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Photographic Safaris: Experience, Comments, Advice?

Photography Photographic Safaris Zambia

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#1 Swazicar

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 04:18 AM

Who has attended/participated in a formal photographic safari?  Did you like it?  What did you get out of it?  How was it similar to or different from other wildlife-focused trips you've taken?  Would you do it again, under the same circumstances?  Having done one, would you do a second?

 

My questions are based, in part, on my looking into a possible trip to Zambia next year.  If my wife decides she's unable to go, either because of the timing or because she doesn't want to blow another 10-12 grand on a trip to Africa, one option is for me to go alone. If I go alone, I'd seriously consider a green-season photographic safari.  I'm not really a photographer, but I'm a guy who has had cameras for many years.  I like the idea of a solo trip having a more defined focus (so to speak), and it's quite likely I wouldn't do a true wet-season trip to Africa if my primary interest were in seeing tons of wildlife.  I'm not good at "resting" during the middle of the day, so I think I'd sort pf like being able to stay out for full days at a time.

 

I'm not mentioning specific names or locations, as I don't want this to be a "How was your experience with Photographer X?" thread.  That said, if you had a really good experience, I think it's fair for you to mention any specifics you think are pertinent.

 

Thanks in advance for any thoughts.

 

-tom a.

 

 

 

 



#2 pault

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 06:18 AM

Oh... good questions! And I really hope for your sake too it doesn't get into personal opinions of photog x and photog y - it'll help not at all.

 

However, in the end (and I have never been on such a tour so don't take this too seriously) I think the individual tour leader and how they organise the tours is really critical for you.They do things differently. Some of them will be bad for you and some will be perfect for you - and I might have the exact opposite opinion of them if we were on the same tour. I just happen to have heard a lot of talk about one particular photographic tour leader over the years and while all agreed he was very good at his job, some loved his tours and thought him to be really fun company and some thought them a bit of a waste and found him arrogant and even abusive.

 

Sounds like a very good idea if you are going alone and don't really want to be alone. You kind of have at least two shared interests with everyone so that is a good start.

 

The kind of thing I am thinking about is....:

 

-  the UK photographer AB actively discourages "serious photographers" from going on his/her tours.

-  the UK photographer CD works his/her charges hard, thinking nothing of 5 am starts and missed meals when appropriate.

-  the US photographer EF thinks nothing of negotiating with officials for hours or breaching ethical boundaries in order to "get the shot" for his/her charges

-  If you go with the US photographer GH you may not actually spend a significant amount of time with him/her because he/she has larger than norrmal groups and delegates

 

They are all real people by the way, not composites, but I removed the names because it doesn't matter to my point - which is that if you do this and you're not just photography mad, it's important to feel that  the culture will be right for you..

 

Sorry I can't offer personal insight but I look forward to seeing what others say.


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#3 KaingU Lodge

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 07:15 AM

I haven't attended one but I have seen my share of them from a camp management perspective.  Many trips led by many different photographers.  To be honest the one common thread that has run through most of the trips is how surprised I am that most participants are not total photography nuts and many guests have actually been relatively new or not that experienced.  Yes a fair few have been toting massive bazooka lens and body combos that I would kill for, but even then most have been very open in admitting that they have all the toys, but most importantly want to learn.  As such I have been pleasantly surprised by the lack of pressure and the good humour in such groups.  That makes my life easier! 

 

The photogs that have led such trips have generally always been great people.  Personally I would really like to do such a trip one day, but I don't see it happening for a while. 

 

For those reasons I think it is a great idea, and if I was doing it I would do it either green season or very early/late season.

 

I only once saw a leader throw his toys out the pram completely, but that was 'cause he himself missed the most perfect video sequence by forgetting to press record!  

 

 


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#4 madaboutcheetah

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 09:29 AM

I did a "photo" tour with a pro photographer from the UK to the Mara once (Name withheld) .......... It was a mixed bag ............ I was under the impression that the pro photographer mainly wanted to build up his own "stock pile of photographs" - he was always seated in the best spot and wanted the vehicle to be positioned to his command and never rotated between the two vehicles (although clients rotated).  Was often lazy with his photo tutorials -

 

The overall benefits - One session on Light Room processing.  Did also help with camera settings and the pros and cons of various options 

Overall - a mixed bag!

 

The big turn off for me - there was one afternoon when our vehicle was positioned ahead of time wanting the entire pride of Lions to walk into our frame single file ........ Suddenly, the other vehicle (with the pro leader) cut us off and parked right in line with the big male lion, as he wanted a tight frame of the male Lion's portrait.  Ridiculous!!!!! 

