Photographic Safaris

Jul 27th, 2008, 06:12 AM
  #1  
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Photographic Safaris

I have been researching the possibility of taking a safari accompanied by a professional photographer.There are quite a lot to choose from with some very big names involved.
Has anybody ever been on one, if so what did you gain from it, and did you think that the additional cost was worthwhile.
crosbysquare is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 08:58 AM
  #2  
 
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Has anybody ever been on one

We went on a guided photo-safari trip to Tanzania in 2006 (15 people, 5 jeeps), then subsequently did three more trips on our own to Tz and one to Kenya without a tour.

You can see pics from these trips at this link ... http://www.hiltonphotography.net/africa/ ... the January 2006 trip was guided, the rest not.

I feel we got our best photos on the self-guided Jan 07 and Feb 08 trips to Tanzania, but we were using the same safari company, same lodges and same highly skilled driver as we used on the earlier guided trip, so basically profiting from the earlier 'investment' if you will.

if so what did you gain from it

You are basically paying for the trip leader's knowledge of where to go, when to go and what to do when you're there. Whether this is worth an extra 50% - 100% over do-it-yourself is a good question.

did you think that the additional cost was worthwhile

Yes, for my wife and I for the first trip. Then you should be OK on your own for repeats.

BTW we looked at four companies (Andy Biggs, Art Morris & Todd Gustafson, Joe & Mary Ann McDonald, Joe Van Os, led by John Shaw etc) and would offer a couple of tips in evaluating which company to use.

Look at the photos of the trip leaders, this is the best you could do after many trips. Ask for at least five client references and contact them and ask to see THEIR photos, which are more in line with what you'll probably get if you have similar photo gear.

Some guys are more into birds or predators, others into people and scenics ... try to get a good match between your interests and what the trip leader is after.

Ask how many game drives you'll do at dawn and sunset. Some of the tours are able to jam in game drives (what you're REALLY over there for) early and late even on travel days, others are more leisurely and waste some prime early morning hours on moving days. Just as one example the tour we took had 26 game drives in 14 days while another tour we didn't take had 19 game drives in 12 days due to travel.

I wouldn't go on a photo tour with more than 3 photogs in the jeep. Two is better, four is definitely too many if most people are bringing long lenses (which is typical on a serious photo tour).

Most people have a great time and come back with nice photos, even on the do-it-yourself trips or the non-photo tours with six people elbowing each other in the jeeps.

Bill
Bill_H is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 09:31 AM
  #3  
 
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there are some dates for elephant plains camp (sabi sands south africa) in sep.
only 6 people.

if that's intersting - just post. i'll dig for the details then.

div
divine54 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 09:43 AM
  #4  
 
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in respond to your questions whether we have experienced a prof photographic safari: no we haven't.
jonathan scott e.g. or d.balfour will not only lead the safari but also share their secrets of the perfect angle, light, cut, perspective etc.
in the evening or afternoon they discuss with the "apprentice" their points of view when it comes to wildlife photography etc.
so it's rather a workshop experience then just an accompanied safari.

div
divine54 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 06:16 PM
  #5  
 
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There is obviously no single correct answer to this very good question.

I suggest you ask yourself the following:

1. Can you really afford the extra costs which are substantial, or would you rather spend the money on better equipment, a longer safari and perhaps better accommodations more suited to capture special wildlife moments?

2. Are you sociable enough to deal with a small group of people in a crowded vehicle - all vying for the best shots and position? In my experience having two people with super long lenses get bothersome. With 4 or more? Forget it.

3. Will you be in a convoy of vehicles (3 or more)? The expert cannot be everywhere at once.

4. Is the trip about learning to shoot in nature, or about getting the best wildlife shots? There is a huge difference - if you spend 3 nights in a lodge on a group safari vs. a 7-night private mobile safari you may get good compositions but the mobile photographer will probably get the money shots.

5. Would it be better for you to invest your money in a top-notch naturalist safari guide, outfit and itinerary, instead of a top photographer on a standard group safari?

6. Is your spouse as serious about photography as you? Will your spouse be happy on a group safari with competitive photographers?

I think it is a very personal decision.

An good alternative is to enroll in a nature photography trip or school in your own country and to follow up with a private safari with a top guiding outfitter - specifing your emphasis is photography.
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 06:48 PM
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i looked around a few years ago at some of the safaris that were offered by some of the better known photographers out there, and here are a few thoughts based on my limited research.

* there wasn't much of a cost difference between a private safari with the same exact camps or lodges and what these photographers were charging. Well, a few safaris were about a grand more per person, one was only about 300 more and another was about 1500 more.

