Dont Put Your Camera Down

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Penny 2 Comments

Before I went on the Big Cats and Tuskers Photo Safari with Gerry, (by the way, it was an incredible safari!), I wrote a blog called Photography is Endless Creativity, and in it I mentioned that photography opens up a never-ending list of possibilities.

I forgot to mention that your camera gear does as well!

One morning in the Mara Triangle, I decided to take the 600mm for a spin and challenge myself. By using the 600mm, I knew that I would have to pay attention to my composition and what kind of image I would like to take, especially depending on my distance from the subject.

As we made our way out of the Wild Eye camp, we stopped off to enjoy the rising sun as a hot air balloon made its way over the forest that clings to one part of the bank of the Mara River.

© Penny Robartes - Wildlife and Nature Photographer

After we got our fill of mist-heavy landscapes, we drove off to go and find the cubs that we had photographed the day before. Knowing that we were bound to get interaction shots and, being realistic now – we all love lion cubs, we were all hoping to photograph them in the beautiful golden light that was starting to push its way through the misty morning.

And as if on cue, there the lions cubs were, lying in the tall grass by the edge of the dirt road. With the two lionesses gone hunting, the cubs were alert and active as they rubbed against one another as they met, before laying in the first bite.

Let the games begin!

This was all very delightful and the photographic opportunities were great as we all had 7 cubs to absorb our attention. Lifting up the 600mm, I felt some dread as we were really close to the cubs. I knew I would miss some opportunities due to the limitations of my lens, and I was kind of cursing at myself for being too optimistic so early in the morning.

Let me just add a little side note here; I did have another camera body with a 24-70mm, but the camera body I was using was terrible in low-light conditions and it’s noise was pretty spectacular when the ISO was pushed higher than 800.

I love this image below. For me, it is a big step in my photographic journey as I am looking at sightings in a different way, and finding new ways to interpret what I see and how to tell that story.


BUT, as you can see, the noise is really not ideal. I probably wouldn’t be able to use this image for anything because I personally find the noise just too distracting. It doesn’t compliment the image for me, and decreasing the noise further just made the image soft.

TIP: Make sure you have camera gear that you are comfortable with and that won’t limit you. Most camera bodies nowadays can shoot at extreme ISO’s with little noise. This camera body is a good 7, if not more, years old.

Coming back to the fact that I had two lens options, I decided there and then to keep using the 600mm and not swap it for the 24-70mm.

This was probably one of the best decisions I made that for that sighting, and this is why:

© Penny Robartes - Wildlife and Nature Photographer

I dont think I would have gotten this image had I not been limited by the 600mm, and forced to pay attention to composition and the type of image I wanted to capture.

As you can see, the lion cubs were in pretty long grass, making it quite hard to focus on them.

This is one of many situations where you don’t put your camera down! Even if the grass is very thick, use your camera and lens to create images that you may not have thought of capturing.

Use the environment to your advantage.

As with the image above, one of the reasons I like it is because I have no other like it. A combination of a wide aperture and great magnification enabled me to blur the grass in front of the cubs face, making a ‘distraction’ into a natural frame.

This image is more powerful as it has a story, a setting. The fact that the ears and chin are cut off does not bother me in the least, as the natural framing adds to the intimacy and ‘quietness’ of the image. I feel like I am peering into the grass and I was able to catch a glimpse of a moment that otherwise would have been lost, if I had put my camera down.

You are photographing flamingoes and pelicans doing what they do. You have taken multiple shots of them in flight, taking off, landing, standing, wading…what else is there?

© Penny Robartes - Wildlife and Nature Photographer

Instead of thinking that you have gotten all the shots that you could get out of the scene in front of you, start playing around with your camera settings and see what you get! There is always so much more to capture and portray than you think!

Use what is available to you. Look at your scene and think about how you can capture it. Your camera is a powerful tool and if you combine it with your knowledge on what it’s settings do and affect, there are no limitations of what you can try to achieve and show!

© Penny Robartes - Wildlife and Nature Photographer

Don’t let yourself be held back. Go for that opportunity that pushes you into a new photographic space. If I hadn’t gone for the 600mm, my shots would have been completely different. I’m not saying better or worse, but I wouldn’t have seen what I could do when forced to think about how to portray my subject with a magnification limitation, how to look at a scene and think about the story I want to tell, pay even more attention to composition as there was no room for error.

I wouldn’t have been able to push myself and seen how I have grown since last year.

Starting off the Big Cats and Tuskers Photo Safari in a ‘thought-provoking’ way, the rest of the sightings in the safari had me thinking constantly and taking photos for a reason, not because I can but because I wanted to capture a certain something.

Penny Robartes

Comments 2

    1. Penny Robartes

      My pleasure Derek! It definitely tests your knowledge of your camera, and how the different setting will affect your image. I would love to see some of your images some time!

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