Our own experiences in Africa
Jan 10, 2016
Wildlife galore, breath-taking landscapes, fascinating and ancient cultures and friendly people, Africa has all this and more wrapped up in the most adventurous trip ever made. More than almost any other worldwide destination, Africa is the land of wildlife. Lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, buffalos, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses and crocodiles, together with another 1.100 species of mammals and 2.600 kinds of birds, make Africa a unique continent. Africa also rings with legends: The Okavango Delta, the Kalahari Desert, the snow-capped Kilimanjaro, the Ngorongoro crater, the Serengeti savannah, the dramatic Victoria Falls and the Great African Migration, these are just a few of the iconic destinations that exceeded our dreams. Besides, the ethnic groups in Africa number in the thousands, some of them inhabiting places of difficult access and maintaining their own languages and traditions. Others, such as the Maasai people, still keep up their traditional nomadic lifestyle and social organization.
All this makes Africa the most incredible place for landscape and documentary photography, and especially, for wildlife photography which is one of the most challenging forms of photography. It does not only require sound technical skills in terms of low light conditions and the need for speed, but also calls for good field craft skills. Generally animals are difficult to approach and thus a knowledge of the animal’s behaviour is needed in order to be able to predict its actions. Last but not least, a bit of luck is also necessary to be in the right place at the right time…
Adventure, action and photography… Well, we are not going to hide it… we do love Africa!
Between 2014 and 2015 we travelled to Africa twice. In total, we covered more than 6.000 kilometres through 6 countries in Southern and Eastern Africa. For wildlife viewing we used 4WD vehicles, jeeps, trucks, motorboats, wooden mekoro canoes and helicopters. Also, we experienced walking safaris and night game drives. In total, we took more than 12.000 photographs, shooting more than 50 mammal species and more than 30 kinds of birds in their natural environments. After some months of hard work, we selected the 150 pictures that compose the album. Throughout Africa, we visited 22 natural reserves, including national parks, natural spaces and conservation areas. Among others, those below were our destinations:
- Kilimanjaro – Tanzania, 2015
- Lake Manyara NP – Tanzania, 2015
- Lake Eyasi – Tanzania, 2015
- Empakai Crater – Tanzania, 2015
- Ngorongoro CA – Tanzania, 2015
- Serengeti NP, Seronera – Tanzania, 2015
- Serengeti NP, Mara – Tanzania, 2015
- Serengeti NP, Lobo – Tanzania, 2015
- Lake Natron – Tanzania, 2015
- Tarangire NP – Tanzania, 2015
- Johannesburg – South Africa, 2014
- Kruger NP – South Africa, 2014
- Great Zimbabwe NM – Zimbabwe, 2014
- Matopos NP – Zimbabwe, 2014
- Hwange NP – Zimbabwe, 2014
- Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe, 2014
- Victoria Falls – Zambia, 2014
- Chobe NP – Botswana, 2014
- Nata – Botswana, 2014
- Okavango Delta – Botswana, 2014
- Khama Rhino Sanctuary – Botswana, 2014
- Central Kalahari Desert – Botswana, 2014
NP – National Park
CA – Conservation Area
NM – National Monument
Equipment for an African Photographic Safari
Jan 10, 2016
In the early days of photography, it was impossible to get a photograph of wildlife due to the lack of fast lenses and film´s low light sensitivity. In fact, it was not until 1906 that National Geographic published its first wildlife photos. Nowadays, successful wildlife photography still requires specific equipment that may be quite expensive and heavy to travel with. Among others, reflex cameras, long focal length lenses, macro lenses and waterproof gear are needed. In my last two trips to Africa I carried more than 11Kg of photographic equipment. Among other things, my backpack contained the following gear:
- 2 DSLR APS-C Cameras – Nikon D7100 & Nikon D5200
- 1 Backup hybrid Camera – Panasonic DMC-FZ8
- 1 Super telephoto lens – SIGMA 150-500mm f/5-6.3
- 1 Telephoto lens – NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6
- 1 Standard zoom lens – NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6
- 1 Standard prime lens – NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4
- 1 Super wide angle lens – SIGMA 10-20 f/4-5.6
- 6 batteries + Grip Battery + Universal Plug Adapters
- 280Gb storage devices + Ipad Mini I.
- Light Travel Tripod + a bean bag.
- Remote Control Shooter + Camera Spirit Level
- UV Filters, Polarize Filters and Neutral Density Filter
- Cleaning Kits
- Silicone Protections + Lens raincoat
- Pro-sized Photo-gear Backpack
- Photography vest
Landscape Photography in Victoria Falls
Fev 28, 2015
On July 12th 2014, we arrived to one of the campsites of Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe with the objective of photographing the world’s largest waterfalls. The Victoria Falls, or locally called “The Smoke that Thunders”, is in Southern Africa, on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. There are three ways to photograph this UNESCO World Heritage Site: from Zimbabwe, from Zambia and from the air. The best season to capture the cataracts is at the dry season, when the lowest volume of flow occurs, there is less mist, and the spray-levels become more manageable.