* some photographers seem to put teaching at the top of the priority list, and some others don't really teach at all. i think it all depends on what you are after. for me, i wanted some instruction with some flexibility on schedule.

* the photo safaris all seemed to have an above average comfort level, so they were not inexpensive safaris to begin with. only 1 photographer ran a style of safari with lodging that i was interested in personally, and the others seemed to skimp. i prefer mobile camping over lodges, as this seemed to be a way of controlling costs, getting closer to wildlife and having a more private experience in a group setting.

in the end i ended up going on safari by myself with my wife, but i wonder what a dedicated photographic safari would have been like. i came home with some nice photographs, that is for sure, but who knows what would have been different. i had a problem with my camera in the middle of the safari, and i noticed that many of my photographs weren't sharp. it wasn't a problem with the camera per se, but rather a problem that i didn't know my equipment well enough. thankfully our guide seemed to have an idea of what the problem was, and it turned out to be that i was shooting at too slow shutter speeds. amateur mistake, i guess.

i used roy safaris for our safari, and feel like i got what i paid for. decent service, decent lodging and a decent guide. i went to tanzania, and there weren't safaris geared towards photographers when i could travel (our daughter was graduating from college when some of the safaris were offered). i cannot wait to got back in a few years.
jgardner is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 07:19 PM
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I have not been on a professionally led photographic safari, but I'd like too, I'm sure it would be fun and I'd learn. I would expect the professional to teach good lighting, what it is and how to find it and every day to comment on my photos.

Although I haven't looked at photographic safaris in some time, I remember them being much more expensive than the same safari on my own. It may be difficult to compare costs, you have to look closely at how many nights/days are in camp not just how long the whole trip is.

I feel that a photographic safari would benefit most a photographer that is more than a beginner in photography. Someone who at least already understands well the technical basics of photography, such as: relationship between f stop and shutter and ISO, lens focal length, DOF, color temperature, elements of composition. And also knows some of the craft of image editing and manipulation (think Photoshop). Of course previous experience shooting wildlife, of any kind, is almost required.

Having said all that, if you just want to do it, fine go ahead. You will learn something, improve and can always go back for more

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 08:34 PM
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If you think you need photographic advice do a workshop at home.

Go on safari by yourself (or with a friend/spouse) and enjoy the safari experience for itself.

You'll have plenty of chances to take images.

Geoff.
GeoffG is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 08:50 PM
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First get to know your camera and what it can do. Practice, practice, practice .......

Composition and things are something that is more artistic and is induvidual ..... it's all in the eye of the photographer. I want my pictures to tell me what I see - not how someone else wants me to see in them.

Expensive group trips - probably not ideal for photography, anyways. I'd rather invest the money in a private vehicle. Lots of operators have more than suitable guides who know photography intimately. They will position the vehicle appropriately according to the light. (know where to drive and how to track the animals, and it is they who drive the professional photographer leading the trip, anyways ........).

Let's not belittle the local guide or staff and think we need a foreigner to step in and do everything just right (Yes, they could go on and on and on "Hyena has the strongest jaws" etc etc.,) ...... I've been on safari with one or two camp guides who have participated in many photo contests and have given me pointers through constant interaction. Prediction of animal behavior is also important and they come in handy once again.

If the group trips, are conducted in off-beat areas or at places that are not so well known(where the group leader has spent a great deal of time and knows the area intimately well) - then perhaps so. Yet, it would be more from a destination specific safari........

There are some disadvantages of group trips in general - you might have a desire to focus on a specific subject. How do you focus on this, when eveyone's desires have to be respected just as equally? You always have the chance to be in a group with someone extremely abnoxious. What can you do? Probably not too much ......
HariS is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 08:56 PM
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Typo - "Not what someone else wants me to see in them"
HariS is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 09:27 PM
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My experience with local guides is that by far most know very little about photography. YMMV . There, was one however, Maurice at Leopard Hills who is an excellent photographer and guide. I'd be happy to have him for all of my game drives.

regards - tom
ps - I want my photographs to communicate the same feeling/emotion I felt when seeing the subject.
cary999 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 10:25 PM
  #12  
skimmer
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If you are interested in taking the best wildlife shots, it's definitely not the best way to go.

As I would do it: before you book your trip make sure you understand how to handle your camera gear and practice (even it is in a zoo).
Look at books of wildlife photographers carefully and study the photographs in detail. Also some useful tips can be easily read on websites/books.

