Your Africa Photography Questions...Answered

African wildlife photography is my speciality and passion so if you have any related questions I will happily attempt to answer them for you.

I have been honing my photographic skills on the inhabitants of Africas National Parks and reserves for over forty years now so feel free to pick my brain if you need help on the safari photographic front (more about me).

Try to give me as much detail as possible when you ask because that will help in making sure you get a satisfactory answer to your photography questions.

How To Find Existing Answers

Your particular question may be answered elsewhere already so take a browse through the site, particularly the 'Safari Photography' section.

You can also download a free copy of my Better Safari Photography Guide which contains many answers to frequently asked wildlife photography questions.

And then last but not least, check out the Africa photography questions that I have given answers to previously below.

Q. I have been coming from the US to SA twice a year for a few years now and have become interested in wildlife photography, especially of birds. I started out with a Panasonic Lumix and graduated to a Canon Rebel xsi. At first, I had a 100 to 300 mm Canon lens, then I got a 400 mm Canon zoom lens (the heaviest I can lift).

With all these lenses and cameras, I have noticed stripes instead of crisp shots or bokeh on sunny mornings during the winter months. I assumed that the angle of the sun and the quality of light created this effect.

From your comments on striping, it could be that I still do not have the right equipment. Or I am doing something else wrong?

Asked by Candace Clark in Kure Beach, NC USA.

A. I don't think it's something you are doing wrong Candice, but it is in all likelihood it is a problem with your camera equipment, specifically the filter, which is probably why it's been duplicated across cameras and lenses.

If you're using a UV or some other kind of filter that is probably what is causing the stripey bokeh when there are light conditions like the ones depicted in your photo above.

Next time you encounter these light conditions, take some shots with the filter off and then a few with it back on. You should be able to see the difference immediately and you can then either buy a new filter or just remove it when the conditions arise.

Q. What type of camera(s) did you use when you first began your photography career? I need a new camera and want to make sure I buy the right one for wildlife images.

I don't want to waste money buying a little digital camera that won't take perfect high quality pictures. I don't know how many megapixels or how much optical or digital zoom I should look for, but if you have some pointers or advice it would be greatly appreciated!

Asked by Michelle Johnson in Dublin, Ireland.

A.My first camera was a Pentax ME Super but when I went digital I began using a Canon Powershot S1 IS compact camera which had 3.2 megapixels. Then on to the Canon Powershot S5 IS compact and the Canon EOS 20D cameras which both have 8 megapixel sensors. Currently I use the Panasonic FZ1000 which has a 20 megapixel sensor.

But before you even look at the megapixels and zooms you need to decide whether you want to buy a compact or SLR digital camera. There are advantages and disadvantages to either format for wildlife photography...

Here's how to choose between compact and SLR

Once you have answered that question you can go on to choose the camera with the correct megapixels and zoom. So how many megapixels do you need? It depends on what you want to do with your photographs.

For photos you only want to use on the web or send by e-mail you can get away with a lower resolution like 3.2 megapixel with no problems. If you want to print your photographs then you need a higher resolution.

So roughly the more megapixels you have the bigger you will be able to make quality prints. As an example, an 8 megapixel sensor will allow you a 11x14 in. print of the best quality.

I believe that 8 megapixels is more than adequate for most wildlife photography requirements. Digital zoom is not something I would recommend you use if you want quality photographs. It gets you a lot closer to the subject but degrades the picture quality a lot. Optical zoom is the only thing you should be looking at.

Concerning how much zoom you need for wildlife photography, there is no short answer to that question. I've written an article on how to find the best wildlife photography lenses here...

Top telephoto and zoom lenses

Q. I am planning to visit Africa in the near future and I would like to know which lens is the best for safari photography between these two. I am specifically interested in wildlife and bird photography.

  1. Canon EF 28-300mm F3.5-5.6 L IS USM.
  2. Sigma 300mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM.

Asked by Sandeep Parke in London, UK.

A.You've asked a very pertinent question for safari photography Sandeep. The fixed versus zoom lens debate for capturing wildlife images has been ongoing since the different lens configurations first made their appearance.

There isn't an easy answer to this one (don't you just hate it when that's the case?) because it all depends on your personal preferences and abilities.

A fixed lens has the advantage, on the whole, of producing sharper images compared to the equivalent zoom lens so if you want the clearest images then a fixed lens is the way to go for a safari.

The advantage of the zoom lens lies in its versatility, which makes composing safari pictures a lot easier. For example, you can't get a lion to move so that it will fit completely into the picture frame and you can't always move the safari vehicle into the best position, especially at places where off roading isn't allowed, so this is where the zoom lens really comes into it's own.

Hope this helps with your decision.

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