I am sometimes referred to as “the hide lady” – this is not surprising since I spend many hours photographing from our PhotoMashatu photographic hide.
I’ve been at Mashatu Game Reserve for 5 years managing the photographic concession, and although I have access to the entire reserve, sitting quietly in the hide remains my favourite spot to photograph from.
Firstly, there is the advantage of being positioned at an angle which is ideal for wildlife photography. As wildlife photographers, we always strive to get photos at eye-level to our subjects. This helps to create a connection between the subject and the audience.
A second advantage of photographing from ground level is the change of perspective and the added advantage of increasing the distance between the subject and the background. The greater this distance, the shallower the depth of field resulting in softer backgrounds.
But apart from these photographic benefits, I find being so close to animals, without the sound of an engine running, gives me a much more intimate experience with the subject. The animals are allowing you into their space. This is a very privileged place to be as it relies on trust and these animals trust you to do no harm and better yet, capture them going about their normal lives. This intimacy really helps me with deciding on compositional elements and deciding what it is I want to portray in my image.
Our photographic hide offers a huge diversification of different species from frogs to predators and everything in between. The big highlight for most photographers at our hide is the herds of elephants that come in to drink and bath on hot days.
Hide photography takes patience, but the rewards are infinite.
Janet’s top tips for photographing from a hide:
- Be ready for anything – If possible, have a long and a wide lens available to give you different photographic options. Don’t panic shoot, take your eye off the view finder occasionally and look around for inspiration and decide what you want to capture.
- Be prepared – Have all your equipment out and easy to get to. You don’t want to be fumbling and opening zips or velcro to get to your equipment just as the animal arrives.
- Be fully immersed – Look and listen for clues of what may be approaching or what may happen. Eg. squirrels alarm calling could signify a predator approaching or branches breaking, an elephant on its way. This will give you time to prepare and be ready.
- If you know some animals are likely to come in that day, think about what you want to capture in advance and plan a shot.
- You can’t control the light – think about what you will do as the light changes. When it is very bright consider shooting for black and white where a higher contrast subject can work well against a bright sky.
by Janet Kleyn