- Normally the African winter days are beautiful and sunny, but it can get chilly early in the morning.
- Dress warm for early morning but you might feel the need as the day progresses to get rid of some of your warm clothing so we suggest to dress in layers.
- Due to changing rain patterns world wide, predicting if it will rain on your African Safari is not always easy. Be prepared for the possibility of rain at all times. A light foldable raincoat will also help with cold in the early morning and late afternoons.
- You will need a soft hat and sunscreen at all times.
- Laundry services are available on request at most lodges sometimes at additional cost to you.
- Most of the countries in the Africa Region are established malaria areas. Please consult with your medical specialist regarding the vaccinations required for the region you will be visiting.
- It is advisable to get Yellow Fever injections and carry the certificate with you as this is required in some countries.
- Make sure that you take your own medication as required and please inform your lodge and safari guide of any medical conditions, also where to find your medication if needed.
- If you are allergic to bee stings or has asthmatic conditions please ensure that you keep your medicine with you on all safari activities at all times.
- If there is specific procedures that are needed for applying your medication please inform the lodge and have a letter with the instructions with your medication ready to be find easily.
- It is strongly advised that you also pack the following:
Basic Medicines to treat stomach ache, headaches, diaree etc.
Wide brim hat
Sneakers or hiking boots
- Mosquito Repellent
- Sunglasses, preferably polarised, to eliminate glare.
- Raincoat and a warm jacket
- Cash or Credit Cards
Although you don’t need a lot of Cash with you, it is advised to take note of the currency used in the destination of your choice. It just might be easier to draw local currency at an ATM upon arrival at the airport. There are no ATM’s at lodges.
- Nairobi / Tanzania ($) – US Dollar
- Botswana / Victoria Falls (BWP) – Pula
- Namibia (N$) – Namibian Dollar
- South Africa (ZAR) – South African Rand
The Staff at Lodges / Guides and Drivers are always extremely helpful and they are an important link to ensuring your Safari is unforgettable. We do advice that you tip them for their work.
For Guides we suggest;
- Botswana – BWP 150 per day
- Kenya – US$ 15 per day
- Tanzanian – US$ 15 per day
- South Africa – R 150-00 per day
- Namibia – R 150-00 per day
For your porter tip him a small amount. For all other staff our suggestion is to give a tip in the general tip box.
All the people in the lodge is key to make your experience unforgivable, that includes the cleaners, the maintenance staff etc.
It is advisable that you bring your own adaptors with you on the trip to avoid possible complications. http://www.iec.ch/worldplugs. You need this to load your camera batteries, laptops and cellphones.
MOBILE DATA & WIFI
Enquire from your lodges if their is Wi-Fi available as well as cellular reception and which network has the strongest signal.
It is advisable to purchase a local sim and data at the main airport for the network that is the strongest at the lodge.
East Africa has severe luggage weight restrictions – therefore we suggest the purchase of a freight seat ticket on the Charter Flights that allows extra 70kg weight. (15 kg normal allowance per guest)
Only soft luggage bags bags with no hard sides are allowed.
Long lenses must be packed in soft bags.
It is important that no Photographic Equipment is handed in as cargo at the terminals. Instead you should carry your photography bag with you on the bus that transports you to the aircraft.
So before you board the plane, you may hand your camera bag to the cargo staff at the bottom of the aircraft staircase. Your bag will safely be packed in the cargo hold, and you may retrieve your bag on arrival at your destination at the bottom of the aircraft staircase again on descending. Some Airlines do not allowed fully charged batteries on flights and may also specify that batteries are packed in a specific way – please consult with your airline!
WHAT IS REGARDED AS PHOTOGRAPHIC EQUIPMENT?
- All types of cameras
- Lenses and converters, camera batteries, chargers and memory cards
- Laptops and chargers
- External backup drives
CUSTOMS DECLARATION OF PHOTOGRAPHIC EQUIPMENT
We suggest that you make a complete list of your equipment and serial numbers and get customs at your departure airport to verify and stamp this list. This will prevent possible customs complications on arrival back home.
It is highly recommended that you are comprehensively covered with travel and medical insurance. Also ensure to have insurance on lost or theft of your photographic equipment.
- A good DSLR camera or the latest hi-end Mirrorless cameras is the choice of professional photographers.
- A back-up camera is useful incase something goes wrong with your main camera
- If you don’t have any of the above a good bridge camera with a equivalent zoom range between 24mm and 600mm.
Due to space and weight limitations the following lenses are highly recommended for your wildlife photography;
The Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens and the Sigma 150-600mm Sports lens are excellent and will not break the budget. They are available in the following mounts – Canon, Nikon and Sony.
