With its incredible array of wildlife and birdlife combined with its striking and unique landscapes, there can’t be many better places In Africa for safari snaps than the incredible Etosha National Park. Here are a few photographic tips to make sure you make the most of it.
Pack a zoom lens
Most of the best photographic opportunities are to be had at the park’s waterholes, which are often a fair distance from roads or parking areas. The waterholes are also fairly large in some cases, and many animals seem to prefer to drink on the opposite bank to where the vehicles are stationed. However, the flat, open landscape and terrain allow for good visibility even at a relative distance, especially in winter, so with a good zoom lens you can capture great clear wildlife shots that you might miss out on otherwise.
Early morning and late afternoon lighting
Lighting is key for any great picture, and it’s no different in the wild. Having the early morning or late afternoon sun shining on your subject makes for warmer, richer images with more colour and depth and less glare. The moon-like expanse of the white saline Etosha Pan can accentuate the brightness or glare of the midday sun, again making it important to shoot in the morning or later in the afternoon when the sun is less harsh. Rather spend the hotter middle parts of the day relaxing back at camp by the pool and save your memory card space.
Take your time at the waterholes
In winter the waterholes are teeming with wildlife, as the rest of the park dries out and most animals need to find a place to drink on a daily basis. If you have patience and sit your ground in a good spot near one of the waterholes, you are bound to see a lot more action than if you are driving around aimlessly. With the festive and eclectic atmosphere that occurs at many of the waterholes during winter, you also have a much better chance of getting some real action shots, such as of elephants or other animals playing in the water. And if you are particularly lucky, your predators will also be lurking waiting for an opportunity to pick out something good for dinner.
Ensure you pick the correct waterhole in terms of lighting
Before setting up shop at a particular waterhole, do your research in terms of where the sun rises or sets. Regarding the position of the sun, you will find that there are what might be called morning and afternoon waterholes in the park. Having the sun at your back, whether it’s is on the rise or setting, is key. You will need to stay in your vehicles at all times in the park so it helps to know at which waterholes you can park your car with the sun behind you depending on the time of day. Most waterholes only have parking areas on one side of the water’s edge and you need to make sure you are not taking pictures directly into the light unless you are purposely doing so to shoot silhouettes.
Keep your camera steady and cover up
If you are shooting from your car window, always rest your camera on a bean bag, or if you are more of a pro you can use a camera stand that mounts onto your car door. Keeping your camera still is vital in order to shoot sharp images, especially if you are using zoom lenses and shooting animals or other objects at a distance. In the winter months Etosha is extremely dry and dusty so covering your camera while you are not using it will mean less dirt can get into it or your lens. A tip would be to either to put the camera in a bag or keep a cloth over it as much as possible.
Keep all of this in mind and keep practising and you’ll soon be taking safari shots fit for National Geographic.