African Photography Blog

8 African Safari Photography Tips

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8 African Safari Photography Tips

Taking perfect photos, both for personal memories and for sharing with friends and family, is a top priority for many travelers on an African safari. However, good wildlife photography requires specialized equipment and a little more knowledge than an average “selfie”.

There is always something unique about being in Africa’s wilderness; so much that most travelers are enticed to grab their cameras and capture marvelous moments of beauty and charm. Be it a gorilla safari in Uganda’s Bwindi national park or Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park, a cultural safari in the Karamoja region of Uganda or a wildlife holiday in Kenya’s Maasai Mara or Serengeti national parks.

Being an awe-inspiring journey with so much to see and take in, a safari in Africa will ultimately lead you to take as many pictures as possible so as to relive the memories in the African jungle when finally back home. The only challenge is to know when to put down the camera and just experience the moment or snap it to keep for years.

The fact that safari trips in Africa offer exciting opportunities to behold incredible wildlife and once in a lifetime views, it is important to carry a camera to snap the moments and perhaps document your trip. However, for only the trotters that would want to take better pictures on their next African adventures, this is the most appropriate piece you can ever read.

While point-and-shoot cameras and the new mirror-less wonders are great for travel shots, most wildlife encounters will require the longer lenses and the fast and accurate focusing power of a DSLR. Here are some tips to consider before you choose a camera and head out on safari.

  1. Get the right gear.
    You need the ultimate equipment to have your best wildlife shots. Despite improvements in the compact camera market, DSLRs are still king when it comes to top-class wildlife photography. Generally, the lenses are more important than the camera, and if you’re invested in good glass, you can get fantastic results with even an entry level DSLR.The best wildlife lenses are fast, heavy and of course expensive. If you want the best, get the fastest lenses possible, those with the widest maximum aperture, often ft2.8 that will let in the most light and allow you to use faster shutter to avoid blurry photographs. Image stabilization is also a great feature for wildlife work.In terms of focal length, a good 70-200mm with some wider lenses to capture people and landscapes will cover most situations. You can add a “converter” to lengthen the reach of your 70-200mm or choose a longer zoom (for example a 100-400mm) for those situations when you need more reach. Longer lenses are great for birds or shy animals that keep their distance.The perfect lenses for such purposes are long primes such as 300mm to 500mm fixed lenses, but these huge expensive, and unwieldy behemoths are only for those truly committed to their craft.
  2. Light is key, make use of it.
    Before any capture, always take light into consideration to see whether the direction where the light comes from doesn’t affect the quality of the shot. Lighting can make or break the shot, so photographers should never go wrong on it.
  3. Take as much shots as possible.
    Impressive wildlife photography does not only focus on the big five, also capturing smaller animals like birds and insects can be interesting. Most men behind cameras on wildlife safaris in Africa ignore the surrounding environment, but the incredible African landscapes can make eye catching varied shots.
  4. Patience and practice.
    These are the two golden rules of photography, it’s all about timing, knowing when to wait and when to exactly take the shot. Photographers can even wait for the best shots for hours. And before embarking on any African trip, practice photographing moving objects to perfect your skills as you wait upon the right photo opportunity in the jungle.
  5. Try different angles for better shots.
    For perfect pictures showing all the desired features, one should try wider and closer angles to see which one best captures the mood of the scene. Capture animals in action, maybe cheetahs running after their prey, lion cubs playing with each other or zebras grazing in the savanna plains in the national parks of Africa.
  6. Try to shoot at dusk or dawn.
    These are the best times for outdoor photography because this is when the light is at its best, giving much more contrast to add to the picture. This is also the most appropriate time to find the wildlife before they go to hide away from the midday hot sunshine.
  7. Work with the environment.
    A lot of people are always trying to find that clean picture environment where there are no branches in the way, no leaves and no shadows. It is of course true that the crystal clear image where the subject is bathed in perfect light are the images where one screams a “halleluliah” to the heavens, but more often the conditions are not all that great.More often it is the imperfections that are the things that make an image beautiful. Shadows are to animals what mascara is to models. Dust and rain create atmosphere. It is the branches and the leaves, the glare and the dust that often give the emotions to an image. Why not play around with them a little more?
  8. Photoshop or light room your images.
    Truthfully writing, most of the online images today are enhanced through editing on Photoshop or Light room. Some pictures would be spoilt by the lighting or shutter speed of the camera yet they would be beautiful to behold, Photoshop can enhance the brightness and other elements. Just simply make a world of difference in your wildlife photography.Most importantly, have fun. Enjoy the precious time in the magical Africa and make the best out of it. You are here to experience what can’t be understood about Africa except through personal ventures, so don’t let photography over control you.

Given these tips, now you can undertake an African safari, together with your camera and be sure to return home with an incredible collection of pictures for your personal memories as well as family and friends.