If you want te equivalent brand names then we suggest the following;
- Canon 100-400mm Zoom can be used with a 1,4x converter
- Nikon 200-500mm Zoom lens cannot be used with a converter
- Sony 200-600mm Zoom lens can be used with a 1,4x converter
Then for shorter lenses we suggest the following;
- 70-200mm lens ( Canon, Nikon, Sony, Sigma and Tamron)
- 24-70mm lens ( Canon, Nikon, Sony, Sigma and Tamron)
- Prime Lenses ( all brands) 400mm F2,8, 500mm F4, 600mm F4
These lenses can be combined with 1,4x, 1,7x and 2x converters but you must remember that you now need either a beanbag or Whimberley mount to shoot from. These need to be brought with you!
Always use the fastest and best memory cards available for your camera Have at least two spare memory cards for safety
We suggest no less than a 64gig memory card
After every session download your images and backup your images on a second drive. Make sure your images was downloaded and backed up before formatting your memory cards.
If you do not download your images whilst on safari ( not recommended) you should have a minimum of at least 10 memory cards with you.
- KNOW YOUR CAMERA INSIDE AND OUT
Your camera must be an extension of your hand. Learn how to use and the various focus points in your camera, how to quickly adjust your EV exposure, how to adjust your F-stops and how to change your ISO value without having to take your eye of the view finder. Learn the highest limited of your shutter speed ie. 1/4000 sec or 1/8000sec so that you don’t exceed these limits otherwise you will have overexposed images. If these shutter speeds starts blinking in your view finder you have exceeded the limited which will result in an over exposed image – you have to use a higher F-stop or decrease your ISO to let in less light.
- SET YOUR CAMERA UP FOR ACTION PHOTOGRAPHY ALL THE TIME
Start with a base ISO of at least ISO 800, F8 and -0,7 EV with a shutter speed of no less than 1/2000 sec. Use the general rule that your shutter speed should be at least 3x focal length to reduce camera shake and blurred images. Use much faster shutter speeds for birds in flight and action. Here we recommend 1/5000 sec and higher.
- SHOOT IN RAW FILE FORMAT AND UNDEREXPOSE TO EV-0,7 ALL THE TIME
In an extreme situation – a pied Kingfisher against a dark background you can even go as far as EV -1.7 The EV- not only protects the whites and highlights of your photographs it also allows for much higher shutter speeds that will allow you to shoot at smaller apertures for more depth of field while still shooting at high shutter speeds. For every one stop under exposure -1EV you effectually double your current shutter speed without raising your ISO with one stop or lowering your F- stop with one full stop. Obviously if you overexpose by plus one stop +1EV then you half your current shutter speed. The image may appear dark on the camera preview but in post processing you only bring the exposure slider back to say +1 and then you will have the same image as if you had shot it at 00EV but with the benefit that you have protected your whites and you have gained double the shutter speed without more noise. Most new cameras in the last 4 years have invariable censors that allows you to go easily between -3EV up to -5EV.
- KNOW THE FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE DEPTH OF FIELD AND MANAGE IT CONSTANTLY
Use the higher shutter speeds created by a higher base ISO and minus EV to shoot more depth in action photographs thus allowing you to still have high speed at say F11
- SHOOT APERTURE PRIORITY
No photographer shooting in Manual and Auto ISO will manage the same control and operational speed over highlights, shutter speeds and depth of field than a photographer shooting in Aperture Priority with minus EV.
The background and foreground is as important as the main subject when you are photographing wildlife.
Search for the cleanest possible background and reposition yourself when needed.
- BE SLOW TO FIRE AWAY WHERE THERE IS NO ACTION
Do not take photographs out of boredom! Remember that you’ll have to work through all those images. Rather spend the time to analyse the scene, study the behaviour of the animals and set up your camera to shoot the action or stories when it happens. Shoot in bursts to make sure you don’t run out of buffer and allows for quicker writing off the images to the memory card. Remember to buy Memory cards with a fast reading (and writing) speed so that you do not run out of buffer.
- SET THE STAGE
Like with all other disciplines of photography people plan their shoots – a studio photographer will always change lights to get what he wants, a landscape photographer will look at different angles to get his best light and composition a sports photographer will look for the cleanest possible background and high shutter speeds to get his image. Wildlife photography combines all these elements so find the right light, find the right angles and shoot at the highest possible shutter speed to capture the action and tell the story.
- RATE YOUR SCENE
We have limited hours of good photography light during a day therefore we must use the available light to the best of our advantage. If a scene doesn’t give you good foregrounds and backgrounds or if the animals is in the shade, or if you have strong reflective backlight take your one or two images and move on to a better scene that will give you better images. Use the good light effectively with good scenes. Do not spend hours with lions sleeping if they lie down and havent moved for 20 minutes the changes is slim that you will get any better. Move on!
There is not a single image taken with any camera in the world that can’t be improved using good editing software. Get professional training to use your camera and editing software effectively.
- USE PROFESSIONAL OPERATORS
Travel with a Professional Wildlife Safari Operator for whom your Photographic results are important.
