What I love most about my career, apart from the incredible destinations I get to explore, is the variety of people that I get to meet. No two safaris, courses or workshops are ever the same because of this diversity, and this was clearly evident on our March edition of the popular wildlife photography course.
After arriving at the Springbok Lodge and tucking into lunch, I like to get the ball rolling by finding out where everyone is in terms of their understanding of photography and, for the first time, almost all of the guests had attended our digital photography course at some stage and everyone was pretty comfortable with the basics!
With a solid foundation already in place, I used the time before our first afternoon drive to run through some of the most important camera settings pertaining to wildlife photography.
Heading out on our first drive, everyone was eager to try out and get used to these new settings (which included back button focus I might add) and we were able to try these out on a variety of general game and bird species. It was a good thing that we had a pretty advanced group – our first sighting proved to be a difficult one for even the most seasoned of photographers.
As we packed up from our drinks stop, we got the call that there were two male lions not too far away from where we were. The light was fading fast and the sun had already dipped below the horizon. As we neared the sighting I guided the guests in terms of their options for capturing the scene that awaited us:
- Fight the light with ISO and aperture and try and capture a decent, sharp image
- Go with the flow – literally by using slow shutter speeds to pan with the movement of the males.
Option 2 proved to be the best bet as we reached the top of a mountain where we could not venture off road, and the two males moved perpendicular to us at a range of about 70m.
Panning movement with lions in low light on day one of a wildlife photography course – not an easy task by a long shot, but the group coped really well and, more important than whether they got the shot or not, everyone was starting to think about far more than just their subjects and camera settings.
Our challenges with low light continued as we came across a spotted eagle owl which gave us the opportunity to talk about the various metering modes, how they work and how to use them in the field, as well as ISO and the power of technology in many of the newer cameras. It was at this stage that many of our guests established the limits of the cameras as well as the benefits of quality lenses, as a couple of guests struggled to capture the scene before them.
Our second day was jam packed with more practical learning whilst out on a drive – making the theoretical presentation I usually use redundant! A buffalo sighting gave us another great opportunity to work on exposure compensation and further reinforce the manner in which the camera exposes a scene. By manually over-exposing the scene, guests were able to ensure that their subjects (the buffalo) were correctly exposed rather than leaving them as dark black blobs with no detail.
After breakfast we got stuck into some of the more artistic and compositional aspects of wildlife photography, finishing off with the various wildlife photography scenarios that are detailed on the “cheat sheets” that each guest receives. These cheat sheets would also provide the guests with an outline of the settings they would be using later that evening when we headed out to capture the night skies!
The weekend was rounded off with some great interaction between two young male lions and an older male who seemed to be re-establishing territorial boundaries and, as the weekend came to a close, looked back on some of the images we had captured.
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I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend teaching and sharing with a group of keen photographers, and I am looking forward to following their progress as they apply their newfound skills on their travels. Here’s what the guests had to say about their experience:
“What an awesome weekend – Andrew gave us practical, easy to follow tips and advice, in a relaxed and fun environment. I highly recommend the course!”
“Fantastic experience with great people. Very informative and educational. Excellent way of putting the theory into a practical environment.”
“I highly recommend this course, especially being an expat! There is no better way to experience South Africa and all the beauty it has to offer than being in the bush with expert photographers helping you capture those memories along the way!”
I am looking forward to returning to Nambiti Private Game Reserve on my next wildlife photography course in May (which is already fully booked) and then again in December.