Sure, it’s true that we photographers spend boku bucks and long hours traveling to safaris in Africa to record the magnificent wildlife playing out the cycle of life and death before our eyes and cameras. But, there is more to Africa than wildlife… lots more.
One of the things I suggest for photographers going to Africa is to take time out every so often and just soak in the vast plains and beauty of the landscape. For me, there are few things more photogenic than the acacia trees in the Serengeti. We think of the struggles of the wildlife in the Serengeti, but what of its plants? An acacia tree must withstanding grazing by elephants and giraffes, heat, dust and drought. Those struggles are etched into its bark, it’s tortured branches, its leaves and thorns, making it a terrific subject for images.
During the day in the Serengeti, there are often blue, cloudless skies, the perfect setting for striking B&W images. Put together that cloudless sky and a long horizon broken only by a lone tree and you have rich compositional material with which to work.
Here are a few suggestions that may help:
Breathe. Well, not literally, since the dust in the Serengeti may induce a dry cough for weeks. What I mean is that taking a psychic breather and soaking in your surroundings will give you an appreciation for the other images you may want to capture. A lot of wildlife photography involves long waits, so why not use that time to expand your portfolio?
Single Time. It’s a good idea to take your camera off high speed capture and set it for single shot. This alone will slow you down and force you to look for compositional elements.
Talk to Your Driver. If you see a great composition, don’t hesitate to tell your driver to pull over. Just be sure that your fellow photographers generally agree.
Change Settings. You won’t need 1/2000th of a second shutter speeds for landscapes, nor shallow depth of field, as you would for fast-action wildlife shots. Instead, shoot at f11, for example, and a slower shutter speed to accommodate that. Use your beanbag or clamp to minimize motion blur.
Silhouettes Rock. You don’t need to trust your metering system, which will seek to set a neutral grayscale and balance your exposure. Instead, meter for the sky sometimes, allowing the trees to render dark or black in silhouette.
Try B&W. Lone subjects set against a vast, empty-feeling landscape make for dynamic B&W images.
Experiment. Be daring. Try different post-processing treatments. Have fun.