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Action Considerations for Wildlife Photography

When photographing action (in wildlife photography), there are certain considerations to be taken into account. To freeze the action, you want a fast shutter speed, but available light might be failing. You also want to get your subject to stand out from its background.

As I said in my earlier “ISACA” articles, you cannot separate the components in the “ISACA” acronym completely. They move together and affect each other. This is also true for action wildlife photography, and here we just take a separate slightly different view of each of the “ISACA” components.

In the field you will not always have time to think these points over, so I suggest you try and remember them. Ahhh no, more hard work! Yes, but with decent rewards…

Fast shutter speed

Normally when the action happens fast in wildlife photography you need to be ready and will not have too much time to focus on camera settings etc. first. You want a fast shutter speed to catch the action.

That is your main aim. Speed! And lots of it…

I suggest that you always leave your camera settings on the recommended action settings. This ensures success when you have to pick up your camera in a hurry and start firing…

The main digital advantage for obtaining a fast shutter speed is that you can select your ISO speed without having to change film. A good setting will be 400 for action photography (depending on the light quality). However, with the older digital camera bodies such as the Canon 10D or 300D you will get some digital noise at this level. It is not such a big problem on the 20D (and presumably the 350D?).

Wide-open lens

Another important way to get your subject sharp through a faster shutter speed is having your lens wide open, or in other words your lowest possible aperture (2.8, 4 or 5.6 depending on your lens). This ensures a faster shutter speed by allowing more light through the lens. However, this will have the added benefit that your depth of field will be very narrow and therefore your subject will stand out nicely from its background.

I have found this to be very useful in the African bush. See the picture on this page, where I got the action sharp, but the two young baboons almost blends in with the background instead of standing out.

The problem with this photograph was that I took it with a 100-400mm zoom lens with a 2x extender yielding an aperture of 11. That is the same aperture I sometimes use for landscape photography to ensure everything is in focus! I wanted the exact opposite here, but didn’t have the luxury of a long prime lens with a very low maximum aperture…

There you go! Another excuse to mention to your spouse for getting that very expensive lens you have been eyeing…

Composition

Composition is not something you will be spending lots of time contemplating when the action is happening thick and fast. However, when you are patiently anticipating action, you can think it over a bit.

It is actually very important to think of where your subject will end up in anticipating action. Not too long ago, I was watching a fish eagle perched high in a tree fairly close to me. I was waiting patiently (as is required for wildlife photography) for it to fly. However, I made the mistake of composing the photograph too tightly, and when my patience paid off, and the fish eagle departed in my anticipated direction, its wingspan increased so drastically that I got a shot with the edges of both wings off the photograph! What a waste… All my patience for nothing.

Conclusion

I know you won’t have much time to think about the discussions on this page when the action is happening fast, but rather think these points over carefully now, and be ready. Nothing makes a wildlife photographer more miserable than a missed opportunity. And remember, with action wildlife photography, patience is king…

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11 Things to Do in Uganda

Gorilla tracking

The Impenetrable Forest is home to more than half of the world’s remaining endangered Mountain Gorillas. You absolutely must go to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and do the gorilla tracking. Spending an hour with a gorilla troop is possibly one of the most memorable and amazing experiences in life.

A trip to Uganda’s Bwindi Forest and Mgahinga National Park guarantees a visitor a chance to meet these elegant apes in their natural habitats. You might be wondering why gorilla tracking is more successful during the dry seasons but the answer is that it is during this period that the parks are accessible with less mud. The primates can also be seen easily during the dry seasons as they freely roam about the whole park in search for water and food.

Gorillas are endangered creatures and the only way of helping them to survive is to get involved! A gorilla permit is not cheap but the experience is worth every penny. By purchasing one you will be contributing to the survival of these marvelous primates and the conservation of their rain forest home.

Bird watching

Uganda being a pearl of Africa has been regarded as the birders’ paradise due to its increasing list of bird species. Almost in every Uganda’s tourism destination is fully occupied with different bird species. The country boasts of over 1037 bird recorded species, about 60 % of the total bird species on the African Continent. These include both tropical and savanna species with the former reaching their eastern limit of their territory. Some of these species are migratory only coming to Uganda to breed and then go back later after breeding; a live example is of the grey headed gull. If you are interested in bird watching, you are recommended to surely travel with your camera and Binoculars because you might find out new species to add on your birds list. Some of the most exciting bird spots include Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Queen Elizabeth National Park with the highest number of birds for any single destination on the continent; about 607 recorded bird species.

Chimpanzee Tracking

Although the gorilla trek has to be the main highlight but when it comes to outstanding moments, the chimp trek is the best of them. Kibale National Park has the biggest population of chimps on earth and is the best place to observe them. Uganda boasts of the highest density of primates in the whole world, with habituated Chimpanzee visible in dense tropical rain forests. The chimp trek is a fantastic experience and is quite different from the gorilla trek as it involves being very vigilant and fast to understand where the chimps are and how to find them.