No matter what your preferred Exposure Mode-Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority , Program or Manual your camera is programmed to render 18% Grey (or a variant thereof ) at EV (Exposure Value) 0.0 Think of different zones varying from pitch black on the one side to pure white on the other extreme with different degrees of grey in between. In practical terms this means that if you were to photograph a black page your camera will most likely render it 18% Grey and the same result will occur if you photographed a white page. It would be rendered 18% Grey. If you photograph a black page with a spot of white on it and the blacks are rendered grey the white will be over exposed.
The dilemma in photographing wildlife is that in many instances you will photograph scenes with dominant darker backgrounds with few highlights. If you were to leave your camera on EV 0.0 the Highlights will most certainly be over exposed. We therefore anticipate what the camera will do and deliberately underexpose the image to compensate for that.
That said it is fairly easy to recover detail in the darker areas that were lost during exposure but detail lost in the highlights during exposure are rarely effectively recovered..
The dilemma in photographing wildlife is that in many instances you will photograph scenes with dominant darker backgrounds with few highlights. If you were to leave your camera on EV 0.0 the Highlights will most certainly be over exposed. We therefore anticipate what the camera will do and deliberately underexpose the image to compensate for that.
Traditionally some photographers EV +’ed their images because certain sensors struggled with noise. Those arguments do not hold any merit. Most sensors of all brands now deal very well with noise and what is more there are a lot of noise reduction software available on the market but not ONE to bring back lost highlights. Add the further bonus that EV – allows for higher shutter speeds while protecting the highlights.
While cameras can vary widely by manufacturer, or even model, these 10 settings can still be found on just about every digital camera.
Most digital cameras are operated with a PASM switch. This is the dial on the
top of the camera that allows you to choose between Program Mode (close
to Automatic), Aperture Priority Mode, Shutter Priority Mode, and Manual Mode.
All DSLR cameras function this way, as do most compact cameras and mirrorless cameras.
A few companies have avoided this dial in favour of the inclusion of an aperture ring on the lens and a dedicated shutter speed dial. This makes this type of camera feel more like an old-school film-style SLR. Your particular setup will depend on the camera you purchased. While a concert violinist can pick up any violin and produce beautiful music, they will know every aspect of their particular instrument.
You need to utilise your camera to its fullest potential, and you should be completely comfortable with the controls.
That way, when you see a shot you desperately want to capture, you won’t find yourself fumbling around.
The best place to start is with your camera’s manual.
If you’re not interested in reading the entire manual, this guide will let you know the critical points to research.
The first three that I will cover are the most important. They are the ‘big three’ that control your exposure: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.
If you rotate your PASM dial to A (this designation may vary by manufacturer), your camera is now set to shoot in Aperture Priority, or Av mode.
Av mode is one of the most commonly used camera modes, even by professionals.
It allows you to set the aperture while the camera decides the shutter speed.
So what is your ‘aperture’?
Aperture is the variable opening inside your lens that allows a designated amount of light to pass through to your camera.
While the shutter controls the length of time that light hits your sensor, the aperture controls the amount of light.
Aperture is measured in f/stops: f/1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4 and so on. The numbers are related to the powers of the square root of two, and are found by a mathematical equation It is important to note, however, that each f/stop lets in twice as much light as the one after it.
Lenses with a low maximum f/stop, such as f1.2, allow in more light, and
are called ‘fast’ lenses. They are usually more expensive and are highly prized
by photographers. This is because they allow the use of a lower ISO or a faster shutter speed. Also, with the right focal length and a wide aperture you can blur the background of your images in a pleasing way. Conversely, using a large f/ stop, like f/22, will result in a
large depth of field, making more of the image in focus. This is commonly used in landscape photography, where we usually want the entire image to be in focus.
On cameras with a PASM dial, once you have rotated the dial to A, you can usually control the aperture with a dial near you’re forefinger, or at the back of the camera. You will also use this dial to control the aperture when you are shooting.
Shutter speed is very simple – it’s the amount of time that your shutter stays open to allow light to pass through and hit the sensor.
Rotate the dial on your camera to S (this may vary by camera manufacturer) and you are in shutter priority mode, or Tv (Canon designation).
While adjusting the brightness of your exposure, the shutter speed also has an effect on motion.
A very fast shutter speed of 1/4000 will perfectly freeze motion. This is useful for wildlife shots. A slower shutter speed, like 1/4 of a second will blur motion.
On many cameras, you will find a button specifically labeled ISO. On others, you may have to enter a menu to change the ISO value. Some professional grade cameras even give ISO a dedicated dial.
Like aperture and shutter speed, you’re ISO will change your exposure, or how bright the image is.
However, there is a cost to using a high ISO number (increased sensitivity).
Most cameras start with a base ISO of 100 or 200.
ISO is adjusted by changing the sensitivity of the digital sensor. Unfortunately, the cost of using a high sensitivity ISO with a digital camera is called noise – the digital equivalent of film grain (although perhaps less pleasant looking).
While noise-free images are nice, make sure you don’t completely avoid using a high ISO. A noisy shot is better than a blurry one from a slow shutter speed.