 

I did another time with an Indian pro photographer who tailored our safari to cater to our own group.  What I wanted out of that trip was something totally different - I wanted to see Tigers and to see them without crowds.  He was able to organize the trip to meet our needs ...... So, i guess it's all what you expect from the trip!


Edited by madaboutcheetah, 15 September 2016 - 09:34 AM.

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#5 Tusker

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 03:38 PM

I've thought about it over the years... I am far from an excellent photographer. When I look at the costs, I always figure, hey for that price, I can do 2 safaris on my own. Guess which one wins out??

 

While I still take photos, I find I now take a lot less. Its about the right pictures I want for my memories of the trip. Im past the days of taking home 100's or 1000's of photos on a trip. I will usually end up with 100 or so from the entire trip after going through all the shots for the best ones. Maybe that just me...


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#6 Swazicar

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 03:20 AM

Thanks @KaingU Lodge, @madaboutcheetah, @Tusker, and (especially) @pault.  I appreciate the input.  You're all providing good fodder when negotiations with the wife begin!

 

-tom a.



#7 pault

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 03:36 PM

@Swazicar  I thought others deserved more of an "especially" than me, but I suppose I would think that! I think @KaingU Lodge probably has a much better view of what these groups are like than me - certainly the ones in Zambia!! The people I am referring to are probably "name" photographers to differing extents and not wholly typical, even if my point was there are a lot differences. 


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#8 Swazicar

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 09:57 PM

@pault no slight intended to @KaingU Lodge, who obviously is a superstar.  I just mean that your post suggested specific things I might want to think about in deciding whether something was a good match for me.


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#9 Atravelynn

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 02:49 AM

What great advice so far.  I think you'd do well on a photo trip, @Swazicar.  I once found myself on a trip with 5 others who were booked as a photo trip, and I was the 6th spot.  I like to take photos and am interested in improving my shots, but I did not have the intense interest or giant lenses of the other 5.  It worked out fine.  The guide spent more time with me talking about animal behavior--primarily bears because it was Alaska.  When it was photo session/lesson time back on the ship, I would participate minimally then talk with the crew or the guide, or read or nap.  You'd probably be very involved in the session/lesson.   I found I was less tense because pixels were not as crucial to my enjoyment of the trip as they were to the other participants. 

 

At shared meals the conversation was not just about photography because they had taken care of that in their photo session/lesson time.  Most of these folks had been to other wildlife destinations for photography so there were a lot of shared interests besides cameras, and lots of laughs.

 

You mentioned staying out all day.  Photographers are more inclined to want to do that than your average group so they can wait for best light or interesting animal activities.  We were out much of the day and everyone agreed on that plan.

 

One thing to look into is the cost to you for a special photo trip vs a regular trip.  On that Alaska trip I paid less since I booked a regular trip with the company.  The photo group that took up 5 of the 6 spots  paid a premium, I think much of it to their leader who was one of the 5 people in their group.  All the photographers seemed to learn new stuff and appreciate the expertise of the pro who lead them.

 

"I like the idea of a solo trip having a more defined focus" ha ha, very clever for a photo trip.


Edited by Atravelynn, 17 September 2016 - 02:51 AM.

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#10 Atravelynn

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 02:54 AM

.......... It was a mixed bag ............ I was under the impression that the pro photographer mainly wanted to build up his own "stock pile of photographs" - he was always seated in the best spot and wanted the vehicle to be positioned to his command and never rotated between the two vehicles (although clients rotated). 

I would anticipate a mutiny by the end of that trip.  How embarrassing for that pro photographer.


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#11 pault

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 04:34 AM

@pault no slight intended to @KaingU Lodge, who obviously is a superstar.  I just mean that your post suggested specific things I might want to think about in deciding whether something was a good match for me.


I am sure he didn't feel slighted! Anyway, I didn't mean to criticize you at all and I am glad I helped.
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#12 madaboutcheetah

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 04:50 AM

Lynn, actually the rest of the group were just bewildered by his "celebrity" status and went with the flow ..........  For the rest of them, it was their first trip to Africa and as you'll know - it's amazing!!!  He probably took credit for that!

 

The timing of game drives were pre-set ......... It was almost like clock work.  Not something I was used to - but, at the same time don't think we missed much by going back to camp.


Edited by madaboutcheetah, 17 September 2016 - 05:34 AM.

