Suggestions for taking photos on safari

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. I like the thin ones that are flexible and are the easiest to breath through. The dust is 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 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

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

8. 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.

9. 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, 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.

8. I always carry a light 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".

Examples can be seen at my gallery, here:


  • edited December 2018
    You might have to disregard some of Doug’s suggestions if you are going to South Africa, as 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.
    When you go on your very first safari ride, you may well go crazy trying to photograph animals that are way off in the distance and be delighted. Several days later you will undoubtedly find yourself being very close to the very same animal type, take photos and erase those first distant photographs, I see that happen all the time. It even gets to the extent that people don't even want to stop and observe animals that a few days ago they had been so eager to spot. At this point I feel upset for the drivers who work so hard to ensure that everyone gets the most amazing experiences. It's so rude and sad to see people behave like that. There is definitely a time to put that camera away too and just enjoy the view.
  • Thank you Doug and British for that great information and the time spent putting it together! Now if I can capture just some of the images that you posted on your site...........! Much appreciated from both of you, and British thanks for pointing out some of the differences that we will experience in South Africa.
  • Thank you Doug and British for that great information and the time spent putting it together! Now if I can capture just some of the images that you posted on your site...........! Much appreciated from both of you, and British thanks for pointing out some of the differences that we will experience in South Africa.
  • Have a really great time, Gary, and let us know a bit about your experience.

    Kind regards,

  • And, Gary, ( from my experience), sometimes you just take a quick stop, put up the camera, hit the zoom ( have a “super zoom”), hit the button and end up with the best shot of your trip ( a leopard descending a tree, frontwards, from his afternoon nap)! In what universe does that happen? In other words, the animals do not always give you a lot of time posing while you do a set-up. Have your camera at the ready.
  • Well said. You're correct....some of my best shots have been form "point and shoot". Can't wait!
  • maybe you should check this guide site, it tells about what to do in Africa Safari..
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