PHOTOGRAPHY EHTICS

We have all one thing in common: that is the love for nature and animals. Photography is powerful tool to capture that very special moment but also to document habitat destruction or even cruelty. As photographers we can create stories that allow a wider audience to see with our eyes, and we can connect emotionally through our images. Our photographic documentation can also help to raise awareness. We can be the ambassadors of nature and wildlife and contribute to the conservation.

With wildlife photography, patience and knowledge are two important factors which aid in getting the best shots. Animals, especially when not tame, cannot be “ordered” to appear at a particular spot or do a certain thing. When we are out in the field, we need to be open to the opportunities that present themselves to us right there and right then. With open eyes and hearts we might be able to witness and capture incredible scenes which we had not anticipated.

Patience is crucial; we need to observe the scene. It’s in a moment that the script can change. The animal moves or turns its head; suddenly a predator seizes an opportunity. Then it helps to be knowledgeable about the subject. The more you know about an animal’s behavioural patterns, the better the chance to predict its actions and whereabouts. As a wildlife photographer, it’s good to be prepared and learn about the ecosystem and its resident wildlife beforehand. We have compiled a list of books which we use under the menu “Books”. Have a look.

 Lastly, when we talk about ethics, it must be clear that we commit to stay within agreed boundaries so as to not disturb the animals. No photograph is worth putting an animal under stress. Nor is it worth to put ourselves or the animal in a dangerous situation.   

BEHAVIOUR GUIDELINES ON GAMEDRIVES

When we are out on a game drive, we should behave appropriately so as to not miss an opportunity. Loud discussions, shouting, jumping in the car and such can scare the animals off. Heated discussions are also better done afterwards around the fire or over a drink. It’s clear that we should make use of the professional guides and ask them about the animals. Most often, they will happily share the basics on the spot. But if you have many deeper questions, note them down and ask them when we leave the scene.

Staying calm in some situations might be difficult, but we must try not to direct the attention on us. Obviously, it’s debatable if we are not already intruding and influencing the course of nature by driving through an animal’s territory. However, most experts agree that animals can get habituated to the vehicles to the point that they will ignore our presence and go about their daily business undeterred. That is, as long as we are quiet and do not leave the car. Otherwise, we might be mistaken for a new kind of snack.

Making any noises or imitating sounds is usually not recommended. If the guides do so, they will know what is acceptable and what not. 

SAFETY

We all want to return home safe and sound. For that reason, it is important to follow the behavioural guidelines we have outlined above. In addition, on some tours or workshops we are amidst of a wild area or very close to potentially dangerous animals. Please familiarize yourself with the given camp or lodge rules. Likewise, you should follow the instructions given by the guides and our staff.

Most places do not have a safe in the room. Again, please do not bring valuables along. For you camera gear and laptop we recommend to have a padlock on your bag so that you can lock it. Better have a spare padlock with you, just in case you loose the key to the first one.

WHAT TO WEAR

Sunglasses are a must; bring a pair of shades with UV protection. The glasses also prevent particles flying into your eyes, especially good in an open game viewer. And you never know when you might encounter a spitting cobra which aims for the eyes.

A wide-rim hat will also serve you well as it covers also the neck, an often forgotten spot which burns easily. Get one that is breathable and with straps so it does not take off with the first breeze.

Sunscreen is also a good thing to have, preferably with a high protection factor.

Insect repellent, definitely a must! Look for a sweat resistant product containing DEET to keep the stingers away. Mosquitos usually feast during the sunset time, so re-apply after the shower. Some products may also work against ticks which can also be a nuisance in the bush.

Clothes should be breathable, so cotton materials or modern trekking and outdoor fabrics are the best choice. The latter have also the advantage that they are usually light-weight and as luggage restrictions might be tough, any gram counts. Particularly interesting are zipper pants which can be converted from long leg to shorts. During game drives and especially bushwalks, it’s recommended to wear long leg trousers to protect your legs from the sun, bugs and thorny shrubs.

These specialty clothes are also often supplied with inbuilt sun protection and they dry quickly in case you need to wash on tour. In terms of colours, the bush catwalk promotes shades of beige, brown and green with khaki being the all-time favourite. However, military style camouflage patterns are a no-go. In the evening at camp or in the lodge other colours are welcome. Stick to light colours at night as well as darks attract mosquitos

As for the footwear, even though going on safari and game drive with an occasional bushwalk does not qualify for hiking, we recommend bringing a good pair of walking shoes. They should be: worn in and sturdy. Many outdoor shoes are relatively light-weight and waterproof to some extent.

“Onion tactic”, also known as layering clothes is a good advice. Temperatures in the early morning can be chilly in an open vehicle as well as in the evening. Whereas during the day, the sun can still be considerably hot. A light windbreaker or raincoat makes a useful accessory as well as a fleece jumper. A photographer’s vest is not a bad idea either to have your spare battery and memory cards handy.

WHAT TO NOT TO WEAR

In terms of makeup, the most recommended routine consists of slathering on sunscreen and insect repellent, not putting on mascara and blush. Discreet deodorants are good, but heavy aftershave and perfumes are not. Most animals have a well-developed sense of smell and will be gone before we can say “white rhino”. Perfumes may also attract uninvited attention from the insect world.

In tsetse fly areas like the Serengeti, shades of blue and black are not a good idea as these flies seem attracted to those colours. Tsetse flies can transmit the sleeping-sickness. 

Designer outfits should stay at home. Chances are they get damaged and may attract unwanted attention. It’s better to blend in rather than showing off and creating an impression of being a lucrative source.

That also goes for the “bling”. Shining and clinking jewelry can distract animals and scare them off. Dangling earrings may get tangled and rip out. Not so speak about creating opportunities for thieves.

Skirts are beside dinner time in a lodge not a practical piece of clothing. Keep in mind that safari vehicles are often higher than regular cars which makes it difficult to get on wearing a skirt.

Same applies to heels, whether in the game viewer or around camp, they do not so well. Outdoor sandals are better, comfortable boots are best. On the way from the tent or from the room to the main building there can be snakes or other creepy crawlers. And using the emergency bush toilet with heels is no fun.

BATHROOM BREAKS

It may happen that in case of an emergency you might need to use the “bush toilet”. However, check the bush first before you start. When you use any paper tissue, please bury it.

BUGS

Some insects can transmit various diseases from Malaria to tick fever. Best advice: prevent being bitten. Use suitable repellents, appropriate clothes and mosquito nets when provided. Consult your local physician in advance regarding prophylaxis and vaccinations where applicable.

OVERHEATING AND DEHYDRATION

The sun can be hot and unforgiving. Sunscreen, hat and light and breathable clothes are one thing for prevention. The other important factor is drinking, i.e. water not martinis. In the “heat of the action”, it might also slip our minds to keep hydrated all too easy; so ensure to drink plenty of water at any opportunity.