~ Article by Bruna Mentrup Nortje | Thru My African Lens Nature Photography


You, Me and Wildlife Photography

Nature and Wildlife Photography


With the hope of inspiring and assisting more photographers to pursue their passion as Wildlife and Nature photographers, I would like to share some tips and ideas as well as expensive lessons learnt during my journey as a Wildlife Photographer in this blog.  I am no professional writer or equipment reviewer; however, the desire to share stories and sharing ideas is always what drives me to seek such adventures, transforming me in profound ways, far beyond the images that inspire me on a daily basis. I will concentrate more on cameras, lenses and ways to make life easier for you when visiting game parks with the hope of following-up with useful tips regarding camera settings as well as animal behaviour in my next blog. Should Wildlife Photography interest you in any way, I trust this blog will be beneficial, interesting as well as inspiring. Please feel free share your own ideas and experiences with us by leaving a comment.



At some point you will have to answer a critical question, “Do I want to make a career out of Wildlife Photography, or, merely capture Wildlife and Nature for the personal pleasure and rewards it has to offer.   My answer to this question was the latter.  I would, however, urge you to peruse with caution in choosing to make wildlife photography a career as there are many aspects to consider, which will not be discussed in this blog as it will only be based on wildlife/nature photography as a hobby.



Your equipment will largely depend on what your answer to the above question is. It is true that the quality of your images will most likely depend on your choice of equipment when it is your profession, but if it is only your hobby there is really no reason why you should not be able to capture beautiful images with the equipment you already have. I believe that the unfortunate truth is that for beginners, the more limited your choice of equipment is, the more it will boost your creative side and force you to gather knowledge of your equipment. Use what you’ve got in the beginning. Try your best to capture that ultimate photograph with your small frame camera with the best possible lens you can afford.

If you have a discussion with professional photographers and ask them about their equipment of choice, they will almost always give you the same answers. “For me, this is certainly not an issue with regards to producing good photographs, as my camera is only a tool! Yes, some cameras make the job easier, but a good photograph does not have to be taken with state of the art equipment” 

To capture animals and birds you will need a camera and lenses which are relatively fast and perform well in low light, which means that your ISO sensitivity becomes crucial. It also makes life easier to choose a camera with sufficient continuous auto-focus points and does not weigh a ton!  The reason for this, wildlife is most active during early morning or late evenings and you will most likely have to make use of a telephoto lens which also weighs a lot.



Here is an example of the same image taken from the same angle, the same distance and with the same lens, however with different cameras. The Image on the left was taken with a full frame camera and the image on the right with a cropped sensor camera.


Nature and Wildlife Photography

Wildlife Photography by Bruna Mentrup Nortje

  • First Image on the left:  Taken with a Nikon D600, which is a full frame 24.3mp DX format Camera – can handle 5.5fps – with ISO’s from 100-6400 (Still testing this camera, but I have managed to push ISO’S beyond 2000 with good results)  – offers 39 auto-focus  points and weighs about 760g  

  • Second Image on the right: Taken with a Nikon D300S which is a 13.1mp cropped sensor DX format Camera – can handle 7fps – with ISO’s from 200-3200 (losing image quality after ISO 800)  – offers a remarkable 51 auto-focus points.  It weighs about 825g

So which camera will you take along with you when going on “safari”?  Generally, full frame sensors have better image quality and reign superior when it comes to high ISO performance, but in reality for wildlife photography, a cropped sensor will actually make more sense. You can take advantage of the increased focal length offered by various magnifications and these little beauties generally have a fast continuous speed top it all off, a heck of a lot more auto-focus points which are critical when photographing birds in flight or an animal kill. Both formats have their pros, as well as cons. Full frame cameras are usually larger, heavier and far more expensive.  They have a multitude of benefits for professionals, but most people won’t really need these features.

The secret actually lies in what we refer to as ‘YOUR GLASS’, which would mean, your lenses – never skimp on your lenses, always try and save your money until you can afford the fastest lens wish means it should have a wide aperture such as a f/2.8.  (smallest number)  for example.  This means that the lens can handle low light and is very fast – which is what you will need most of the time.

Be very patient and rather collect the best possible equipment over a period of time.  I made a point of adding at least one item once a year.  Prioritize and plan what you should add next instead of jumping at every special deal that comes along.  Always ask yourself, which item will be more beneficial to me, and what will your budget allow for at that stage of your decision-making.

My first semi-professional camera, a Nikon D80 was my learning tool and to be honest, I still favor some of the images taken with that little capable camera, fitted with my first Super Telephoto Sigma 120-400 f/4.5 lens.   I am by no means knocking my D80 or Sigma lens; in fact, the Sigma 120-400 f4.5 was relatively sharp, extremely light and not bad at all in low light.  It was a little slow in the focusing department and a little noisy.  But then, I looked after it very well and got a buyer for it so left a gap for the opportunity to replace it with a Nikkor lens instead. So, I don’t necessary believe that bigger is better, but rather, that it will allow for more opportunities, to create with light.