Into South Africa (Part I, Photos)

Stew and I spent two weeks in South Africa a month ago, the first in Cape Town, the second on a safari at Kruger National Park and at adjacent game reserve. We came back with a batch of photographs that, if I may say so myself, were really nice. 

Along with the compliments, I’ve also been pelted with questions, among them what kind of camera do you have, did you have an eighteen-inch long telephoto to get so close to the animals, was there a lot of “photoshopping” involved? 

Hmm-Hmm-Good: Leopard resting in the shade after a light meal consisting of
the rear half a warthog. The remaining front half was still lying ten feet away. 

For those who haven’t seen them, below are the links for viewing the pictures, in three different presentations. There are 134 photos in the set, the first 30 or so of Cape Town and Pretoria, the rest of the safari itself. If you want to get more information about each individual shot, you might want to use the third option which includes captions

Below are three ways to look at the pictures:

1. Easiest, click here and just scroll down the page. You can click on a particular shot to enlarge it: 

2. Same as above, but go up to the upper-right hand corner, and click on the slideshow icon and the pictures will start appearing automatically. 

3. Finally if you want the pictures and the captions go here: 

Go up to upper right hand corner and click on “Show Info” and you’ll get captions. Click on “Options” and you can control the speed of the show, fast or slower. Go to the “Full frame” arrows at the bottom right hand corner and click on that and the pictures will show full-screen.

*   *   *   *   *

Preparation for the trip: Not much, except to Google some images of Africa safaris to see what other people had shot. Far more useful was a photo magazine I picked up at some airport about a year ago, with a cover on photographing a safari. 

It wasn’t much of an article but it had two good suggestions. First, back away and try to include in the photos some background information of the animals’ habitat and where you found them. 

In other words, avoid all close-ups that will leave you with an album what might seem like a collection of mugshots of animals at an open-air penitentiary. Most everyone has seen pictures of giraffes or lions, but not where they hang out, or of a hyena digging into the carcass of a impala. 

Second, set the ISO to automatic, the camera on shutter priority and then work with the f-stops and depth of field. Or vice-versa. But let the camera do some of the work. A person in the safari had the camera set to “Manual” which required constant fiddling with all the settings. That would work for some people but it would confuse me. 

Camera and equipment: A ten-year old Canon EOS 7D. It’s kind of a beast that takes some time to tame, particularly the weight. Hanging around your neck it often feels like a small brick. 

I had four Canon lenses, only three of which I used. 

• The lightest was an 18-55 mm wide angle/zoom kit lens that came with a Canon Rebel that I no longer use. Because it’s light, this was the most convenient lens but not the sharpest.

• The second was a 28-135 mm zoom that came with the EOS 7D. It’s a terrific  lens, that takes you to moderate close-ups. It’s also heavy,  and combined with the weight of the camera it can become a pain. Maybe I’m just a whiny wimp.

• The third lens was a 70-200 mm moderate telephoto that is also terrific, but heavier still. 

• Finally I carried a 55mm lens that is really great and sharp, but never used preferring to go with the versatility of zoom lenses.

All around me were tens of thousands of dollars worth of photo equipment, from the latest  smartphones to two-foot-long monster telephotos. 

To each his own. Smartphones can take some really nice pictures and are convenient because you can arrange it so they are fed automatically into your laptop or desktop at home automatically via the Microsoft OneDrive. 

You can also make short videos with a smartphone, which supposedly you can do with the Canon 7D, except I’ve never learned how. Using the Pixel 2 phone Stew made some really spiffy videos of lions and other large creatures prancing about. I’ll try to include them at the end of this post. 

But, at least in our Pixel 2 smartphone, the photo files are fairly small and so are the opportunities to correct any mistakes or make adjustments to the images afterward. 

Huge telephotos, on the other hand, are unwieldy. The one I own is as long as I want to get. 

(Now it’s a good spot to thank Stew, my husband and most able—and patient—assistant who became quite the whiz at whipping lenses out of the bag and switching them.) 

In the next post, the Trekken to South Africa and what our safari was all about. 

2 thoughts on “Into South Africa (Part I, Photos)

  1. Oh my! Stunning! Virtually all are award worthy photos – and many would make a wonderful painting. Loved experiencing this vicariously through you – thank you so much. My favorites – if I had to choose – would be the elephants. Is there anything more darling than a baby elephant? I think not. I'm simply gobsmacked by these photos – again, thank you so much for sharing.


  2. Those baby elephants, which look like miniatures of the parents, are definitely arresting, though when you see all these animals in person they are all beautiful, even the hyenas!


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