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Photography bag checklist - 20 must haves for an African Safari!

September 4, 2015

 

Organising a Safari may seem like the hardest part, but I would argue that organising all your equimpment is just as painstaking and equally important. As a result I have compiled my "20 must haves" in your camera bag to make the most of your trip. 

 

  1. Memory cards – I cannot stress this enough, there is never too many memory cards in your bag! You need more than you think! I still, to this day, am surprised at how easily you can fill up a memory card on a good day. This is not just simply solved by getting one or two 128GB cards. Trust me when they stop working you realise how many pictures can be lost. My advice is stick to multiple 32GB/64GB cards. They are big enough to not be a hassle and small enough to not have all your eggs in one basket.

  2. A dust sheet – Africa is dusty. Not just any kind of dust, this dust is so fine it will get into every possible camera or lens joint. Rather than waiting till the end of the day to clean your equipment, take precautions throughout the day. I cover my camera with a microfiber blanket when I put it down on the car seat between shots. This way it is easily accessible but still covered.

  3. Cleaning equipment – Bring your cleaning equipment with you, and clean cameras every day if possible. I will emphasise this point again, the dust is a killer!

  4. A full range of lenses – The moment you say “I’ll leave my wide angle lens at home, I won’t need it” is the trip you find out a rare meteor shower will be seen from a beautiful spot overlooking the Kalahari. Try to travel light but do your research, there is always a surprise awaiting you in Africa, don’t get caught out.

  5. Lens hoods - It is not just dusty its also sunny in this part of the world, and lens hoods come in very hand for that silhouette shot of a lion into the sunset.

  6. Charger and equally as important a universal adapter – I recently cursed as I was in and out of every shop in Kasane looking for a square to round adapter, the truth is sometimes you may not be lucky!

  7. Spare batteries – The best investment ever made when growing your equipment list, spare batteries can be a life saver. Even the pros sometimes run out of power!

  8. A beanbag – This is not a must, but it can come in very handy. If you have not got one yet I suggest either A. Making one yourself, or B. making sure you buy one that can be filled at location. My reason being lugging a 1 or 2kg beanbag only adds to the back problems all photographers have due to heavy equipment. For great Beanbags and other custom photographic suplies here is a link  http://www.wildlifewatchingsupplies.co.uk/retail/acatalog/Camera-Bean-Bags-test.html 

  9. Custom camera strap (If walking) – This is something I am yet to do myself, but the advice is it can half that pain of carrying often very heavy equipment around. 

  10. A good gimbal head and tripod – I always take mine wherever I go. The truth is I probably only use it 10% of the time, but it takes one missed opportunity to remember why that is my steadfast rule. It is the base to your shot, don’t underestimate it!

  11. Natural density filters – This is my solution to not getting broken, scratched and dusty lenses. The simple reason is you can replace them easily and cheaply, and that is a rarity in this industry!

  12. Silicone Camera Cover – This is purely another protective barrier for your camera. A downside is that they do attract dust, so thorough cleaning is needed each day. The other negative is most of the covers mean that you cannot see the diagrams and writing on your camera buttons, if you are still learning and unsure of settings I advise against getting one. Online cover Link - http://www.wexphotographic.com/camera-protection-easy-cover/b3055-m524

  13. Ground base plate – Surprisingly not as expensive or as complicate to make as the price tag indicates. I refused to pay £100 for what looked like a frying pan with a hole in the middle. So my solution was drilling a hole in an old melamine plate (very light). This is not a flawless solution as I am already on my 4th one (largely due to them being crushed by moving car seats back), but it is a lot cheaper! As an added extra I use this base plate with my gimble tripod head as my travel tripod solution. It is light and easy to transport, as well as getting a nicer low angle for subjects. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

  14. Rain cover (believe it or not!) – It does rain, and far too often it is when the best sightings seem to happen. It is always a nice one to have in your bag just in case.

  15. A good map – This is not just to get you from A to B! With a good detailed map you can see other attractions or unvisited sites that may not be advertised on the large tourist attractions.

  16. A notepad and pen/pencil – The truth is it there are not lions on every corner; the reality is this is the wild and often you are left waiting in a bird hide or photographic bunker for literally anything of minute interest. So why not keep a diary, keep a bird list, or even sketch the animals you’ve seen.  

  17. A multi tool – Things break, and far too often in Africa. The important reminder is that the opticians you need to fix the screw in your glasses may be further than down the street on safari. A good multi tool may be the saviour of a very out of focus looking Elephant.

  18. Insurance - For you and your cameras. Crime, or even just an accident can be a disaster, but at least if you are insured it’s not the end of the road for your photographic ambitions. It also pays to keep the information with you, just in case.

  19. Sunscreen and a hat. Whether it is on a walking safari or simply in the car, you don’t want to burn at a good sighting.

  20. Patience! – This one is the easiest to bring with you, but often I find it is the easiest to forget. In Africa nothing can be rushed, especially not the wildlife. The sun will always set too soon, the lion will take forever to get up from its snooze in the long grass, and your bags may still miss your flight regardless of your rush. Enjoy the time you have, wait for the perfect moments, and appreciate your surroundings. The normal protocol is to watch the sunset with a gin and tonic while you wait for your bags that are coming “just now”.

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williamsteelphotography@gmail.com

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William Steel / (00267) 72458330

williamsteelphotography@gmail.com

William is passionate about wildlife and conservation. His love for nature encompasses  his photographic work. William believes that photography is a tool to inspire and captivate, and hopes to  change the way we view the natural world. He aims to break boundaries in the way people understand the wildlife around us. His love for photography is only matched by his desire to travel and discover the beauty of our planets natural history

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NHFU

Natural History Film Unit