Planning a Safari: Digital Photography

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.

Maggie awaits birds coming for a bath

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.



About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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14 Responses to Planning a Safari: Digital Photography

  1. Vicar's Dad says:

    I did not know that you could feed any animals in such parks. The pictures are very good and interesting.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      By selling customers white buckets of feed to give to the animals everyone wins: we get to see the animals up close, the parks makes more money, the grounds staff do not have to feed the animals separately.

  2. The Vicar says:

    Do you put honey on the lens of you camera to attract wild animals (your cat excepted. who would leave a nap in a bird bath for something as mundane as food?) ?

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Pavlovian Conditioning: when you drive in, you can purchase white buckets of feed which you are allowed to give to the animals. Just as our goats are conditioned to eat out of buckets, so are these “wild” animals. I suggested that the first animal would get all the grain in the bucket (or knock it onto the ground), and tried using red picnic plates to put out only a little food. The animals initially were hesitant about eating off of the plate rather than from the bucket. I’m hoping that truly wild animals will be conditioned to staying a safe distance away from open bed Land Rovers!

  3. Wisewoman says:

    Wild animals, tame animals, all are wonderful subjects. I liked the long billed bird the best. The camel was pretty funny. In my other life I would have been a photo/journalist. Looks like you have picked up your Grandpa Dick’s love of photography. Wouldn’t he be amazed at how photography has changed. I love my Canon Power Shot SX110 with 10X optical zoom. Not so compicated that I can’t figure it out. It’s small but has weight and a large window for viewing. I bother my family with holding the camera up for them to admire my expertise. Some day they will thank me. I do pretty good, if I do say so myself. I saw the beautiful picture book you made of your parents trip east. That’s a new one on me. I still do photo albums! All this tech. stuff is beyond me.
    Happy cliking away.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      I know that you and Uncle B. took many cruises. Did you get to the Southern Hemisphere in Africa or South America? In addition to the amazing array of digital gizmo’s in big and small camera’s now, what really impressed me was the price. For all this new stuff, I paid about the same amount for the Lumix camera as the Vivitar SLR camera that I bought during high school. Yes, Grandpa Dick would be thrilled with the photography options. Some day I shall revive his spirit and paint.

  4. Wisewoman says:

    We never made it out of the continental US until 1979 when we took our very first cruise on “The Love Boat” to Alaska. We were 51 & 52! It was my first time under the Golden Gate. Bill’s third, when he came back from the Pillippines in 1946. It was 8 years before we took our next longest trip — to Hawaii. That was to celebrate our 40th anniversary. After Bill retired in 1988 we started to cruise every year, sometimes twice a year. We loved it. Finally in 1999 we bit the bullet and flew to Australia to board a ship to New Zealand and numerous South Pacific Islands back to Hawaii and flew home – the longest we’d ever been away. So to answer your question: “Yes,” we’ve been in the Southern Hemisphere if you count Panama, Columbia, and Venesuala, but “No,” not Africa. Bill loved planning these trips. I did the research. The National Geographics were my travel treasures. Some day I will translate my copious notes onto my computer and hope they will be read into the history of my life. If I live long enought to do it, there will be a lot I will leave out! HAVE GREAT FUN TAKING PICTURES ON YOUR AFRICIAN SAFARI.

  5. I would like to nominate you for the One Lovely Blog Award. Go to: for further information. Congratulations and enjoy your award!

  6. Love the tiger shots : – )

    • hermitsdoor says:

      We were having a good time trying out our cameras, figuring out what we could get at different distances (the tigers were photographed through a glass window at about 30 feet). They were in nap mode, so we could take our time setting up the photos.

  7. cindy knoke says:

    The last guy is smiling at you!

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