Explore the river Nile

Visit the town of Jinja and find the glorious river which flows through eleven countries. It is the longest river in the world and you will encounter it few more times during your Uganda travel. If you like adrenaline water sport, don’t miss out on the white water rafting in Jinja or see its rich animal life on its shores in the Murchison Falls National Park.

River Nile in Uganda offers great opportunities for white water rafting and bungee jumping. Lakes, waterfalls, channels; the water element is prevalent in the Ugandan landscape which even features the source of the mighty Nile.

Wildlife or game viewing

Game viewing has put Uganda on the world scene. With over 1500 mammal species in the country, many visitors are attracted to come and look at them in their natural homes. A game drive in some of the country’s national parks is a lifetime experience which guarantees you a chance to see numerous wild animals like, lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, kobs, zebras, antelopes and many more. These animals are easily seen during the dry season as they converge around water points to sip some for cooling their bodies. It is a wonderful experience to view some herbivorous wild animals grazing in the magnificent green plains.

The most popular and visited national parks for wild game safaris in Uganda is Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley and Queen Elizabeth. If you prefer less visited places, don’t miss out on the Kidepo national park. It is far northeast and just below the Sudan border. Seeing all the animals in their natural inhabitant is one of the best experiences of the Uganda travel.

Rhinos tracking in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Despite the fact that you cannot find Rhinos in Uganda’s National Parks, you have another alternative to find them in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, where 15 white rhinos are living in a big fenced area. The area is unfortunately behind the fence in order to protect them from the wild hunters which killed many rhinos in the country during 1982. Almost 20 years went by, before Uganda got its first male and female couple from Kenya again. From then, the Uganda Wild Authority started a breading program in which they want to revive the white rhinos in Uganda again. When they become many again, they will be released in the wilderness.

Mountain hiking in Uganda

Uganda offers some of the most challenging and thrilling hiking adventures in the world. Taste your physical fitness as you try out on Mountain Rwenzori to reach its snow cape (summit). It is a great opportunity to view a snow covered summit near the equator. You can also have a hike to mountain Elgon the largest extinct volcanic base in the world. Rwenzori Mountains provides the most challenging mountain experience. Mount Elgon is an affordable option and ideal for a casual climber. You can also explore and try to climb the 3 volcanoes in Uganda such as Mountain Muhavura, Mountain Sabinyo and Mountain Mgahinga. The south western part of the country has volcanoes like Mgahinga which are also good for hiking.

Cross the Equator

Traveling around Uganda will serve you with crossing the famous Equator line. If you are time limited, choose the more touristic circle on the east side. If you have enough time, rather go to the west side, as there are no shops, no tourists and no people. You can easily have the famous circle only for yourself and make many photos while you have one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern.

Visit the Ngamba Island

The Ngamba Island is seated on 100 acres of land. It was set up by the Born Free Foundation (UK), International Fund for Animal Welfare (USA), the Jane Goodall Institute (Germany and Uganda), The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre Trust (UWECT) and the Zoological Board of New South Wales (Australia) to offer a secure home to orphaned chimps whose return to their natural habitat is not possible while educating the public about these animal species and the importance of conserving the fragile forest habitat. Ninety eight out of the 100 island acres are forested and separated from the area of the visitor by an electric fence. The island is a home to 40 orphaned chimpanzees which are an endangered species found in forests and 20 of which have been brought to the island from when the sanctuary opened.

Have a relaxation on Beaches

As a pearl of Africa, Uganda has many wonderful attractions that push visitors to its shores each year. This land-locked country has many wonderful beaches, 80% of which can be found in the Entebbe area with Clean, beautiful white-sand, sunrises and remarkable rare birds species. At these Beaches, Ugandans and visitors to Uganda spend a lot of quality time with their families and friends enjoying themselves. These beaches tend to attract big crowds on weekends and public holidays.  The main attractions at the beaches include swimming and eating the whole tilapia fish. Examples of beaches are, Munyonyo, Lutembe, lido, imperial beaches to mention but a few.

Exploring Bwindi Forest: Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees & the Batwa

Have you ever heard about the origins of the mighty King Kong? These fearsome great apes are only found in the Bwindi and Virunga mountains of Africa. The largest population of the mountain gorillas lives in Bwindi Impenetrable national park, a national park in South Western Uganda, a small country in East Africa.

Today Bwindi is one of the most popular safari parks to visit in East Africa. Located a few kilometres from the Virungas, Bwindi Forest is an amazing home to the mountain gorillas. According to the 2012 Gorilla Census,  there are over 400 mountain gorillas living within the impenetrable Forest.

