Sunny Saturday at Woburn

A fantastic summer Saturday saw us visiting Woburn Safari Park. Now I have never been on a "Safari" in the commercial sense, having always taken my own vehicle and driven and walked in places like Hwange and Mana Pools. As a result I have never rushed to visit a safari park.
Woburn was well organised. The various animals had plenty of space, though it was odd seeing lions in an English countryside. The walking area at the end of the drive was good, though we had our own picnic, as we have no liking for the type of food generally available in tourist type places. The photography brought back to mind a few techniques and issues I haven’t really thought of for a long while.

The Right Gear

Personal preference for this type of shooting is my 70-300mm zoom on my SLR (Canon EOS 450d). I would probably be quite comfortable here with a super-zoom compact camera.

Shoot First Ask Questions Later

Animals are not going to be in position, posed for that perfect shot. Sometimes you will only get one try at it. A useful habit to learn, is to grab the first frame very quickly. After that, you might have the opportunity to frame the shot better. Very often you will not. In fact this is a useful technique to learn for any form of action photography.

ISO and Lighting

This is almost counter intuitive. It’s a bright sunny day, so ISO 100 or 200 will do. Right? No! Set at ISO 400, grab the shot, and change ISO as you need to. On this day I used the range from 100 to 1600. In the heat of the day many animals will stay in the shade, except when they don’t. Using the telephoto lens, normally

Rhino in the sun - mixed lighting can be tricky.
Rhino in the sun – mixed lighting can be tricky.hand-held in a moving car, you need the higher shutter speeds which the higher ISO will give you.
© 2013

Lighting can be a problem when the animal is in shade and sun. Very often this shot will fail, but always worth a try.


Background distraction in a safari park.
Background distraction in a safari park.
© 2013

Few photographers have not had a surprise jump out of the background when they have come to edit their photos. Shooting in nature can be difficult enough avoiding the odd tree, or branch growing out of a head. A safari park, with buildings and fences gets a little trickier, with the odd couple of hundred cars driving around making it even more difficult. There is not a lot you can do to avoid this, apart from trying to wait until the background is clear. Of course, some can be edited out in post processing.

If you are actually going on safari, or just taking a drive through a safari park, paying some attention to these three issues will help you get some great shots. Here’s a Kudu I shot some years ago in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.


As for Woburn Safari Park. no it doesn’t equate to the African bush (or American, Indian, etc.) but it does provide a great day out.

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