21 July 2013

On Photo Safari: The Safari Language


For those who have never been on a photographic safari, wildlife photography course or team building photo safari or any safari at all, the language spoken by rangers and trackers during game drives can be a challenge. It starts with the specific terms for all what the animals are doing or the animal names themselves. For example a group of giraffes is called a journey of giraffes and a group of rhinos a crush of rhinos. Would you have known that?

Or what about the language the rangers are speaking with each other. The animal is not walking or running; the animal is mobile. And they don’t hear an animal; they have an audio of an animal. And of course they have a visual instead of seeing an animal.

But don’t worry, it is very educative and easy learning on a safari and soon you will be able to wield these terms yourself to the astonishment of your friends and families. Fortunately there are field guides to practice the right names and other specific terms and probably you will surprise your ranger with your knowledge.

But there is no language needed to enjoy the beauty of nature and the wonderful wildlife.

Happy safari snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

Practice with M


Do you shoot always on M, the manual settings on your camera, or mostly with programmed or auto? Even if you are not experienced enough to photograph on manual, you should take some time to practice with this setting, just to get more confident in what you are doing. Nothing can go wrong and you will learn how the camera works with light. You will get a better understanding of the “language” the camera is talking to you through the images.

Sounds to complicated? Don’t think you should start practicing with manual when being on your first
photographic safari or team building photographic safari and you are lucky to see a leopard. Then go on your safe mode to get the image. But there are plenty of opportunities to practice, also on safari. For example during the wildlife photography courses we take the time when waiting at a sighting where currently nothing is happening to play with the settings and light or during a picnic. People are often afraid of trying manual and very surprised that it isn’t as difficult as they thought. And at the end they start liking it too, using what manual teaches them to quickly adjust settings in other modes when fast moving objects like a leopard moving in a tree mean fast changing light too.

Try it. It is more fun than you might think and you will learn a great deal.

Happy snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

How to Approach Animals for Photos


Animal lovers are happy to see a cute dog, a horse in the field or a cat in the window and most likely walk over to the animal to pet it. Some animals run off, others accept it and others love it. Photographing an animal follows pretty much the same pattern as wanting to pet an animal. The photographer with the camera enters their comfort zone and wants something from the animal, a good photo. That happens often pretty rough, although the photographer is not conscious about that. Just a quick photo and further he/she goes. But the animals are often not happy with that intrusion, look away or walk away.

The same happens on game drives on
photographic safaris, team building photo safaris and wildlife photography courses. For example one day a game vehicle drove past a hyena, lying in a little puddle, enjoying the cooling water. The hyena was looking towards the road when the vehicle came, but the moment the vehicle stopped and the cameras popped out it turned away, looking in the opposite direction, very much frustrating the photographers on the vehicle. Now they started calling the hyena, trying to make her turning towards the camera, but the animal wouldn’t do that. The more the people pushed the more they drove the animal away from them. Never push an animal, it will not do what you want and if it gets too much, it will just walk off.

If you want to photograph animals and get great photos, take time and be with them. In the case of the game vehicle, just stand there and wait, make yourself comfortable and get the rush out of yourself to. After a while the animal will get used to you and feel comfortable doing its own thing. This is the moment when you get the best images. They will be images of a relaxed animal doing animal things and maybe you can even witness great animal interactions. Just don’t push them.

The same applies actually also to people. Try to push children to pose like you want and the crying will start.

Happy snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

How to know when Cats Look at You


Do you have a cat at home? If yes, you will know how they can sit statue like and look at you, but actually look straight through you. Big cats in the bush do exactly the same, but mostly we think they really look at us, when they don’t.

Guests on
photographic safaris, wildlife photography courses and team building photographic safaris are always happy when they get back to the camp and have a leopard portrait with the animal looking straight into the camera. And yes, these images are great, but they mostly only mean that the camera was pointing on the face of the cat, it does not mean the cat was looking in the camera.

But how do you know that they are really looking at you or your camera? You feel it. When a big cat like a lion or leopard is looking at you, a strong energy comes to you, feeling pretty intimidating and goes through and through. At that moment you might feel you want to run away, what you don’t do, because you would behave like prey. And you feel it also when looking through the viewfinder. When your eye and the eye of the cat really meet, the shutter releases almost by itself from the energy of that connecting moment.

Ever tried with your cat at home? Try and feel the difference.

Happy snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

About Patience


Patience is a reoccurring topic in photography; maybe because it is more difficult than learning all about aperture, shutter speed and ISO. It is probably the “empty” time we experience while waiting for the right thing to happen or just can’t get this memory card quickly enough back in its port, at least we think it has to happen quickly. And that is the next question, what is quick, half a second or 2 seconds or what?

It is a wonderful learning experience when being on
photographic safaris, wildlife photography courses and team building photo safaris right in the middle of the bush, with native people living there who look at you in astonishment when you get furious over a resisting memory card. They are used to live in the moment, they walk over the Great Plains a whole day to their “shopping mall” and with the same inner peace they look into the eyes of a lion, when defending their cattle. They might not know the feeling of “empty” time, because there isn’t something like that when living in the moment. There is only one moment at the time.

When being out in the bush one learns that just by being there, but not everybody can pack up and move to the bush. Yoga and meditation are good alternatives to learn about time and patience, beneficial not only in photography, but in all ways of life.

Think about it and maybe even the stubborn memory card will give up and just do what you want it to do.

Happy snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

Try Aerial Photography


Have you ever thought of trying aerial photography, but dismissed the idea, because you thought that is going to be complicated and too expensive? It can be expensive when booking a plane or helicopter or balloon to exclusively do aerial photography, but there is an alternative. Just find a high tower or building and use the elevated view to take great aerial shots. Ever thought of just going onto the first floor of your house to photograph flowerbeds in your garden?

That works all well when there are houses and towers around, but when being on
photographic safaris, wildlife photography courses or team building photo safaris it is not really an option. A high tree will not do enough elevation in the Masai Mara or Kruger Park or Serengeti. But they got plenty of hot-air balloon companies to go on a really nice ride over the Great Plains. There are also private small planes that offer half an hour flights over the Masai Mara, which gives more flexibility than a balloon, although the balloon is quieter and not so bumpy as a plane can be. Almost a must is a balloon flight in the Namib Desert in Namibia. You will never have these fantastic sights from the ground.

However, thinking aerial is the first step to open new views and angles to your photography. We often just don’t think of the bird view perspective, although it’s available just at our doorstep.

Happy snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

ePhoto Book: Time


Africa is time. There is the saying “no rush in Africa” and it can feel like time has stopped, when seeing ancient animals like rhinos or crocodiles. It can be great to try and capture time during photographic safaris, wildlife photography courses and team building photographic safaris as a project. It might end up as a philosophical body of work, probably brining up more questions than answers.

See an attempt

Ute Sonnenberg for