Bwindi is the most popular place for gorilla trekking expeditions in Africa. The park attracts thousands of travelers who visit Africa to see the endangered mountain gorillas. Over the past 20 years, many tourists have traveled to East Africa to see these amazing creatures surviving only in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Though most renowned for mountain gorillas, the Bwindi Forest has also got other wildlife species which include; forest elephants, lions, monkeys, bird species and many more.

Bwindi Forest

Many tourists who come for gorilla safaris to Uganda opt for different trips ranging from 3 Days to 3 Weeks adventures that include several adventures including game viewing in Uganda’s savanna parks, chimpanzee tracking, golden monkey tracking, bird watching, nature trekking etc. If you are looking for a trip that involves multiple gorilla tracking, a 4 Days Bwindi Gorilla Safari or a 5 Days Gorilla Safari is the best trip for you!

If you are on budget or with less time,  enjoy the 3 days Bwindi Gorilla Safari into the impenetrable rain forest.

How a Gorilla Trek is Organised

Day one is always involved with a long drive to Bwindi Forest. Tourists are picked from Entebbe Airport and transferred to Bwindi impenetrable national park via Masaka – Mbarara Highway. You will enjoy the scenic drive as you traverse the forests and the vegetation zones along the way. Along the way have a stopover at the Equator in order to enjoy the photos and the experiments. You will also buy some crafts since they are displayed everywhere. The guide will drive take you to an African restaurant where you will enjoy lunch with many different types of food. Later on you will proceed to the park where you will arrive in the evening. Check in at the lodge where you will have your dinner and overnight as you prepare for gorilla tracking the next day.

The second day, is always the day to track the endangered mountain gorillas within an allocated gorilla group. After an early morning breakfast leave the lodge with packed lunch and later proceed to the forest were you will start your search for the rare and endangered mountain gorillas. The trek normally takes a period ranging from 30 minutes to a full day hike looking for the gorillas. Be prepared and physically fit given that  the search for the mountain gorillas within the forest takes you up through various hills and valleys. Once these primates are found, you will be given one hour to watch these unique gorillas. You have the chance to take photographs! During the hike, you have a chance to see other animals that include; elephants, monkeys birds,. You will later return to the lodge for a late lunch or take a community walk where you will visit the neighbouring local communities in Bwindi. The Batwa Experience is one of the most popular community tour taking you into the community of the Batwa people, short pygmy people who used to live with the gorillas in the impanetrable forest. You will enjoy their traditional dances and cultures during this tour! In the evening, you will return to the lodge for dinner and an overnight.

On this third day after breakfast , you will check out from the lodge, you will transfer with your packed lunch. During the drive back, enjoy the scenic views as you travel. You can have a stopover at Mpambire drum makers where you will have some experiments about the making of the drums. Later proceed to Kampala where you will be taken to the airport for your departure flight or transferred to the hotel for your overnight and dinner.

Exploring Nyungwe Primates Forest

The popular Nyungwe Forest is a true rain forest in South Western Rwanda. It is most famous for hosting chimpanzees, our closest cousins. This tropical rain forest occupies 1,015 sq. kilometers and adjoins the Kibira National Park of Burundi forming a large contagious forest.

The park typically receives an excess of 2, 000 mm of precipitation annually.

Nyungwe Forest is a prime destination for primate safaris in Africa. The park protects 13 primate species that can be easily seen within the park. Chimpanzees are the most sought after animals in the park and the park hosts about 500 – 1000 individuals.  The monkey population is also high including the acrobatic Rwenzori colobus and the localized L’Hoest’s monkey. Nyungwe also a suitable destination to birders, botanists and walkers with about 130km walking trails as well as boasting as the region’s only suspended canopy walk area.

Chimpanzee Tracking

This renowned tropical rain forest is one of the few places where you can see chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Chimpanzees can easily be tracked at any time.

Nyungwe Chimpanzee

Located in South Rwanda, this is one of the oldest forests in Africa, which is one of the reason it boasts such a high level of diversity. Scientific opinion is that Nyungwe, along with other forests of the Albertine Rift, was largely unaffected by the drying up of the lowland areas during the last ice age, and thus become a refuge for forest plants and animals which have subsequently recolonised areas such as the Congo Basin.

One of the central planks in ORTPN’s tourism – diversification programme is Nyungwe National Park, 980 square kilometers of hilly jungle cloaked terrain in the country’s South – West, o the boarder with Burundi and the DRC, and surely one of the undiscovered gems of African environmental tourism.

Nyugwe Canopy Walk

Ranging between 1,600 and 2,950 meters in altitude, the park is contiguous with Kibira National Park in Burundi, together with the two protected areas form the largest block of forest in East Africa. Nyungwe was originally set aside as a reserve in 1933, which although relatively effective, still saw it lose about 20 per cent as its area by 1984, when a coordinated forest-protection plan was implemented. It was elevated to national park status in March 2004 and is famously known now for primates trekking in Rwanda.

