Settings You Should Know

No matter what camera and lens setup you take to Africa, it's dead weight unless you know how to use it. Today's cameras are computers and complicated ones at that. Just navigating through the menus can be daunting. Don't be the guy who is going to learn how to use his camera on the flight over... or on the fly once you get there. That doesn't work. Things happen fast over there. You need to have a grasp on how your camera works BEFORE you get there.

No, you don't need to know all that it can do (ha... there are some settings even I don't understand fully) but you do need to know a few things. Here is what I suggest.

Know how to get your images off your card and onto a hard drive (I suggest backing everything up!) if you are taking one. This includes knowing how to reformat your card so it's clean for the next day. Or... take enough cards so you can shoot until it's full, safely store it away and use another card. I know photographers who do both.

If you are taking an interchangeable lens camera, know how to clean the sensor. It's dusty in the Serengeti. There are videos on YouTube for cleaning for your specific camera.

Know how to quickly change your ISO (sensitivity to light) setting. You're going to want to shoot at the lowest ISO you can for the clearest pictures but mornings can be dark, so can cloudy days, or the rare rainstorm, etc. These are times when you will want to raise your ISO or your shots can be blurred. Understand what this does.

Also understand how to change your shutter speed. Many of you will simply put your camera on AUTO and shoot away. I get it, it's easy, but the camera is going to make decisions for you and sometimes they are not the best decisions. The human hand, for example, even with a stabilized camera, can not really hold a long lens shot still from 125th of a second shutter speed and below. Try not to shoot below 1/125 of a second if you can. Better yet, not below 1/250th of a second. Nothing is worst than getting a great shot and finding out later that even though your camera was steady... the shutter stayed open too long, the animal moved and the shot is blurry. The longer the focal length (and you will be long a lot!) the harder it is to hold a shot steady and you usually only find this out when you get back to your lodge or camp. Opportunity missed. Don't be that guy.

Understand also how to over and underexpose an image. This is pretty easy with a mirrorless camera because you can see the image live on your viewfinder. But there will be situations where the background will be dark or light and it will effect your foreground subject. If it's the foreground subject you are interested in... this is not good. This is usually just a knob to rotate but understand it.

Definitely understand how to quickly get into video mode and make sure your microphone is turned to ON in your settings. Also understand how to change the speed of your video. If you want to hear what your guide is saying you want to shoot at normal speed (24 or 30 frame per second)... but if you want to see the Cheetah run in slow motion you're going to want to shoot at 60 or 120 frames per second.

Play with your camera BEFORE you go to Africa. Take it to the zoo or the airport to shoot planes taking off or to your kid's soccer game. Follow some action. Shoot with it and download your shots. Look at them. Are you happy with them? If not, why not? If you have a problem... hit the "ask Jeff" button. I'll help you work through it.

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