Traditionally the best time to go on Green Season Safari in Southern Africa is in the dry winter months (May to August) when the bush is dry and sparse making spotting the game a whole lot easier. At this time, water has become scarce, and the animals are forced to frequent waterholes and river banks (instead of drinking from puddles in the bush) where they can easily be observed by safari-goers. But is this the ONLY time to get good sightings and is it indeed the BEST time for photography?
The ‘Green Season’ or ‘Emerald Season’ (so called because it is the rainy season) is an alternative time of the year to consider planning your visit for a number of reasons.
One reason why many choose to go on Safari at this time of year is that it’s chilly back home in Europe and the USA. And since it is not exactly peak game viewing season you can expect fewer crowds and lower rates at most camps. Plus both Botswana and Zambia offer reduced rates over the Green Season months.
Rains in Africa’s savannah are a marvellous thing. They don’t come that often, but when they do, the cumulonimbus clouds build into giant black anvils, the heavens open, and the showers are short and intense. They leave behind a remarkable sprouting of green shoots, a spring in the stride of the predators, and a skittish and playful atmosphere amongst the plains game.
In Africa, rainy spells are celebrated rather than agonised over, for they turn the drab, dry landscape into a verdant wonder and usually only restrict themselves to afternoon thunders. The clean-washed air makes colours richer, bringing with them intense cloud formations and sunsets – ideal for photographers. Instead of an antelope disappearing completely into the background of dry branches and leaves in the photo, they are now highly visible and stand out in sharp contrast to the vibrant green background.
Birds are far more abundant after the rain, especially migratory birds at this time of the year, and many are wearing their colourful mating plumage. (particularly in Botswana and Zambia from February to April) Animals are in their breeding season so you can expect to see lots of cute baby elephants, lion cubs and dainty young impala, with plenty of great predator action too. The camera also favours the Green Season as there is such an array of diverse, colourful backgrounds available. Trees are full leafed and flowers are in bloom making the general landscape far prettier to the lens. Even amateur photographers are guaranteed beautiful photos of a dazzle (collective noun!) of zebra against a green and yellow carpet of sweet grasses and flowers.
For you budding photographers out there, we have compiled a quick reference list of our top composition tips and tricks, as well as how to take the best wildlife photographs.
Composition tips and tricks
- Rule of thirds: keep the subject matter out of the frame centre
- Use lines to lead the eye across the image, such as a road
- Framing: look for things to shoot through, like a break in the foliage
- Layer your picture according to foreground, middle and background
- Contrast your subject against a different background colour to emphasis it
- Get creative with camera angles, take multiple picks from various vantage points
- Make use of negative spaces such as a perfect blue sky to accentuate your subject
- Selective focus: use your aperture to bring only your subject matter into focus
How to take good wildlife photos
- Focus on the animals’ eyes to create engaging pictures and ensure most of their face is in focus
- A good depth of field in your focus sharpens the subject and blurs the rest
- Take as many pics of the animals as they change position, in order to capture their best side
- Set your camera to multiple shot and fire away as they move
- There’s plenty of light in Africa, shutter speeds of 1/400+ capture moving animals better
- Bring your tripod for sunset and night shots
- Zoom lens are an obvious advantage
For photography enthusiasts who want to capture that perfect wildlife image on safari, there is ODP Photographic. Based in Nelspruit (close to the Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands region), this photographic company does not only rent out bulky photographic equipment so you don’t have to lug it half way around the world (anything from tripods, long lenses to beanbags and any other camera equipment that you may think of), but you can also book one of their Pro Guides to accompany you on safari for a day and give you expert advice. These Pro Guides are experts in their fields, often internationally renowned photographers who are regularly featured in top wildlife magazines such as Natural Geographic and Nature’s Best. We recommend contacting Andrew Schoeman.
In short, if you are a keen wildlife photographer then the short-lived rainy spells in the Green Season are a small price to pay. For some of the best wildlife and landscape photography, incredible cloud formations and sunsets with no crowds take our advice and book your safari in the Green Season!