We got a chance to chat to Ted Alan Stedman, on a short but wildlife-packed trip to the north of Namibia for a CNN Travel piece. Here is just a taste of what he shot and a few tips on how to capture your next Namibian adventure.
There were several instances that are etched in my memory. Maybe the one that stands out most occurred in Namibia’s northeastern panhandle – the Caprivi strip region – within the Mayuni Conservancy. This is a liquid labyrinth of islands, narrow water passageways and thick forests that make up the Kwando River floodplain. I was staying at the Susuwe Island Lodge, and after one of our land safari drives, we enjoyed that African safari tradition: the sundowner. While we were celebrating the day’s sightings of hippos, elephants, antelope and so many other creatures, a small herd of elephants marched across the river and filed by, one by one, in a procession just yards away from our temporary encampment. We all just froze and stayed silent while the elephants continued past us. Remarkable.
Kwando River Elephant by Ted Alan Stedman
I’ve been on safari in seven African nations. Namibia ranks very well. In the dry Etosha region, you can get the big sweeping views similar to Kenya’s Masai Mara. But there is more to the topography, like wooded ravines and small mountains that provide cover for some species. The waterholes are the best places to stake out. In the evenings the lions tend to water here. In the Caprivi, the land is defined by the wetlands and the Kwando River. The big species here are elephants, hippos and many, many birds like the majestic fish eagle. So all in all, Namibia has a fairly diverse habitat for photographers.
Etosha lions at waterhole by Ted Alan Stedman
I have three sequences of similar photos I like: hippos, elephants and tribal people dancing. They all seem to be images that are iconic Africa, images that you cannot capture anywhere else.
Hippo at Mayuni Conservancy by Ted Alan Stedman
I’m using Canon gear. My set up includes EOS 5D Mark II camera bodies that have full-frame, 22 megapixel sensors; a 100-400 f/4-5.6 zoom lens; smaller focal-length zoom lenses ranging from 17mm to 70mm (for scenics, landscapes and people); a dedicated flash and softbox diffuser; a remote shutter release; plus all the digital gear you need such as a netbook computer, external portable drive and extra memory cards. One item that I always have is an external flash. Even during the brightest sunlight, I’ll use a flash for fill light. Africa has harsh daylight and the flash helps reduce the contrast of subjects, mainly people.
Himba Culture by Ted Alan Stedman
#1: Bring the best gear you can afford (or rent it, because you’ll be disappointed if you don’t have quality gear)
#2: Shoot, shoot and keep shooting. Electrons are free, and unlike film, you can take hundreds of photos on cards without interruption.
#3: It’s all about the light. Daybreak and late afternoons yield golden light, and images look much, much better as the light becomes softer. It’s not always possible to shoot during these timeframes, however, so don’t be deterred from shooting during mid-day. Try using warming and polarizing filters to help deal with the harsh light. You can also do this in the digital post production phase as well with Photoshop.
Chobe River sunrise by Ted Alan Stedman
About Ted Alan Stedman
Ted Alan Stedman is a Colorado-based writer/photographer who’s reported on travel related themes professionally since 1994. Early on, he covered outdoor sports such as skiing, cycling, mountaineering and other active pursuits, which led to extensive domestic and international travel. Nowadays, he covers the broader contexts of travel to include culture, wildlife, environmental aspects and adventure that appeal to consumer audiences. His work has appeared in Outside, Sport Diver, Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Western Journey, Islands, Outdoor Photographer, CNN, MSNBC and many other outlets.
More Photographer Tips
This part of a series of blog post interviews with professional photographers on how to Capture Namibia. Every week we'll be posting tips, tricks and amazing photographs from these impressive photographers.
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