So, you have booked your safari, the cameras are packed and you're ready to snap your first African animal. You’ve got lenses for every situation: the wide angle for those dramatic sunrises and the big telephoto for those detailed shots of the leopard you hope to see lazing in a tree. One thing you perhaps haven’t taken into account is your arms. You see, arms get tired when they hold heavy things for a while. On safari, I can guarantee, you will be holding that heavy lens up to your face a lot. Maybe it’s too late for you to hit the gym in order to bulk up those muscles and so for that reason I have decided to put this blog together. Let’s take the strain off those arms and help you get the steady shots another way.

The humble bean bag 

You may have already seen this well known classic on a previous safari, these are large bean bags that are shaped in such way so as to droop over the handrail or roll bar of the vehicle. Once it is drooped over this bar you can then rest your large camera setup directly on it. This not only helps take the strain off of your arms, but it also helps dramatically in terms of getting a steady and clear shot even when the shutter speeds gets very low. I find bean bags to be a great choice as they are cheap, functional and incredibly easy to use. What I also like about them is that your camera is not permanently attached to anything, so if you need to you can immediately pick it up for a hand held shot as that eagle flies overhead. At Tanda Tula, we have several beans bags ready for our guests to use, this is not something you want to be lugging half way across the globe with you!

The raised circular bean bag  

This type of bean bag is a little different to the above-mentioned style, in that they make use of two parts. The first part is a clamp that is tightened to the hand rail of the vehicle, the second part of this contraption is a circular raised bean bag that tightens into the clamp. This is a great feature as it gives a more usable height than a standard bean bag. Other than that they perform exactly the same way and still allow you to quickly pick the camera up when need be. The only drawback I have encountered with this setup is that you can’t adjust the height of the bean bag. We also have a number of these available in camp. 

The clamp and ball head

This setup is a little more in depth than the previous two, even though it also works in two parts. The clamp, just like the one used for the raised bean bag, attaches to the hand rail of the vehicle. Attached to this is what we call a Ball Head in the biz. You are probably familiar with a ball head, but essentially what it does is allow you to attach the camera, on a semi-permanent basis, through the use of an Arca-Swiss plate attached to your camera. From here you can now turn your camera all the way around and up and down to get the angle you are looking for while maintaining a steady shot and relieving your arms. What makes these contraptions fantastic is that they generally have a built in spirit level, which helps greatly in making sure you get a balanced shot. However, there is a small limitation in that you can’t remove the camera from the ball head very quickly in order to get some hand-held shots. I own one of these personally and I really enjoy using it.

The monopod

Monopods are a tried, tested and proven method for stabilisation and fatigue assistance. They pack away brilliantly for travel as well. As the name suggests this is a single and expandable leg that has an Arca-Swiss plate and locking system attached, making it very easy for you to attach your camera. Monopods are also very comfortable to use as they take up very little space in the back of a safari vehicle and they also make it very easy to re-position your camera to get the shot you need. What I love about them is that they are also useful when you are off the vehicle, allowing you to get a great stable shot of the sunset while enjoying your gin and tonic at the sundowner stop.

The tripod

This is the only option here that I can’t readily recommend. I have seen them in use before on the back of a safari vehicle, but they are big and take up way too much space. They do give you the best stabilisation and support you could ask for, but they really are not made for safari vehicles where leg room is already an issue. However, if astrophotography or long exposure shots are your thing then you do need one of these. If this style of photography is what you are looking for then bring your tripod along and we can try find time for these shots while off the vehicle. 

There are many other options that one can make use of, from full safari vehicle arm mounts to something that you may have designed and put together yourself. If you would like to discuss these other options or if you have an idea you would like to chat to me about then get in touch with me at luke@tandatula.com.

Until next time, happy snapping.








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