In October of 2022, I made a trip to South Africa. Today I want to talk specifically about my time in Kruger National Park. Since I made a mistake as a photographer that I think others can learn from.
Still at home, I needed to decide what photography gear to bring with me. Since I didn’t want to put anything in my checked-in luggage, I had to ensure it would fit in my hand luggage.
Of course, that has a weight and size limit. So I had to pick and choose.
I also didn’t want to bring too much gear. If it got stolen, lost, or broken, I wanted to have some minimal backup still at home for my professional work.
So I brought the bare minimum:
- One camera body (Nikon D850)
- 50mm f1.8 lens
- 16-35 f4 lens
- 150-600mm f5.6 lens
- Some memory cards
- Some batteries
- My cute little Agfaphoto analog camera
The 150-600mm lens was a toy I bought specifically for this trip. Since Kruger is famous for its wildlife, I wanted to photograph it as closely as possible.
I did go on earlier game drives and walks, so I knew something about how it would go.
With one camera, I was kinda stuck with my choice. Of course, it’s always possible to change up the lens. But you don’t have time to pick another lens if there’s a lion right there and now.
Kruger is also very dusty, so I can’t recommend changing lenses too often. You will definitely get dust on your sensor, which is the last thing you want.
Because of this setup, I missed some lovely photos. Animals get closer than you think.
Imagine how close you think they will come. Now half that distance. That’s how close they get.
At a certain point, a hyena was just a meter away from my car window. (They were crossing the road without looking left and right, which I thought was very ill-mannered).
I had a 5000 euro photo setup, yet often had to rely on my girlfriend to take photos with her phone. Those photos are very decent, but it’s a bit silly that carry all that gear with you for nothing.
Of course, the 150-600mm had its use. I do recommend bringing some telelens. Though on previous trips, my 70-200mm f2.8 was actually plenty. If not a better choice.
I went overboard this time, and it didn’t pay off.
Next time (and there will definitely be a next time), I’ll go for two cameras. One with the telelens (150-600mm or 70-200mm) and one with a standard lens like a 50mm.
This way, I can also take lovely photos of animals that get closer. It can also be interesting to photograph what happens in the car.
Do you have experience with photographing wildlife (as a hobbyist)? What is your go-to camera setup? Let me know in the comments below!