Imagine you are on safari in South Africa or Kenya or elsewhere and you do a wildlife photography course, but the course is not really a course in the sense of classroom style learning and exercises. It is rather learning while doing and the freedom to focus on what you really like to learn, all with a gentle and subtle guidance to make you arrive where you want with your wildlife photography learning journey.
And all that is called a wildlife photography experience, available for all photography lovers and photography enthusiasts to be.
4 days wildlife photography courses might sound very short to get far within wildlife photography, but they are just the right dose to get going with the right tools to take it from their yourself.
Days on photographic safari are intense. There are two game drives per day, which make the days feel like two in one. And in between the game drives are the photography reflections on the game drive assignments. Every new wildlife photography assignment brings the attendees a step further and if it is done properly, every time a step further to independence in wildlife photography to. Your guide is not always there when you do wildlife photography. So, the main goal of the course is to get you going, enabling you to help yourself in all wildlife photography challenges and stay on track of growing as a photographer.
Of course there is guidance offered for the time after the course, for a little help, if needed, to go further yourself.
You might want to go on a photographic safari, but not necessarily doing a wildlife photography course, but you would like to prepare and get some extra guidance. Then you should utilize the available eBooks on wildlife photography.
First of all dig into your own images. If you did already wildlife photography, maybe from earlier holiday photo safaris, examine the images to know what you would like to learn or improve or just where you would like to go further into a subject. If you haven’t done wildlife photography before, look at your body of work and find out what your strength is, what you would like to improve and what new things you would like to learn. Your photography so far will tell you already a lot.
Then investigate where you can find what you are looking for. Look up where you can find the animals you want to photograph to be able to choose the safari destination. Then analyze the wildlife photography workshops. What do they teach, how do they teach, how big are the groups, what are the itineraries and what are the rates. Compare the right qualities when you compare prices.
Last but not least, inform about the recommended photo equipment, luggage allowances, mode of transportation, technical facilities at the safari camp and not to forget practical tips for clothes and health protection.
With that good preparation you will benefit the most form your chosen wildlife photography course. Try it.
They have the role to inspire new ways of seeing photography and wildlife and the combination of both. These photographic safaris provide tuition in photography and on wildlife. The attendees learn about animal behavior, working with the very specific light in the bush and how to cope with the often not so easy conditions when photographing in the bush.
The workshops are entertainment as well with lovely meals as picnics on the Great Plains or around the fireplace in the camp. One meets new people and enjoys a lovely time with friends. Collaboration, helping each other and working together also when being back home are a great experience. Sharing this experience creates a bond that lasts and one can reach out to photography friends when help is needed.
Although photography can be at times a solitary activity, we get better when working together and learning from each other. And such a course can be really great fun too.
Pretty much all safari destinations and lodges offer bush walks as complimentary activities and there are also several walking trails available where you explore the bush on foot.
This is a very different experience and demands a lot from wildlife photographers. The moment you leave the safari vehicle and set foot on the ground, you are entering the animals’ world and you will find yourself within their hierarchy. The plains game will run away from you and when you walk into elephants or lion they might charge you.
Do bush walks only with a professional guide. Be careful with the choice of the equipment you take with you. Everything becomes very heavy quickly and you should be light footed when walking in the bush. Don’t think you need to bring your entire photo backpack in case you would need a special lens. Take one camera with a zoom lens and rather put some water and food in the backpack to stay fit.
Watch your steps and dress according to the environment. You will feel very different from being on a vehicle and that will reflect in the images. Rather do a few bush walks to get used to it. When you start feeling comfortable on foot, your focus will be again on photography, allowing great images.
Try it and you will feel the difference. Seeing a leopard on foot is a completely different experience.
Wildlife photography is not only confined to safaris in Kenya or South Africa. Wildlife is everywhere, in the countryside of your home country, in city parks and under water. There are plenty of great photographic opportunities and each got its own challenges.
Photographing from a safari vehicle is easy comparing with photographing under water, at least for myself. While a leopard moving in a tree can be a difficult, photographing moving fish and turtles under water is even more difficult. Not only your under water wildlife is moving, you are moving yourself, because you are pivoting in the water with actually nothing to hold on to be steady. Here one ends up very often with except for the water empty pictures.