Almost all digital cameras have the ability to use ‘Auto ISO.’ This is a very useful function, as it allows the camera to choose the ISO for you, while you alter the f/stop and/or the shutter speed. You will find this in the same menu as the ISO sensitivity selection. Some more advanced cameras allow you to set upper and lower limits for the Auto ISO – this keeps the setting within a range that you’re comfortable with.
Metering is how your camera determines the exposure. The camera will use its built- in light meter to give you an indication
of whether you are properly exposed, overexposed, or under exposed.
Different cameras have different metering modes (patterns) – make sure you consult your manual to understand the options available to you.
Most cameras feature spot metering, which takes a light reading from one small part of the frame. This can be useful to ensure that an important area of your picture is properly exposed.
A common metering option is called ‘averaging or matrix.’ This mode attempts to create a well-balanced exposure by averaging the darkest and lightest parts of the scene. It’s particularly useful for landscape shots.
You have some ideas on how to use your metering system, but what if, despite your best efforts, the camera creates a poor exposure anyway? This does happen. Strange lighting can trick the camera’s metering system, and sometimes you simply want a lighter or darker shot.
Under these circumstances, you can simply dial in as much positive or negative exposure compensation as you need when using auto shooting mode such as aperture priority, shutter priority, or program mode.
Not every camera will have the exposure compensation function. However, most do, and increasingly camera manufacturers are making the exposure compensation controls more direct and easy to access.
Most of the time the exposure compensation function will range from
+3 stops to -3 stops, usually in 1/3rd stop increments. The compensation will occur differently depending on which shooting mode you’re using. For example, in aperture priority the compensation will occur in the shutter speed setting – unless you’re using Auto ISO, in which case the camera may alter the ISO sensitivity. If you’re in Shutter Priority Mode, then the reverse happens – the aperture is adjusted.
There is an additional advantage to the live preview function on some cameras. As you dial in the exposure compensation, the EVF (or LCD) preview will get darker or lighter in response
Becoming familiar with your autofocus system is key to getting the shot you want, when you want it.
Regardless of manufacturer, most enthusiast or advanced cameras have at least three options: single, continuous, and manual focus modes.
Single focus occurs once when you half press the shutter button, and it then locks. Continuous focus mode continuously focuses non-stop, even as the camera is firing. Manual focus mode allows you to take full control over your focus; you must focus the lens yourself.
For general photography, single focus is perfect. Save continuous mode for action shots, and manual focus mode works great for close-up work or poor lighting.
Of equal importance is the knowledge of setting the size and position of your autofocus points.
Some cameras offer a dedicated joystick to move the autofocus point around the frame, while others require a little menu diving. Many manufacturers now allow you to choose your point using a touchscreen. Read your manual and make sure you are comfortable with placing the autofocus point where you need it.
IMAGE QUALITY (RAW & JPG)
Regardless of which file format you choose, you should memorise the location of your quality control setting.
This way you can switch between raw, .JPEG, or raw + .JPEG as needed.
Raw + .JPEG is especially useful as it gives you the best of both worlds. Some photographers may complain that it wastes memory; however, digital storage has become so cheap that it shouldn’t concern you.
Another common feature on modern cameras is the AE/AF lock buttons. These features are all too often overlooked.
AE means auto exposure. When you are shooting in Program mode, aperture priority, or shutter priority, your camera is choosing settings required to properly expose the scene. The AE lock button simply freezes the camera’s thought process at a given moment. This “locks” the exposure to that last setting.
AF lock is even simpler. The camera will auto-focus on a particular point. By using the AF lock feature the focus mechanism will stay locked on the position, even if you reposition the camera. Sometimes the AE and AF controls are doubled up on the same button, and you will have to assign which function the button will utilise.
THE EXPOSURE TRIANGLE
Depending on how long and how deeply involved in photography you’ve been, there’s a good chance you have heard of or read about something called “the exposure triangle”. Referring to aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, there is indeed a triangular relationship among these three elements.
Here, we’ll take a look at each component of this triangle and then consider how they all work together to control the photographic outcome of any given scene.
In short, an exposure is the final result of any given amount of light that is collected by a camera’s imaging sensor. A shot that is exposed for too long (overexposed) will be overly bright and washed out.
A shot that is not exposed long enough (underexposed) will be dark and contain no discernible details. A “correct” exposure is one that achieves the right balance of shadows, highlights, and details — it is an accurate reproduction of a scene’s dynamic range (the difference between the brightest and darkest parts of a scene).
Aperture is the quasi-circular opening of a lens. This opening can be adjusted from the size of a pencil point (or smaller) to nearly as large as the lens itself. The size of the opening is adjusted to allow variable amounts of light to reach the camera’s sensor. The larger the opening, the more light gets into the camera, the smaller the opening, the less light is allowed in.
You might think of aperture as the window blinds in your home; opening them just a bit lets a small amount of light into the room, whereas opening them fully lets a lot of light in. It’s a relatively straightforward idea in that regard.
