A safari day begins early with a morning wake-up call from the camp’s staff. You will rise to the sounds of the bush beginning to stir; perhaps the earliest whistled call of a Heuglin’s Robin, or the strained territorial call of a nearby lion. With this pre-dawn time – when the air is still cold and the bush sounds travel long distances – comes the promise of a new day on safari.

A light breakfast will be served in the camp’s central area, often around a campfire, or overlooking the river. We will discuss the morning’s safari, adjusting the plan as we gather information from the bush around us. It’s exciting to read and respond to nature in a way that bush-folk have done for many generations.

Following breakfast, and probably before sunrise, we’ll head out to make the best of the very early morning time, when the air is still and cool. I’ve been guiding for a long time and have developed an eye for the subtle behaviour of mammals that indicate predators nearby. While photos safaris are about much more than just predators, I’m always keen to share the thrill of sensing, tracking down and then finding carnivores. Moving slowly through likely habitats will often reveal sightings such as a leopard who is coming to the end of her nightly routine and seeking a quiet refuge.

During drives, there will be plenty of time to photograph the wide variety of wildlife on offer, and I will help you with technique and new ideas. It may be that in the soft light of early morning, we can experiment with back-lighting; with careful vehicle positioning and a little guidance, we can master this tricky technique.

As the sun rises and develops its famous golden African colour, we’ll follow the meandering river to watch for elephant herds crossing the water. Many of the Luangwa’s elephants cross the river on a daily basis in search of food; finding a herd mid-stream, bathed in morning sunlight, is a highlight for many visitors to this area. After they cross, we’ll spend time with the herd as they arrive on the bank, scanning through to play with photographic compositions, maybe framing a calf standing between its mother’s legs, or zooming out to take in the bigger picture of these massive browsers in their environment. As always, I will be available to give advice, answer questions and make suggestions.

I am very keen to ensure that my tours are both a classic safari and a specialist photographic experience. I plan each safari around making the best of the photographic opportunities on offer, but I also try to make sure that even guests without cameras will enjoy talking with me about wildlife and animal behaviour.

Throughout the morning, we’ll continue our route through the bush, changing habitats regularly as our distance from the river varies. The Luangwa river meanders dramatically and provides a year-round water source for a huge density of herbivores, who in turn support a healthy population of lion, leopard and hyaena. We will also enjoy regular sightings of Thornicroft’s giraffe and beautifully-marked Crawshay’s zebra which feed along the valley’s many lagoons.

Equally abundant, but often overlooked, is the astonishing variety and abundance of birdlife in the valley. We regularly see large eagles, up to four species of vulture whenever there are carcasses to be cleared up, and along the waterways, there are storks, herons, bee-eaters and kingfishers. Much of the wildlife in the Luangwa system is very familiar with the daily arrival of safari vehicles and allows close approaches and wonderful viewing of natural behaviour. This, of course, is a winning combination for photographers who seek frame-filling images of animals and birds in their natural environment.

But not to be forgotten is the scenery which is not only beautiful in its own right, but also a stunning backdrop for imagery of the inhabitants. The South Luangwa National Park is home to some of the most impressive stretches of the Luangwa river, offering wide, dramatic views. Just inland from the river are beautiful ox-bow lagoons, many of which hold water late in the season and become honey-pots for game. Tucked into sharp river bends are arching Ebony groves where elephants, antelope and baboons seek refuge and access to sugary fruits; these groves offer an interesting and unusual environment for photography, more reminiscent of a European beech woodland than an African safari reserve.

When we’ve enjoyed the best of the morning’s viewing, we’ll stop in a scenic spot for a morning break. We will have packed tea, coffee, cold drinks and some home-baked refreshments such as biscuits or flapjacks. This is a great time to reflect on the morning’s experiences, ask questions that were lost in the excitement or ask me about a camera setting or adjustment.

As it starts to get hot, we’ll head back to camp for brunch, a siesta and a bit of game-viewing from the verandah of your room or a shady chair on the river bank. During this break between safaris I am also happy to help you download your images, review them, answer questions, give advice on image editing or simply chat about how to get the best from your camera. These informal sessions can be one-on-one or for the whole group depending on your requirements.

After a rest in the afternoon, we’ll head out once again to explore the bush for the afternoon. We might follow up on sightings from the morning, or strike out in a new direction in search of something special.

The late afternoon is a time when baboon troops settle down near their roosting trees and both adults and youngsters indulge in grooming, playing and reaffirming friendships. Taking time to sit with a troop while they interact is informative and often offers some great photos. It also allows us the chance to listen for the tell-tale sounds of an alarm call nearby that might lead us to a hungry predator who has risen early to scout for prey. Of course, interesting subjects or behaviour in the late afternoon sunlight is the holy grail for photographers.

Depending on what Nature gives us in the afternoon, we might or might not notice the sunset! Sometimes we have been so busy with a sighting that it has passed us by! But one way or another we’ll take a brief break and then continue after dark using a spotlight. While I find that daytime photography is much more rewarding than after dark, there are some great sights to be enjoyed, such as sightings of owls, nocturnal predators and occasionally rarities such as porcupine, aardvark and perhaps even a pangolin! Night time photography is tricky, but as always I’ll offer assistance and help you get photos that you’ve never been able to before. And even if taking photos turns out to be harder than you thought, there are great sightings to be enjoyed.

With memory cards full, we’ll head back to camp ready for dinner under the stars and to make plans for the following day. After dinner, those who wish to join us at the campfire are more than welcome, but many find that bed beckons after a fulfilling day.


