How Renowned Photographer Christian Sperka Makes Smartphone Safaris Work

A Smart Phone Safari Can Work, says Christian Sperka

The renowned photographer, Christian Sperka, based at Thanda Safari, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, as the resident Wildlife Photographer and specialist Photography Guide, also conducts photography courses and teaches wildlife photography.

Sperka teaches according to his “Basic Rules of Wildlife/Motion Photography,” with his motto being ”Keep it Simple’‘.

With that motto in mind, Sperka says,

“I often hear it said that when going on safari, one ”must” have a decent camera with a reasonable long tele-focus lens. And while it is an advantage to have (and use) such a camera, nowadays most people have very good smartphones (iPhones or Android-based) and prefer to travel light.”

“I take a lot of images and video clips with my smartphones. Personally, I work with Canon DSLRs, Apple iPhones and a DJI Phantom drone. And in the last two years, I’ve taught far more people about smartphone photography than ”proper camera” photography.

Here are his five reasons why a Smartphone Safari can work:

  • Smartphones are very good for taking wide-angle pictures (no pinching!). Focus on the beautiful scenery and the wildlife, and you will create some great memories. Zooming in on pictures (pinching) should be avoided as most smartphones only provide digital zoom (equivalent to picture cropping). It’s, therefore, best to take the picture ”un-zoomed” and crop it later. Some advanced smartphones, e.g., iPhone 12/13 (and the latest one) Pro, have a third tele-focus lens that provides the optical tele-focus capability.
  • Smartphones are great for those difficult light conditions such as sunsets, sunrises and interesting cloud formations over beautiful scenery. These are often easier to capture with the smartphone than with a regular camera. Combined with a good ‘enhancement’ app, like an excellent ‘Camera+ for iPhones,’ you can capture amazing pictures.
  • Clip-on tele-focus lenses are available at a minimal cost. Having such a lens will make it possible to get a decent shot of distant targets, e.g., lions and birds. Binoculars can also serve as a tele-focus lens (make sure there is a small distance between the camera lens and the binoculars ocular, focusing first on the subject with your binoculars before using your smartphone camera).
  • Smartphones are excellent at taking macro-shots. Anything from plants to small creatures can be captured very well. Make sure to check with your guide that getting close to any creature is safe.
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  • Private game reserves like Thanda Safari are great for smartphone photography. One can usually get much closer to wildlife than in a National Park. A professional and experienced guide knows exactly how close he can get safely to animals to ensure a good picture. Get as close to eye level with your picture subject as you can, and you will create some great shots.
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Christian Sperka provides photography services and photography courses at Thanda Safari:

  • Free Photography Lesson

Your African safari will reveal the most incredible sightings you want to keep alive in your memory. What better way to do this than with your own magnificent photographs. To help you capture your time at Thanda, guests are offered a complimentary photography lesson to teach you more about the art of catching the perfect wildlife moment. During the lesson, Christian Sperka will teach you how to set up your digital camera or smartphone and introduce you to the basic rules of wildlife photography.

  • Photography in the Wild

After a complimentary 90-minute wildlife photography lesson or professional discussion, you head out on a three-hour evening game drive in a private safari vehicle to practice what you have learned during your lesson or hone your skills without being rushed. Wildlife photography takes skill and patience, and what better way to practice than to go in your own time on your own private vehicle?

For information about a Smart Phone Safari and/or Photo Safaris, contact:

Christian Sperka has travelled the world photographing animals in game reserves of South Africa and Namibia, Costa Rica jungles, Yellowstone National Park in the USA, and at zoos in Europe and the United States. He also worked as the official photographer and photography teacher at Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, Tennessee, USA. His work has been featured in wildlife magazines, books and many other publications.

All images were created with various iPhones (7Plus, X Plus, 12 Pro), with most being cropped.

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