The most important thing is the guide - (passion about his job/knowing animal behaviour/understanding photography). In most places you can easily find local guides who fit for this job.

A private vehicle is also preferred because of the flexibility you need (time you want to go out/how long do you want to stay with a sighting). Here a guide can be very helpful especially if it's your first safari and you don't know if it's worthwhile to stay at a sighting or not.

As I am spending lots of time in Botswana I have a look at some of the itineraries for those photographic safaris in Botswana and I am not always convinced that the places they choose are best. In my opinion commercial reasons often play a role in choosing the outfitter/location they are working with. As an unexperienced safari traveller, you just don't know.

I think some of these photographers really are there to do what they advertised, others are just there to make money and make the best shots themselves. I got this information from what I've seen while on safari myself and what guides told me.





 
Jul 27th, 2008, 11:27 PM
  #13  
lbj
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I ditto Johan and Hari, every word!

If you can not afford a private vehicle for yourself, I would attempt to book a group safari with members of a local camera club or similar.

Each person has their own photographic style that they develop based on the basic rules!
My rule of thumb, spend as much time in the bush as possible in one visit!

 
Jul 27th, 2008, 11:38 PM
  #14  
sniktawk
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I have actually been on a Photographic Safari with Andy Rouse to the Masai Mara, and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was not overly expensive and I picked up some useful tips. The main benefit was the fact that we were in a very small group with specially adapted vehicles and good guides. We had three vehicles for 7 people. On this trip we saw other photographic groups led by other professional photographers. Each group was large one unbelievably so over 30 people, with relatively overcrowded vehicles.

Both of the photographers running these groups are mentioned above.

IMHO you need to be very careful in choosing who you choose to go with, look at their work, find out if they have published books not just with nice photos but necessary techical information and advice on processing etc., and make sure the group is small enough so that you can get personal attention.

In the alternative then I would follow Skimmers advice get out there and try it, but get a private vehicle and good guides.

 
Jul 28th, 2008, 05:08 AM
  #15  
 
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crosby
here you get an idea of what, when and how much....

http://www.robinpopesafaris.net/spec...nterest.php#pw

div
divine54 is offline  
Jul 28th, 2008, 07:00 AM
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sniktawk, wow. 30 people!?!? that is way too big. i never uncovered that in my research, but i am glad i didn't fall into the trap. 30 people is way too many. i agree about looking for a photographer with nice photographs and some teaching skills to back it up. there are many talented photographers out there with personalities that are off-putting. a certain guy in the usa with the name of a large northern mammal comes to mind. his groups are also on the really large side, which isn't conducive to learning much.
jgardner is offline  
Jul 28th, 2008, 08:24 AM
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crosby
here the other one for south africa:

http://www.afrecotours.com/photography.asp

div
divine54 is offline  
Jul 29th, 2008, 06:15 PM
  #18  
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Thank you everybody for your replies, given the vast membership of this forum I am rather surprised that there appears to be so little personal experience of this type of safari.

I have looked into some of the suggestions and found most if not all to not were in my opinion found wanting. In fact the only photographer mentioned in the message from Bill H was himself!

Having investegated Andy Rouse it appears that he is not currently doing safaris in Africa.

Any further ideas?

crosbysquare is offline  
Jul 29th, 2008, 06:39 PM
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i am curious what you found to be wanting? i looked into these types of safaris a few years ago, and i thought a few had great work, great reputations and good web sites. some web sites were and are lacking, that's for sure. and some have informative web sites, as well as content that taught me a few things.

i might return to africa next year, likely kenya, and am going to start gathering information again to see if a photographer leading a safari will work for me. i might choose a different destination if the safari is compelling enough.
jgardner is offline  
Jul 29th, 2008, 06:48 PM
  #20  
 
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"to be so little personal experience of this type of safari." So, give me the extra $5,000 or more to do a pro led photo safari and I'll be happy to do it . AND do a trip report (inside joke).

Maybe what you say is because this forum is a travel forum and not a photographic one? One of my favorite sites for safari photography is one based in South Africa - http://www.outdoorphoto.co.za/cms/
(In fact, I mentioned it in another thread now running here). Skip this home page if you want and go to their workshop page - http://www.outdoorphoto.co.za/cms/view/workshop
Twenty workshops and safaris listed for Aug, Sep and Oct (most are workshops).

One other possible answer to your question. Travelers with this kind of money to spend, over $1,000 per day per person on every trip they take are not -regular- visitors and participants here on this site (sorry Fodors). They are too busy choosing the color schemes for their new Learjet.

regards - tom

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