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Taking pictures in the wild, my short list of hints

by Francesco Zezza

This short list comes out from the experiences (in taking pictures) I had over the years. I begun,  of course may I add, with a cheap “point and shot”, compact camera, then I switched to a reflex (I like Minolta cameras) and finally to a digital unit ... over the year I had some “losses” because of the “extreme tasks” I required them, at this regard I’d like to report at least:

  1. My first Minolta reflex “passed away” in the Sinai desert when sand entered it ... ...:
  2. My (old fashioned, for the sake of truth) Sony cam-corder that “succumbed” to mist in the (Peru) Amazon Jungle

Enough of foreword, for now ... let’s go ahead.

  • Bring camera equipment you know pretty well. Some shot may happen – if ever – once in your life, what a pit will be having missed it while struggling with that “unknown” equipments.
  • In case you’re going to buy that brand new camera for “the trip of your life” get used to it way in advance ... Having all equipments fully checked before departure is a MUST!
  • Consider the option of having two cameras in case one “goes wrong”. At this regard I consider my digital camera as a plus, preferring to rely on my old fashioned Minolta reflex camera, its lenses, flash and the rest ... (but I have ONE Minolta only!)
  • A camera with a 200 or 300mm telephoto lens is quite good for wildlife photography (I personally use a 210 mm and – to me - is the BARE minimum); any way - under given circumstances - even a”point’n shot” camera will do.
  • Serious photographers (mostly if “dealing” with birds) will go for a 500mm lens. Beware of weight of such a lens, a tripode is higly reccomended.
  • Films (and mostly slides) may result hard to find “in field”, then have the right supply with you; is not that uncommon use more than one roll per day when “on duty”.
  • Most game drives take place with faded light (aka: early in the morning or late in the afternoon): an ASA 400 will prove itself an excellent “all purpose” choice.
  • Films should be kept in your – hand carried – camera bag and, possibly, hand inspected; even if x-ray machines are claimed to be “film-safe”, one of my mottos is: better safe than sorry!
  • Night shoots will require (beyond dedicated films/colour slides, up to ASA 1000) an EXTREMELY powerful flash.
  • Use Ziploc bags (or alike) to protect your camera(s) from dust/rain/moist and alike.
  • Always have with you extra batteries for all of your equipments: cameras, flash, camcorder and more ... the ones you use may be unobtainable/unavailble; then you’re ... fired!
  • The use of polarizing filter could be an interesting option.
  • Same is for a skylight unit (to protect from dust) even at cost of a marginal decayment of picture quality.
  • Video batteries may be/may be not recharged at camps and/or to cigarette-lighter on vehicles. Have then – at least – one back-up unit.
  • Never forger adapters (for sockets) and check Volts (be sure to have a miltipurpose electric charger)

Then few, final, points not directly related to techie stuff but, all the same, worth considering:

  • When taking your picture NEVER forget Your team-mates. You cannot be always on the best seat. Respect their right – and ask them to do the same - and wait for our turn.
  • Taking pictures of local people ALWAYS requires their agreement: be responsible, polite and kind ... when in doubt it’s way better void to get that “given” pictures.
  • You will be requested – no matter the actual reason – fo refrain from taking pictures in some areas (i.e.: airports, military installations and so on) following this advice will show your respect to local habits and – last but not least - will void you being harassed and even taking to jail

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