Zimbabwe 2010

By Stuart Forster

Political and economic uncertainty are factors that have discouraged many tourists from visiting Zimbabwe. Yet the Zimbabwean countryside offers much for nature and wildlife photographers.

If you are going to travel to photograph Africa’s wildlife ensure you undertake planning, so your visit coincides with the dry season. In Zimbabwe that’s from July to October. Many people travel to the country to experience the awe-inspiring power and beauty of the Victoria Falls, which thunder in full flow during May, shortly after the end of the wet season.

Jacaranda trees flower in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The purple-blue flowers add a flair of colour to Bulawayo.

Guides and drivers working in the likes of Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls National Park are highly knowledgeable about animal behaviour and well-trained on how to deliver a quality service to their customers. If you tell them you want to photograph a particular animal they’ll do all they can to get you into a position to take good shots. All of Africa’s ‘Big Five’ – lions, rhinos, buffaloes, elephants and leopards – can be viewed in Zimbabwe.

Photographs for exhibition at Zimbabwe House in London on 9 Nov 2010.

One of the mistakes beginners often make, in the excitement of seeing their first big mammals, is simply blasting off a series of shots of animals’ rears. Try and capture the animals looking in the general direction of the camera and, just like a portrait shoot, focus – if possible – on your subject’s eyes.

Try to anticipate the movement of the animals. For example, elephants at waterholes provide a rich vein of subject matter. The interactions of the cows with their calves can be remarkably sensitive. The elephants play together. They appear to enjoy chucking about muddy water. Why not try to freeze the water as it flies through the air? Use a fast shutter speed to do so. Think about using the shutter or time priority mode on your camera to achieve this.

A Broadley’s Flat Lizard (Platysaurus broadleyi) in the Rhodes-Matopos National Park, close to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The lizards thrive in the habitat of the national park, also known as Matobo National Park.

If you’re out early in the morning or when dusk is falling, you can always increase the ISO setting on your camera. Doing so means you can photograph handheld images with a lower risk of camera shake. It will increase the graininess of your images, but some people like the grainy look. You might even think that grainy shots look arty or atmospheric.

The Mother and Child Kopje in the Rhodes-Matopos National Park, close to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The park, also known as Matobo National Park, is the home to the Matopos or Matobo Hills. It is Zimbabwe’s oldest national park, and was founded in 1926.

As sensor technology and software improves, the graininess of images at high ISO settings is declining. Nonetheless, traditionalists will urge you to keep your ISO setting to a minimum. The age old trick of taking a small beanbag with you on safari means you can place it on the vehicle and rest your camera upon it, providing a firm base from which to photograph. Using a monopod is another way of increasing the likelihood of capturing shake-free images on safari.

Traditional tribal dancing and singing at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The men wear the traditional clothing of the Ndebele tribal people.

A telezoom going to 300mm is often good enough, particularly on the bright plains of southern Africa. If you don’t capture the perfect image in the field, you can always crop it later. For example, you might want to crop away part of a face or the hindquarters of an animal that was standing next to your subject.

As a photographer, it always pays to keep your eyes open and camera ready. Who knows, in addition to capturing great wildlife and nature scenes, you may also record scenes from Zimbabwe at a key moment in its development.

Zimbabwe 2010

About the author

Stuart Forster is an award-winning travel writer and photojournalist. He regularly writes about his travel experiences on his blog, www.go-eat-do.com and a selection of his photos can be viewed at www.instagram.com/goeatdo. You can also follow the Go Eat Do Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/goeatdo.

Useful Zimbabwe websites

www.zimbabwetourism.net, www.zimparks.org