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Take Great Bird Travel Photos

Follow these tips to take great pictures of birds while on your own bird safari

By Jerry M. Thornton

macaw, ecotour, bird safari
A macaw parrot glides in the wild.

In the March 2008 issue of BIRD TALK magazine, Kim Campbell Thornton shared her travel experience in the article An African Bird Safari. Use these photography tips to take great pictures of parrots on your African bird safari.

1.Tripods and beanbags help sharpen your long-distance photos, but the real issue is how much your Land Cruiser will move and rock while you’re taking your shots. No tripod in the world will hold your lens steady if there are other people in the vehicle jostling to see the animals or the wind is gently rocking the vehicle. Remember, too, to always have your guide/driver turn off the engine.

2.Take as many shots of a particular scene as you can. One of them is bound to be much better than all the others, making for a “Wow!” moment. Most photographers will tell you that they get maybe one or two “Wow!” shots for every hundred they shoot.

3.Don’t let your driver keep the pop-top on, even if it’s open and you can stand up.  Invariably you’ll want to take a photo of a bird in flight or something high up in a tree, and if the top is on, you’ll have to contort yourself to get the shot or will find that the support posts for the top are in your shot.

4.Use a blanket to keep your camera and lenses clean. It’s very dusty on the roads and trails, especially when other vehicles pass. If you see another vehicle approaching, pull the blanket over your camera. You can do this without letting go of or setting down the camera. When the dust settles, pull the blanket off and you’re ready to shoot some more.  A blanket can also double as a beanbag to steady your camera.

5.Review your shots as quickly as possible to see what adjustments may need to be made, either with your camera settings or your shooting style. Safaris are expensive and rare events for most people, and you don’t want to find out too late that your shots are ruined over something easily corrected between sightings.

6.Take a video camera, too. Some scenes are best preserved with video: birds in flight, elephant herds at water holes, giraffes chewing acacia leaves with that funny side to side chewing motion.

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Reader Comments
Posted: 2/18/2012 7:51:21 PM
Having been on an African safari myself, I agree with what they have written. You should take the best equipment you can afford. You don't want the once in a life time shot to be ruined.
LaMona, Konawa, OK
Posted: 2/12/2008 3:17:50 PM
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