It makes good sense to get to know your camera intimately so that many of the settings are second nature. While these safaris are a learning experience, they are not a camera class; photo opportunities come and go quickly so familiarity with your camera will make all the difference. Time spent in your local park, photographing local wildlife will prepare you, as will reading the database of knowledge and skills on my blog.

If you’d like advice on how best to prepare for your safari, please get in touch or have a read of my guide to dSLR use for Wildlife photography.


My safaris offer wonderful photographic opportunities to visitors with any kind of camera equipment. In fact, those who are most familiar with their kit, rather than having the best kit, often get the best photos. However, a photo safari will enable you to create beautiful images of wild animals in their natural environment and to do that, you will benefit from having camera equipment of a certain minimum specification.

In general terms, dSLRs or mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses are the best option but there are also a number of excellent bridge cameras that offer dSLR-style functionality. The best lenses for wildlife photography are in the range of 70-600mm, while those wishing to take landscapes or shots of animals in their environment should also bring wide angle lenses in the range of 24-50mm. The best cameras for wildlife photography use modern sensors, fast autofocus systems and have a decent frame rate. They also allow quick and easy adjustment of crucial controls such as ISO, aperture and shutter speed.


  • Any modern dSLR or mirrorless ‘interchangeable-lens-system’ camera is capable of taking excellent photos of wildlife. The leaders in this field are Canon, Sony and Nikon.
  • Canon’s 5D and 1D ranges of pro and semi-pro cameras mostly have full-frame sensors which offer the best high-ISO performance but do not give the multiplying effect of the smaller sensors. Longer lenses are required with these cameras, but their image quality is second to none. Any cameras in these ranges from the last 5 years will offer superb performance for safari usage.
  • Canon’s R5 and R6 cameras are recent additions to the mirrorless camera offering for wildlife photographers. When paired with either RF lenses or EF lenses with converters, these cameras offer the next generation of performance, features and speed. At this stage, the draw-back is still battery life so plenty of extra batteries should be packed.
  • Nikon also offer pro-grade full-frame cameras such as the D800/810/850 range, and their flagship D4 and D5. These are excellent wildlife photography cameras supplying the user with the ability to shoot high frame rates in low light with excellent auto-focus.
  • Nikon’s Z range of mirrorless cameras is developing and will surely compete with the best in due course. Unlike the Canon and Sony systems, I am not familiar with Nikon’s Z range.
  • Sony have led the mirrorless market with their A7, A9 and recent A1 cameras. They also have G lenses to match the new cameras and the results are second to none. With little second-hand market available, expect to pay top-dollar for this kit, but you will have no regrets.
  • It’s clear the mirrorless market is growing and will dominate the SLRs in current use.


  • Canon, Nikon and Sony all make excellent lenses for wildlife photography. At the very minimum, to get the best of a photo safari in Africa, you need reach of 400mm, and ideally 500mm. Fortunately all of these manufacturers make 80/100-400mm lenses with a variable aperture which keeps them lightweight and portable and any lens in this range of focal length, including Sigma’s 50/150-500mm lenses, would be ideal, giving speed, portability and a zoom range that covers all eventualities.
  • Even better are prime lenses in the range of 400-600mm. These allow us to photograph wildlife from a distance if necessary and provide the highest possible image quality, especially for keen bird photographers. Canon, Nikon, Sony and Sigma all make excellent prime telephoto lenses with additional tele converters (such as the 1.4x) that give you more reach, but cost one stop of light, some image quality and focus accuracy.
  • Shorter lenses such as 70-200mm also give great images and many photographers who are skilled with such lenses create beautiful photos of wildlife in its environment, arguably a more challenging technique than long-lens photography.
  • As a general rule, if you have 2 dSLR bodies, bring a maximum of 3 lenses. If you have one dSLR body, bring two lenses. Changing lenses multiple times risks introducing dust into the camera system, and being caught mid-change when the action happens!


  • Flash can be used carefully as a main source of light for night photography, or as a fill-flash for back-lit subjects during the day. If space allows and you would like to learn about flash use in wildlife photography, bring a flash with you.


As well as camera kit, it is useful to bring the following to help protect your equipment and ensure you are ready to make the best of your photo safari:


  • Binoculars – a lightweight pair is very useful for enjoying animal behaviour and observing interesting sightings that occur beyond the reach of camera lenses.
  • A dust cloth – a neutral-coloured cloth can be used to cover your equipment and protect it against the sun and the inevitable African dust. It can be quickly removed to access your camera.
  • A monopod – this is the most versatile method of camera support available and certainly the best for use in a vehicle. A tilt head allows you the full range of movement. I also supply mobile camera supports in the vehicles; they are a padded cushion mounted on a monopod base which can be customised to your preferred height.
  • A small head torch – useful for changing camera settings or locating things in your camera bag at night.
  • A dust blower – a small rocket blower is the best way to remove dust from your kit. They are inexpensive and very effective.


  • Spare camera batteries & chargers.
  • Extra memory cards and data storage – ideally you will have enough memory cards and data storage to keep two copies of all images in separate locations throughout your trip.
  • A small laptop – this is the best method of image back-up and also allows you to take part in optional image processing workshops in camp. Adobe Lightroom or similar software is highly recommended.
  • Camera cleaning equipment – most dust can be removed with a blower, but further cleaning may be required in some circumstances. Individually-packed alcohol lens cleaning wipes are cheap and more practical than rolls of lens cloth and bottles of cleaning fluid.
  • Multi-socket adaptor plug adaptor – most camps provide ample charging points, but a small multi-socket adaptor is a useful addition to your bag – Zambia & Zimbabwe use British-style square 3-pin plugs, and Botswana additionally uses round 3-pin plugs.