How To Shoot A Lion

As I was saying in my last post I’ve been editing my friends images from her time in Africa. We took her 3,000 images down to 500 using IPhoto and its ability to rank photos using stars.

I told her I wouldn’t do more than 500 and now after two-and-a-half days of editing using Aperture I should have said 200 images !

What in the frijole was I thinking?IMG_1057

Anyway all is done and if I do say so myself the editing went well and most of the images came out looking very good especially considering most of the shots were taken with an all-weather point-and-shoot.

So what have I noticed in my friend’s shooting that I could help her with for next time.

Number one would be to shoot more! If this had been my trip and I was living in the country I would have taken upwards of 10,000 images. And why so many? Because when you’re shoot something like a lion which you may never see again outside of a zoo shoot more than one frame! Cameras can get it wrong. Sometimes we are shaking the camera more than we think we are. Sometimes the light is wrong and taking more frames might just save the day.

Second have a backup system in place. My friend showed up my door with all 3,000 images on her Macbook Air. Before I did anything I made a copy of all her images on one of my external hard drives and then I recopied that file folder to a second archival backup hard drive. Then I took a copy of all her images and brought them into my computer. Now that her images are existing in multiple places I feeling much more secure about working on one copy. I’ll be burning a DVD of her finished images and keeping a copy for safety on my backup system.

For travel photography I’d recommend shoot with 16-gig fast memory cards. These don’t need to be top of the line when it comes to speed but your camera will ingest images quicker if you’re using a medium to fast speed name brand card. Don’t go overboard here but don’t go cheap. These days decent 16-gig memory cards should cost between $30 to $60 each. If you want to have a bunch of cheaper, slower name brand cards as backup that’s fine but have a couple of decent cards as your primary cards.P1010115 (1)

If you’re shooting RAW images with a DSLR then buy the fastest cards you can afford and you might want to consider buying 32-gig or even 64-gig cards.

I’ve got two 64-gig slow name brand cards that I pack as emergency backups. Since each card can hold thousands and thousands of JPGs or about half that number of RAW images I’m never afraid of running out of memory. I just wouldn’t consider using them for action events like weddings or sports 🙂 .

If you’re going on an extended stay consider bringing a laptop with an external hard drive or at the very least one of the new devices that can download your images to an external rugged hard drive. Don’t even consider using the Internet to upload your images to your Cloud storage or online gallery unless you know for certain the cost per megabyte you’re going to be charged for this service. Hotels can have killer rates.

When it comes to cameras, based on what I saw from my friend’s shots, which were taken with a Panasonic DMC-TS4 98 per cent of all shots could be taken with this or similar cameras.

Only a few shots of animals in trees required a zoom range over 100mm and even then most amateur photographers wouldn’t have got the shot. (One of the reasons is most amateur “safaris” take place during midday when the sun is directly overhead causing huge issues with contrast. Pros want to shoot at dawn and dusk and hire the best drivers to take them and maybe one other person to the best shooting areas during the best seasons for shooting animals at watering holes. Shots taken at noon look washed out.)IMG_0700

Now if it were me I’d take my Olympus cameras plus an all-weather point-and-shoot for shooting in the pool or during dust storms!

If you’re willing to carry a slightly bigger camera than a point-and-shoot I’d highly recommend something like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 all-in-one. At $400 this camera is a steal.

FujiFilm has been making some amazing non-DSLR cameras and I’d be looking at what they have to offer if I was looking for a new camera.

But if you insist on bringing your big, expensive DSLR (faster, better sensor, cleaner images) with a bag of lenses (sharper, longer, faster) and I’d be tempted if shooting animals was my number one reason for the trip) then I’d bring two bodies plus a wide zoom (12-24), a long zoom (18-300 or the 70-210 f/4 zoom which at f/4 is about half the price of the f/2.8 and about half the weight), a macro lens (They have to pry my Nikon 105 f/2.8 macro from my dead cold hands!) and a fast 50 or 35 f/1.8 for shooting around the campfire or bar at night 🙂 Plus pack a flash that can be remotely controlled from the camera.

If you’re going on a pro safari you don’t need me to tell you that you’ll need a big empty bean bag (get the beans at a market in Africa) to support you’re 200-400 or longer zooms plus you might want to hire a kid to carry all your stuff.

How To Shoot Your African Safari

A dear friend of mine asked my opinion on which camera to take to Africa where she was going to work for an International charitable agency.

I suggested a point-in-shoot!Panasonic-Lumix-TS4-front-side

Even worse, I suggest a waterproof, shockproof, freeze proof (It gets cold in the desert at night.) Panasonic DMC-TS4.

I mean what was I thinking?

Well turns out my recommendation was a good one. I know because right now I am editing her 500 three-star picks out of some 3,000 images she shot in total.

Sure there’s the odd shot that fooled the camera but overall the quality of the JPG images are superb.P1020127

But it’s Africa!

Wouldn’t my friend get better images with a full-frame DSLR and a bag full of lenses? Well it is Africa and knowing my friend, who I love dearly, my guess is she’d be relieved of her expensive equipment sometime in the first week of arrival. Africa or for that matter most of the world isn’t all that dangerous but the third world is filled with folks who can be opportunistic at best and downright criminal at worst. A camera bag left unattended or unwatched even for a moment will disappear in most of the major airports in the world including those here in North America.

When my wife and I travel she carries her Olympus camera with the standard zoom in a very small camera bag strapped around her neck. My camera bag goes over my shoulder and goes with me everywhere (Yes there too!) and never leaves my sight or my grasp. In high-risk countries I bring a steel net that can lock to a bed frame!

A $2,000 camera and $4,000 worth of lenses, aside from being way more than my friend can afford let alone carry just isn’t necessary for her and frankly that includes most of us as well.

Her rugged point-and-shoot fits in a purse or pocket and even if she dropped it, the camera would likely keep working and will do so even in a desert dust storm. Your DSLR won’t do that!

But, but what about those shots of lions and other animals. Yes there are a few shots her friend got with a Canon all-in-one but for the most part lions (and it’s especially lions) will come and sit in the shade provided by your parked LandRover.IMG_1256

If you’re a serious amateur or pro sure you want to take your best stuff but if it was me and I wasn’t going on a specific safari just to shoot animals I’d leave the DSLR at home and take my Olympus cameras and lenses.

Most of my friend’s best shots were taken at the ruins in Egypt and just about any decent ($300 to $800) point-and-shoot or all-in-one will do the trick even when shot on “automatic”! The shot of the lioness was shot with a Canon SX-40 which is a relatively ($400) cheap all-in-one DSLR-like camera but the metadata shows this shot could have been taken with just about any camera that had even a modest zoom.

And how do I know all this to be true?

Well I said I’d help her edit her images once she got the 3,000 shots down to under 500. What was I thinking!!

P1010137I’ve cropped, brightened, upped the saturation, lowered the noise in 200 shoots so far today using Aperture for a change instead of Lightroom.

At $79 Aperture from Apple is terrific and best of all my NIK software editors all work flawless inside it. I’m using Colour Efex Pro a lot with her landscapes as it really makes the image pop. (The shot of my friend on the camel is actually very very yellow from light being defused through a dust storm and I’ll offer her both choices as the gold one looks pretty good. My friend wants to make a slide show and a book from her picks in IPhoto and my work in Aperture should be transparent to IPhoto. They’re going to look amazing.

So in conclusion always carry a point-and-shoot when on vacation no matter what else you’ve brought along as you never know when that perfect shot is going to present itself even if it’s during a desert dust storm.