I just couldn’t leave it at writing about photography and travel without summing up my technical  lessons learnt:

Camera

Good pictures first and foremost need a good eye for motives.

These days you don’t need a big SLR camera with changeable lenses to take exceptional pictures. Even phones can handle photos pretty well. Most compact cameras also have programs that automatically improve your image quality. Test your equipment and find out what it’s capable of before you start your trip (but never stop learning while out there).

SLRs and their 300mm+ lenses do, however, come in quite handy for wildlife photography. The downside of being able to zoom in is that you need to be able to hold the camera steady to get decent pictures. When you’re standing still a tripod will do the trick easily but also add extra weight.

Whatever camera you use make sure that you have enough storage capacity and battery power.

Another camera

Even if you usually work with a large, (semi)professional SLR take a smaller camera for snaps where you can’t or shouldn’t take the full gear.

The smaller camera can also serve as backup when your big camera is broken or running out of juice.

Storage

Most cameras store your images on SD cards. Some travelers will simply fill up the cards, secure them (there’s a little switch on the card that does that) and maybe send them home once in a while. I warn against having your images stored in just one place.

I prefer triple safety: external storage (SD card, hard drive, flash) plus storage on laptop (for easy access and editing) plus online storage (Flickr, Google, Dropbox, your own FTP server – there are many options, most will cost you).

While some cameras have GPS to record your location Eye-Fi memory cards are also wireless enabled and will automatically upload your images to the cloud when they get a WiFi connection (which in Africa rarely ever happens).

Accessories

Always take extra batteries. You never know when you’ll be stuck in the middle on nowhere for days without access to a plug.

Batteries may fail due to heat. So try to keep your spares out of the direct heat of the sun (as you should your camera anyways).

Get a strap to attach your lens cap to the lens.

Get a proper bag and don’t carry even the smallest camera just in your pocket (pick pockets are everywhere).

A lens hood to prevent stray light from entering is especially useful in the Southern sun.

Protection

Heat, cold, dust, moisture will stress your photo equipment.

Use a proper bag and in extreme situations zip-lock bags to protect your camera from the elements.

Bring cleaning material (wipes, dust brush etc.).

Don’t panic! – Sometimes turning the camera off or recharging the battery completely in a less hot environment can fix what seems to be beyond hope. If your camera doesn’t fix itself see if you can find a fundi. You may be lucky even in unexpected places, usually you’ll have to wait for a larger town.

Videos

Most of the current cameras have a video setting.

However, before recording a video consider two things:  First: Is this a story that can be told in a video? No video if it’s not moving is a simple rule. Second: Do you have enough storage? A one minute video can take up as much space as fifty or more pictures.

Editing

You’d be surprised how good your pictures are if you only know how to use a photo editing software (and take the time to do so).

Very simple editing tools are build into online photo platforms. Flickr for example uses Aviary. But for serious and offline editing download software. On my Linux computer I’m using DigiKam. Another very good (and free) software is GIMP.

To see what’s possible check out the two photos below. You can always start with just enlarging a detail or adding a frame, and work your way up to improving light levels and colors.

This is the photo of a truck full of yellow crates I originally took

Here’s the same photo after editing: I focused on the yellow crates, improved the contrast and made the crates more vibrant

 

For video editing the Microsoft Movie Maker is a powerful beginners’ tool that comes for free.

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