Saturday, 18 May 2013

Photography Gear to take for an African Safari

My first workshop in eastern Africa with Journey to Africa is in the books and I wanted to write a follow up article about what gear to bring having spent almost two weeks in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area.

For my last workshop I packed up everything but the kitchen sink and brought almost the entire camera gear cabinet just to see what I would use, and not use. Surprisingly, I didn’t get a chance to use most of the gear that I brought with me.

So…. Here are my suggestions for gear to bring with you on a safari…

Two camera bodies… I brought a Nikon D7000 crop sensor camera and Nikon D600 full frame camera bodies. The D7000 crop sensor had the 150-500mm lens on the body the whole time and the full frame camera had both the wide angle and the 70-200mm lens on it depending on what I was photographing.

I attached a battery grip for D7000 for extended battery life and to give me an extra frame per second. It also eliminates the need to open your camera up when you are out in the field. Even close to the rainy season it can get dusty when out on safari.

I brought 6 Nikon EN EL15 batteries, 3 for each camera. Sometimes you will have power and other times the lodges conserve power and you may not get a chance to fully charge your batteries. Having extra battery power will ensure you have at least two days of shooting power.

Bring two battery chargers, a small power bar and international power converter. A power bar will allow you to charge two batteries and still be able to work and edit on your laptop. At some lodges, Ndutu for example, there are central charging areas where everyone plugs in the batteries to charge… so mark your batteries as I have seen these central charging areas packed with laptops, and battery chargers before bedtime.

You will easily go through 16gig of memory a day. You are constantly shooting animals and landscapes. I brought 6 - 16gig Sandisk Extreme PRO memory cards and 6 - 8gig Sandisk Extreme PRO memory cards. It offered redundancy and gave me enough memory if I needed it. Expect to take between 800 to 1200 photos a day while on safari. It may sound like a lot, but when you are shooting moving animals you can easy take 20 to 30 images in a few minutes.

Laptop and an external hard drive will give you two copies of your images… save one to your laptop and one to your external drive to ensure you have a backup.

Bring a tripod. I brought a Monfrotto 290 series tripod with pano head. (When travelling I put into my duffle bag that was checked)

Apex mini bean bag is a must. It stabilizes your camera on top of the vehicle when you are looking out the hatch. Some guides will have small homemade bean bags… a life saver for those that come that are not prepared.

External flash and flash extender. While there are minimal opportunities to shoot at night, having that flash illuminates animals in shade and will give you the reach you need to take better exposed photos when animals are not sitting in optimal light.

Bring camera straps for your camera. I brought black rapid camera straps for both my bodies.

Make sure you bring wired or remote control for cameras as there is fantastic opportunities for low light photography.

It is always a good idea to bring rain cover for my camera and lenses
Bring a wide angle lens, a medium length lens and a longer telephoto lens. I brought the following:
Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6 for landscape photos - used extensively
Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 for walking around and landscape photos - rarely used
Sigma 70-200 f2.8 for close animals and portrait photos - used extensively
Sigma 150-500 f5.6-6.3 for the safari drives - used extensively

How to travel with your gear... I have both a roller bag and a large back pack. Both would work fine. The roller bag makes travelling easier and the back pack is easier when out on safari.

I hope that helps you in making your gear suggestions for your trip of a lifetime to Africa… or any other global destination.

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