James’s cam­era and photo gear

Pack­ing the right gear is one of the most im­por­tant stages of any pho­tog­ra­phy trip – here’s a stel­lar setup…

NPhoto - - Feature -

01 Long zoom

To fill the frame with dis­tant an­i­mals you need a long lens – at least 300mm. Mon­ster primes like Nikon’s 600mm f/4 are pre­ferred by pros, but for most of us this is way out of both our price range and bag­gage al­lowance. A ver­sa­tile, high­qual­ity zoom like the Sigma 150-600mm Sport is ideal, and won’t break the bank.

02 Wide an­gle

A wide-an­gle lens is a very use­ful ad­di­tion. Not only can you use it to shoot land­scapes or star shots at night, it also comes in handy on those oc­ca­sions when an­i­mals come up re­ally close to the sa­fari ve­hi­cle, or for cap­tur­ing wider shots of wildlife within those renowned epic African land­scapes.

03 Cam­era

A DSLR with good low-light per­for­mance means you can shoot an­i­mals at dawn and dusk and your images won’t be over­run with noise. A high megapixel count is also use­ful, as you can crop in when your lens isn’t quite long enough. The D800 here has 36 mil­lion, so even crop­ping off half the frame leaves a de­tail-rich im­age.

04 50mm lens

A 50mm prime lens has all sorts of use­ful ap­pli­ca­tions, from tak­ing por­traits with beau­ti­fully blurred back­grounds, to shoot­ing in the low light of the evening or dawn. What’s more, it’s a great walk­a­bout lens for cap­tur­ing the vi­brant African sights around you, and it won’t take up too much room in the bag.

05 Bean­bag

Sta­bil­ity is vi­tal when us­ing long lenses, and a bean­bag rested on the side of a sa­fari truck is of­ten more prac­ti­cal than a mono­pod or tri­pod in such a con­fined space. But check with your tour op­er­a­tor be­fore you go out and buy one, as many keep their trucks well stocked with bean­bags that you can bor­row.

06 Mono­pod

When shoot­ing with a long lens a mono­pod gives you enough sta­bil­ity to ward off shake, and enough ma­noeu­ver­abil­ity to track the an­i­mal. As such, it’s one of the most use­ful bits of kit in the sa­fari pho­tog­ra­pher’s bag, es­pe­cially when shoot­ing from ve­hi­cles that don’t have rails or win­dows to rest the cam­era on.

07 Spare body

If you have a spare DSLR and the space in your bag­gage, then bring it along too. Cam­eras can fail, and you don’t want to be left with­out one when on the trip of a life­time. You can also use your backup cam­era for dif­fer­ent tasks that might tie up your main body, like shoot­ing a time­lapse or for video.

08 Bag

A top qual­ity bag is vi­tal – not just for trans­port, but also pro­tec­tion. Your bag be­comes sort of like a mo­bile of­fice when on a trip. With space for all our gear plus a lap­top, the Benro Sherpa 600 here is a great choice. Cru­cially, it’s just un­der the stan­dard air­line di­men­sion lim­its for car­ryon lug­gage.

09 Gim­bal

A gim­bal, like the Benro here, is by far the best way to mount a long lens to a tri­pod. It al­lows you to smoothly track the move­ment of a run­ning an­i­mal or bird in flight. You prob­a­bly wouldn’t find it all that use­ful in the lim­ited space of a sa­fari ve­hi­cle, but when you’re able to shoot on land it’s in­valu­able.

10 Acc es­sories

Bring along plenty of mem­ory cards – trust us, your DSLR will eat through them. A backup drive will help free up mem­ory card space. You’ll need a spare bat­tery or two (although some sa­fari trucks will have plugs for recharg­ing). Lens wipes are also very use­ful as the dust is per­va­sive dur­ing dry sea­sons.

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