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How to Take Great Pictures of Jungle Cats on Safari

Big cats are beautiful, elegant, mysterious -- and dangerous. Get the best pictures on your safari using the right equipment and proven techniques to capture that perfect instant.


  • TIP: Pack a supply of batteries and an extra memory card. If possible, all your equipment should use the same size batteries so that it's easier to borrow from other units.
  • Step 1: Mount the camera on a tripod, or set it on a beanbag on the roof of the vehicle to reduce camera shake. Ready yourself with a shutter release cable to avoid touching the camera and better capture split second leaps from trees, or lions darting out of cover.
  • Step 2: Attach a polarizing filter when shooting over water with wide-angles of sky and clouds. Keep a flash unit handy when taking pictures of dark subjects in low-light conditions, such as evening camp fires.
  • Step 3: Take a slew of pictures. When you get home, you can select the best to give your friends a feel for your safari adventure.
  • FACT: After he left office, in 1910 President Theodore Roosevelt spent a year in the African bush, returning with more than 10,000 carcasses.
  • Step 4: Allow room in each frame for the subject, anticipating the animal's movement. Centering everything will give you lifeless compositions, usually.
  • Step 5: Vary your shots with a portrait, a close-up of the subject, and one of the general habitat surrounding the animal. Make sure you get everything you can -- your safari is a rare chance.
  • Step 6: Pick the best light for taking pictures, taking advantage especially of cloud diffusion in overcast weather. Though that soft, even light removes harsh shadows, you'll get sharper images by turning up the ISO and adjusting shutter speeds to stop action.
  • TIP: Read your digital camera's user guide to see what settings your camera comes with, and which is best for your weather.
  • Step 7: Focus on the animal's eyes when shooting close-ups so that you keep the whole face in focus. Use a telephoto lens to get close to the action while maintaining safe distances.
  • Step 8: Shoot using both eyes in order to watch the whole field of view and better follow the subject as you snap. Pictures captured at the animal's eye-level are most dramatic.
  • TIP: Start with a 300mm focal length.
  • Step 9: Get up early to photograph cats in muted light. Choose low-contrast digital camera setting in the sun and high-contrast setting in overcast weather. Choose uncluttered backgrounds to make the subject stand out better.

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