Bergen County, NJ- Summer is the time for exploring, and many shutterbugs dream of packing up their favorite gear, boarding a plane and heading off on a photo safari. There are many opportunities available to hone your craft and indulge your desire to explore the great outdoors with camera in hand, so how do you choose the right adventure? We asked Rick Vanselow, General Manager of Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris & Travel Wild Expeditions (www.photosafaris.com), to provide some tips to help choose the right experience.
Consider Your Schedule: Can you steal an entire week to go on a photo safari? If you’ve got a full week, which includes two days of travel, consider what kind of environment you’d like to explore. Is there a certain kind of wildlife you’ve always wanted to photograph or a part of the country that captures your imagination? “You’ll be immersed in photography during this experience so choose a location that you feel you’ll enjoy experiencing intensely.”
If you have a bit less time, say a long weekend, there are still many options open available. You can easily still travel cross-country with direct flights and a bit of careful planning. In fact, you can find fabulous opportunities that are likely just a few hours drive if you’re on a tight time schedule. Driving to your location will also give you extra flexibility in case your travel arrangements need to be adjusted.
Know Your Gear: While you don’t need to be a professional photographer–most photo safari attendees are avid hobbyists–you do need to have a basic understanding of the manual functions of your camera so that you’ll be in position to take full advantage of the available scenery and wildlife. You’ll need to know how adjust your ISO, aperture and shutter speed settings. Understanding how to bracket your shots will also prove useful. If you’re shooting by water, being able to create a custom white-balance will serve you well in those situations where you’re keen to capture babbling brooks and white waterfalls.
Solo or With Spouse: Taking along a friend or spouse might be a perfect way to make the most of the experience but it can be a recipe for disaster if your expectations aren’t aligned. For example, if your spouse thinks it would be fun to tag along, he (or she) may realize that the shine will wear off quickly after a couple of hours riding on a jeep trying to get that perfect shot of a gazelle. Rick says, “Many safari experiences don’t have spouse programs so make sure to ask questions to see what is-or isn’t–available.” A photo safari might be best attended with a friend or spouse that is equally excited about photography.
Keeping on Top of Expenses: Vanselow advises making sure you understand what is included when comparing locations and prices. “Many photo safaris will not include lodging, meals or additional transportation needed to travel between locations. Our safaris include these expenses and some other companies may cover this as well. Just make sure to ask very specific questions so you can accurately compare costs when making a decision.”
Get to Know Your Guide: While many professional photographers today offer different versions of a photo safari, they aren’t all created equal. For example, Vanselow states that his company has spent many years getting to know the areas they travel to and have built relationships with the best guides in each location. They scout the areas and coordinate the times so that photographers aren’t shooting directly into the sun, as an example, and the guides understand which situations are prime opportunities for shooters. “We only put three photographers in a vehicle that holds nine, while other companies might cram nine shooters in one vehicle. We know that not every photographer will have the same vantage point and flexibility when you put too many people in one space, and we want to make sure every one of our guests have equal opportunity to claim those amazing shots.”
Whether you want to take two days or two weeks, there’s a photo adventure waiting for you if you’ll take the first step and start searching!