Wilderness, South Africa is a dream destination for many travelers including bird watchers, hikers, abseilers, beach-goers and kayakers, but at the base of it all, there’s one thing they all share in common. The scenery and the location that drives all these different personalities to a place; which is the call to the avid photographer. Photography opportunities in Wilderness are as vast as the place itself.
Here are some tips to help you capture the moments that will be etched into memory for a lifetime, whether you’re a budding photographer or intermediate in your skill level, these will help ensure your photos come out as perfect as possible.
- Never rely solely on the zoom function on the camera. The best way to get a great picture is to get as close as possible, and barring that, using your lens along with binoculars to snap a great and focused close-up. Using the zoom overmuch allows for grainy pixels to come forward and a blurring of the object you wish to photograph. To avoid distortion if your object is too far away to reasonably get close to, hold a pair of binocular eyepieces up to your camera’s lens and take your photo using the binoculars as an extension to your camera. Perfect long-range photos every time!
- Lighting is everything. Many people forget to take their lighting into consideration and end up using a flash, which washes out the subject of the photo or provides unnatural harsh lighting in a spot where it appears very out of place. Try to use natural lighting as much as possible, wherever possible. See if shadows will be cast, or if the subject would be squinting into the sunlight. Use different vantage points like crouching low to the ground looking up at scenery, or facing directly down to get the best shot. Be sure if you’re photographing the sky, not to point the camera directly into the sun, or risk spots on your photo. You can even use tricks of the light to your advantage for a more artistic and edgy feel to your photos by allowing shadows by design, or light by design in a pattern that you can capture.
- Keep your strap secure. Holding onto your camera seems like common sense, but many never even use the strap it comes equipped with to allow it to be held onto. You wouldn’t want to risk dropping it from a mountain or hillside while trying to snap the best photo opportunity of your life. The other thing this allows for is a steady photo. Hold the camera as close to your body as possible (no, stretching out your arms does not actually help get the object closer) and keep the palm of your hand under the camera to keep it from shaking or falling.
- Make it yours. Photography is not always a matter of pointing and shooting, there’s an art and style to it that is as unique as the person taking the photos. How we snap pictures tells quite a bit about who we are as people, and what sorts of things drive us most deeply. Photography is a communication tool and an art form both, and when combined can create amazing pieces. Find your voice and calling within photography, write down things you notice or enjoy the most about your photo taking and areas you wish to improve upon. Discover whether you like photographing people or scenery more, and go about finding a style that is completely yours and not borrowed from another.
- Backgrounds and backdrops matter. Unless you are intentionally wishing to pull the attention from the subject of the photo using an artistic method where the background is actually the subject but the model in front is just the prop, always keep in mind what is behind someone when taking photos, or behind the object. If you have a busy background, the eye will be pulled to the many things going on in the background instead of being on the subject. By placing the person or object in the center, if you cannot avoid a busy background, it helps to center the eye as well. A great tip when you have an uncluttered backdrop is to purposely not center the subject, but take a photo where the object or person is on the far right or left of the photo, and the background becomes part of the whole. Try to choose backgrounds that contrast with the subject’s coloring be it clothing or natural colors.
- Never leave the camera behind! This should seem like common sense as well but is often the first thing left behind as the eager visitor rushes out into Wilderness, excited to capture that rare Loerie that can’t be found anywhere else, or looking forward to the horseback ride through the mountains where photo opportunities abound. Being in Wilderness, and staying in a place like Cinnamon House means that photo opportunities are going to be ridiculously abundant and will pop up when you least expect it. Be prepared always by carrying it with you wherever you go, and avoid regret later once you’re back home.
- Digital versus film. Digital cameras have taken over the entire market, as have phone cameras, and are the go-to of choice for many amateur photographers, and higher end digital for professionals are making amazing strides. There are those however, who insist that if it isn’t done on real film, then it isn’t photography, and there’s definitely a bit of nostalgia and a different experience through using film cameras. They can be found at second-hand stores, and you can augment your photos by purchasing black and white film or sepia and be sure to get the ISO of 200 that will give you the best quality shots. During the photo development, keep in mind you don’t have to use plain photo paper, you can use old fashioned fiber-based or plant-based papers, even handmade paper to develop your photos and really make them stand out.
- Aperture? Many don’t even know what the aperture does, but it’s important to learn about your cameras apertures and how they are used. An aperture changes the amount of light that is able to travel through the lens by expanding and contracting. More light means that more objects will be in focus, and less light means the focus shifts to objects that are foreground only. This can be used for artistic photos by blurring the background on purpose with the subject in perfect focus in the foreground.
Cinnamon House welcomes you to Wilderness, South Africa, and will be happy to provide ideas on where you and your camera can go to get the most out of your photography adventure. Make your photos worth more than the proverbial “thousand words” by using the tips above and seeking the far reaches of Wilderness, which, by virtue of the place itself will give you the most amazing and unique photos to bring home with you.