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How to capture the perfect wildlife photo

 
 

Wildlife photography requires good instincts and preparation. Mike explains how to capture the perfect shot.

 

06th December 2019

Xigera Safari Lodge

General Manager of Xigera Safari Lodge, Mike Myers has been committed to the African bush for over 40 years. During this time, he has documented a great many of his incredible encounters with wild animals on camera. Here, we chat to Mike about his long experience taking wildlife photos, learning about his favourite subjects and what advice he’d give keen photographers coming to the Okavango Delta.

African lechwe in the sunset

What inspired you to take your first wildlife photo?

“While I was in Londolozi National Park in 1977, my friend Lex Hes got me interested in photography. I bought my first lens and camera and was fascinated from the start.”

Can you tell us about a particular image you remember taking?

“If I had to choose one, it would be the shot of a huge male leopard swimming the Savuti Channel. I was working the northern bank of the Savuti Channel and had just stopped for a tea break when I saw a wilderness safari vehicle come out of the treeline on the opposite bank, with the DumaTau leopard strolling just in front. The thought of tea immediately evaporated—it seemed to me that the leopard was intent on swimming through the channel. I moved up as quickly as I could to get to the place where I thought he would cross.

Leopard in the waters of the Okavango Delta

My first few shots were of the scene as he got into the water. Reeds between my position and the swimming cat frustrated the autofocus. However, just as he reached the more shallow part of the river and his feet touched the bottom, he gave a jump, and at this crucial moment the autofocus locked on to him. I had the shot.”

Are there any animals you find especially compelling to photograph in the Okavango Delta?

“There are amazing moments in the bush when predators raise the excitement levels, but I don’t have any favourites. I’m a documentary photographer and so I just go out and document what I see.”

Hyenas herding a group of zebra

What gear would you recommend to snap the perfect wildlife photo?

“Gear can be energy sapping, so the lighter the better. A good quality camera—either DSLR or Mirrorless—around 24 megapixels, a spare battery, a telephoto zoom lens in the range of 100–400mm, a standard zoom in the range 24–70mm, a flash, enough memory cards, a laptop and an external hard drive for backup, should suffice for all your needs. I’d recommend packing all this into a backpack for safe-keeping.”

Two male lions on the Okavango Delta plains

Any tips for framing a picture fast, as is often the case when on safari?

“I only have one: learn to select your focus point and move it around the frame. Ideally, you do not want your subject in the centre of the frame—composition is a long discussion as there is so much involved, but always try to make shots interesting.”

Leopard descending from a tree

Are there any times you’d recommend putting the camera away?

“That depends on the level of one’s obsession. That said, I do think there are times to put the camera down and just enjoy wild Africa, with that well-deserved sundowner at the end of the day perhaps!”

What advice would you give a keen wildlife photographer coming to Xigera?

“Firstly, know your camera well before you come on safari—there’s nothing worse than delaying a purchase until you’re in duty free on the way over. Many times, I’ve had guests who see something amazing on the way to camp from the airstrip and the camera is still in the wrapping and the moment lost.

A pack of African wild dogs

Secondly, pro photographers shoot in Aperture Priority AV on most cameras, so they control their depth of field. I generally shoot at 800 ISO and between F5.6 and F8 and that covers me for most situations.

And finally, at the start of each activity check the camera settings before you start so you are ready for anything.”

Red Carnation Hotels’ Xigera Safari Lodge is set in the picturesque floodplains of the Okavango Delta. Stay with us for dedicated photography lessons and an utter immersion in this amazing landscape.

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