Going on a wildlife safari can be one of the most satisfying trips anyone can take. Immersing yourself in nature and watching animals you have never seen in the wild before can be truly inspirational and therapeutic. However, if you are a photographer and going on a once in a lifetime safari for the first time deciding or even knowing which gear to take along can create a whole lot of stress and anxiety!
Thankfully though in these modern times there are many resources online that may help you decide whet you need, and that is exactly what I am going to do here, quickly outline some of the gear that I think is essential to capturing your wildlife safari.
Love the long glass...
Unless you are extremely lucky you are not generally going to get very close to your wild subjects and so if you would like to capture engaging closeups then you are going to need a lens that has a lot of reach.
Typically speaking you want a minimum of 300mm but ideally you would like at least 400-500 or even 600mm. The most expensive but best quality option would be the fast prime lenses that all major camera manufacturers offer. However the price tags on these premium lenses often preclude all but the most serious amateurs and professionals who can justify the cost.
The long primes are also heavy, cumbersome to move about with and generally require some form of support to steady them while photographing. Having said all of this the image quality and focusing abilities of these lenses will ensure that you will get the best possible images fro your effort.
However, there are a variety of options on the market in the form of medium cost zoom telephotos and it is these that I would recommend to the first time safari-goer. All the major camera manufacturers have a cheaper alternative to their top notch primes and third party manufacturers like Sigma and Tamron offer excellent options in similar ranges.
These lenses generally offer a very versatile zoom range packaged in a smaller, lighter and thus easier to handle package. yes you may loose out on the size of the maximum aperture, with most lenses starting at around f5.6-6.3 as apposed to f4 or f2.8 and yes the image quality may not be as sharp as the major primes but big strides have been made in improving then image quality of these lenses and we have never had any complaints from any of our clients who has used them.
At Lens Rent Zimbabwe we swear by the sigma range of telephoto lenses and have a variety of their 150-500mm and 150-600mm lenses available for rent for both Canon and Nikon mounts.
While getting close details shots of your subjects is often the wildlife photographers' core aim I feel it is just as important to showcase animals in their environment. These environmental portraits will require you to include more of the scene in front of you so using a long telephoto lens will not be ideal for this task.
Having a mid range telephoto like the fantastic 70-200 range mounted on another body will allow you to quickly switch from taking close up portraits to capturing your subjects interaction with its environment. We have these versatile mid-range telephotos available for both Canon and Nikon mounts.
Wide Angles for landscapes...
In their pursuit for the best wildlife images photographers will be privileged enough to travel through some of the most awesome landscapes imaginable and there is no reason why you should not stop and capture this raw beauty.
To do this you will need either a standard or ultra-wide angle lens that has a wide angle of vision to soak up all the amazing landscapes on offer. The wide angle nature of these lenses will allow you to get close to your subject, often resulting in very different, intriguing angles of your subject.
If you are planning a trip to the mighty Victoria Falls then you will be doing yourself a big disservice if you don't have a wide angle lens to photography the immense beauty of the falls. African skies also offer some of the best astro-photography in the world due to the low levels of light pollution in the bush, having a fast and wide angle lens is essential for capturing these amazing astro-images.
We have wide angle lenses available for both APS-C Canon and Nikon mounts as well as full frame Canon and Nikon mounts.
Hidden Macro worlds...
Another essential but often overlooked lens for an African safari is a trusty macro lens. These specialist lenses allow you to focus very close to your subject, allowing you to create 1:1 magnification which makes even the smallest creature look massive on the camera's viewfinder.
Some of the most interesting creatures you will meet on safari are beautiful butterflies, flittering dragonflies and a host of visually enticing moths, insects, flowers and grasses. When you are on a drive and not seeing much in the way of large animals ask your guide to stop and take you for a short walk, you will be very surprised what small creatures you can find when you start looking for them.
Lens Rent Zimbabwe has macro lenses available for both Canon and Nikon mounts.
I hope the above has given you a good idea of what you will need to bring on your African Safari to ensure that you get the best photographic results possible!
However, if you don't however there is no need to stress, contact us at Lens Rent Zimbabwe and we can provide you with the gear you don't have.
About the author...
Christopher Scott is a freelance photographer based in Harare, Zimbabwe and is lucky enough to travel around southern-Africa capturing its amazing and abundant wildlife when he is not buying lenses and writing blogs for Lens Rent Zimbabwe!