Learning to see in the field

For those that follow my work, you will know that I keep busy with Guiding and teaching of photographers while on various Safari adventures. One of the basic things that I get asked is how do I know what to look for and what photographs to capture. The easiest and most basic way would be “Learning to see in the field”

With this blog, I will try and show you how I approached a specific scene. I won’t bore you with hundreds of words but share more of the visual experience. Hope this will enable you to “see in the field” and create a large portfolio.

First off, what I carry on my normal game drive …

I have two DSLR camera bodies with me, one with a 50 mm “Nifty 50” and on my second, a 100 – 400 mm F4 – F5.6 zoom lens on a crop body (APS-C Sensor). On occasion a small compact Canon G16 (don’t ask). This is more or less how I go on every game drive with a spare zoom and additional wide angle in my bag for those moments that light requires a faster lens or there is Landscape shouting out to be photographed. (Max 4 lenses)

Let me set the scene…..

I was on a pleasant game drive with an Australian guest who had only ever been to Africa once and not seen any of our famous BIG 5 up close. We came to a small muddy pan with thick vegetation around the most part of the area. We moved and positioned the vehicle parallel alongside the pan and had a great viewpoint to experience and capture this series of images over nearly an hour and a bit.



The scene, subject and what I saw , thought and shared with my eager guest Susan. And here I was sat next to her in the vehicle and not on my own in the lowest point, the front seat.

First I love to shoot the scene to encompass the whole environment and create a feel for what is in front of me. This was near perfect with the natural framing and soft light from the overcast light and soft drizzle.

All the settings of Camera are on each image.



The next shot I would look for is something a little more zoomed in. Looking at the 5 Rhino in the crash, we moved slightly back to get a different angle. One moved off to the side and I managed this point of view.



With the subject moving slowly around it was possible to explore compositions in a few ways. Here a small grouping of 3 as they stepped away slightly. Rule of 3 and the rule of thirds but still shooting wide.



Next was a side profile shot at a slightly closer zoom. Not always possible for a “clean image but this one worked with the stump and leg on the outside edge.



Always look for a type of behaviour shot. Here I looked at the 3 subject rule and then the natural behaviour of Geophasing ( Eating/licking soil for minerals) This was also at a wider point of th zoom lens.



One must never underestimate the power of the portrait. Here the rhino looked nearly directly at me and allowed for this strong portrait.



Another moment of natural behaviour with an offset composition but including the small section of the mouth of the back rhino for some balance.



Think ABSTRACT and look for different compositions. This one zoomed in tight and creating negative space, shallow depth of field and nice bokeh of the background.



Then I guess last but least, zoom in and use the crop tool if need be to get the solid power image that you can use in colour or concert to monochrome / dark contrast.



So there is my view on “Learning to see in the field” while on Safari. Here is what I think is important to take from this visual blog.

  • DO NOT just take your zoom lens and zoom in a number of times with the subjects in the centre of the frame
  • Keep looking and anticipating what you could capture every few seconds
  • Ask your guide/ranger or “Photographic Host” to stop taking his own images and move the vehicle to suit you, the photographer. If there are other guests, mention the moving/re-positioning idea if your host does not.
  • If you are on your own self-drive , keep looking for angles and change your point of view as the situation allows.
  • Know your subject, there nuances, structure and overall visual impact.
  • Please keep on #creatingphotography

Thanks for taking the time to read these ramblings


Peace and Light – AA