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Photography: painting with light

While doing a Bushwise course there are plenty of opportunities to learn and practice the tricks of wildlife photography; this is even a useful skill when hosting guests on safari! Bushwise student Jacques du Toit shares his experience in this blog.

3 min read

A picture is worth a thousand words

A lion growls towards the camera in this striking black and white photo.

“A picture is worth a thousand words” is an expression coined by newspaper editor Tess Flanders in 1911 – he could never have imagined how true these words would be 110 years later. The social media behemoth that steamrolls across every electronic device today would not be as effective had it not been for the advancements in photography. 

So how can photography improve the game driving and guiding experience? Why is understanding this artform important for guides? And why do I love it immensely?

My journey with photography

A spotted hyena pauses to look back towards the photographer. 

I’ll start with my love for the art of painting with light (aka photography) and the journey it has set for my life. The earliest memory I have with photography was visiting my grandma’s house when I was a 7-year-old boy, and finding my grandfather’s tiny spy camera from WW2. I ran around their house pretending to be a spy, clicking away on the (filmless) camera, escaping the mundane by looking through that little viewfinder. 

It was pure joy, but never something that I’d imagined could be a career one day. It was only during my Bachelor of Creative Industries degree that I elected to do a minor in photography, which then led to my career. Seven years onboard cruise ships, operating a high-end premium portrait studio, and I was living the dream. 

black and white photo of a herd of zebra, walking nose to tail across a road.

Doing what I love, meeting the most interesting people while travelling the globe. The joy I could bring families and individuals by creating amazing portraits for them was so fulfilling. But I was missing home, not a home, but Mzansi, my land. This is what brought me here to Bushwise and the South African Wildlife College – my dreams of combining my love of photography with my passion for this land and all its wildlife.

How photography enhances a safari experience

Game drive experiences are without a doubt improved by photography. Every guest who seeks that African safari adventure wants to not only remember it in their memories, but to also have a visual medium reminder. This can be used to show off or to correctly identify whichever species they encountered at a later stage – birders, I’m looking at you. 

The lodges also gain “brand recognition” from these photos/videos from the location tag attached to these images. There are photography specialised safari lodges that have caught onto this lucrative market by offering exclusive photo safaris.

It’s not all about the camera

A grizzly image of a lion covered in blood, as it’s finishing its recent meal.

At the very least, most guests have a phone to take pictures with, which is why it’s important for any guide to have some idea of photography. In my experience, many guests on vacation with even the slightest interest in photography had expensive photo gear that they’re not sure how to fully utilise. 

I’ve presented basic and advanced photography seminars on cruise ships, and the guests were very thankful to learn how to properly use their cameras. This helped me build a good relationship with the guests which ultimately gave them a better experience and helped them better capture their special moments. Which  is why I think it’s such an advantage for any guide to have some photography skills on their CV.

A pair of spotted hyenas moving briskly across the frame, with some blurred movement in the photo for emphasis.

I’m reminded of one of my favourite photography quotes: “a camera didn’t make a great picture any more than a typewriter wrote a great novel”  -Peter Adams. With a little knowledge of photography, a great photograph can come from the most basic camera, if you understand how to paint with light.

Do you want to learn the tips and tricks of wildlife photography to improve your game drive experience? When you join a Bushwise wildlife course, you’ll also learn about photography in the field! Apply today.

Words and photographs by Jacques du Toit

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