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#13 Swazicar

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 02:26 PM

Thanks, @Atravelynn.  Sounds like I'm sort of your type of photographer.

 

We're headed for Wallowa Lake today, so I'll likely be off-line (except during refueling stops at the Terminal Gravity brew pub!) for the next week or so.

 

Thanks again to all.

 

-tom a.


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#14 IamFisheye

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 11:48 AM

I've only done the one photo safari, see my trip report here

http://safaritalk.ne...ter-march-2015/

 

It was a relaxed easy going affair with photographers of all levels.  Albie is an excellent guide as well as a photographer.  His knowledge of the bush in that area (he used to guide/manage at Sosian with Steve) is 1st class and I think that's what you need not just someone to get you in the right position to get a decent composition with the right lighting but someone who understands animal behaviour and how the surroundings might influence it  i.e. alarm calls, wind direction, etc. 


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#15 Atdahl

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Posted 05 October 2016 - 07:45 PM

@Swazicar, while I haven't yet taken a photo tour I have done lots of research.  The biggest thing that has stopped me is that these tours don't have options for non Photographer spouses to tag along at reduced prices and differing activities if needed.  I see a niche there that needs to be filled, but I digress.

 

In my research, the biggest factor I have found in who I may choose had to do with whether that pro takes their own pictures or not.  Some pro tours now advertise that they don't take pictures so that they can spend more time with their students.  That's the type of tour I would take since that is the only way in my mind to justify the premium paid.   I can travel to great destinations and hire guides that put me in position for great photographs on my own...but it's the art of TAKING the great photograph that I would want to improve on and for that I need the instruction of a pro.

 

The whole purpose would be to avoid what @madaboutcheetah experienced.  I think that is all too common (The pro spending more time taking their own pictures than helping the students grow).

 

That's just my 2 cents on what would be important to me.  I'm interested to know what you decide to do.

 

Alan


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#16 pomkiwi

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Posted 05 October 2016 - 08:52 PM

@Swazicar I looked at taking a photographic safari but wasn't too sure how it would work out in a big group. In the end I paid for a private vehicle for a couple of days on a 'standard' trip and arranged for a photographic guide for one day. This gave me some great instruction but I think the biggest difference was having a vehicle to myself which allowed more flexibility and choice at sightings. This was in South Africa and easy to arrange - not sure how it would go in Zambia?

#17 KaingU Lodge

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Posted 07 October 2016 - 02:49 PM

There are guides like Edward Selfe who offer this.  He is really the only one that I know is based in Zambia. 

 

@Swazicar I looked at taking a photographic safari but wasn't too sure how it would work out in a big group. In the end I paid for a private vehicle for a couple of days on a 'standard' trip and arranged for a photographic guide for one day. This gave me some great instruction but I think the biggest difference was having a vehicle to myself which allowed more flexibility and choice at sightings. This was in South Africa and easy to arrange - not sure how it would go in Zambia?



#18 ZaminOz

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Posted 08 October 2016 - 06:36 PM

@KaingU Lodge
Isn't Patrick Bentley still operating in Zambia as well?
The advantage of the likes of Patrick and Ed is that they are not only great photographers, they are also Luangwa qualified safari guides as well.

Edited by ZaminOz, 08 October 2016 - 06:36 PM.

*******
Warning, if any safari camps wish to employ me as a guide, I expect a salary far, far, more commensurate than my actual experience!

#19 KaingU Lodge

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Posted 09 October 2016 - 03:11 AM

You are right.  Patrick!  My apologies. 

 

@KaingU Lodge
Isn't Patrick Bentley still operating in Zambia as well?
The advantage of the likes of Patrick and Ed is that they are not only great photographers, they are also Luangwa qualified safari guides as well.



#20 rouxeny

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Posted 09 October 2016 - 04:56 AM

Thank you for this timely topic.  I am also interested in going on a formal photo safari next year, most likely to Botswana.  It will be my first trip to Africa.  I am an advanced amateur photographer.  My primary interest in a photo safari is that I think a car of like-minded individuals will be more likely to want to wait at a sighting to get the right shot, versus non-photographer cars that might want to scoot off to the next spot shortly after arrival.  I also hope that the skills of a pro photographer would be useful for my own education and advancement.

 

As I've done more research, and learned more about safari trips in general, it seems like there are many other options other than these kinds of formal photo trips which would likely satisfy all my wants.  

 

I also notice that such safaris are at quite a premium compared to other options.  However, I expect some of that is due to the fewer people per vehicle that these trips usually advertise.  

 

All your comments are quite helpful.


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