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5 Best Reasons Why You Should Visit Uganda

When it comes to safaris in Africa, most tourists are left to think a number of things and may lure or discourage them from realizing their dreams. However, if you have always dreamt of that one country that rewards travel endeavors with life time experiences then you need not to look any further than Uganda. There are a million reasons why you this incredible country should be a must in your bucket list and among others include;

Its spectacular scenery

Uganda has for long been described as the Pearl of Africa for many reasons. It is that one country where you will find all what African continent has in offer. Its most alluring nature is what makes it one of the most sought after safari destinations in the world and while on your safari, don’t miss to explore most of its wildlife species that thrive in 10 of its spectacular national parks (Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Mgahinga National Park, Kibale National Park, Semuliki Valley National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Mount Elgon National Park and The Rwenzori Mountains National Park). These splendid wilderness areas feature a wide range of wildlife right from the big game-the African elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards plus several savanna grassland species, birds, primates including the rare mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, golden monkeys a mention but a few and not to forget spectacular water bodies including Lakes like Lake Victoria the world’s renowned fresh water Lake with the splendid Ssese Islands where over 84 islands all confined, Lake Bunyonyi-one of the world’s deepest Lakes, rivers especially the source of the mighty River Nile, tropical rainforests and distinct vegetation zones all of which feature as a few most exceptional attractions on their own and inhabit a number of wildlife for you to explore while on your safari in Uganda. If you are looking for unusual experiences then this is the best choice you can make in life and you won’t regret after.

Uganda is a multi cultural country

Besides the unique national parks, Uganda is popular for its diverse ethnic groups each offering unique cultural experiences. Lake Kyoga make up the northern border area for the Bantu speaking group and this includes the Baganda and many other tribes. As you head to the north, you will find the Acholi and Lango; to the east you will find the Iteso and the Karamojong, Bagishu around the Mount Elgon slopes and the Ankole group in western region. Due to diversity in cultures, over 40 languages are spoken in Uganda however, English is the official language and others speak Kiswahili while others speak Luganda. Each tribal group presents unique cultural and traditional practices and Uganda is popular for its unique cultural experiences. While on cultural safari, don’t miss the thrilling dances, music performance from the Batwa pygmies, Bakiga, Baganda or pay a visit to Ndere cultural centre for variety of cultural dances and performances or taste the local dish.

Gorilla haven

When it comes to Uganda safaris, gorilla trekking is undeniably one of the most sought after experiences by most tourists. Over 480 mountain gorillas call this spectacular country their home and unlike other gorilla destinations, gorilla trekking in Uganda is conducted in two national parks-Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park all in southwestern part of the country. A face to face encounter with these dramatic creatures in the wild is such a magical experience that comes once in a lifetime. To be part of this lifetime adventure, you only need $600 to secure your permit and your dreams would have been achieved.

Eco tourism experiences

With eco-tourism, you get opportunity to enjoy untapped destinations that still offer fresh experiences. While on safari in Uganda, this should be one of the experiences that you shouldn’t miss out. It takes you through a number of activities among others include community walks, nature guided walks, birding, forest walks, mountain gorilla trekking, wildlife viewing, chimpanzee trekking, primate watching, scenic viewing a mention but a few. The major destinations for you to realize this kind of experience in Uganda include the 10 national parks, wildlife reserves, community wetlands, forest reserves, cultural centers and many others.

Uganda is the most hospitable nation

Imagine a destination where nationals are not welcoming and full of arrogant people, will you even enjoy your vacation probably you won’t. However, Uganda is that one country in Africa with warm welcoming and hospitable people and you will certainly enjoy your holiday with them. You will free interact with your guides, local residents and even make some purchase for their locally made products in most of their eco-tourism enterprises while on safari in one of the national parks.

In conclusion, there are a million reasons why Uganda should be a must for you to visit and with a few that have been listed above, we believe that you will have memorable experiences while on your safari in Africa. Enjoy your holiday with us!

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Visiting the Mountain Gorillas in Africa

When people talk about safaris, the very first place that comes to the mind of a person is Africa. The safaris in Africa draw thousands of people from all over the world. Holidays in Africa give you the opportunity to become a part of nature. You must have surely seen documentaries about Africa safaris and there are several adventures you can ever take on the African continent.  However have you ever thought about taking a gorilla safari in Africa? Visit the gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo to make your dream come true. Many travelers look for something new to do during their holiday. Do not wonder any more about which adventure activity you can engage in during your next trip. If you are thinking of an adventure holiday that will never fade from your memories, you should consider taking a gorilla safari to Eastern Africa.

