kenya safari

Take 5

 

cheetahs maasai mara kenya safari

Target established…

 

cheetahs maasai mara kenya safari

And missed! So close yet so far.

Stealthy Leopards

They’re fierce, fast and fur-ocious. Leopards are very solitary and spend most of their time alone. They each have their own territory, and leave scratches on trees, urine scent marks and poop to warn other leopards to stay away. These big cats have a varied diet and enjoy different kinds of grub. They eat bugs, fish, antelope, monkeys, rodents, deer…in fact, pretty much any prey that is available. These nocturnal beasts are skilled climbers too.

leopard maasai mara safari kenya

Even a leopard needs a break.

 

leopard maasai mara safari kenya

Camouflage at it’s best!

 

Graceful Gazelles

Gazelles are nimble and beautiful animals, with a variety of stripes and markings that accentuate their tan buff coats and white rumps. They also boast a impressive, ringed horns. These attributes make many gazelles attractive as game animals. Open plains make them visible to predators like cheetahs or wild dogs, but gazelles are fleet of foot.

gazelle amboseli kenya safari

Thomson’s Gazelles – do you sense something in the bushes?

 

gazelle amboseli kenya safari

What has four legs and flies? Answer – Grant’s Gazelle

 

gazelle maasai mara kenya safari

Too afraid to face the humans.

Slow & Steady Leopard Tortoise

Our maiden journey to Kenya allowed us discover and learn about the ‘the small five’. The Leopard Tortoise is certainly a fashionable creature that’s part of this group. They are named for their unique gold-and-black markings, which roughly resemble the rosette spots of a leopard. Often found grazing in solitary, they are exceptionally resilient, with incredibly hard shells and can climb, swim, and live as long as 100 years. 

leopard tortoise amboseli kenya safari

We’ve never seen a leopard print we did’nt like.

Wading Herons

Herons are large, striking birds often spotted standing motionless at the water’s edge. Having found a suitable location, herons stand and wait patiently for the right moment to stab passing prey with their dagger-like beaks. They also wade through shallow water searching for small fish and amphibians.

heron amboseli kenya safari

Trying to fish, but no luck.

Radiant Lilac Breasted Rollers

One of the most gorgeous birds also makes Kenya’s national bird. These non-migratory birds are found widely in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Arabian Peninsula. It perches visibly at the top of trees, poles or other high vantage points from where it can easily catch sight of insects, lizards, rodents, scorpions etc. It is said that even their nests are as colourful and vibrant as them.

lilac breasted roller kenya safari

People will stare. Make it worth their while!

Loony Warthogs

With two tusks and large shovel-shaped heads, warthogs look fierce, but they often avoid fighting predators such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs, or hyenas by running away or dodging into a burrow. Upon asking our guide and naturalist (Mr. Jackson) why Warthogs are called Pumba, his outright answer was pumba in Swahili means ‘stupid’ and they have been named that because of their silly, careless and foolish nature. Not sure if they are proud of it though. What do you think?

warthog amboseli safari kenya

Keep calm and hakuna matata!

 

Animated Baboons

There are five different species of baboons. All of them live in Africa or Asia. Like other old world monkeys, baboons do not have gripping tails. They spend much of their time on the ground, but they can climb trees to sleep, eat, or look out for trouble. Baboons are opportunistic eaters, fond of crops, and become destructive pests to many African farmers. They eat fruits, grasses, seeds, bark, and roots, but also have a taste for meat.

baboon lake nakuru kenya safari

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.

Sneaky Jackal

The black-backed jackal, a mammal about the size of a fox, eats a variety of prey including meerkats. It can cover tens of miles a day and has a sense of smell that’s 10,000 times more powerful than a human’s. Often known as ‘meal stealers’ jackals are sometimes far more cunning that hyenas.

jackal masai mara safari kenya

When the hyena kills, the jackal profits.

