National Geographic Traveler
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Africa Travel Planner Intro
North Africa
West Africa
East Africa
South and South-Central Africa
Deciding When to Go
Calculating Currency Exchange
Learning Local Languages
Determining Time Differences
Making Telephone Calls
Planning Your Safari
Taking Public Transportation
Packing Your Suitcase
Clearing Customs
Dining Out
Finding a Place to Stay
Staying Healthy
Staying Safe
Saving Money
Photographing Africa
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Africa Travel Planner

Photographing Africa

With its diversity and beauty, Africa is a paradise for photographers. Here, we offer photography tips from Brooks Walker, a Traveler contributing editor, and Chris Johns, Editor in Chief of National Geographic magazine and author of Valley of Life: Africa's Great Rift. (For more photography tips, check out the National Geographic Photography Field Guide: Secrets to Making Great Photographs.)

Pack lots of film or memory cards: Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime destination, where natural resources are rapidly depleting, so photograph it while you still can. Johns recommends packing your favorite ASA100, 200, or 400-speed film. Adds Walker, "I use almost exclusively Fujichromes, because of the heightened Japanese cultural sensitivity to colors and quality." If you're going digital, be sure to bring a battery charger with an adapter for the local electrical outlets, and plenty of memory cards (a one-gigabyte card holds about 300 photos). With either type of camera, bring an extra battery or two.

Bring at least two cameras: Blowing sand in harsh desert conditions can severely scratch your lens. Plus, if you lose one camera, you'll have a backup. To protect your equipment, Walker recommends storing it in heavy Ziploc baggies.

Use a zoom-in lens: You won't want to miss close-ups of eastern and south-central Africa's wildlife in its natural habitat. Use an 80-400 millimeter lens with a stabilizing unit built into it, recommends Johns.

Bring a flash: Night drives through game reserves afford some of the best pictures, because that's when many of the large predators are most active.

Research your destination's culture, history, environment, and geography before you go: "You can never know enough," says Walker. The better you understand a subject, the better you'll be able to capture it in a meaningful way on film.

Rise early and stay out into early evening: "Most African countries still run on solar rhythms, so the day begins before dawn, fades in the afternoon, and has a second wind in the evening as things cool off," says Walker.

Understand and respect cultures: Not all Africans want their pictures taken. For some cultures, it may be against their religion or beliefs. Always ask before you shoot.

Interact with the locals: By gaining their trust, you will be much more likely to capture the desired photograph. You can also pick up valuable insights on cultural practices.

Walk: On foot it's easier to meet locals and become involved with cultural activities that you want to photograph.

Travel lightly: "Forget the telephoto lenses and backpacks full of gear," says Walker. Lots of bulky equipment will slow you down and make photographing a burden.

Choose hotels wisely: "Stay as close as possible to the historical center, major monuments, or markets that you want to visit," says Walker. "The more you can walk to and from photogenic destinations, the greater the chance of getting good pictures."

Related Web Resources:

Africa on the Matrix—Tips for Photographers
Tips from photographer Bruce Stumpf on capturing Africa on film.

Photo Forum
A resource guide with links that connects photographers worldwide.

Africa Imagery
Images shot by several award-winning photographers, including Roger de la Harpe and Nigel Dennis.

Aqua Safaris Scuba Center
Tips for taking underwater photographs in Africa.

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