One needs to be a really good diver to be a really good under water photographer to. Water needs to be really your element and honestly, I stick to the bush and the wildlife on land, enjoying every now and then the colorful under water world.
Picasso was a master of keeping it simple, painting the essence in simple lines. His way of painting can be found in abstract lines in nature and animals.
The best way to experience that is to do a hot air balloon ride or small aircraft flight while being on a photographic safari, wildlife photography course or team building photographic safari. From your bird view position you will see patterns in the savanna or desert, structures in the landscape and roads forming lines and paintings in the grass. Also zebras are the perfect animals to photograph like abstract paintings. Look out for lines, contrasts and patterns also in other animals. Zoom in on the skin and see the painting.
His art can be inspiration for photographers in many ways, yet the probably most inspiring is the genuine way he photographed the bush. A blur lion is no problem and neither are blurred leaves in the foreground of an image. It is never disturbing, only enhancing the expression of the image and the essence he capture with it.
Only looking at his pictures is teaching so much. Enjoy it and be inspired.
What would be a boring nature photograph? Pouring rain in the Serengeti or blue sky over blue ocean? I think essentially nature is never boring, we probably only fail sometimes to capture its beauty accordingly and then the image seems boring to the viewer.
Often guests on photographic safaris, wildlife photography courses and team building photographic safaris in the Masai Mara make jokes when there are no animals to see and people start taking landscape photos. “Look, he is so bored that he starts photographing landscape”. But it’s actually only a question of focus. When you are on a game drive looking out and expecting to see lion, you will not appreciate the small mongoose crossing the road. He will seem boring to you, but when you are open to see whatever the bush wants to show you, you will have an exciting game drive with lots of photographic opportunities.
The focus is probably also the key to what we see as a boring nature photograph. If we expect dramatic skies and great light, we will experience a rainy landscape as boring. But if we are just curious, we will never be bored.
Anything is special as long as it is special to you. But with wildlife photography it seems that it is special to all. We all seem to have the need to be with nature, to connect and to be close to animals.
Especially when living in big cities going on photographic safaris, wildlife photography courses and team building photographic safaris is a way of recalibrating and reconnecting with where we come from and where we get our strength from. And the wildlife photographs we bring with us are a continues source of this energy we are craving. And if we can’t go ourselves, we at least can look at the pictures others took and tap into nature.
Wildlife photography of any kind, the little fox in the neighboring forest, the bear in Alaska or the lion in the Serengeti, is like a warm bath of nature and lightens up the day at the office or the 10th rainy miserable day in a row somewhere in England.
We probably all know situations where the noise on the street or from the neighbors makes it impossible for us to concentrate on what we are writing or creating in other ways. We just cannot focus and get more and more annoyed and distracted from what we are doing.
These distractions can also occur on photographic safaris, team building photographic safaris and wildlife photography courses. And the source of distraction can be more than people on the same vehicle and the vehicle next to you on the sighting. Think about the weather and how comfortable you feel with it. Wind can be a very disturbing element and cold and heat too. We often identify distraction caused by people easily, but it takes us longer to identify distraction by feeling uncomfortable. We might be impatient with the situation, because we are cold and we become agitated with the photo shoot and the result is not good.
Observe it yourself. Dig deeper when you feel impatient or agitated during your photography and identify the source. Often all is solved by only putting on a jacket.
Although most of the lodges and camps have Internet access nowadays, the bandwidth and speed are to poor for the purpose of using Adobe creative cloud. Imagine editing an image in the cloud with a common satellite connection and ten other people want to do that at the same time. This does not work. Even checking emails will take forever in such a situation; don’t even think of image editing.
The conclusion can only be that Adobe did not think of anybody outside areas with high technology infrastructure standard, but there are huge regions in the world (even in cities) where photographers will not be able to use the cloud service, just because of the poor Internet connection. And then? I don’t know, but I hope there will be a solution to have CS on the computer or some magical improvement of Internet, but anyhow, there needs to be one.
Being on photographic safaris, wildlife photography courses or team building photographic safaris means being out in the bush, in nature. That means that one sees not only the cute lion cub, but also a carcass of an animal or even a lion or leopard kill. Some will think immediately “I don’t want to see a kill or carcass” and others are keen to see the rare sighting of a kill. No matter how you feel about in advance, when suddenly witnessing it is a very special experience, not only as a person, but also as a photographer.
