Call of the Wild photography

Will be going on this trip June 2019. After having a travel and photographic hiatus for awhile, looking forward to taking some wonderful photos of scenery, nature, activities, & people while still being in the moment. Any suggestions/experiences regarding cameras, shots, etc. May get a new camera and then use it for China trip. Thanks.


  • edited December 2018
    Dear ToLife,

    Suggestions for a new camera — may I suggest that that is a question that would cross a wise man’s eyes! LOL.

    But I can answer your question with a series of questions to help you narrow your search:

    1. How much into photography are you — from taking pictures of grandkids and such with a cell phone vs. using a camera with interchangeable lenses and complex controls and menus? The majority of Tauck travelers I’ve met, wish to be “in the moment” and don’t want to spend time fussing with a camera.

    2. What price point do you wish to make a purchase at — from a couple of hundred dollars to over a thousand for a “prosumer” camera?

    3. How “geeky” are you — from setting the camera on automatic, to fiddling with shutter speeds, lens openings, and “film speeds” — ISO or we used to have ASA?

    4. What are your target results — most any camera can do close-ups, portraits, general scenes. But are you after telescopic shots of animals — that can get very expensive. A corollary is what quality photos do you need — photos for scrapbooks, slideshows, Facebook, computer screens vs. high resolution prints to hang in your home?

    5. My suggestion is that you answer questions like the above, then go to a really good camera store, find a sales person you can bond with, and discuss those answers so they can narrow down the category of camera that might suit your needs.

    6. If you’re thinking about a pricey camera, you might consider renting the equipment on sites like to try it out, see if you like the ergonomics, menus, size, weight, etc. In previous threads, folks on these forums often suggest specific cameras that work for them, but it’s hard to find a camera that is one size fits all. The better approach is to decide what you, personally, want in a camera, then have some fun looking for it.

    It’s become easier and easier to take technically good pictures because the technology has improved at an exponential rate. You don’t have to be a guru on the qualities of light, etc. — the camera does it for you. The quality of cameras is so good nowadays that it has made life very competitive for the professional photographer.

    And, at least one company has stopped making the “point and shoot” cameras — because smart phones have just about obviated them. So then, the big jump is to the more expensive cameras with greater telescopic ability, greater resolution, etc.

    And, finally, it’s really the Indian, not the Arrow. One’s artistic ability — the ability to compose the picture in the frame, to press the shutter at the right moment, the ability to find the very moment that will capture the viewer’s interest — all those variables will govern making a striking image.

    A number of folks have liked the images I’ve posted on Tauck forums, but — I’m a photo nut. But the point is, only a few of us are interested in spending the time and money to hone our skills.

    So, for example, you will see images of lion’s faces on my gallery — but they were accessed with expensive tele lenses.

    Best wishes, have a wonderful trip!

  • ToLife wrote:
    Will be going on this trip June 2019. After having a travel and photographic hiatus for awhile, looking forward to taking some wonderful photos of scenery, nature, activities, & people while still being in the moment. Any suggestions/experiences regarding cameras, shots, etc. May get a new camera and then use it for China trip. Thanks.

    Doug’s photos go beyond what I would believe 99.9% of us could aspire to. They are incredible but he is a true enthusiast with high end equipment.

    I’ll throw my 2 cents in as someone who loves to take photos but with much less skill. Sony makes 2 very good cameras with bigger sensors than the average point and shoot models. The rx100vi has a 4x lens and cost about $1100 and the rx10iv has a 25x lens and costs about $1600. Both are considered the best in their class. These are obviously expensive and I would only suggest buying either if you really plan on using them and learning their capabilities.

    My wife and I will take 800-1000 photos on our trips so these cameras suit us perfectly but I am sure they are for a limited few who really enjoy taking pictures and putting together albums.

    Whatever you decide, the prize is the trip itself and I’m sure you will have a wonderful time.
  • I’d like to thank BSP51 for the very kind compliment.

    If you haven’t heard my story, I think it should be a source of encouragement, if you’re interested in learning how to make striking images. I look back on my vacation photos and find I’ve only gotten good at making photos in the past couple of years.

    I’ve always been interested in photography and played in a darkroom, even though we lived in Watts, when I was a teen.

    So, I didn’t do much with photography during my working years. When my wife and I retired, we upped our traveling in tour groups, particularly with Tauck.

    But I’m not a very cultured guy, and was soon bored with museums and churches — seen one, seen them all was my refrain. Chuckle.

    So, I became enthused with the new digital photography, picked up a camera, and sat outdoors drinking coffee and shot the street while my wife and the others in the tour group did the museum and churches thing.

    At any rate, there seemed to be a point where, it was like learning chords on a musical instrument — suddenly, it all comes together, you get at ease with it, and you begin to sense what you want to do with the instrument.

    Or, to use Zen and the Art of Archery, do the 10,000 shots. Release the bow into the night, it strikes the target.

    Using a camera seems to me to be like that. You learn the controls, mostly (they’re often times too complex to really nail down), and when you can manipulate those, then you are freer to ask yourself about composition, colors, the angle you are viewing the subject at, whether you want to fill the frame up close or go wide. You begin to think about the best moment to press the shutter. You begin to assess whether what you see in the frame will make others pause and view the image for more than a fifth of a second. And you begin to ask yourself if the image has any greater philosophical or satirical or comical slant than just a pretty picture.

    So the encouragement is, it’s not hard. If you find it fun and are not critical of yourself, my guess is, you’ll progress, and it will increasingly come together for you.

    I also like to look at images in magazines, newspapers and just ask “what makes this image work? Or not.” You can even do that in the bathtub! And have a drink while you’re there.

    I’m not very familiar with Sony’s line of cameras — many amateur and professional folks rave about their high end line of cameras, the A7 series — full frame sensor in a smaller, lighter, mirrorless body.