Where the confusion lies for some people is in how we designate specific apertures in photography. Just remember that larger aperture openings have smaller numbers (f/1.4, f/ 2.0, etc.) and smaller apertures have larger numbers (f/16, f/22, etc.).
That seems rather counterintuitive at first, but it does make more sense if you think of the f- numbers in terms of fractions. For example, think of f/2 as being 1/2 and think of f/4 as being 1/4; 1/2 is a greater value (bigger aperture opening) than 1/4. 6
LENS APERTURE OPENINGS
Some standard aperture numbers include: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, and f/22. These numbers represent whole “stops”. A stop is simply the halving or doubling of light that the aperture allows to pass through the lens. Thus, f/1.4 lets in twice the light as f/2. Or, conversely, f/2 transmits half the light as f/1.4.
Your camera’s LCD or the markings on the barrel of your lens may display f-numbers of 1.2, 1.8, 2.2 and so on; these one-third stops simply allow you more precise control over the amount of light entering the lens.
In practical terms, aperture (f-stop) plays a significant role in determining how much of a scene is in focus. Larger apertures cause a small portion of a scene to be in focus, while smaller apertures lead to more of a scene being in focus.
While aperture is tasked with controlling the amount of light that reaches a camera’s sensor, shutter speed enters the equation by determining how long the sensor is exposed to that light. The longer the shutter is open, the more light that reaches the sensor.
Shutter speed is technically expressed in fractions of a second, such as 1/4 (a slow shutter speed) or 1/1000 (a fast shutter speed), but your camera’s LCD might display these values without the numerator, so you will instead simply see 4 or 1000. For shutter speeds of 1 second and slower, the “second” symbol will be displayed along with the shutter speed; thus 1” is 1 second, 4” is 4 seconds, etc.
Just like with apertures, shutter speeds are designated whole stops in which each duration either doubles or cuts in half the amount of light entering the camera. Shutter speeds are also available in one-third stops on most cameras.
Moving away from the technical considerations of shutter speed, its practical use for photography is to control how motion is captured. If you have ever seen photos of birds in flight or splashes of water and wondered how the photographer went about freezing such rapid motion, you will be relieved to know that there is no great mystery behind it.
It’s the result of using a very fast shutter speed.
On the other hand, if you want to convey motion, then you have to slow down your shutter speed; this will introduce a certain amount of blur to the image and show that the subject is moving.
Once camera shake is counted out as a factor, how much blur, if any, is present in an image comes down to artistic choice.
ISO is a measure of how sensitive the camera’s sensor is too light. A low ISO number correlates to lower sensitivity, meaning that more light is required to produce the same exposure that a more sensitive (higher ISO) setting would produce. In essence, the lower the ISO, the greater the amount of light needed (aperture) or the more time the light needs (shutter speed) to contact the sensor for a technically proper exposure.
Most cameras offer ISO levels ranging from as low as 50 up to well over 6400; many high- end cameras commonly reach levels of 101,800 and higher.
As part of the exposure triangle, ISO helps us find balance with the other two components of the triangle — aperture and shutter speed. It may be tempting — or even sound completely reasonable — to set ISO to one level and just leave it. The problem is that with too little sensitivity you’ll end up with dark images; with too high a sensitivity you introduce noise into your photos.
Shooting outdoors on a sunny day, even with the presence of some cloud cover, will generally facilitate the use of a low ISO such as 100 or 200. Shooting indoors without the use of flash may require you to boost the ISO to 800 or 1600, or 3200 depending on the quantity of light. It is important to check your images when shooting at increasingly higher ISO levels to make sure the amount of noise hasn’t exceeded what you are comfortable with. The good thing is that most modern digital camera sensors are quite capable of handling low light/high ISO shooting with good results.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
To maintain the same exposure, a change in one element of the triangle requires an opposing change in at least one of the other elements.
For each full stop increase in aperture (double the light), increase shutter speed one full stop or decrease ISO one full stop (both halve the light).
For each full stop decrease in aperture (half the light), decrease shutter speed one full stop or increase ISO one full stop (both double the light).
For each full stop increase in shutter speed (half the light), increase aperture one full stop or increase ISO one full stop (both double the light).
For each full stop decrease in shutter speed (double the light), decrease aperture one full stop or decrease ISO one full stop (both half the light).
For each full stop increase in ISO (double the light), increase shutter speed one full stop or decrease aperture one full stop (both half the light).
For each full stop decrease in ISO (half the light), decrease shutter speed one full stop or increase aperture one full stop (both double light).
As the term “exposure triangle” implies, achieving a technically correct photographic exposure requires a symbiotic relationship among each element that impacts exposure. To get a faithful reproduction of a scene’s dynamic range, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO must work together. One element is going to exert some degree of influence over the others.
From a purely creative standpoint, there is no such thing as a “correct” exposure.
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the basics of photography and have begun to establish your own personal style, you will know how to set your camera to produce photos that meet your criteria for what a correct exposure looks like.
