What’s in our camera bag?

Award-winning landscape photographer and social media influencer from Australia, Destin Sparks, once described photography as the story one fails to put into words… Better we could not put it ourselves, even if we tried! Here at Adventure Afrika, we rely quite heavily on our images to tell our story, to take you with us on our journeys as words are rarely adequate to portray what we are fortunate enough to see on our travels.

Years ago, as a somewhat shy teen in high school, I found purpose in capturing our family’s memories and moments on film. Using my dad’s Pentax ME and armed with a couple of rolls of film, I learnt through trial and error… And, unlike today, you did not know about your errors until after you visited the local Kodak store where it sometimes took up to three days for your images to be developed and printed!

Therefore, one had to concentrate when taking a pic and think about what you are capturing – a roll of film was only so long, and usually, my parents bought only about three 36-exposure rolls of film, giving me just over 100 images for a week-long trip through the Kruger National Park.

How things have changed with the advent of digital photography and, with it, instant gratification and almost life feedback on your work! And now I am not even talking about smartphone photography with multiple built-in editing software packages and readily available apps to produce a fairly decent photograph (well, at least an Insta-worthy one!).

A body of work

So, what would you typically find in our camera bag? Our two Canon EOS 80D bodies deliver stunning images – packed with detail, colour and atmosphere – in a range of lighting conditions. Boasting an impressive 24MP sensor and able to do a decent seven frames per second, it effortlessly meets our needs. The adjustable touchscreen is one of our favourite features as it makes it easy to get those low[1]angle shots like the one on this month’s cover.

Along with the two camera bodies, we have a collection of lenses that can be used for specific applications. The Sigma 150-600mm contemporary lens is ideal for wildlife photography, and while defined as entry-level, it does the job perfectly, giving crisp and sharp images every time. The most used lens in the bag must be the Sigma 18 -300mm, offering a better range than the standard kit lenses (the 18-50mm and 70-300mm) you usually get when purchasing a starter kit. The lens that the team more often than not fight about using must be the Sigma Art 18-35mm f/1.8 which captures beautiful images; be it portraits, cars or product stills. Other lenses include a 24mm pancake as well as 50mm NiftyFifty which ensures we are armed and ready to shoot anything that moves! For indoor and studio work, we also have a couple of different strength flashes.

But, as my wife would say, boys will always find a need for another toy. Still, our latest acquisition – a DJI Maveric Pro drone, is a toy with purpose, proving invaluable to augment our set for aerial shots and video. However – also pointed out by my wife – the tools do not make the man! Yes, things are easier nowadays as errors can be fixed on the fly, with ISO or aperture adjustments or changing your lens. However, you still need to practice and intimately get to know your camera’s settings to make sure you get the most out of it!

During the next few editions, this section of the magazine will deal with various photography topics to share tips and ideas to improve your work continuously.

Get that cover shot

When it comes to automotive photography, I generally try and get as much of the vehicle into the shot as possible, unless I need to focus on detail shots. These include specific design elements or features that you want to focus on, such as headlights, wheels or interior bits.

For our cover shot, I wanted to highlight the Ford Ranger’s colour by having it contrasted against either the sunrise or sunset. While in the Kalahari, I noticed that both times produced a beautiful, crisp orange and yellow glow that worked well with the red dunes and golden grass. However, as you can see, we opted for a shot on a salt pan, to highlight the unique lunar-like landscapes in the area.

While driving the 4×4 route at Loch Maree, looking in my rear-view mirror, I noticed that the sun was creeping over the horizon. In front of us was a vast open pan, so keeping our social media accounts in mind, I got out to capture this image with a smartphone. Down to eye-level, I saw it – the perfect balance between the Ranger, the sun, the blue sky and the somewhat white salt pan. This was it – our cover shot opportunity.

Armed with one of our Canon 80D bodies fitted with the Sigma Art 18-35mm f/1.8 lens, I set the exposure to 1/800sec and ISO-250. Focal length was at 18mm and aperture at f/1.8.

Once the image was taken, I transferred the file to my phone via the Canon app using the camera’s Wi-Fi feature. I then ran the image through Adobe Lightroom to get a quick understanding of what the potential was. Mother Nature certainly did her part, giving us a near[1]perfect canvas, but we still saw the scope for a touch[1]up here and there.

Back home after the trip, I ran the images through Lightroom on my desktop and started fine-tuning it. Editing is very often a matter of personal taste, and the process depends on what you want to get from the image. For the cover, we wanted to highlight the oranges and yellows, while ensuring a clear, crisp and detailed portrait of the vehicle.

There is no wrong way to take a picture. For me, it’s a continuous learning experience, experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t. Take time to study the work of photographers you admire, view web tutorials recreate images that inspire you to refine your skills.

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