 

Lustrous Topis

The topi is a medium-sized antelope with a striking reddish-brown to purplish-red coat that is glossy, even iridescent in bright sunlight. To complete its singular appearance, the topi’s yellowish-tan legs look like they are encased in stockings. Their favorite habitat are flood plains, but they are sometimes found in dry areas of open savanna and park woodland, taking to the shade during the heat of the day. Topis are exceptionally gregarious and live in herds of 15 to 20. What’s unique about them is that both male and female topis like to rub their heads on the ground (to spread scent from facial glands), roll in earth and stir up mud with their horns. They smear mud on their bodies with their hooves. These herbivorous beings spend much of their life with other antelopes such as wildebeest, and with zebra and ostrich.

topi maasai mara safari kenya

Blue jeans and brown coat – now isn’t that a cool ensemble?

Migratory Wildebeests

The ungainly Gnu earned the Afrikaans name wildebeest for the menacing appearance presented by its large head, shaggy mane, pointed beard, and sharp, curved horns. The migration of wildebeests across the plains of Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Maasai Mara is one of the oldest and last great land migrations on the planet. It is considered one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth, involving up to 1.5 million wildebeests as well as hundreds of thousands of other animals, including zebra and gazelle.

wildebeest maasai mara kenya safari

I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up and wasn’t happy – Ernest Hemingway

 

So what about you? Has any country ever captured your imagination as much as Kenya ours? Drop us a comment and let us know if you’re planning to go – we can surely help.

0 In Travel with GG

Travel with GG to Dudhwa Tiger Reserve – Mini Series

Tiger

Andrea: Pinch me, is this for real???
Prashanth: I cannot believe this is actually happening!

Excited and thrilled beyond belief, we are happy to announce the First Edition of Travel with GG – Mini Series in association with the Tree of Life Jaagir Lodge, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve and Darter Photography.

Tree of Life Jaagir Lodge

Where are we off to?

Dudhwa Tiger Reserve – Uttar Pradesh, India

For those of you who know of this place, pat yourself on the back. You probably come under a small percentage of the world’s population who can proudly call themselves expert or avid travelers. And for those of you who haven’t heard of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve; no problem! Thanks to us you will now know all that you need to.

 one horn rhino

Why Dudhwa Tiger Reserve?

Home of the majestic tiger, one-horned rhino, wild elephants, swamp deer and many many more. This habitat has become one of India’s most vibrant and exciting wildlife reserves. It’s fine Sal forests and dense woody thickets open abruptly into magnificent grasslands making it one of the best spots on earth to birdwatch!

Bird

When?

April, 5th to 9th 2017 – 4 Nights & 5 Days

How to get there?

Closest Airport – Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh; followed by 3.5hr drive

Aim & Highlights

  • An authentic 4 Nights/5 Days wildlife experience in India’s most vibrant and exciting wildlife reserves.
  • Extensive photography assistance both on field and off field from Tour Skipper – MV Shreeram, Co-Founder of Darter Photography and one of India’s top outdoor photographers, specializing in wildlife and travel photography.
  • Luxury stay accompanied with authentic food and experiences at the Tree of Life Jaagir Lodge.
  • Unique game drives planned to Dudhwa Tiger Reserve and Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Possibility of excellent photo opportunities of the one-horned rhino, tigers and exotic birds.

jeep tree of life

How much?

INR 45,880 per person (Twin/Double Room)
INR 57,880 per person (Single Room)

Any Discounts or Offers for GG’s readers & followers?

Yes, of course!
EARLY FLORICAN OFFER  – Get 10% off by booking on or before 5 March, 2017.
(The Bengal Florican is an endangered bird which some visitors have been lucky to see in Dudhwa) 

Tree of Life Jaagir Lodge

tiger

Sundowner tree of life

This is your the chance to connect with nature and the outdoors, to wander around in the wilderness and create beautiful photographs that permanently etch the memories of your journey. We look forward to having you on board! 🙂

To register for the tour or for more details, please email us at gallivantinggoals@gmail.com or call us at +91-9986212880 (Prashanth) / +91-9899080477 (Andrea)