There are many photographic accessories to choose from—some tend to be gimmicks while others are necessities. Here we list the photo accessories that have been indispensable to us on our more than 100 African wildlife safaris.
1. Better Beamer Flash Extender. This accessory enables you to increase your flash output by 2 to 3 stops with lenses of 300mm and longer. It is small, light, folds flat and takes just a few seconds to fit onto the flash. Most waterholes in the Kgalagadi and Etosha are between 50 and 100 meters away so this accessory becomes important for your night-time shooting.
2. Cable Release. This is a crucial photo accessory when shooting long exposures from a few seconds to star trails of a few hours. It also enables you to get sharper photographs when used in conjunction with your tripod.
3. Digital Image Storage Device. You must bring something to store your photographs on, be it your laptop, portable external hard drive, or plenty of extra compact flash cards. We can shoot over 30GB a day and our normal safari is 10 days, so you do the math! We take a 500GB external hard drive plus our laptop.
4. Dust Protection and Cleaning Tools. African game reserves like the Kruger Park are hot and dusty so it’s important to protect your gear from dust and the sun by covering it with a towel. In addition, you should clean your gear every day with a bulb blower and lens pen.
5. Filters. You should use UV or skylight filters for protection on your smaller lenses and a polarizer to reduce glare from water or to enhance colors. If you’re visiting Etosha, a polarizer is a must due to the glare from the white sand. A split neutral density filter will help you with landscape photos.
6. Flash. The flash that is built into most cameras may be sufficient for day-time fill-flash but not for nocturnal photography. We use Nikon SB 900 flashes—these are powerful flashes that provide the light for us when shooting in camps at night and even fill-flash for daylight.
7. Power. Your camera, laptop, and flash all work on batteries or mains, so please ensure you bring spare batteries, chargers, and mains adapters. For places like the Kgalagadi wilderness camps you should get an inverter, which allows you to charge camera batteries and laptop batteries in the car while driving, as the cabins do not have electricity.
8. Teleconverters. A teleconverter allows you to magnify your subject without spending too much money on expensive telephoto lenses. If you have a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 of f/4, a teleconverter should work very nicely. We recommend you buy the same brand as your camera and lens.
9. Spotlight. A good quality bright spotlight is a must for the Kruger, Etosha and Kgalagadi. At night the rare ‘elusive eleven’ animals are active and can be photographed from the camps. We recommend the Lightforce spotlights that are made in Australia.
10. Stable Support. To get sharp photographs you must provide a stable support for your camera. Depending on whether you’re doing a self-drive or a guided tour, you should bring a tripod, bean bag, or window mount. We do self drive safaris so we have the luxury of being able to take all three supports with us. A bean bag is very handy for use in your vehicle as well as in the Kruger and Pilanesberg bird hides.
The above photographic accessories will not make you a better photographer, but they will make your photographs better!
About the Author
Mario Fazekas is a wildlife photographer living in South Africa, and is the webmaster of http://www.kruger-2-kalahari.com. Find out more about photographing on safari at http://www.kruger-2-kalahari.com/Wildlife-Photography.html.
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