The Cube Camera Makes Wildlife Photography “Hakuna Matata”?
Lions, leopards, elephants, hippos, rhinos and giraffes… oh my! Traveling to Africa to see magnificent creatures in their natural habitats is truly a wild experience. From your first sunset over the Serengeti Plain to an up-close-and-personal encounter with a pride of lions (from the safety of your safari vehicle, that is), you’ll want to capture every moment to share with friends and family back home. But picking the right travel camera and gear, composing your shots from the side of a moving vehicle, and mastering wildlife photography techniques as an amateur photographer is easier said than done. These seven photography tips will help you make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime Safari and have you singing “Hakuna Matata” in no time.
1. Be smart about your gear
Even if you own a lot of expensive camera gear, lugging multiple lenses, tripods and lens filters on an African safari may not be the wisest choice. For starters, safari photography can be a bit tricky: oftentimes, it’s not safe to get out of the vehicle to set up a tripod; switching out telephoto lenses in the middle of a dusty plain can lead to a dusty sensor (and sub-par photo quality); and lugging around a heavy camera can quickly become a literal pain in the back. Worse, if you want to photograph a crowded marketplace, pulling out a large camera (and your accompanying gear) is equivalent to shouting “I’m rich and easy!” – you don’t want to be a target for theft. As a final consideration, if you’re not used to shooting with an expensive camera, a safari is not the best place to take one out for a trial run and figure out the different settings on the fly. Even if you do pack a high-end camera, consider bringing along a lightweight travel camera to expand your shooting options. A travel camera like the Polaroid+ will give you greater shooting flexibility without the burden of expensive camera gear.
2. Go big
The Serengeti Plain in real life: a sweeping, awe-inspiring, endless vista. The Serengeti Plain in travel photos: all too often a less-than-sweeping and awe-inspiring view. Why the difference? Capturing the wide expanse of an endless vista is a huge challenge without a wide-angle lens. With a built-in 124-degree wide-angle lens, the Polaroid CUBE+ is a great option for panoramic photography. The wide-angle lens can also capture some truly spectacular sunsets and sunrises. Switch to video mode and record the 30 minutes before/after the sunset. Once you’re home post-safari, use an app like Hyperlapse to edit your video and share with friends.
3. Compose better shots
Safari shooting is tricky because you have virtually no control of your environment. You could drive along for hours without seeing anything interesting and then – boom! – you’ve stumbled upon a lion chasing a gazelle or a baby elephant bathing in the water. Even as you’re rushing to capture the moment, keeping the rule of thirds in mind will help you take better-composed photographs. The rule of thirds is a compositional technique that breaks an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) using four lines. To create a more visually interesting photograph, place your subject (like a giraffe or tree) at one of the four intersecting points, rather than dead center in the picture. Sure, you may still have a few odd trees sticking out behind a giraffe’s head, but on the whole your photos will be better composed when you follow the rule of thirds.
4. Take better sunrise and sunset photos
Photographers call early morning and late evening their “magic hours” because of how the light reflects off the land. Gone are the harsh shadows caused by the noon sun and in their place is a soft, hazy glow. But shooting directly at the rising or setting sun can be a bit boring. Like any Safari photo, your sunrise/sunset shots need a visual point of interest. If you’re shooting westward towards the setting sun, what animals or trees can you silhouette in the background? If you’re shooting at sunrise, is there early-morning mist or low-lying clouds that can add visual interest to your photos?
5. Mount your camera securely
The constant shaking of a safari vehicle over rutted trails can pose a big challenge for wildlife photography. Since there’s not always time to set up a tripod outside the vehicle, the best camera for action shots will include built-in stabilization and easy, flexible mounting for fast shooting. For example, with a magnet on the bottom, the Polaroid CUBE+ is designed to stick to any metal surface wherever you go. The camera’s strap mount and wearable pendant are two additional mounting options that let you mount the camera securely for hands-free shooting.
6. Don’t forget about the people
Be sure to include your friends and family who are on safari, too. For example, use a small video camera to record the joy on your child’s face the first time she sees an elephant in the wild. Finally, add yourself in the photos too! When you’re behind the camera the entire time, you miss out on being part of the incredible experience that’s unfolding before you. Since a cube camera like the Polaroid CUBE+ doesn’t include a viewfinder, you can “set and forget” the camera and join in on the fun. Securely mount the Polaroid CUBE+ to your safari vehicle, use the corresponding smartphone app to frame your shot or start recording video, and then get in on the fun with your family!
7. Back up frequently
There are several popular ways to back up your images while on the road. One of the simplest is to buy a backup device specifically for memory cards that can be used without a computer. Simply turn on the device, insert your memory card, and away you go. If you’re bringing along a portable laptop, another option is to use an external hard drive. External hard drives with up to 1 TB of storage will run you less than $100 and you’ll have more than enough storage for multiple safaris! The Polaroid CUBE+ also connects to Wi-Fi networks, so once you’re back at base camp, you can download all your photos and video onto a computer or phone and upload to the cloud. Whichever backup option you choose, be smart about making multiple backups! Sure, you may never end up showing folks those 5GB worth of giraffe photos you have, but until you’ve reviewed each shot, you won’t know which one to keep.