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Photography Question 
Thomas E. Harrison

Digital Images on South African Photo Safari

I'm going to South Africa on a photo safari with my wife and son in a few days. I'm looking for comments from anyone who has been there, done that. I will be using a Lumix 5mp with a 12 power optical lens. I do have a polarizing filter, tripod, and monopod. Any suggestions on what would let me bring back amazing pictures would be appreciated. Thanks, Tom

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3/18/2005 3:46:00 PM

Peter K. Burian
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/8/2004
  Tom: I have not been to Africa but I have tested that camera. It has a built-in image stabilizer, so you should not need a tripod. On dark, overcast days, use ISO 400 for fast shutter speeds just to be sure of getting sharp images. But image quality is MUCH better at ISO 100.
Besides, you cannot use a tripod in a safari van. Most photogs brace their cameras on a bean bag on the roof or window sill of the vehicle.
See my article on getting sharp images in general at:
Polarizing filter: Also covered in that article.
Peter Burian

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3/19/2005 10:50:24 AM


BetterPhoto Member
  I've been to South Africa and it's an amazing place - great people. Treat your photo shoot like a wedding. Take lots of pictures and close-ups, if you can. Bracket, handheld light meter makes a big difference if you have one. The dollar is so good there, you can eat out all the time. Just remember when driving that left is right and right is wrong.

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3/19/2005 11:00:45 AM

Thomas E. Harrison   dear peter and strictly D. thanks for the responce. I did visit your site and picked up some needed ideas. I've only owned the lumix for a few months and haven't tried everything out yet. I will make sure to take plenty of pics and use diff settings. thanks again, tom

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3/19/2005 5:39:49 PM

Sam Ellis   Hi there, Well I LIVE in South Africa - so its interesting to know that one of the betterphoto members are asking questions.

A few tips are --- the sun goes down extremely fast and rises extremely fast. So dont dilly dally - it is fast. The "people" love having their photo taken so photograph freely. Some cheeky people will ask for money but dont feel obliged. Dont overtip ! Americans tip freely. 10% @ restuarants is enough and a small tip to carry bags is enough. like R5 or R10.

Best advice is to LOVE our country --we are very proud of it.


If you want to know any specifics like where to go etc you can e-mail me

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3/22/2005 10:19:04 PM

Thomas E. Harrison   Dear Sam, thanks for the note. It's now 7am and we leave for Detroit at noon today so that doesn't leave us much time to chat. Thanks again for the tip about the sun. We have a six day stay at Zulu Nyala (near Richards bay) then have a couple days in Cape Town. Maybe I'll E-mail you when we get back and let you know how e-thing went. WE're very excited about the trip, tom

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3/23/2005 4:25:34 AM

Pieter J. Roelofse   Hello there
My name is Pieter Roelofse and I am a South African currently living in Seattle, WA. I was born in South Africa and lived there for 27 years of my life. South Africa is an amazing country with fantastic, colorful people and I am convinced you will have an extraordinary time there. Seeing that you are going to go on Safari and assuming you will take pictures of wild animals, if your camera can take extra lenses, take the longest lens you have. The closer you can get, the better detail you will get. Take a beanbag, a great accessory when shooting from a car. The polarising filter is a must. Assuming you will go soon, takesomething to put the camera in like a pillowcase, it will be dusty because it is summer over there now and my mom and dad (who still lives there now) told me its very very hot. Sunglasses and a broadrimmed hat is essential and take the largest digital memory card or cards you can afford. You will be doing alot of shooting, trust me. One last point, enjoy your time there and have fun. I miss South Africa so much and I wish I could go there to visit my family. Haven't seen them in 6 years, can't afford to go. Anyway, have a great time, drink lots of water ( the water is safe to drink ) and take your sunscreen and have a whale of a time. Enjoy ! I envy you !!!

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3/23/2005 7:36:17 AM

Kevin Elliott
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/10/2004
  I lived there for 15 years, loved it. Spent most of my hols in game reserves, there and in Namibaia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

I realise this is a little late, but perhaps it'll help others.
Photographic challenges are many...

Dust is a huge problem. Keep things as clean as possible and clean your sensor often. For film cameras, take some compressed air/blower brush and clean it out regularly.

Except at the beginning and end of the day, light is harsh and contrasty as well as very blue. Polarisers can help, but are generally not needed for skies - they're blue enough already. The contrast is a real problem, so frame tight and watch your exposures. More wide angle shots are, generally, best avoided dring the middle of the day.

Bracketing's really worth while and also take a few versions of each shot - it's an expensive trip and a little camera shake can wreck an otherwise outstanding shot. It's not as if you can go back and re-shoot.

If you get a cool, cloudy day, there's little contrast and shots are very flat and cold. Warm ups will help.

Sunsets/rises are generally stunning and you should make a point of looking for them.

Much of the landscape potential (and there's lots) is determined by the positition of the sun. It's usually worth assessing a shot, then working out when the sun will be in the right place and coming back for it. May not be possible on holiday, of course.

Lots of lovely opportunities in the cape, make a point of shooting Table Mountain from Blouberg Strand across the bay. The botanical gardens at Kirstenbosch are great for flowers and birds.

Wildlife is a must - long lenses (generally) but watch the light. Don't foget the birds, there are hundreds of species, from the little waxbills to the eagles and vultures. Many of them are very colourful (blues, reds, yellows, greens etc.) and when you're sick and tired of looking at yet another lion lying in the grass, waiting for it to move, shoot a few birds instead.

Be ready for action - travel with the camera switched on and easy to grab. If you've an older manual camera, wind on after every shot, preset the exposure - it doesn't vary much except in the early hours - and practice grab, frame, focus and shoot - you should be able to get off a couple of good shots faster than the digital guys....

On films, the higher speeds are generally not needed in the day. In fact you may need ND filters to get the exposure correct above 200ISO. I used to shoot Kodachrome 25 most of the time with a 500 lens hand held, but braced against the car.

Don't worry about a bean bag. Cradle the camera in your hands and brace against the car door. Breath out gently as you shoot. The pics will be sharp.

In the game reserves, assuming that you're not travelling alone, when you see something, stop the car quietly, set the camera up, then get your passenger to turn the engine off. Shoot. Not only does this stop camera shake from engine vibration, but it often makes the animal look up to see why it's suddenly gone quiet.... Too often they're so busy feeding that you miss the face...

Stay for a few hours at the waterholes. Animals come and go. Watch the bush to see the animals approach it. A giraffe will often spend over an hour coming down to drink, making sure there are no predatrs around. Buffalo and elephant, just come straight in, sometimes at the run...

I could go on, but that's enough. Just don't get so tied up in the pictures that you forget to experience the bush and wild life...


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3/29/2005 12:10:31 AM

Thomas E. Harrison   Dear Kev, Just got back from S.A. and we had a fantastic time. Other than breifly looking at my pics, I am just setting down to see exactly what I have. What a Great country!Besides getting to take all the animal shots we were able to visit Table mnt. and some of the penninsula. Also we took over 68 Lbs of T-shirts to give to an Orphanage and were able to get some great shots of the children. Let u all know later how the pictures came out, Thanks for responding, Tom

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4/6/2005 6:43:18 AM

Kevin Elliott
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/10/2004
  Tom, glad it went well. How did the shots come out?

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4/30/2005 4:47:25 PM

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