Do You Find Going on a Photographic Safari Intimidating?

Jono Buffey All Authors, Jono 7 Comments

I am sure that there are many folk out there that do not join dedicated photographic safaris – not because they cannot afford it – but they are just plain intimidated by the  ‘experience’ of the other participants and the big lenses they are going to point out of the game-viewer, or you may be embarrassed to share your images?

I certainly get it – I was once one of those many people.

I thought I would share my journey from a rank amateur to someone that is comfortable with a camera, but by no means a professional!

June 2011 Great sighting in Kgalagadi,  but epic fail from a photography point of view. Slow shutter speed and camera set on one shot

 Firstly, my philosophy on wildlife photography:

I love taking wildlife images from spectacular destinations and picking out a few of what I think are great images. The important part of that comment is “What I think ”. If a photograph appeals to me then that is by far the most important thing. If an image evokes a wonderful memory of a special place, that does it for me.

My journey started back in the early 1990’s when I was lucky enough to travel to the Okavango Delta. I promptly purchased an entry level camera and off I went. I snapped away and upon my return I even went to a digital lab to have them converted onto slide!

They were not great.  In fact they were pretty bad, but I showed them off to anyone that I could. The dreaded ‘slide presentation’ at dinner parties was very exciting. Well, for me anyway!  I have still got them and I do look at them from time to time and recall the events of that magnificent holiday.

I was hooked and my trusty Canon never left my side.

I am fortunate enough to have a share in a lodge in Madikwe, and Gerry van der Walt, my partner in Wild Eye, managed the lodge and this was the ‘game changer’, both in defining a future part of my life, and in my drastic improvement in photography. My camera came off auto and I was taught the importance of shutter speeds and the integral part that aperture and ISO plays in this conundrum (that is exactly how I thought of it at that stage).

How slow shutter speed can show the movement 

My time with Gerry also provided some of my most embarrassing photographic moments!

I can recall saying to him when we were on one of our first drives together: “My dream is to take an image of a leopard in a tree that covers the full frame. I just don’t have the lens to allow for this”. I had never heard of post processing that would allow you to crop your image, and certainly had no idea of the importance composition plays in creating appealing wildlife images. His response was fantastic and enthusiastic – “Look there, some impala!”

The next moment  he asked me what format I shot in…


“Well, do you shoot in RAW or JPEG?”


“Well if you go to your menu and check out the format of your image quality, you will get to the option”.

Not wanting to ask him where to find this, I set about finding this option. I found “format”  and thought “Ah, I will show him” – and promptly formatted my memory card.

Eish!  My photos from my family holiday to Portugal were erased forever .

With time my photography improved. I became comfortable with my settings and my captures were miraculously a whole lot sharper.

Magic had happened!

Shooting in different light situations and being able to expose for the image correctly.

Cheetah. Moremi, Okavango Delta.

Here is the thing:  I would never have learnt what I have unless I had spent time in the field  with a seasoned professional. My love for photography may have even waned and my camera and lenses would have been gathering dust in the cupboard had I not had this experience.

My advice to everyone – you have to get out into  field with accomplished photographic facilitators!

You can learn all the theory you want, but the practical experience is invaluable.  Even people that would consider themselves to be above average  can still learn. I have seen highly experienced photographers downloading their images from the days events and although there are some impressive photos, there is also many that aren’t great. They are never embarrassed by this, so then why should we be.

Go on photographic safaris.

Do not be intimidated by your skills or your equipment.

Venture out with facilitators that will impart their vast knowledge.

Rather spend your money on going to great destinations, and not on expensive equipment as it will not make you a better photographer. Rather rent the gear that you dont have and that you will need for the destination that you are going.

Introducing leading lines can also enhance an image 

Photography is not only about great images, it is about capturing moments that will evoke memories for eternity.

“The best Camera you have is the one that is with you when you most need it” – Andrew Harvey


Would never have dreamt of shooting into the sun! 

Jono Buffey


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Comments 7

  1. Morkel Erasmus

    Great post, Jono! We never stop learning and we must never esteem ourselves to “have arrived” photographically. There’s always room for growth and I find being in the company of like-minded and talented creative individuals who share my passion for nature photography stirs me to explore my own pre-conceived boundaries and limitations.

  2. Donna Michiel

    Thank you for sharing the story, it gives hope to those of us struggling to find the time to practice what we love to do after our 9 – 5’s. You have really progressed in your photography, some really amazing shots you shared. You have been fortunate to have a professional who could share their experience with you throughout your journey. I have been taking classes from a local photographer here in hopes of learning all I can before I travel to South Africa later this year for what will probably be a once in a life time trip, and hope beyond hope I can manage a few good shots of the animals to commemorate the trip.
    Thanks again for sharing.
    Donna Michiel

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  4. Black Pearl

    Hello Jono,

    Can’t resist me appreciating your words throughout the article. I feel very sorry about your “format” experience, but thanks for making me laugh 🙂 Although, you have written a very very nice article, and I would definitely share it so that budding photographers may never get hesitate to get out for a photographic safari or simply a safari. Yes, gears does matters, but then no one is born photographer. Every one has to learn.

    Thanks again !!

    ~Black Pearl

  5. Simon

    Great Blog, Jono….and so much I can relate to! I think I’ve learnt more about photography in the last year, joining you guys on a couple of trips, than I have learnt in the last 10 years of reading and researching.

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