A gorilla safari can entail a trip ranging from a 1 to week+ adventures through the forests in Uganda, Rwanda or Congo looking for the mountain gorillas in their natural habitats. These trips are led by experienced trackers who have spent their entire lives living in or close to the forest. The treks are enchanting as you weave through overhanging vines, moss-covered Hagenia trees and giant Lobelias that thrive in the tropical climate tracing for the forest dwellers who colonised these thick forests. There are several places where you can go gorilla trekking and these are;

Volcanoes National Park

The Parc National des Volcans (PNV) is one of the most popular places where you can go gorilla trekking in Africa. This tropical rainforest in Northern rwanda is part of the Virunga Conservation Area and covers more than 125 kmsq. The park is home to five Virunga volcanoes: Sabyinyo (3.674 m), Gahinga (3.474 m), Bisoke (3711 m), Muhabura (4.127 m), and the Karisimbi, the highest volcano with an altitude of 4.507 m. All five volcanoes are extinct and if you are looking for the active ones, the nearby Congo has some; the Nyiragongo erupted in January 2002 and Nyamulagira in July 2002.

Virunga National Park

The Virunga National Park is abother interesting place to visit if you are looking to gorilla tracking in Africa. It would have been the best place to see the gorillas, however the political instabilities in the Eastern part of Congo have greatly disturbed gorilla tourism in Virunga National Park. Howevr of late the park is open to tourists looking to see the mountain gorillas in Congo and there are a few tour operators who offer gorilla trips to the Park.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest of all the gorilla parks. It is located in South Western Uganda  on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains. The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park covers 33.7 sq.km and was established solely to protect the mountain gorillas. The park provides a secure habitat for these massive, but gentle creatures and there is one gorilla group that has been habituated for gorilla warching. The park can be reached by road through Kibale and Kisoro 510km to Kampala.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Bwindis Impenetrable Forest is true African Jungle where travelers go gorilla watching. Its dense undergrowth, vines and other vegetation make it almost impenetrable and thus a place that offers the true gorilla trekking adventure. Its mysterious and awesome. There are ten habituated gorilla groups that are available for tourists interested in watching the gorillas. Trek through the huge trees that are festooned with creepers and parasitic plants , giant thickets of bamboo as you look for the endangdered mountain gorillas. The park is also home tp several other primates that incliude Colobus Monkeys, Chimpanzees, etc. There are also several species of birds that can be seen, including various turacos and a great many birds of prey. This forest is a sanctuary for almost half the worlds population of mountain gorillas (about 420 of 880), which is the rarest race of gorilla.

Creating a Gorilla Trip

There are several tour operators offering  safaris to the gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Most safaris can be tailor made according to your requirements and budget. You can easily combine your gorilla trip with another adventures such as sightseeing, game viewing, boat ride or canoe safari to watch water based animals in other national parks such as hippos,crocodiles, buffaloes, elephants and zebras while drifting along water.

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How to Buy the Best Digital Camera for Photography

So which camera should you use to take your award-winning photographs? This digital camera comparison will help you make that important choice.

However, we are not actually comparing different models on this page, but rather equipping you to be able to do that for all models you are interested in. I tell you below what features to consider when doing your digital camera comparison.

I will assume that you have progressed to the point where you realise that top quality nature photography is not feasible using a compact camera system. Come on, you are way past that point, right?

Why digital camera comparison? Why not camera comparison, or film camera comparison? I assume that you are streetwise enough not to spend money on a new film camera this late in the game. We all know that the switch to digital is a reality, and even the most conservative and film crazy professionals have given up and bought a digital SLR.

Therefore this digital camera comparison page was written assuming you are in the market for a new digital SLR camera body (or second hand if you are lucky enough to find one).

That is not saying that film cameras are out, I have friends still winning salons with their Canon EOS 30 bodies. However, to equip most of my readers for their next digital camera comparison I am speaking to those wanting to get a new camera body. And digital SLR camera bodies should really be all they consider…

Features to consider in your Digital Camera Comparison

1. What brand?

I touched on this point on my Nature Photography Equipment page, and will not go into too much detail here.

I use Canon. Most other professionals I know use Canon. The rest use Nikon. That is about as much as you need to know…

Therefore, it is a simple choice between the two top dogs in the 35mm photography world, if you are clever… This choice will most probably be influenced by the lenses you already own.

Other manufacturers have some ground to cover before I will recommend their products. If your heart is set on a camera from another brand, at least take the time and do the digital camera comparison between that body and a similarly priced one by Canon for the same price. Then and only then make you purchase. I have wasted money with other brands, and I do not want you to make the same mistake.

The argument for Canon (or Nikon if you have to) is very, very compelling indeed, and to take your money elsewhere you have to have an excellent reason.

You can easily investigate the features listed here for any other digital SLR and see if it makes good photography sense to invest in such a camera body.

2. Price

The cost of a digital SLR body is a very important consideration. In fact, sometimes this is as far as you get with your digital camera comparison, because you can’t buy something you can’t afford. You need to have good glass (lenses) as well, and I always recommend rather going for a cheaper camera body and more expensive lenses.

