If you want to photograph wildlife that’s not native to the UK without getting on a plane, a safari park is a perfect place to do it.
With half-term coming up in October, you may be looking for something that’ll keep the kids entertained but still give you the opportunity to take a photo or two. One location that’s worth considering is a safari park as there are some excellent ones based in the UK that’ll give you the opportunity to capture frame-filling images of Lions and other animals usually seen on an African plane.
1. Photographing wildlife from your car or a bus
As you’re going to be stuck in your car, or the safari park’s transport service, a long lens is a must. Something like a 70-300mm telephoto will do nicely but if you have a longer one take that along too as smaller subjects such as birds will look tiny otherwise. The inside of a car isn’t the place for a tripod but having something to support your camera when you’re working with long lenses is a good idea. You can get window-mounted tripods but a beanbag is a cheaper and easier way to go. Simply place it on a surface, rest your camera on it and click away. As you’re shooting through glass pack a lens hood and/or a polarizer filter as they’ll both help minimise reflections.
2. Use queueing to your advantage
People moan about having to queue but if you’re a photographer at a safari park this could work to your advantage as it means you’ll have time to observe your surroundings. If you can wait in one position for a while to snap interesting behaviour. If you’re visiting the park to see one particular animal make sure you’ve done your research so you know what time of day they’ll be out and most active. Keep an eye on the weather too as this can make some animals retreat to cover and you’ll be left with empty shots of fields. However, if you do get to the park when it’s raining don’t get too down-hearted as some animals don’t mind the rain and raindrops on the fur and the reflection of light on wet surfaces can create very moody photos.
3. Small changes make a big difference
As you’re in a small space it can be tricky to move and find different angles to shoot from but there are plenty of other things you can do to improve your shots. Always make sure the eye is in focus and when it is don’t click the shutter straight away – wait for the glint in the eyes that can make both human and animal portraits come to life. Sometimes you’ll have to wait for the animal to move to get this but all you have to do is keep re-adjusting your framing until the moment arrives. If it’s portraits you’re particularly after make sure you zoom in to make them frame-filling and if you have cars or other distracting items in the background wait until you’ve changed position to take the shot or blur it out of sight with a large aperture. If it’s a group of lions or a herd of elephants you’re photographing use a smaller aperture such as f/22 to limit the blur to get the whole group in the shot.
When you’re in a hurry it’s easy to forget about composition so you’ll put your subject slap bang in the centre of the image. For some shots this will create a strong portrait but try to resist doing it every time and really think about the rule of thirds when framing up. You also need space for your animal to walk into and don’t amputate an animals extremities – a lion missing the tip of its tail won’t look right.
As you have to keep your windows up you’ll be shooting through glass so to minimise reflections make sure you have your lens against the window. If you have one, try using a lens hood or you could put your spare hand above or to the side of the lens to help minimise reflection. As the engine will be running you’ll find the glass will be vibrating so speed up the shutter speed to minimise shake. You may also find manual focus handy as glass can sometimes fool a camera.
One more, very important point is to observe the rules. We don’t want to hear any stories of ePz members who were turned into lunch!