Destination: Africa, the Serengeti
Book: Wildlife Photography: On Safari with your DSLR
by Uwe Skrzypczak
Available in print from your bookseller or in digital form through I-Tunes.
In this book, although the title is Wildlife Photography and it focuses on the Serengeti of Africa, the author means to help anyone who wants to become a professional level photographer. Uwe Skrzypczak, (pronounced ScripCheck), discusses Equipment, Techniques and Workflow for shooting with a DSLR camera(Digital Single Lens Reflex–he uses Nikons). He also gives pointers that will help you plan your African trip. And of course, he illustrates the whole with his amazing images of lions whose faces are dripping blood from a recent kill, a mob of gnus rushing to cross a river, the blur of a cheetah running full speed.
He says he chose to concentrate on the Serengeti because it has the greatest diversity of wildlife in the world, and it obviously is an area that he knows well. That is important because his main commandment is “Know your subject.” Just as someone photographing a sports scene needs to have an idea where the players and the ball are going next, wildlife photographers need to anticipate the actions of the animals they are portraying.
I will freely admit that much of this book was over my head. WAY over my head. But I decided to present it to you because I know that many travelers yearn to improve their photography, and many travel bloggers aim to become at least semi-professional in their approach. And besides that, it sheds light on Africa, a current area of concentration at A Traveler’s Library.
I skimmed descriptions of camera equipment , but if you are a camera nerd, you know you’ll never get the best shot possible if you do not have the right equipment. His advice on storing images and managing them on the road is something that I can use. Similarly, camera settings involve more math than I am capable of concentrating on, but I know that it is important.
In chapter three, Uwe gets to a field that applies to anyone with any kind of camera–composition. He says:
Wildlife photography is an intuitive sub genre within the field of photography. You need to develop your instinct not only for the technical side of your work, but also with respect to the animals you are photographing.
A helpful hint he gives is to photograph animals at eye level whenever possible–that is, so their eyes are approximately mid level in the shot. If you shoot from the open top of a jeep–common for people on safaris–he suggests waiting until the animal raises its head.
Among the travel guide type of suggestions he gives is a helpful table of the right time to be in the right place at Serengeti National Park to take advantage of mass movements of animals. We also get helpful descriptions of the main areas and practical tips. An example: the Ngorongro Crater, which is part of the park, but more restricted, can cost up to $1060 for the six hours limited time in the area. You can stay on a lodge on the rim if you can afford more than one day of jaunts into the Crater.
Uwe also discusses the main Serengeti National Park and the Masai Mara, a river system.
I learned many things about African wildlife, and the Serengeti..not just photography. For instance, hippos are actually the most dangerous animals to man. Also, Uwe points out how hard it is to photograph leopards and says,
Don’t be deceived by the many “action” photos shot in front of dusty or stony backgrounds that you can find on the Internet. These photos are mostly of tame leopards taken on farms in Namibia or South Africa.
The book closes with a narrative about his trip in 2007 when he needed to get a very particular shot of a male lion to use as the cover of a children’s book. I found the behind-the-scenes look at his work very interesting.
In addition to the blog linked to his name in the first paragraph, he has a website in German, Serengeti Wildlife. At either place you can see examples of his exciting photography. He suggests many links to keep informed about African wildlife and parks. Here are those I think would be of most interest for travelers.
NOTE: The photographs shown here are NOT by Uwe Skrzypczak, but are taken from Flickr with Creative Common license to illustrate the places discussed. The publisher supplied the book for the purpose of a review. The book title is linked to Amazon for your convenience. If you click through to Amazon and purchase anything at all, I get a few cents which helps support A Traveler’s Library. Thanks.