Planning for a safari, with cameras rather than elephant guns, provides motivation to upgrade the digital equipment. Upgraded equipment provides motivation for learning technical aspects of photography. Upgraded composition and editing skills provide motivation to practice taking photographs in natural settings. Good thing that memory cards come in 8 GB sizes these days!
We began our technology upgrade process around the New Year, with a trip to the Apple Store. After exploring various options, we decided upon the MacBook Air with the Aperture photo software. After a couple more trips to the Apple Store for tutorial sessions, we had learned some of the editing functions and had begun to build our annual photo album with recent photos.
Our next trip was to Penn Camera on a Sunday morning, before going to the theatre. Fortunately, the store was quiet, which gave us the opportunity to spend about an hour and a half with the sales person, before spending a good amount on our credit card. As our prior cameras were about six to eight years old, the technology of digital cameras had progressed greatly.
Going from 3 and 5 megapixels to 12 and 16 megapixels certainly offered a lot more picture clarity. I walked out with a Lumix GF3 with a 14mm to 140mm zoom lense and Linda with a Canon Power Shot A4000 IS (x8 optical zoom). I wanted to be able to change lenses and Linda to carry her camera in her purse.
Without really searching for a photography class to take, we found just up the valley from us that a Basic Digital Photography workshop would be held one early summer weekend at the Lost River Craft Cooperative. The instructor, Frank Cervalo, walked us through the terminology of our cameras and computers. He explained how to achieve different effect through the settings on the camera and the editing process. He showed us examples of composition styles from his photo collection, then took us out into the nearby woodland, garden, and lakeside settings to practice. At the end of the weekend, we took him back into the hollows to show him a couple of additional scenic locations.
With this new knowledge, we experimented in our yard, along road sides, and various trips into town. While we were pleased with both cameras, Linda became more interested in the super-zoom digital cameras, which she began to investigate. She settled on a Fuji Finepix HS30EXR, which she found on-line. More practice was due. Our trip to Rhode Island gave us opportunities to play with bayside views, and still-lifes with shells, boat, etc.
We could take only so many photos of our critters in their yard and fields. In order to practice safari photography, we needed to find some (sort of) wild animals. A couple of hours south of us, in Lexington, VA, we found the Virginia Safari Park. This is a combination of petting zoo, and drive around the fields with exotic grazing animals. We elicited the driving assistance of a friend and headed out on a Saturday. We arrived in time for a picnic lunch, and while you might expect we would be heading home in a hour, we did not return to the highway until nearly 5:30. Three 50 year-olds in a car with bucket of animal feed and cameras can have a pretty good time. Llamas, zebra, camels, emus, various types of deer, gazelles, elk, oryx, blackbucks slobbered on the windows as we feed them, petted them, and photographed them. Many other animals stayed in the woods, fields, and edges of the road. Do not feed the watusi.
We anticipate that photography on our safari in South Africa shall be a little different from this drive. The animals will be more wild, and not as conditioned to seek out the white buckets with grain. They are less likely to approach the vehicle, nor we to them. But, practice of our photography skills now, should give us a more efficient use of our equipment when we are on our trip.