Michael Snedic is one of Australia’s top wildlife photographers and, luckily for us, one of Encompass Africa’s brilliant photo partners.
We spent 10 minutes with this connoisseur of the camera, to find out exactly what happens on one of his group photo safaris in Africa…
What sort of people do your African group photo safaris?
“People who love wildlife and want to take amazing photos in Africa! They usually fall into one of two camps: amateur photographers wanting some serious hands-on help; or really good photographers – but not pros – who already know what they’re doing. They like travelling with people who are also passionate about photography, and like having everything organised for them. And they might have already been on one of my tours and like what I do.”
What are the differences between a normal game drive and a photographic safari?
“On any game drive you’ll head out to spot wildlife with an experienced guide and an expert tracker. They’ll tell you all about the animals and the wilderness – their knowledge is what brings a traditional game drive to life. You still get all of this on a photographic safari; the difference is that you also get someone like me – a wildlife photographic expert who can help you capture the best images of all of the incredible animals that the guide and tracker take us to see.”
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What’s your role on these trips?
“Teaching the art of photography is just one aspect of my job. Another is to act as a troubleshooter and help guests when things go wrong – for example, if their camera’s not working or their shots are blurry. But I’m also there to guide the group throughout the entire trip, and handle the logistical side of things as well in conjunction with Encompass Africa’s team on the ground. So it’s effortless and everything’s done for you – all you have to remember is to pack your camera!”
How would you describe your tuition style in one sentence?
“I’m a super-patient professional photographer who loves being out in the wild, and loves helping people realise their photography dreams – I genuinely get a buzz when the penny drops and I see their excitement.”
What size are the groups?
“We travel in very small groups, generally no more than eight people. It’s great because it means we usually only travel in two vehicles – and everyone gets a “window”. It also maximises everyone’s time with me. And because tours are private and everyone is there for the same reason, everything’s a lot more flexible. So if there’s a great wildlife sighting or if the light is really good, no one is going to mind if we stay longer in one spot in order to get those iconic shots – in fact, they’ll encourage it!”
What sets you apart from other photographic safaris?
“While many companies offer trips that are non-stop and rush you from one place to another, Encompass Africa and I work hard to create itineraries that are beautifully paced.
We keep transfer times to a minimum so that you spend as much time as possible on the ground actually taking photos.
Plus we spend three or four nights in one spot, which means you can unpack, unwind and enjoy the fantastic location, food and facilities of these incredible properties. And because all of these photographic safaris are private tours conducted on private reserves and concessions, it means there won’t be loads of other cars around and you can go off-track to get even better wildlife viewings – and better photos.”
Will I enjoy travelling with other people?
“If you’re a photographer, even if you’re just starting out, nothing beats being with like-minded people who are just as passionate about this art form as you.
Being able to engage in “tech talk” and share tips and advice is a unique element of the whole experience.
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What other things can I look forward to on a photographic safari?
“A special part of my photo safaris is the “image critiques” held at night when we get back to camp. After dinner we all get together (usually by the bar!) and go through a handful of shots from some of the guests – the others get their turn on subsequent nights.
I’ll critique each shot, offering advice about things like cropping, lighting and composition, and then everybody else joins in and gives their feedback. It’s a really supportive and fun process, and hugely helpful. Everyone loves it, me included.”
How do I prepare for a photo safari?
“You’ll be sent various information and lists when you sign up for one of my trips, and then before we actually head out on a shoot I’ll do a group tuition – we don’t just launch in and start taking photos. I make sure that everyone’s camera menus are set up correctly; it all varies depending on where we are and what we’re doing.
There’s no one magic button that works for every person and every shooting condition: if there was, I wouldn’t have a job! I normally conduct this tuition once we’re actually in Africa, but can also arrange to meet with people in Australia before we fly out, or even conduct a session on Skype/FaceTime if they’re not in my neck of the woods.
A guest who is really experienced or has been on a lot of photographic safaris before might not need this tuition, in which case I’ll give them some one-on-one time and address any particular areas of concern.”
What sort of camera would I need to do one of your photo safaris?
“There are no rules, but most people who come on my tours tend to use either an SLR (single lens reflex) camera, or a mirrorless camera. These are a lot smaller and lighter, so they’re great for anyone who’s smaller, older or simply doesn’t want to lug heavy gear around. Occasionally someone might even come with just a compact camera, but not often – and you wouldn’t get as much out of one of my tours with just an iPhone.”
I’m into photography but my partner isn’t – can we both come on one of your photo safaris?
“Yes, absolutely! My tours are loved by non-photographers too. I think this is because they get to experience sensational settings, great wildlife sightings and away from the mass crowds. My photography tuition is a bonus for them and they can tap into it as much or as little as they like.”
What’s an experience you often think about from one of your African trips?
“The most moving experience I’ve ever had in Africa was in Rwanda with the gorillas – which is still my number-one experience of anything I’ve ever done in my life. Spending time with them is just so moving. On one occasion I was with a male gorilla, four females and lots of kids – including young and fluffy twins: a girl and her brother. She was tickling him and I managed to get a shot of him laughing. It was such a joyous moment and nearly brought me to tears. To get such a great shot out of it was a beautiful bonus.”
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What’s the single-most amazing moment you’ve ever witnessed while on safari?
“I was in Kenya, on a drive with one of my favourite guides of all time, Jimmy, who took me to the top of a hill to see a cheetah with a cub. We’d been watching them for a while when two adult impala walked past with a young one in tow. ‘Watch,’ said Jimmy. Sure enough, the young one ventured a little further than it should have, and the cheetah pounced. She took it behind some bushes to her cub, and we thought that was that.
But a few minutes later, she reemerged, walked in front of our vehicle and dropped the impala right in front of us. And it was still alive. She’d deliberately not killed the impala so that her cub could “practice” on it – that’s how they learn and how they survive.
It was incredible. How many people have had the chance to witness – and photograph – something like that? I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about it.”
Are you ready to join Michael on a photographic safari?
We can help.