Train your companions

February 02, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Train your companions

          When shooting animals on safari you cannot use a tripod. There are some gear you can fasten to the roll bars of the vehicle instead. Such expense was too great for me given that this was a once off trip. I have found that a bag of rice or beans actually works best to stabilize your gear. It helps to absorb some of the vibrations of the vehicle. Ensure that your rice / bean bag is a cloth bag and not a plastic one that will break easily.

          There are some challenges shooting from within a vehicle. Firstly, a long telephoto lens (which is needed to shoot wildlife) needs to be held still. Any movement, even the slightest movement will make you loose the bird in the viewfinder or blur your image. Attempt to use a fast shutter speed to minimize motion blur from the camera. This is not always possible because the best light to shoot in is not always bright light. Secondly, people get excited when they see great wildlife and they want to talk. Talking coupled with excitement often leads to either loud talking or high pitched talking or both. Tweet, tweet, there goes the bird!

          In order to be successful the best solution it to train your companions. Before you drive off into the sunset speak to the driver and teach him / her to always (when it is safe) turn off the engine when you shoot. This eliminates engine vibration which causes motion blur. Next, speak to your fellow passengers. Teach them when they can talk and make noise and when it needs to be quiet. Also teach them to sit as still as they possibly can when you shoot. When they move the vehicle moves, when the vehicle moves your camera moves.

          While on safari in Kenya I did my best to train my companions, but I was unsuccessful. It seemed as if every time I was just about to press the shutter someone had to change position and move. After numerous attempts to speak to my fellow passengers, all of whom where non-photographers, they were still not complying with my request. The light was starting to become harsh. As we were driving along I saw a big bird perched high on a tree. Then I got an idea ...

          I asked the driver to stop. My APC sensored camera had a 400mm prime lens attached which gives you a field of view of 640mm. I handed the camera to the first passenger, pointed to the bird in the tree and asked him to take a picture of the bird. While he was attempting to find the bird in the viewfinder I kept on moving around. After a minute or so he started to complain that he cannot find the bird in the viewfinder. Then when he did, he repeatedly lost it again. He could not control the camera sufficiently to compose his shot. He handed back the camera. Without me saying anything he spoke up and said: now I understand about the need to have everyone still in the vehicle when Pierre shoots. I passed the camera to the second person and so on until everyone had a go. The lesson was learnt. I had a still car when shooting from then on.

          Teach your companions up front and you will have a better shoot.

Lilac Breasted RollerLilac Breasted RollerLilac Breasted Roller, Masai Mara, Kenya


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