These two images of a lion, taken in the Masai Mara, illustrate my "tell the story" point. The close-up portrait of the lion is nice, but it could have been taken at the San Diego Zoo. The wide-angle image, obviously, was taken on the plains of Africa.
THINK LIKE A PAINTERThe wider shot of the lion is actually a combination of two images taken seconds apart. For one image, I focused on the background, making the lion slightly out of focus. For the other image, I focused on the lion, which makes the background slightly out of focus. I combined both images in Photoshop to create an image in which both elements are in focus. If a painter would have seen this scene, he or she probably would have painted the lion and the background in focus.
PACKINGPack light. That's all there is to it. Bring few clothes, and do laundry on site. Plan your photographs, and take cameras and lenses to meet those needs.
I took 90% of the pictures on my recent Masai Mara photo safari with a Canon 100-400mm IS lens on a Canon EOS 7D. I found that the zoom lens gave me the flexibility of cropping in-camera and the benefit of zooming out to avoid cutting off a body part of an animal.
I took the opening image (the wide-angle shot of the elephant next to the tree) with a Canon 24-105mm IS lens on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. With two camera bodies—one with a telezoom and the other with a wide-angle to medium telephoto zoom—I'm able to "tell the story," which is something that I stress in all my photo workshops.
Consider traveling with a backup camera and lenses, if at all possible. I always carry a backup camera body, as well as a backup of my most important lens.
Pack your computer, charger, card reader and other items in your carry-on, too. Be sure to pack all this stuff in advance so you know it will fit in your carry-on bag, as you don't want to put any photo gear in baggage at the last minute.
TRAVELINGSpeaking of bags, choose your bag or bags carefully, whether shoulder, roller or backpack. I usually carry my gear with me on the plane in a Lowepro roller because the gear is heavy. Stowed in my luggage, I have a Lowepro Pro Trekker backpack, which is how I carry the gear once I arrive at my destination.
BEHAVIOR SHOTSWildlife portraits are nice, but behavior shots are often more interesting. To get compelling behavior shots, you need luck and patience.
My photo of a baby elephant nursing is one of my favorite behavior shots. I was lucky, and I had the patience to wait for just the right moment.
I used Nik Software Color Efex Pro 4's Duplex Filter and Frames to add an artistic touch to my elephants photograph. Yes! I was thinking like a painter.