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Military, police and people
Avoid problems by not taking pictures of police officers, military staff/quarters/installations, bridges, airports etc. Don't take pictures of people without first asking for permission.
Bringing or buying film etc?
Bring all camera equipment from home, including film, memory cards and spare batteries. Some may be available locally, but you don't want to spend time looking around for it, and won't know the quality of the articles you may find. The latter may be especially relevant for film.
Dust protection
Bring some kind of dust protection for your camera equipment (and binoculars), as bush roads may be very dusty. If you don't want to spend money on this, bring a plastic bag.
Humidity on the coast
Be careful with electronic equipment, such as digital cameras and mobile phones, if you go to the coast, where the air is humid and salty. Don't store the equipment with wet towels etc, and avoid exposing it when not necessary.
Safari glossary
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Planning your safari:
Most safari-goers bring some kind of camera, and a safari offers many opportunities to capture animals, scenery etc on film or memory card.

Unless you're a skilled photographer, you should consider your pictures memories from your safari only. Don't expect to shoot prize-winning wildlife pictures, because that usually requires plenty of time, skills and a safari planned especially for this. Spend your safari looking mainly through your binoculars, not your camera.

If you don't usually take pictures when travelling, you don't have to bring a camera at all. Should you want some pictures for a memory of the tour, you may buy a nice book with lots of professional safari pictures.

Film or digital?
There may be two reasons for bringing the classic type of camera that uses film: you know exactly what you are doing, or you've already got such a camera and see no reason to buy a new one.

Otherwise, bring a digital camera.

Your camera needs/competence
Settle for a camera that you know how to handle. Advanced features are of no use to you unless you know how to use them. If you usually use automatic settings, you will benefit more from a camera with good lens quality than from a camera with settings for manually controlling exposure etc.

Also consider weight. To take safari photography seriously, you need to carry all photo equipment at all times. Single lens reflex cameras, used by true photographers, are versatile and can produce very good pictures, but are considerably heavier than compact and bridge cameras.

African light
The African morning and evening light is lovely in pictures. Daylight is hard and flat, though, and automatic settings often result in dull pictures.

African dust
Safaris are dusty. Keep your camera covered when not in use, to save if from unnecessary exposure to dust. Dust may soil the lense, and even get into and damage the camera.

Digital cameras
If you are going to buy a new camera, we suggest a digital camera. There is a multitude of such cameras on the market to choose from, in different price ranges.

Digital cameras have features that make them more usable than traditional cameras with film. You can review your pictures right after shooting them, and you can erase pictures you're not happy with. This is very handy for safari use; when you find a trophy animal, such as a leopard, you may shoot any number of pictures until you've got a really good one, and delete the rest. Many cameras can also shoot video, and the price of memory cards keeps going down and down, which means that the cost per picture is fairly low.

There is much to read about specific cameras on the web. We suggest you do some reading there, or visit your photo dealer. Below, we describe the three main types of digital cameras from a safari point of view.

Compact cameras, 3X–4X zoom
The compact cameras are small enough to fit into a pocket. If you make it a rule to always bring the camera in a specific pocket, at all times, you'll be ready to shoot any events or action during the safari. The picture quality is good enough for holiday pictures and private use.

The main disadvantage is the limited zoom, enlarging your subject up to three or four times; animal portraits are possible only when you are quite close to the animal. You usually get a good number of such portrait opportunities during a safari, though, but some rare species, such as leopards and rhinos, are rarely seen that close, so you need luck to get good pictures of them without a more powerful zoom.

A nice side effect of lacking zoom capacity is that many of your pictures probably will show the surrounding nature and landscape.

Bridge cameras, 10X–18X zoom
The bridge cameras are, simply speaking, big compact cameras with powerful zooms. They may also have more manual settings than compact cameras. Many have a strong and adjustable built-in flash. These features make the bridge camera quite usable for safari use.

Bridge cameras aren't more difficult to use than compact cameras, as there are also automatic settings. The main disadvantage is size; bridge cameras require you to carry a bag. The powerful zoom is an advantage, but beware! When zooming in 15X, you don't only enlarge the subject fifteen times, but also any shaking. The better bridge cameras have an electronic stabilizer, but you may also want to use for example a bean bag to support the camera when zooming. Otherwise, you may not get the sharp pictures that you want.

Most bridge cameras save pictures in JPEG format only, but some can also save in professional RAW format.

From our experience, bridge cameras in general are not made for rough outdoor environments. They are quite sensitive to dust and rain.

Single lens reflex cameras (DSLR)
Like compact and bridge cameras, digital single lens reflex cameras have come down in price. If you bring such a camera on your safari, and know how to use it, you will probably shoot some really good pictures.

This type of camera usually has better resolution and light sensitivity, but don't buy one unless you have some knowledge in photography and are prepared to work for picture quality. You also have to carry more and heavier equipment.

DSLRs may save the pictures in RAW format, which is the best if you want to process them with software afterwards. The format requires a lot of memory, so many users bring a portable hard drive to which they transfer their pictures from the camera memory card.

With a DSLR, you may want at least a 200 mm tele lens for general safari use. For bird photography, you may want a longer lens.

Charging batteries
Tanzania and Kenya have wall outlets for British 3-pin plugs with rectangular pins. Most rooms in hotels and lodges, and tents in some tented camps, have wall outlets. If there are none, you may charge batteries in the bar or reception. The voltage in Kenya and Tanzania is 220–240 V, 50 Hz.

Memory cards
With most cameras, a 1 gigabyte memory card has room for a few hundred pictures, which is probably enough if you shoot holiday pictures only and take time now and then to delete poor pictures. The memory cards aren't very expensive any more, so you may choose to bring extra memory. This also allows you to bring some video files home, which can be fun.

Digital compact camera (and matchbox for a size indication).

Classic camera using film
There may be two reasons to bring the classic type of camera that uses film: you know exactly what you are doing, or you've already got such a camera and see no reason to buy a new one.

You may use some 10 rolls of film for holiday pictures during a normal 7-day safari. 200 ASA film is fine for all-round use. For serious photography, you will probably use a lot more, and will probably go for 50–400 ASA.

Film is sold in lodges and shops, but you can never tell how the film has been stored, handled etc. Mainly standard film is sold. It's better to bring enough film from home.

Bean bags for sharp pictures
A bean bag is a bag filled with beans (rice can be used, too), used as a stable support for a camera (or telescope) in the safari vehicle. You put the bag on the roof or in an open window, and then the camera on top. You don't really need such a support for compact cameras, but for using tele lenses and zooming with bridge cameras, the bean bag makes a big difference.

You can device a simple bean bag yourself. Use a fabric bag, a big sock etc (anything goes, as long as it's not airtight), fill it with 1 kg/2 lb of beans, and tie it up with as string or strong rubber band. If you don't want to bring the extra weight on the flight to East Africa, you may bring an empty bag and buy beans or rice in a market after arriving, or even use sand to fill it.

Tripods can't be used in safari vehicles, as there isn't room enough between the seats, co-passengers etc. A bean bag is more useful in the vehicle.

A tripod may be used on lodges, camps and observation points, or during walks. It's one more thing to carry around, though, and on normal safaris, most safari-goers have no use of one.

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Page updated 17 February 2009