Spot metering mode utilises a very small section of the image area to create a meter reading. The metering area is typically 1% to 5% of the total image area that you see in your viewfinder. It’s usually represented by a small circle and fixed directly in the centre of the viewfinder image.
Some camera models allow the ‘spot’ to be moved around within the frame from focus point to focus point.
The centre-weighted metering mode concentrates 60 to 80 percent of the metering sensitivity to the central 1/3 of the viewfinder. The camera then factors in the balance of the reading based on a feathered look at the remaining 2/3s of the viewfinder.
This mode operates under the assumption that you will most likely centre your subject in the viewfinder.
Center-weighted metering is helpful in some of the same situations that you would use spot-metering mode. But, it takes into account a bit more area.
Zone metering is often referred to as matrix, evaluative, multi-zone, honeycomb, or segmented depending on the camera manufacturer.
Zone metering mode breaks down the image in the viewfinder into sections. The number of sections depends on the camera model. Typically it would be no less than 5, but it could be as many as a 1000.
Zone metering mode is excellent under the following circumstances-
- You want to work fast with minimal thought process on your part.
- The light is changing quickly.
- Your angle to the subject and lighting is changing quickly (such as wildlife).
- The lighting and contrast are not extreme.
Zone metering is an excellent choice for many subjects.
When you look through the viewfinder you see whatever your lens is aimed at, but on the viewfinder display you also see the camera’s focus points. Their exact appearance and arrangement will vary by camera manufacturer and model; there will also be some variation according to what AF mode you are using. Furthermore, the number of autofocus points you see will depend on how sophisticated the camera is. Entry level DSLRs, for instance, may have as few as 7 points, while higher-end DSLRs with considerably more complex focusing systems may have more than 150 autofocus points. There are a number of mirrorless cameras that boast upwards of 150 autofocus points.
Each AF point is one of two types: vertical type or cross-type. Autofocus sensors of the vertical variety detect differences in contrast only along the vertical axis of the area on which the AF point is placed. Cross-type AF sensors are more accurate because they detect differences in contrast along both the vertical axis and horizontal axis. Most cameras contain a mix of these two kinds of sensors. Basic DSLR models will typically feature one cross-type AF point as the centre point, with the remainder being the standard vertical type. As you work your way up the ladder of camera sophistication, the number of cross- type points increases as does the accuracy and responsiveness of the overall AF system.
Not only do digital cameras make focusing faster and more accurate than their analog predecessors, they also provide a great deal of AF customisation designed to be adaptable to the characteristics of the scene/subject you are shooting. Once you’ve learned the options that are available to you, you will be well on your way to new heights of photographic efficiency.
Single Shot AF – This is the mode you will want to use for stationary subjects such as portraits (people or animals), flowers, architecture, cars, or landscapes. By pressing the shutter button halfway, the camera will meter the shot and lock focus on the AF point that you choose, so long as the subject stays at that selected point. If the subject moves, focus will not be acquired and if you try to press the shutter button completely no shot will be taken.
Continuous/Servo AF – This mode works by using the AF point that you choose to continuously focus on a subject while you keep the shutter button pressed halfway. As you might have guessed, continuous AF is the perfect solution to focusing on moving subjects such as your kids running around the yard, birds in flight, or anything else that is on the move. You would also use this mode for the panning technique, in which you track the motion of a subject with your camera to convey a sense of movement.
To further refine the autofocusing process, your camera allows you to specify exactly how you want to use your selected AF point(s) within a given AF mode. Let’s take a look at the most commonly available AF areas.
Single Point AF Area – This AF area is pretty self- explanatory: the camera will use only one focus point, chosen by you, to achieve focus. This technique works best for stationary subjects.
Dynamic/Expansion AF Area – In this mode you choose one AF point, which the camera will use to acquire initial focus. If your subject moves, the camera will automatically use one of the surrounding AF points to track the subject and keep it in focus. Of course, you will need to move your camera along with the subject to keep it within the focusing area. This AF area is best when you want to keep focus on a specific point, but allow yourself some breathing room when tracking fast moving subjects such as birds in flight.
Spot AF Area – This mode uses the AF point of your choosing and incorporates a smaller, more concentrated point used to achieve precise focus on a very small portion of a subject. If you are doing macro photography, particularly with subjects that aren’t moving and exhibit tiny details, the spot AF area will help you get sharp focus.
Remember that different camera manufacturers will use different names for the various AF modes and areas, and not all features will be available on all cameras, so be sure to consult your camera’s user manual for specific details.
Technically, yes. Is it ideal? Most probably not. But the right mobile camera can get the job done in its own way. Of course, it’d be easier to capture a shot of a lion from a distance with a dedicated camera instead of walking up close to one. But that’s not to say it’s impossible to take a picture of a lion with your phone.
Thanks to technological advancements and computational photography, mobile photography has improved dramatically in just a decade.
For example, phones can now zoom in optically without degrading the picture considerably. So, now you can take photos of dangerous wildlife from a safe distance.