Photographing a kill or a carcass asks for dignity, yet showing the whole truth of the moment. Sally Mann is an American photographer who does that in an artistic and careful way as her images show. It is like the photographer becomes responsible to capture the essence of the moment and to tell its story. The animal is not gone, it lives on in the images and it will not be forgotten.
Photographing in the Masai Mara in Kenya can be challenging with regards to the intense bright light between the golden hours in the morning and the late afternoon. Feedback from people on photographic safaris, during wildlife photography courses and team building photographic safaris often goes about frustration with washed out looking images. The colors are washed out and it looks over exposed. There are a few ways to get better results, but it is also possible to play with the natural tendency to over exposed images in this environment.
Sid Kaplan, the legendary master printer and photographer uses over exposure (and under exposure) pretty often in his images and creates great effects. He dares to play with it and to let it be dominant in the image. Yet there is always contrast and that might be the secret.
The bright day light in the Masai Mara tends to let everything look over exposed, but there is always some shade or a dark tree trunk that provide contrast. No play with the focus point and/or metering and create Sid Kaplan inspired photographs of wildlife and fabulous landscapes.
An amazing thing to play with during photographic safaris in the Masai Mara, wildlife photography courses and team building photographic safaris is landscape photography by using wide-angle lenses. Ideally are clouds on a blue sky and a dirt road leading to the horizon. They are the helpers in creating perspective, giving the image depth. Yet also here, training the eye is possibly the most important thing. Photographer Cédric Gerbehaye can be a great example to learn from and to train the eye by looking at his images. He is a master in black and white photography and even portraits of people show depth and perspective.
Inspired? Start looking for perspectives in your own garden, in the park or in the street and create mesmerizing images.
Become yourself an example for others to learn from.
When we do wildlife photography we always wish to have the perfect light, the early morning golden light or at least sun and no clouds. But of course we don’t get it always and have to deal with all sorts of light when we are out on photographic safaris in the Masai Mara or at other amazing destination.
Especially during wildlife photography courses or team building photographic safaris people hope for sun and good weather. But actually the opposite is good for a great wildlife photography course. Changing and challenging light are great moments to learn and to produce despite the situation fabulous pictures. Over casted days offer even a better light than bright sunny days, outside the golden hours. The diffuse light of over casted days creates richer color saturation and black and white images turn out really fantastic.
Try it. When there is a day that you think this is really terrible, take your camera and photograph black and white (or turn the images later into black and white). You might really love the results.
“For me photography was a mean of drawing and that’s all. Immediate sketch, done with intuition and you can’t correct it. If you have to correct it, it’s a next picture. “ (Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment)
Henri Cartier-Bresson is considered to be the father of modern photojournalism, yet photojournalism has a lot in common with wildlife photography. When you are on a photographic safari in the Masai Mara in Kenya with a wildlife photography course assignment photographing movement and you luckily come across a hunting lion, do you think you can ask the lion to do it again, because you are not happy with the photo? Of course not, the moment is gone, just like in photojournalism. Your next picture captures or draws a new moment and just be always ready for the moments that might come.
Wildlife photography done during team building photographic safaris shows even how an entire group of people can align during a few game drives to be in some kind of same flow of immediate sketches telling the story of a day of wildlife photography and at the same time the story of the people, the photographers.
The sketches are the photos and they show the subject and the photographer at that very moment, ready or not for the hunting lion or the man on the street making a certain gesture. “Life is once, forever” (Henri Cartier-Bresson) also in wildlife photography.
Outstanding contrast and clarity are attributes connected to Ansel Adam’s photography. It characterized his work from the very beginning, although at this time the “Pictoralism” method was popular. And isn’t it contrast that fascinates us in photography, literarily as light contrast and as “contrast subjects”?