From the Zimbabwean side you may photograph the sunrise. On July 13th (austral winter), the sunrise was expected at 5.52 am. In this season, Victoria Falls Park opens at 5.30, so the plan was to set up our tripods opposite the Devil’s Cataract (Park’s view point 4) around 15 min before daybreak. That day, we got up at 4.45 and walked 30 min to the VF Park entry, but unfortunately, there was an event that we hadn’t taken into account: the Park’s guard was still sleeping! After 20 min waiting, he finally arrived and opened the Park. Then, we ran to the Devil’s Cataract and, as quickly as possible, we set up the photographic equipment. Fortunately, we could be ready on time to shoot this astonishing moment.
The only way you can photograph the entire Victoria Falls is from the air. To take an aerial picture of VF you will need: one reflex camera + one wide angle lens + one helicopter! OK, do not worry about the helicopter part, there are many companies offering short flights over the waterfalls for an affordable price. After spending the morning in the National Park, we went to a local heliport. From the air we could photograph both sides, the Zimbabwean and the Zambian. This has been one of my life time experiences. Photographing from the air can be breathtaking, but do not forget to set a high speed on your camera to avoid blurred images due to the helicopter movement.
Another one of our goals was to photograph the sunset from the Zambian side. The image is awesome due to the fact that you can shoot the entire First Gorge. Nevertheless, to enter in Zambian’s Park, you need to buy the Zambian visa (and later the Zimbabwean one to come back to the campsite) and hold the Yellow Fever Card. Besides this, you must take into account that the border’s gate closes at 18h. For this reason, we couldn’t get there. However, you are allowed to cross the VF Bridge without a visa, and take amazing pics from the Zambian side. This is worth the hassle.
In conclusion, even if July wasn’t the best season to photograph the waterfalls, the results were fantastic. A bit of postproduction with Photoshop and HDR effects helped to define and enhance the structure of the gorge, rocks and individual streams. In my opinion, photographing in VF is a life time experience that may be combined with many other adventure activities in the area (and Southern Africa).
Jan 29, 2015
Photography is generally defined as a light recording process that generates durable images. Travel Photography consists in capturing daily life instants that belong to a given land at a given time of its history. This genre includes cultures, customs, ethnic groups, beliefs, history, landscapes and nature among many more topics, and is usually intensified by your own experiences and emotions. Hope you enjoy this blog.
“In the end, it’s not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away” – Shing Xiong
Travel Photography Gear
Budget, weight and versatility are three important questions for an enthusiast travel photographer. On the other hand, all this may sacrifice optical quality and wider maximum aperture. I currently use a Nikon D7100, together with a 35mm f/1.8 and a 50mm f/1.4 Nikon prime lenses. For landscape, I bought a second-hand 10-20 f/5.4 Sigma EX lens, and for wildlife photography I carry the 150-500 f/6.3 Sigma tele lens.
Action, adventure and wildlife photography:
Well, I am not going to hide it, I am a fan of Africa. Even if you can have action and adventure almost everywhere worldwide, I would choose Africa as my favorite continent. It’s not only heaven for wildlife photographers, but also it may be combined with landscapes, portraits and documentary photography among others:
- In terms of landscape photography, you may shoot breathtaking red-sanded deserts (Kalahari/Namibia), astonishing volcanos (Tanzania), the longest waterfalls (Zimbabwe/Zambia), inland deltas (Botswana), white sandy beaches (Kenya/Tanzania), savannahs, jungles, and many more… Not to mention, you can photograph the red colours of the African sunset.
- In terms of wildlife photography, in Eastern and Southern Africa you will find the biggest wildlife concentrations in the world. You may gaze at the Great African Migration, at the same time that lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas and crocodiles try to catch their happy meal. Beside this, there are buffalos, rhinos, elephants, hippos, gorillas, chimpanzees, giraffes and another big etc. Here you will feel like a National Geographic photographer!
- In terms of portrait & documentary photography, ethnic groups in Africa number in the thousands, each generally having its own language and culture. Some of them are closer to tourism, other in places of difficult access. This is an excellent chance for portrait, lifestyle and reportage photography.
On the other hand, Africa may be the most expensive destination. Some places are very exclusive and demanded worldwide (such as a safari into the N’gorongoro Crater). Camping in Africa may be a cheaper solution (and also a wilder experience).
Culture, Integration & documentary photography:
I have undergone the best experience in Cuba. We backpacked around the island and slept in local people’s houses. This experience gives you the opportunity of spending time with the Cubans and their families, sharing the day to day customs, culture and memories of the revolution. Cuba is a beautiful island, and the people are warm and enthusiastic. As a keen photographer, you can enjoy landscape, documentary and portrait photography, as well as urban documentary photography in Habana.
Easy to travel:
We backpacked in Indochina and Southeast Asian countries and it was an amazing experience. Travelling here is very easy, cheap and generally places are well connected. Hindu temples and people, and Buddhist monks will offer you a nice chance for portrait and documentary photography.
Even if you can shoot landscapes everywhere worldwide, Latin America offers you a good range of landscape possibilities. In only one trip to Peru, Chile, Argentina or Brazil, you can find deep jungles, high mountain ranges, amazing deserts and beaches and breathtaking waterfalls. This offers good chances for landscape, portrait and documentary photography.
I don’t know if this adjective really exists in English, but if the adjective exists, other-worldly means India. I travelled to India with my first reflex camera and everything was astonishing. Portrait, documentary and street photography were my main genres of photography.