But despite improvements in their technology, smartphone cameras still have some serious limitations which stem from design. The cameras have to be small to fit the design of the phone so sacrifices have to be made.
The size of the sensor is the biggest limitation as it affects picture quality and performance in low light conditions. However, it’s still possible to take good pictures of wildlife despite the setbacks.
DOES IT REPLACE A DSLR?
The simple answer here is no. As mentioned above, mobile phone cameras still have to contend with the limitations of their design.
It’ll a long time, if ever, for smartphones to be at the same level as dedicated cameras. Remember, as mobile cameras improve, so does the technology in their bigger counterparts.
DSLR and mirrorless cameras are far superior to smartphone cameras because of their large sensors. Bulky as they may be, this allows them to attach lenses with long focal lengths. This makes it easier to capture shots of dangerous or shy animals from a distance.
So, if dedicated cameras are better, then why shoot with a smartphone? You don’t have to shoot with a smartphone. If you have a bigger and better camera, then sure, shoot with it. But for those people who don’t have expensive “proper” cameras, using a smartphone with a good camera is a viable option.
There are also some people who choose to shoot with a smartphone not for the convenience but for the challenge brought by the limitations of the camera.
It can be quite exciting to see how far you can stretch yours and your mobile camera’s capabilities in various situations and types of photography.
If you’re out and about in nature or around wildlife and are keen to take some snaps with your phone, below are some tips that can help you get some really great shots.
Even though you get the curious, the indifferent, and the downright dangerous animals in the wild, some can be quite shy. The slightest noise or sighting off a human can scare them and they’ll run away. So it’s a good idea not to bring any attention to yourself. This includes turning off the camera shutter sound.
Despite scaring the animals away, discretion is good for capturing candid shots of animals interacting with each other and their environment.
Of course, this depends on the where you are and the animals you’ll be taking pictures of.
If you’re staying at a game lodge somewhere in Africa, there’s a good chance of wild animals coming close to where you are. This is where you’d need to be discreet to get shots of them.
If you’re on safari, you obviously will only be as discreet as the vehicle you’re driving in.
USE A GOOD PHONE CAMERA
I always talk about how it’s the person using the camera and not the camera that takes good pictures. I still stand by that.. Basically, if a mobile camera has a good sized sensor for a phone, a decent amount of megapixels that aren’t tiny in size, it ticks the right boxes. Of course, these are not the only factors that make mobile photos look good. By using a phone with a good quality camera, you can at least be sure that you’re halfway to taking pictures that look fantastic.
It’s up to you to learn to use the phone’s camera to its full potential so your shots always come out amazing.
GET CLOSE IF POSSIBLE
If you’re in an environment where it is possible to safely get close to the animals, then do so. But only if it is safe. Of course, if you are going to get closer to the animals, remember the point about discretion. Some animal breeding and rehabilitation centres allow people to touch and interact with the wild animals. This could be a good opportunity take take good shots from really up close.
ZOOM ON YOUR PHONE
This point kind of ties in with what I already mentioned earlier about using a phone with a good camera. One of the improvements made to mobile photography over the years is the introduction of multiple cameras on the rear of the phone. This has made it possible for phones to have lenses with different focal lengths.
In the past, phones commonly only had one camera. And because the lens on that camera was a prime lens with a fixed focal length, it was not possible to zoom optically.
So, people would use digital zoom to magnify a subject that’s far away. But, in all honesty, digital zoom mostly resulted in images of inferior quality.
On some multi-camera phones, one of the lenses of the cameras is a telephoto lens. This allows the camera to zoom “optically” without the highly noticeable picture quality loss of digital zoom. How far the camera can zoom in depends on the focal length of the telephoto lens.
Most cameras have a 2X optical zoom. There are, however, phones that can zoom in even further. However, there have been some phones with as much as 10x optical zoom in the past but they proved to be unpopular due to the size of the protruding rear camera.
So, if your phone camera has optical zoom, it will make it easier to capture some animals from a distance. If your phone doesn’t feature optical zoom, do not use digital zoom! Rather attach a lens to it.
If your phone is an older model with only one camera, that doesn’t mean it can’t take good pictures. In fact, some of my favourite mobile pictures were taken using phones with only one camera. The only difference is that you’re limited in terms of what you can do as is the case with optical zoom.
Before optical zoom became a thing on smartphone cameras, lens attachments were quite popular. And they still are. What you do is attach a lens of your choosing to your phone’s camera externally and snap away.
In the case of wildlife photography where you might need to keep your distance from the animals, you can attach a telephoto lens which will then magnify your subject. How much magnification you get depends on the focal length of the lens you have attached.
To capture tiny bugs and animals found in the wild, you can attach a macro lens. To the best of my knowledge, not many if any current smartphone with multiple cameras has one with a macro lens. And not every phone with multiple cameras have a telephoto lens. So, it’s not common to see mobile photographers attaching external lenses to phones that already have more than one camera.