Wildlife photography courses can use Ansel Adams’ work to teach seeing and photographing contrast in nature, even in a rock, like he did. On a photographic safari with wildlife photography course or team building photographic safari people often struggle to photograph “rock like” animals like rhinos and elephants. Their body shape and skin color make it not easy to get good photographs, photographs with contrast, depth and a well proportioned body. From Ansel Adams wildlife photographers can learn what angle to use and with which light to photograph to get a nice photograph. Only look at his pictures from Yosemite, the monolith or El Capitan (photograph below). He was a master in creating depth in something big and bulky with an even color.
By studying his work, wildlife photography can improve and rhinos, elephants and thought boring landscapes become fascinating mesmerizing photographs. Try it with simple things at home that resist to be photographed nicely and then take it to wildlife photography.
Diane Arbus’ name is often associated with photographs of the strange and abnormal. And this approach of hers is the learning point for photographers in general and wildlife photographers in particular. Watch out for the “strange and abnormal”. For wildlife photography courses in the Masai Mara, photographic safaris and team building photographic safaris in South Africa and activities at all other safari destinations does that mean that you should train your eye in scanning the surroundings when driving on a game vehicle.
One often wonders how the ranger could see that animal in the tree or in the deep grass, but his/her eye is trained to see what is not supposed to be there, the strange and the abnormal. That can be a movement, a color or an object that breaks the pattern of the grass and well, the animal is spotted.
The same principle applies to wildlife photography (and any other photography). When you are on a game drive and you think the light is dull and there is nothing to see, start searching for the abnormal and strange. Your eye will adjust to this mode, which is comparable to the eye test one has to do at the eye doctor where you look at a picture with often dots in different colors and by changing the way you look at it you see different objects in it. Do the same when you look out over the Great Plains of the Masai Mara and start seeing things like contrast in grass going over in different colors of the horizon or patterns on the road or in the clouds and animals you did not notice before.
Try it and by looking out for the abnormal you will suddenly find wonderful subjects for your photography, even when you think there is nothing.
Do you remember any wildlife photograph winning a Pulitzer Prize? I don’t. The Pulitzer Prizes honor excellence in journalism and the arts including photography, but photography as part of photojournalism. Images from photographic safaris or wildlife photography courses are not the ones that win the prize unless the safari becomes news or wildlife conservation is the subject. And the last is actually a very interesting thought to follow.
It will need more than a photographic safari to the Masai Mara to make a documentary about conservation. One needs to do already a lot of pre-production work to understand the topic, read a lot, talk to people in conservation and focus on one specific issue to deepen it out in a photo documentary. This will be the base for the photographic safari to capture the images and to tell the story of this specific problem or success.
Practicing this kind of wildlife photography documentaries in wildlife photography courses can be very nice, inspiring and may lead one day to a Pulitzer Prize. Even team building photo safaris can benefit from this approach, although there will most likely not the prize be the goal. Anyhow, never think never. Powerful wildlife photography telling a powerful story can have the potential to be Pulitzer Prize winning, although it will have to compete with what happens elsewhere in the world. It’s worth thinking about it and one can also start small, growing towards bigger prizes.
Steve McCurry is well known and often awarded for his powerful documentary photography from conflict areas all over the world, like for example the famous photograph of an Afghan girl below.
McCurry has often said that he tries to immerse himself into the culture of the location he is visiting, and rather than immediately head out with his camera, he prefers to watch and wait, saying “If you wait, people will forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view.” (via Phoblographer)
And this is exactly what makes the difference in photography, also in wildlife photography, wait and watch. On photographic safaris, during team building photo safaris and during wildlife photography courses in the Masai Mara, Serengeti, Kruger National Park, the Okavango Delta and elsewhere, this very same principle applies. When we are out on a wildlife photography course the probably most important lesson is to practice patience and not try to force anything. There are people who call the animals from the vehicle or make noises or some even google lion roaring on their iPad to play it at the lion sighting to make the lion do something. They found it to boring just sitting and waiting. By doing any of these, the animals will not show their soul, they will not trust and do their natural thing and the photographer will not get the powerful images he/she is wanting. Only when spending time with the animals they begin to relax and do their normal thing, trust is built and by just being with them the greatest photographic opportunities emerge. The wildlife photographer got to tune into the environment, just like Steve McCurry does on other locations and wait, giving the animals the space to be and show how beautiful they are.
Try it at home with cats and dogs. They will appreciate it and you will get great pictures.