How’d You Get That Shot? Safari Photography Behind the Scenes with Danny Nestor

Written by Thomson Safaris

Leopard – Serengeti, Tanzania
Photo: Dan Nestor

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 Dan Nestor joins us today.



What do you like about this shot?
What I like best is that the cat is looking straight into the lens of the camera; it was like an eye-to-eye meeting. It was an amazing feeling to see his eyes so bright through the lens.

What type of planning was involved in order to capture this image?
Every time you go out to photograph you have to be ready, from your battery and memory cards to your settings. The Thomson guides are amazing at spotting wildlife and they position the vehicle in the perfect spot.

Which camera did you use, and why?
I’m a Canon guy, I think their camera quality and user-friendless is tops in the field. This photo was taken with the Mark 1D IV camera and the 500mm 4f lens. The goal with wildlife photography is getting as close as possible without disrupting the animals; the 500mm lens is great for that. The camera takes several frames per second, and is built like a tank, which is another big help in catching wildlife.

Which settings did you use? Are there any technical tips you have for photographers who are more advanced?
My ISO was set at 400 and I was shooting in aperture priority that morning. I set my camera to f8 to make sure the cat, especially its eyes, were as sharp as can be.

It’s not always easy to anticipate which settings you’ll need, especially when the action starts, even though this scenario gave me a little more time. You always want to plan what you’re attempting to do with your settings, like if you want to stop that bird in flight or those running zebras, you want a shutter speed over 1000. With landscapes, watch your aperture and know how it works with your depth of field along.

Which tools, during either the shooting or editing process, did you use to enhance the photo?
One of the challenges when shooting with a long lens and getting that sharp image is to make sure your camera is rock steady; a bean bag to rest the camera on the vehicles is a must. Afterwards, I use Lightroom to adjust the image. Shooting in RAW format gives you more leeway, it may take up more room and slow you a bit, but it’s worth it.

What advice do you have for safari goers who want to capture the perfect shot?
First and foremost, always be ready, check everything on your camera before you head out and have plenty of memory cards and extra batteries. Listen to the guides, they are amazing at spotting wildlife, but don’t leave it all up to them. Look for that different shape or color in the tree or on the ground, most times it may be a branch or a rock, but one day it’ll be a leopard staring at you.

What’s your favorite tip to give fellow photographers?
Get up early and stay out late, lighting is everything… and keep shooting! The only shot you’re guaranteed to not get is the one you don’t take.


How many years of professional photography experience do you have?
About 15 years of shooting.

What’s your favorite thing to photograph?
It always comes down to wildlife, that’s what got me started in photography.

What do you think of Tanzania or a safari as an overall photographic opportunity? What made it special to photograph?
I’m not sure I can put it in words, it’s like no other place – the wildlife and photo opportunities are everywhere you turn. From big cats to birds, and all of the other different species, it’s a photographer’s dream come true.

Where can we find your work?

Are you on Instagram?
Yes, I just started on Instagram: @dnphotography22



Want to learn more about photographic safaris with Thomson Safaris? Contact us today!