It is coming to prime safari season in India, so I here are my trips to anyone heading out into the wilds to get the best of your time. At first I thought that this would be a short post, but it turned out to be longer than I expected and I have now decided to split it into two parts:
- Getting ready before you go
- While on Safari
This is the first part... I will post the second one on Sunday! Let me know what you think, or if you do anything differently!
I. Get ready before you go
We are all (well most of us) restricted by time when we go out on safari, so it is important to make the absolute most out of it. The first part of this is to make sure you are ready before you actually get on safari.
Have a hypothetical shot list
I find having a shot list or a plan of the kind of things I want to shoot, is the best way to start any trip. Without knowing what you want to shoot, making sure you are prepared is almost impossible or at the least can be impracticable. Generally, I always try to get the following shots:
- Close-ups if possible
- Environmental portraits, the subject in its surroundings
- Flora - the plants and foliage is different, and it is what differentiates a lot of parks.
- Anything that distinguishes this park, it's uniqueness
Choose the right gear
Essentials to pack
Irrespective of the gear list, here are some essentials you should always have the right gear for your 'plans', so here is a quick check-list
- Camera & lenses
- Spare cards - EMPTY
- Spare batteries - CHARGED
- Bean bag/towel - this you can put on railings to rest your lens on and gives fantastic stabilization
- Water/dust cover - It can get messy out there, so bring something to protect you gear in the worst situations. Laundry bags are good for this.
- Water bottle and biscuits - I get thirsty and peckish! :)
- ID documents and some cash, just in case.
- Mosquito repellent is also a standard in my bag
This really depends on 6 questions; What, where, when, why, who, and how. By asking myself these questions I can get a clear idea of what I need to take with me! This is very important, as I have a lot of gear, and it is not feasible or practical to take it all. At the same time, you don't want to leave anything behind that you might need!
This is not exhaustive, but i think you get the idea with these questions. I have seen lots of people come on safari with all the gear you can imagine and then get tangled up with it all when they need to move. So think about what you really need carefully.
What will you be shooting? This was covered in the shot list to some extent, but as an example Imagine I want to shoot tigers. I would want both landscapes and closeups. So, I will need lenses spanning wide-angle to long telephoto. I will also want a second body, as changing lenses can sometimes lead to missed shots, and with temperamental subjects like tigers, this is not an option.
This is more to do with travel logistics. If you are taking a plane are there restrictions on what I can take as carry on (which will be my camera gear), and check-in? How are you getting there? If you have to trek 10hrs through a jungle, you might have second thoughts on that big lens... :)
Or really, time. If you are shooting for anything more than an hour or two, you have to consider your memory card and battery usage. Make sure to take enough memory cards to last the entire trip. But I also take my lap-top to back-up my cards every night. This logic will also cover my batteries, take enough to cover a full day with spare, and take my charger for the evenings. At the start of each day, I need to be ready for the next day, with enough spares.
This also applies to clothes... if you are shooting in winter make sure you take layers, as despite the bitter cold in the mornings (sometimes)
This my seem odd, but why am I shooting this is key to what I need. If i am shooting a family day at the beach, i would not take my big gear, but my waterproof point-and-shoot. If I am shooting primary for me, and a story I am writing, so I want the best quality I can get.
... will be carrying it. This deserves a whole section in itself. I would definitely pack differently if I was having to trek with gear, or if, like in this case, it will be on a jeep the entire time! So, the jeep will be doing the carrying, therefore, weight on the shoot is not a big issue, space might be though. So i will have to juggle what I want with the space I have available.
How will I be shooting? If I will be shooting from the back of an open jeep, I will need something to support my lens with, so I will take a bean bag (empty). A tripod is not useful, but if i were by foot or in a hide, I would take one.
Dress in layers
Most of these safari trips start early morning and end in the mid morning, then start again mid-afternoon and end in the early evening. As such you might experience freezing cold then blistering heat in the same safari. So dress in layers, you can take off/put on as needed, and the addition clothing can be used as bean bags in a pinch or protect your gear from dust when you are not wearing them. But be realistic, and balance what you bring with your need. Space can be rare, so you don't want to be wasting it on a big coat you will probably not use!
Go slow on the coffee/chai
This is a particular point for the mornings. When you have to wake up early in the morning, it is tempting to boost up on caffeine before you head out... you know, to wake up! Well, caffeine is also a diuretic, it makes you pee, and being stuck on a jeep on rough roads for 2-3 hours needing to pee is not pleasant. Not all parks have toilet facilities during the safari, so I recommend skipping the coffee/chai, the brisk morning air and the excitement will wake you up anyway, and a little sleepiness disappears at the first sighting! Likewise, if you ever get an opportunity to relieve yourself, even if you don't think you need to, do it... any opportunity! :)
Talk to as many people as you can upon arrival to find out what the sightings have been like and if there is any unusual activity... if you hear about a black panther in a particular area, you might forgo possible tiger sightings to chase that dream shot! :) This might also mean you have time to reassess your shot list and change your plans accordingly.
Don't be late
There is nothing more annoying than waiting for a lazy b@§#ard making us all late for entry, so be on time for the safari. Also, if you do have a preference for seating, you will have a better chance to get the seat you want if you are early... I will talk more about this in the next post.
Did I forget anything? What do you do to get ready for a safari trip? Let me know in the comments! :) More advice for when you are actually on the safari in the next post!