I'm gearing up for my upcoming Botswana/South Africa photo safari – where I will be teaching creative composition, exposure and image processing. For my photo workshop participants, as well as for those going on a safari of their own, here are my gear recommendations:
• Two camera bodies. Action, near and far, can happen fast on a photo safari. If you have a wide-angle zoom on one body and a telephoto zoom on another, you'll always be ready for the action – and will not miss a shot while changing lenses. I'll be using my Canon 5DS and Canon 7D Mark II.
• Zoom Lenses. I'm packing four Canon zoom lenses: 17-40mm for wide-angle shots, 24-105mm for environmental photographs, 75-300mm for closer shots, and 100-400mm for even closer shots.
Why Zoom Lenses? I like using zoom lenses so I can zoom in and out of scenes, like the one above. With a fixed lens, it's possible to get in too close, resulting in an important part of the animal's body being cropped out.
•Tele-converter. I am also packing my Canon 1.4x tele-converer for far-away shots. Note that some tele-converters do not let you use auto-focus when used on some camera/lens combinations. So, you'll need to focus manually.
• Filters. I am not packing any filters, as I use the digital filters in the plug-ins that I use.
Laptop with Photoshop and/or Lightroom and plug-ins. During the downtime/midday hours, we'll be processing our images (in addition to napping). It's important to always have your laptop charged, just in case of a temporary power loss. It's also important to bring a power adapter. If you want to charge multiple devices, bring an extension cord and a three- or four-plug adapter. A power strip with a different voltage can blow out, which is something I learned from experience!
• Memory cards, card readers, hard drives, batteries and chargers. One of my goals is not to take a million pictures. I try to shoot smart. I'll bring about a dozen Lexar 32GB Compact Flash memory cards. Each night I will download my files onto both of my 500GB G-tech hard drives (so the pictures are saved in two places). I'll also bring two card readers and cables. Readers and cables have been known to fail. Batteries and battery chargers can also fail. Pack extras as insurance.
• Tripod. To keep my gear weight down, I am not packing a tripod. If you are traveling light, you may want to bring a lightweight tripod for evening and nighttime shots. As an FYI: you can't use a tripod in a safari vehicle when you are traveling with a group.
• Bean Bags. Some photographers like to bring bean bags to steady their camera when they are shooting with long lenses. Me? I bring a big old sock and ask the kitchen folks to fill it with rice. I tie it shut with a rubber band. However, most of my photographs will be hand-held.
• Backpack. Each day I'll bring my gear to the safari vehicle in my backpack. Backpacks make it easy to carry your gear from your room to the vehicle.
• Other stuff. Don't forget to bring (and use) a blower to keep your sensor clean, and a lens cleaning cloth to keep your lens clean. It's also a good idea to pack a camera rain cover in your bag.
For more photo safari tips, see my KelbyOne class, Capturing The Wild: Safari Photography.