KEEP YOUR CAMERA STEADY
No matter whether you attach a telephoto lens or zoom in optically (or even digitally, which you shouldn’t do), one thing that never changes is the fact that the more you zoom in, the shakier your shot gets.
So, if you’re going to zoom in, you’re definitely going to need to keep your phone steady.
Ordinarily, when taking wide shots with a wide angle lens and a fast shutter speed, you can simply hold you phone still with your hands if they’re steady enough.
Otherwise, you need to find a surface you can support your phone on to avoid blurry shots. The best way to keep your phone steady is to invest in a camera support system. The most common is the tripod and its different variations.
However, when you need to be on the go and don’t have time to set up a tripod, a monopod is a quick, lightweight and very versatile option to consider.
BE QUICK AND PATIENT
Animals are super unpredictable, especially wild animals. Therefore, you need to keep your wits about you if you want to capture good photos.
Anything can happen at any time, so you need to be quick enough to get the shot before the moment goes away. And once it’s gone, it’s most likely gone for good. One thing you can do to make sure you don’t miss anything and also stand a good chance of getting the best shot possible is to use Burst mode. This is where you set the camera to take multiple photos one after the other. You can then choose the ones you like best from the lot.
But using Burst mode doesn’t automatically guarantee that you’ll capture everything and not miss a moment. Just like when doing street photography with your phone, you may have to anticipate what might happen. And that’s where patience comes in.
If you are out to get a photo of an animal doing something particular, you might have to wait for that moment to happen. And if you’re any bit familiar with the animal’s behaviour, you might just have a better idea of what to expect and when. Animals spend most of their time doing nothing. If you want to catch them in any sort of action, you’ll have to be ready and wait.
LEARN TO TAKE GOOD PHOTOS
I could give you all the tips and tricks about shooting wildlife with your phone but it would amount to nothing if you don’t learn how to take good pictures with your phone. The first step is to know and understand the camera you are using. If you know what you’re working with, you’ll appreciate the flaws of your device’s camera and find a way to navigate around them.
But taking good photos of wildlife with your phone goes beyond just having a decent phone camera and learning how it works. You have to apply technical and creative thinking. Other things that come to play are things such as composition, lighting, positioning, and others. If you acquaint yourself with these principles and others, you’ll be well on your way to being a talented mobile photographer.
HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH BIRDS WITH A SMARTPHONE
You already own a powerful tool for snapping birds. Here’s how to make the most of it.
Last year the most popular camera on the photo-sharing site Flickr was Apple’s iPhone. In fact, smartphones occupied 10 of the top 20 slots (and 8 of the top 11) in a list of devices favoured by the site’s users. That trend reinforces what you already know: Phones are handy for taking photos.
Great shots require great timing, and for that a smartphone has two big advantages: You carry it everywhere, and you intuitively get how it works. And while smartphones are still limited by the size of their sensors and lenses, the technology improves at the pace of Moore’s Law. The new iPhone 6s boasts a 12-megapixel sensor, and LG’s new G5 Android has two lenses—one for wide angles and one that’s a narrow 78 degrees. Of course, photographing birds is different than snapping a selfie. But with these tips, you’ll be able to add your life list to your camera roll.
TAKE BACK CONTROL
The camera app on most smartphones can autofocus and even track a subject. But for more precision and power you’ll want to have manual control. The ProCamera app (for iPhones) and the Camera FV-5 app (for Android) let you adjust the following key functions. (Tip: Experiment with them in your backyard, so they become automatic before you head into the field.)
Timed Shutter: If you’re using a scope to zoom in on a bird, the slightest touch of your camera can cause a vibration that will blur the image. Set the timer on your phone’s camera to delay the shot. Another option is to remotely trigger the shot using the volume-down button on your headphones.
ISO: By default, smartphones automatically set the ISO (a measurement of the camera’s sensitivity to light). If your subject is in the dark underbrush, increasing the ISO will make the camera more receptive to available light.
File Size: Larger images contain more information, which gives you more to work with when you go to edit them later. Set your phone to save photos with the highest pixel dimensions and in the TIFF format, so they remain uncompressed.
Shutter Speed: To capture a fast-moving bird, you’ll need a fast shutter speed (and a higher ISO to maintain an even exposure). By playing with the shutter speed you can also attain different effects, such as a crisp body with blurred wings.
COMPOSE YOUR SHOT
Your smartphone will let you home in on a bird, but it isn’t a true zoom—it just crops into the size of the original photo and leaves you with a pixelated image. Also avoid shooting square images—there’s no point in cropping out detail prematurely, and even Instagram now features wide images. When recording video, rotate your
phone to horizontal, or sideways; nothing ruins great footage like black bars on either side of the screen.
FINE TUNE YOUR PHOTO
While editing apps can’t fix blunders like a blurred subject, they can turn a so-so image into an arresting shot. The Photoshop Express and Snapseed apps— available for both Android and iPhone—let you sharpen images, increase saturation, and change colour temperature, among other effects. The apps also give you the option to save the image to your camera roll or share it directly to social media.