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If you’re planning a night game drive as part of your African safari itinerary (and there are many reasons why you should), you may have concerns about how to document the experience with photography. It’s true that taking wildlife photos at night can present some unique challenges. But by following the recommendations below—and maintaining a sense of adventure and openness to possibility—you’ll maximize your chances of returning from your night drive with memorable images.
First, it’s a good idea to make sure you adjust your expectations about the sort of pictures you’ll likely take on a night drive. Not only will the conditions be a far cry from those you’ll enjoy on a daytime trek—you’ll be surrounded by darkness, only penetrated by your guides’ sweeping spotlight and your vehicle’s headlights—but the animals you’ll photograph will be different, too.
Many African wildlife species—including thrilling predators like leopards, lions, and hyenas, and rarely seen creatures like honey badgers and bush babies—are nocturnal and unbothered by being illuminated and photographed at night. But others, like elephants, rhinos, and antelopes, are mainly diurnal, with eyes that are too sensitive for the bright night-drive spotlights. You should trust the expertise of your Micato Safari Directors and Driver-Guides; they will know best which animals can be safely approached, and which should be left alone.
You should also do your part to behave ethically toward any nighttime wildlife you train your camera on. If an animal is pivoted away from you, resist the temptation to make noises in an attempt to turn it your way. You should also avoid using the flash on your camera when photographing animals, except when your guides tell you it’s all right. The blazing bursts of light can frighten and disorient many creatures, or even cause temporary blindness, which can put them in danger.
The extremely limited light sources on a night drive are what typically give photographers the most trouble. But using the right shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings, and positioning your camera correctly, will allow you to make the most of the tricky light conditions—and nab some potentially striking shots. Here are some basic rules of thumb.
A Micato safari gives you access to the most exquisite African experiences—including night drives with some of the continent’s most experienced local guides. Contact one of our safari experts and start planning your journey.