Zebra in wildebeest herd
Photo: Benj Wadsworth
Capturing nature’s most awe-inspiring moments takes much more than good luck and a quick trigger finger. Careful planning, serious skill, and a little bit of luck are needed to create the kinds of unforgettable images that make an African safari so enticing, even from thousands of miles away. The photographs these guests snapped are so impressive, we wanted to learn more about what went into them. In this ongoing series, our most avid photographers share some of the secrets behind the stunning images that make us all wonder “How’d you get that shot?”
Professional photographer Benj Wadsworth joins us today.
ABOUT THE PHOTO
What do you like about this shot?
I love the contrast between the brown wildebeest and striped zebras, and the fact that the zebras are paying close attention to us but the wildebeest are oblivious to our presence. This seemed to be the case whenever we saw the two together, which was often.
What type of planning was involved in order to capture this image?
Honestly, not a lot of planning went into this photo. As is the case with a lot of safari photography, you are subject to the whims of the animals. Fortunately, shots like this are not hard to come by!
Which camera did you use, and why? Which settings did you use? Are there any technical tips you have for photographers who are more advanced?
1/640 second at f/13, ISO 400. This photo was taken with my lens zoomed to 750mm, and as a result, the depth of field was quite narrow. F/13 allowed me to keep the zebras entire bodies sharp but blur the wildebeest in the foreground and background. The relatively fast shutter speed was enough to freeze any movement and keep the zebras sharp. As I almost always do with wildlife, I focused on one of the zebra’s eyes.
Which tools, during either the shooting or editing process, did you use to enhance the photo?
I relied on the image stabilization of my lens to shoot this photo handheld. As far as post-production, I rely mostly on Lightroom, and this photo was no exception. Aside from basic exposure adjustments, I made some targeted adjustments to highlight the zebras a bit.
What advice do you have for safari goers who want to capture the perfect shot?
Bring a powerful telephoto lens with image stabilization! I purchased the Sigma 150-600 with a 1.4 teleconverter for the trip and was very happy with it. Next time, I would also bring a compact tripod for morning and evening landscape shots.
What’s your favorite tip to give fellow photographers?
When shooting wildlife, always focus on the eyes, use a fast shutter speed, and pay close attention to your aperture in order to highlight your subject. But be careful not to use too wide an aperture with a long telephoto, as the depth of field becomes very narrow!
How many years of professional photography experience do you have?
I have been an avid photographer for close to 20 years and a part time professional for 5 years.
What’s your favorite thing to photograph?
I love landscape photography and capturing people enjoying the outdoors. I have recently become more interested in wildlife photography, and Tanzania certainly enhanced that interest!
What do you think of Tanzania or a safari as an overall photographic opportunity? What made it special to photograph?
I am convinced that there is no better opportunity for wildlife photography than a Tanzanian safari. The quantity and variety of wildlife is astounding. The wide open landscapes and amazing light of the Serengeti add to the photographic potential.
Where can we find your work?