Tiger Photography is not just lifting your camera when you sight a Tiger, and pressing the click button. It is not only about understanding light, or understanding your equipment, it is understanding much more than that. In this post i will talk about the camera equipment one should carry if one is serious about Tiger photography. Rest of the attributes we will take on in the later posts.
So, what camera equipment to carry for Tiger photography? This is one question lot of people ask me, and frankly there is no fixed answer or fixed equipment for the same. Every DSLR camera and every lens is good. What is required is application of the right equipment at the right place while doing Tiger photography. Yes, there are some guidelines, but it is the situation that is more important. There are occasions where even the smart phones give great images.
First and foremost you must know how and from where you will be doing the Tiger photography. It is the moving Jeeps. More often than not even the Tiger does move most of the times. Yes, there are opportunities when the Tiger is sitting, or, sleeping basically a situation where you have time to choose your equipment.
Let me provide some guidelines here. Most of the times Tigers will be walking, your Jeep will be moving, there will be more Jeeps around, you might have a good vantage point for a few seconds, and you will need to click in that window before some other Jeep takes / tree / or some other obstruction comes in your way, or maybe the Tiger would have moved from the area. It is easier to get two Head of State to shake hands again for that historic shot, but you cannot tell a Tiger to stop, look, smile and shoot. Hence you must be aware of some basic guidelines which i have provided from my experience in the field:
If you are seriously contemplating Tiger photography, and if you can afford, then i advise you to carry two camera bodies, with two lenses set on them. In a jungle in an open vehicle you do not want to change your lenses and invite dust to settle on your expensive equipment.
Carry a piece of cloth to cover your equipment, when not in use you must keep it covered from dust and direct sunlight. Carry some water-proof covers, as there can be unexpected rains during a Tiger Safari.
The two camera lenses you are carrying should be a semi wide, and a tele lens. You may choose from: 24-70mm, 24-105mm, 18-135mm, or a 70-200mm in similar range. The tele lens you may use could be 100-400mm, 200-400mm, or onwards. Lot of serious photographers carry prime lenses during Tiger photography. These are glamorous lenses and give brilliant result too. But one must know how to carry, and use those lenses before buying them. Why? Well, they are very expensive to begin with, fairly heavy to shoot hand held in a moving Jeep, and fragile as well.
Importantly you must choose lenses based on your requirements. Do you want to click a Tiger image only as a memory? Or, do you want to click a real good image? Or, do you want to use it commercially? Depending on the requirement you can choose lenses. For a one time safari holiday it makes sense to take some all purpose lenses like, 24-105mm, 18-135mm, 55-255mm, or even 70-200mm. For commercial Tiger photography the range is elaborate and expensive.
Last but not the least any thought of taking a selfie with a Tiger around should be shelved immediately. Remember always you are in presence of an apex predator, perhaps the best in the business, so no taking chances. Give respect, and space to the Tigers, after all they are living beings, with a mind and moods. You surely do not want to catch him in a frame of mind when he / she is temperamental. With cubs, on a kill, in ambush they are best avoided, or maintain a good respectable distance.
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Stay tuned; Part 2 will be on how to take images from the Jeep.