Best Photographic Gear Essentials For a Safari Trip [Guest writer: Deepak Shankar]

Last year in November my friends and I went to Masai Mara for a short safari trip. We had the pleasure to meet Deepak Shankar, 35 years old and a professional photographer from Mysore (India). We stayed at the same camp and we got to share some brief moments during our first and second days at the park.

Deepak was doing his first photography safari trip in Kenya and he loved it so much that a couple of months later he returned to do it all over again but this time with a group of enthusiasts who had hired him to teach them how to improve their photography skills.

He is also organizing another guided tour in May to Pench. The Pench River is an Indian tributary of the Kanhan River in the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh and flows across Pench National Park, which is a reserve for the Tiger Project of India.

And in August he is planning to take his second group to Masai Mara.

His photographs are spectacular, and I am glad I can use this post to give evidence of his immense talent. The knowledge he has of this art is as robust as his photographic gear. He has recently opened a new Instagram account (@deepak.shankar.photography) and although his following has only started to acknowledge his skill set, he certainly is rocking the world of the wild photography in this social media platform.

Some of his pictures have top-trended various of the most recognized canon hashtags. He has also been featured in the Deccan Herald, an English daily newspaper from the Indian state of Karnataka and with a circulation of more than 250.000 copies per day. 

Deepak was kind enough to write an article for my blog focused on the photographic gear he uses when he goes on a safari trip.

Over to Deepak …

If you are a vivid traveller and would like to take back home some good memories from your Masai Mara trip, then your iPhone or digital camera should do the job. However, if you are a photography enthusiast, Masai Mara gives you plenty of opportunity to showcase your skill set.

Here is my take of what equipment’s can be used at Masai Mara or any safari tour you would like to do.

I have always been a Canon guy and would be giving inputs for Canon in this post.

Carry 2 camera bodies. 1 full frame and the other crop sensor. I carry 2 Canon 5DMk3

TIP#01: Do not try something new on a big expensive trip, go with the camera you have worked with before.

The New 5DMk4 is very interesting and I’m yet to get my hands on it.

If you love doing landscape shots in wide angle mode, go for a Canon 16-35mm lens or the Canon 70-200mm range lens.

The Canon 70-200 f/2.8L is versatile and can be used for shooting animals at a close range.  It is my all-weather lens and a must-have in my camera bag always.

Tip#02: Investing in an all-purpose lens is better than going in for a very expensive telephoto, the 70-200 can be used for people and animal photography.

The Canon EF100-400 f /4.5-5.6 or the 200-500/150-600 zoom lenses provide you an opportunity to explore closes ups and play with the backdrops.

You can go for the 400/500/600/800mm beasts if you love doing close up’s and portraits.

The opportunities in Masai Mara are huge and you can use every single lens to showcase your skillset.

I did my first trip to Masai Mara in October 2018 with 2 full frame bodies added with a Canon EF500mm F/4L IS and a 100-400.

The Canon 500MM outperformed for the close-up shots, though very heavy is an incredible lens

My current favourite is the Canon EF400MM F/2.8 L IS USM, the lens is very pricy and is not suitable for beginners. More complex telephoto lenses need more skillset.

GEAR for beginners:

If you want to try photography for the first time, start simple. Go with an easy-to-hold beginners range camera. It can be a crop sensor or a mirrorless. Do not worry about getting pro quality images at first. Practice and patience will get you there.

Sony Mirrorless beginners’ range is quite interesting. The Sony ILCE6300LB Power Zoom Lens (24.2 MP, APS-C Image Sensor) is a good choice if you are just starting.

Other Gear that you will need:

  1. SD cards: Make sure they are the fastest in class / Compact Flash cards are expensive but more reliable.

SanDisk Extreme Pro 64 GB 160 MB/s has a good capacity and it is also available in 128GB

  • Binoculars
  • A ball head tripod gives stability to the shot.
  • Camera bean bags

5. Water proof gear for your equipment

6. Carry a good backpack to load in all the gear in the same place

7. A torch is always handy in the wild.

Some General Tips to make a great photograph.

1. Focus on the eye: A subject that looks into the camera will be more captivating.

2. Expose and focus your shot first, then go about framing your shot

3. Wherever possible get the rule of 3rds correct

4. Get down to the eye level of the animal. Trust me: it is worth getting dirty. If you are in a safari vehicle, check if the seat can be removed for you to sit down and take your picture,

5. Always maintain a high shutter speed in the wild, the animal action will not wait for you to get the settings right.

6. Understand light: The light should be from behind you and directed to the subject to get the best clarity in picture.

7. Play with your shutter speed, you can make rain look more dramatic and colors more vibrant.

8.Keep it Simple, every subject is beautiful.

9. Composition is everything in photography, stories are more compelleing with the right composition.

10. Break the rules. Let your instinct guide on making a good photograph, don’t be always bound by the rules.

I hope you have found this article helpful and have enjoyed the pictures. However, my ultimate and most humble goal is that you have learned something, no matter how small the learning, from what you have just read. As usual please leave your thoughts at the end using the comment box provided.

Thanks for reading

Oscar

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