    I read the DP Review of one of the cameras BSP51 talks about, the IV, and you can read the review and see the video here:

    That camera is basically a gold-award, fantastic piece of equipment. You should be able to take pictures technically as good as or better than mine. For the non-professional, one shouldn’t feel limited by that camera. You ought to be able to get those very far away animals. And, you don’t have to buy a whole bunch of lenses — it’s “All in One.”

    Personally, the problem is that with any high-end, semi-pro or prosumer piece of equipment, you need to learn the menu system, and the question is, which manufacturer’s menu system are you going to have the least difficulty with. If you have been using a particular manufacturer’s menu systems on their lower end models, moving up should be relatively easy.

    I had difficulty with Sony’s lower end menu systems, then went to other manufacturers. The review above, mentions the issue.

    So, that’s all about the ARROW. The more fun part is really about working on the Indian or, to use the other metaphor, the student of the Zen of photography.

    And I found that going on photography workshops, like the Wyoming one in my gallery, just speeds your development by light years. The only thing is, you need to buck up and proceed with courage — the whole group is going to see your images projected on a wall — and you may feel a bit naked. But everyone’s in the same boat — all naked, and the water is just fine. Sorry if I squashed my metaphors.

    You can see that gallery here:

  • Dear douglassue and BSP51,
    Thank you for your helpful and thoughtful responses. I will use the information you shared in my search and decision making process regarding new camera equipment. Your insights are greatly appreciated.
  • Doug: Your photos were awesome! We are set to travel with Tauck to South Africa in May, and I was enthralled with the Africa photos, especially the lions and leopard.s Thanks for that tip re shooting lower down from the window. I also use a telephoto lens and would welcome any other insider tips for animal photos.
  • Hi Gary,

    Suggestions for taking safari photos:

    1. As has been mentioned before, it’s best to leave tripods at home. I brought one, but it’s not worth the trouble of schlepping it on the airplane. You can’t use it in a safari vehicle, and even a monopod is not useful.

    2. I also tried the sandbag — I bought a Grizzly, but I felt it was worthless. You can cushion the tele with anything, a piece of cloth, your hand. Carrying beans or sand around isn’t worth it.

    3. I found the fancy scarves and bandannas as cumbersome. Stop at a CVS before you leave, get a box of surgical masks to protect you from the dust. It’s daunting.

    4. Bring a nice microfiber jacket — and use it for multiple purposes: a) to keep you warm at night. b) to put on your lap in the safari vehicle and wrap your camera and long lens in while the vehicle is raising dust and bouncing around c) I cradled TWO cameras in the microfiber jacket and use a Black Rapid Dual harness. Looks a bit silly, but two cameras give you a great range of readily available lenses. If you use two cameras, you forego the problem of changing lenses and getting dust in your camera.

    5. Folks will have different opinions, but for professional-like safari pictures, you need a very long lens. I believe Leopard In A Tree in my gallery was taken with a 420mm, and I used an 840 equivalent 80% of the time. I used two Olympus OMD EM-1 Mark IIs. As you probably know, these are mirrorless cameras, with reduced body and lens weight. I was able to pull in shots one could barely see with the naked eye. It’s true animals will come often come next to the vehicle, but that’s not exactly what I wanted — I wanted portraits of animals in their environment.

    6. You don’t have to buy super-telephoto lenses just for these trips. You can rent them at places like

    It’s difficult to bring a large camera bag in a safari vehicle, and worse climbing up and down with it, and down the aisle with it. For me, the best solution was to wear a photo vest or safari vest with your stuff in it, and wear my cameras all the time with the dual harness, and use a small daypack for camera accessories, and personal items.

    7. You will find the other Tauckies are wonderful. And if you offer to share some of your best images with them, they will oftentimes return your graciousness by letting you take whatever position you wish in the vehicle, etc. since many just bring point and shoots or their smartphones.

    8. My instructor, Pulitzer-Prize-winner Jay Dickman, advised getting the seat at the rear of the vehicle, when you could. This gives you a more panoramic opportunity. I didn’t wish to impose on others by hogging that position — actually, it’s more bumpy and people didn’t flock to it anyway.

    But I liked the position next to the driver — really difficult to stand up there, and you contort your body a lot, especially since the roof opening is narrower there, but if you take your shoes off, you can stand on the seat, and it offers some great views when the vehicle is stopped.

    Truth is, you can get great shots from anywhere in the vehicle. And Tauckies were enthused by my enthusiasm and often times pointed out shots for me and told me, “Get this one, come stand here!” People are just great.

    9. I always carry a jacket on tours, including buses. You use the jacket as a hood, covering your head and camera, pressed against the window to remove any reflections while taking pictures from the moving bus. Again, you look kind of goofy, but you’ll get images that no one else will. This was especially useful in Northern Ireland, where we did not stop to get the images painted on the buildings, of the "Troubles".

    Best wishes,

  • edited December 2018
    Gary K. wrote:
    Doug: Your photos were awesome! We are set to travel with Tauck to South Africa in May, and I was enthralled with the Africa photos, especially the lions and leopard.s Thanks for that tip re shooting lower down from the window. I also use a telephoto lens and would welcome any other insider tips for animal photos.

    You might have to disregard some of Doug’s suggestions because you are going to South Africa, so it is different to an East African Safari, which is what Doug’s experience is from. You are not allowed to stand up in the vehicle and it is completely open, so much easier to take photos than in the east Africa safari vehicles. We also saw leopards in their ‘natural environment’ so there was no need to use a large telephoto lens. You can get much closer to animals in South Africa, such as have a mom and baby Rhino right next to you. In Namibia, an elephant wrapped its trunk around the roll bar on the top of our vehicle and we looked him in the eye.

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