As a wildlife enthusiast going on their very first journey into the wilds of the Kruger National Park, capturing up-close shots of animals in their natural habitat is a dream come true.
Telephoto lenses, the workhorses of wildlife photography, play the most important role in achieving those stunning close-ups without intruding on the animals’ space because without a lens of this kind, you are unlikely to be able to capture that sort of intimate shot.
At Wild Africa Photos, we can teach you all about the art of using telephoto lenses effectively in Kruger, by sharing valuable techniques that will help you get closer to the wildlife while maintaining respect for their natural environment (and your safety)
To get you started on your learning journey, here are some helpful tips and tricks that you need to know.
Telephoto lenses are instrumental in bringing distant subjects closer, which is essentially what will allow you to capture the nuances of wildlife behaviour without causing undue disturbance.
In Kruger National Park, where animals roam freely, these lenses offer a unique opportunity to witness their natural interactions and behaviours from a safe distance.
Selecting the appropriate telephoto lens for your wildlife photography needs is an obvious essential.
A lens with a focal length ranging from 200mm to 600mm is ideal for capturing the diverse range of animals in Kruger. When making your selection, you need to consider factors like weight, image stabilisation, and the maximum aperture.
Telephoto lenses are notoriously heavy and if they don’t have built in image stabilisation the image won’t be sharp.
To avoid camera shake and to achieve sharp images, you should use a sturdy tripod or a monopod in conjunction with your telephoto lens. Image stabilisation in the lens itself can be advantageous, especially when photographing wildlife in low-light conditions or during extended handheld sessions.
You can also lean your lens on the window frame of the safari vehicle, but don’t do that when the vehicle is moving.
Framing is important when using a telephoto lens in Kruger.
When framing, focus on the animal’s eyes and position your subject within the natural surroundings, this way you will be able to tell a compelling story. Pay attention to the rule of thirds and consider making the most of your negative space to create a balanced and aesthetically pleasing composition.
Telephoto lenses often have complex, but incredibly helpful autofocus systems, and understanding and customising your camera’s autofocus settings is essential if you want to take a crisp photo.
As you get to grips with your new telephoto lens, make time to experiment with different focus modes, such as continuous autofocus (AF-C), to track moving subjects effectively.
Wildlife photography requires the utmost patience.
Animals in Kruger may be elusive or engrossed in their activities, and as such they can be hard to find. By being patient, you can wait for the right moment to capture their unique behaviours and interactions. Being patient also ensures you won’t miss out on those extraordinary shots.
To get even closer to wildlife without alarming them, you should consider using natural camouflage or concealing yourself in a hide. By blending into the surroundings, you become part of the environment, and the wildlife will be able to carry on with their natural behaviours undisturbed.
Photographing animals at eye level establishes an intimate connection between the viewer and the subject. You can achieve this angle by lowering your shooting position, which will create a more immersive and powerful image that conveys the animal’s perspective.
Respect for the animals’ comfort zones is vital. Avoid getting too close or disturbing their natural routines, you can do this by utilising your telephoto lens to close the distance while maintaining a safe and respectful space.
Once you’ve captured your telephoto shots, post-processing can enhance the impact of your images. Lightroom or Photoshop can help fine-tune the details, colours, and sharpness to bring out the full potential of your wildlife photographs.