“What camera gear have you got?” is one of the first questions people ask each other at the start of a safari.
Of course no two safaris are alike; the participants and the animals will be different every time. But just as in any given park there are certain species you can reliably expect to see; on every safari there are a few distinct characters you can expect to encounter
Characters you might meet on a photographic safari
Here’s our light-hearted look at a few of the ‘types’ you might meet on safari and their reasons for asking this simple question.
Very excited about being on his first safari, he’s splashed out on a new camera and is itching to use it. He’s read the manual but still doesn’t completely understand the relationship between shutter speed, aperture and ISO. That doesn’t faze him though, he’s pretty confident that everything is going to be great and if he leaves it set on the ‘Auto’ program his new camera will get him brilliant photos. He just wants to chat. He’ll listen politely to what you tell him but may not remember much as he’s so excited to get his safari started. Will probably have used up all his memory cards before the safari is over.
He’s not really interested in what you’ve got. He only asked you so that you would ask him what he’s got, and give him the chance to brag about his brand new camera and lenses. Will unashamedly tell everyone that his camera is top of the range and the best brand. He’ll tell you how much it cost but of course make sure you know that he was much too savvy to pay the full price. Will probably spend most of the safari trying to understand how his camera works. Should have brought the User Guide for his camera but probably didn’t.
A little bit anxious about being on a real photographic safari and a bit worried about appearing less experienced than everyone else. Needs reassurance that he made the right choice and is not going to be out of his depth. Whatever camera and lenses he has he will have learnt how to use them. Won’t take as many photos as the Showoff or the Novice but will discard a much smaller percentage of the ones he does take. Will almost certainly have brought the manual with him. May feel a bit intimidated by the Showoff but will warm to the Novice.
The Old Hand
He probably won’t ask you unless you ask him first and his answer will be very ‘matter-of-fact’. He’s the one who’s been on safari a few times before and is confident that he knows what he is doing. No nervous fiddling, his camera will look comfortable in his hands. He will already know what settings he plans to use for the different scenarios he expects to encounter and – if you give him the chance – he’ll tell you exactly why he chose each lens in his bag. Depending on personality, he could turn out to be really good company or a real bore.
The photography facilitator/guide
He’s genuinely interested because he needs to know. He’ll be trying to assess each person’s ability level; who is likely to know how to get the best from their equipment and who hasn’t got a clue.
He’ll listen to what each person tells him and immediately begin making mental notes on the various cameras and lenses being carried by group members. Will be keen to study new models or cameras he hasn’t come across before. As he gathers the information he’ll already be thinking ahead to the subjects he’ll discuss in his first one-to-one with each group member.
So what is in my camera bag?
It varies slightly depending on the destination but in most cases this is what I’ll be carrying.
Cameras and Lenses
Nikon D300s + Sigma 120mm-400mm zoom lens
Nikon D7100 + Nikkor 300mm f4 telephoto lens + Nikkor 1.4 TC
Sigma 10-20mm Wide Angle lens
Nikkor 18-105 zoom lens
Other odds & sods
Piece of 2 inch foam, 6” x 4”
2 spare 32GB cards
2 spare batteries
No right, no wrong
That’s what I carry, but it doesn’t mean that it is right for everyone else or that everything else is wrong.
Last time out there was a young woman carrying a Samsung WB150; a compact camera with an 18x zoom that shoots at 14 megapixels.
It was white and looked a bit gimmicky, but she was getting some terrific pictures in a wide variety of situations and she couldn’t understand why I would want to lug around a heavy bag full of gear.