There are currently fairly priced consumer digital SLR bodies available from both Canon and Nikon. Only the wealthiest among us (that definitely excludes me) will be able to afford the best camera bodies, like the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II. The rest of us will have to be content with our Canon EOS 10D’s or 20D’s. Heck, I even have a Canon EOS 300D in my camera bag! However, I do think the Canon EOS 350D is a big improvement on the 300D.

The Canon EOS 350D (or similar) must be the perfect model for beginners. I saw it for the first time recently and was pleasantly surprised at how small it is. It is also priced right for a serious amateur photographer.

If price consideration is where your digital camera comparison stops, the EOS 350D is an excellent choice.

3. Megapixels and the RAW image format

Strangely enough, the amount of megapixels is not important at this level. All consumer and professional SLR bodies have sufficient megapixels to take on film images. The reduced noise in modern digital images also makes them more attractive than their film counterparts. However, I would say for any digital image to compare to a film image it has to be taken in some RAW format where you have all the data available for post shot settings.

It might be necessary to increase the number of pixels afterwards in Photoshop using the brilliant Genuine Fractals plug-in. This is what professional digital photographers do to match the high resolution of scanned images.

White balance settings on a camera works best if set to automatic in, lets say, 70% of the cases. The rest of the time, it is better to be able to alter this on your PC afterwards. That is another good reason to get a camera body with the capability of taking images in a RAW mode.

But wait! There is more… The size of the image sensor and the amount of megapixels it takes its pictures in could be a consideration. If you are not stocked up with a monster 600mm f4 lens and a 2x converter, then you are going to crop certain images. This is when having lots and lots of pixels can be a big advantage. It enables you to crop more of the image away afterwards, while still having enough data left for publication…

4. Possible ISO settings

I would recommend that you go for a camera body that can take pictures in ISO 100 mode or lower. When taking pictures in ISO 200 mode, I pick up visible noise compared to ISO 100. However, I would not decide between bodies on this point only. ISO 100 or lower is a nice to have.

5. Focus selection options

Focus selection options. This is something that almost drove me crazy with my Canon EOS 300D (especially back when that was my only digital SLR). When photographing a flying bird or other fast moving object, you need to have you camera body set to continuous auto-focus mode, agreed? Now that is not possible in any of the creative modes on the Canon EOS 300D, while these in turn are the only modes in which the RAW format is selectable.

BIG mess-up. You have a continuous auto-focus mode for the creative zones, but it is supposed to recognise automatically that your subject is moving and on the 300D that took way too long. I am afraid that the same problem might be prevalent in the EOS 350D, so be careful if you are considering that body.

I would rate this as a very important consideration in your digital camera comparison.


6. Mirror lock-up

This is again maybe a nice to have. I have not used it often but at a focal length of 800mm it might be necessary. That is the focal length (a massive 1280mm after multiplying by the crop factor) I will be using in my June 2005 Moremi and Chobe Botswana trip, so I will reserve judgement on the mirror lock-up till after then. Some of my pro buddies love using the mirror lock-up, so ask yourself the “Will I be using this?” question in making your decision.

7. Built-in flash

Some people get very upset if the built-in flash does not operate well. It is really weak on some camera bodies, so I will recommend buying a proper flash unit with your body if you will be using flash. However, if you plan using the built in flash, make sure it lifts up high. I was really disappointed with the height of my Canon EOS 10D body’s built-in flash. Almost any lens will get in its way…

I have a Canon Speedlite 420EX these days, but I operated for years without using any flash. Therefore, do not bash your head against the wall over this.

8. Focal length multiplier

This is a beautiful feature of digital camera bodies for the wildlife photographer. I was really excited when I saw Canon increasing its megapixels while keeping the focal length multiplier (also called the crop factor) unchanged in their EOS 20D and 350D bodies.

I love this feature because I want longer lenses, zooming in closer on my subject for wildlife photography. The focal length multiplier makes the focal length of your lens longer by 1.6 times for most Canon bodies. This makes a 400mm lens a very decent 640mm lens for bird photography. Now throw in a 2x converter…

9. Lens mount

Make sure that the body uses the lenses you want to fit onto it. This will generally not be a problem due to backward compatibility by big manufacturers.

10. Storage type

This will be a consideration if you have a micro drive but the camera cannot use those. Be careful to make sure you investigate this if necessary.

11. Number of auto-focus points

This might seem important, but all consumer and professional digital SLR bodies have a sufficient amount of auto-focus points. I tend to use the middle one most in any case. It gives me more control, enabling me to select exactly where the sharpest area of my picture should be.

Therefore, do not let this final feature count too heavy in your digital camera comparison…

Digital Camera Comparison – Conclusion

Is that it? Yes that’s it. So little? Yes, because that is all you really need to consider when choosing a digital camera body nowadays. Some people will want to throw me with stones for simplifying it this much (especially the EOS 1 fans), but in my opinion rather spend more time taking pictures than making you digital camera comparison an all consuming exercise.

If you carefully take the above features into account, you will be able to do a proper thorough digital camera comparison, and buy the right body for you. Once you have this body, think lenses, lenses, lenses. Lenses have a much bigger impact on the resulting photograph than the camera body used…

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Wildlife Photography Safaris in Uganda

Uganda a block of East Africa hosts an incredible variety of habitats and wildlife. The conservation of these habitats into National Parks and Wildlife Reserves is the cornerstone for wildlife viewing. One of the most important geographical features of the region is the Great Rift Valley. The large depressions within the Rift Valley fed by streams have become great Lakes, around which many species of wildlife can be found.

They include several National Parks and Wildlife Reserves and concentrate on different aspects of wildlife observation.  Some Uganda safari packages focus on a particular interest or activity like bird watching, primate viewing. Some safari guidelines bases on national Parks are too often selected for quantity of animals, certainty and ease of viewing on the game drives. Some National Parks became so popular that they are overcrowded with too many minibuses and jeeps getting careless and scaring animals. Animals move around, seasons change weather varies. There is no way of knowing what each day will bring and there is no guarantee that you’ll see absolutely everything you are after, but most safaris give an amazing wildlife experience!

The long stay is an important aspect, the more time you have to go on safari the more you will see! The chosen travel style will also greatly enhance your wildlife experience; Camping safari will offer you a different experience than lodge safari a part from Katara lodge in queen which provide wildlife view verandah.  The game drives are the most common way to observe African wildlife and for most visitors the backbone of their safari. Game drives should be undertaken in a customized 4 x 4 drive vehicle with a driver-guide who has experience and knowledge of the area.

The game drives can be organized at any time of the day but you will have the best chances to encounter wildlife in the early morning and late afternoon. It is cooler and animals are then most active.  A first-time visitor will want to see plenty of game, mainly large animals. Although the major animals are important, we advise not to get too caught up with ‘Big Five’ fever, the African wilderness has so much more to offer, especially its incredible bird-life, smaller mammals, primates, reptiles, trees and other plants… If you are receptive to learn about the different aspects of nature and conservation your trip will be much more meaningful and pleasurable.

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Essential Guidelines for Gorilla Photography

Of recent, many travelers travel to Uganda and Rwanda to track the endangered mountain gorillas that thrive in the Virunga National Park. Many travelers interested in photography always opt for gorilla safaris while visiting these few surviving homes to the mountain gorillas. If you are looking for a gorilla photography adventure, here are the recommended guidelines that you should  follow to enjoy your tour and return safe and stable.

On reaching the gorillas, spend 1 hour with the mountain gorillas wisely as it is the maximum time allowed while taking some memorable photographs.

  • Bring the best type of camera required in taking photos within the forests of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mgahinga National Park and Volcanoes National Park.
  • Fast lenses are needed in order to take clear pictures since the gorillas are always in areas without direct sunlight. However sometimes mountain gorillas can be found in places with direct sun light. Most clearer photos have been taken around ISO800, f2.8-5 and shutter speed of 1/10-1/240
  • Though most travelers prefer to bring a monopod it is not easy to use them within the forests. During your trek into the wild, mountain gorillas normally sorround travelers moving all around making it difficult to use tripods. You are also advised to maintain a 7m buffer distance between the people and the gorillas.The monopod takes a little while to set up, the space can often be cramped as you will have 8 tourists and the guides all stuck in the jungle and the gorillas may be in a pose position that you may want for just a short period of time. During the gorilla trek, shot hand held cameras or occasionally with a monopod when the gorillas started resting after eating.
  • On the type of less it is advised to use a D90 (1.5x crop sensor) and 70-200mm VR lens. On our last gorilla trekking trip, the destination guide was more strict on the distance between the travelers and the gorillas however it could reduce from 2-5meters since the gorillas where mobile. This made her 70-200 mm lens on a Nikon crop sensor some how long but a bit ok for most of her photos.
  • A zoom lens is better since it becomes too difficult while taking steps forward or backwards while in the jungle.
  • Due to the little light within the forest, it is tricky to get a clear view of the gorillas given the little light in the jungle as well as the dark colour of the gorillas, so travelers are advised to keep checking while shooting.
  • The first sight on mountain gorillas is really amazing. ”I couldn’t hesitate the urge to blaze away with the camera taking memorable photos (particularly knowing I only had 1 hour with them), however later on I found it was nice to sometimes just stop taking photos and enjoy the little time with these beautiful creatures, watching their behavior e.g eating, playing and grooming each other.”
  • It is not easy to aim at one or two gorillas at a time so as to get the best shot. The hour didn’t last for so long and by all means she took the most incredible photos to treasure and also show to her friends.

Hope the above tips and experience will help you get the best shots while tracking the mountain gorillas in the wild! Don’t miss trekking the gorillas as it is the best experience for a life time!