Can you use a 70-200 mm lens for wildlife photography?
To start with a famous saying between photographers:
The best photo camera is the one you have with you.
In other words, to get a photo of an animal, any camera will do, but of course, different cameras/lenses will give different results. Usually, when we think of wildlife photography we think of very long focal lengths, i.e. somewhere between 400 and 800 mm. You would need some of these lenses if you want to photograph smaller animals, like birds, but on an African safari, you can actually work with shorter lenses as well.
This post will show you that with a 70-200 mm on a full-frame camera, you can take beautiful photos. This focal length is normally used for landscape photography, but I’ll show you it is a very versatile lens.
With a 70-200 mm lens, it will be difficult to get close-ups of animals, because for those photos most animals stay too far away from the roads in the reserves. Most reserves will not let you drive off the roads (and rightly so) and you will have to look for the wildlife that stays close to the roads in the parks.
We were in Namibia with Nature Photo Tours doing a photography tour through Namibia. I have found that in Etosha National Park, one of the biggest parks in Southern Africa, and the most famous in Namibia, animals are close enough to get great photos of the animals and their environment. Not being able to get a close up of the animals, you get the chance to show where they live. In a way, you get to tell a story.
This oryx is walking past a tree that shows the passage of an elephant. Several branches have been stripped away. The oryx was the first of a small herd leading the way into the low bushes and shrubs that cover part of Etosha. He was walking slowly in the late morning heat.
Jackal cubs are left alone for parts of the day when their parents go hunting and find food. Of course, their mother told them to hide when strangers pass by, but these two were too curious. One was a little shy, but after a while, the other came closer to have a look at us.
Giraffes are even more curious than jackal cubs. I often wonder who is watching who. They keep their distance, but since they’re tall, this is not a problem when photographing them. We stopped for a while with these three giraffes and after we exchanged intense looks, they finally left into the distance with their slow, long strides. But the last one had to look back one more time before to walk off.
We saw this lion laying down quite far from the road, and we thought it could be quite a wait for him to get up, but after only a few minutes he got up and starting roaring and moving towards the road. He completely ignored us, as most animals do around vehicles, crossed the road and walked into one of the salt pans that make up Etosha. With determination, but also in a calm and relaxed manner that only cats can do. We later heard from people in another car that there was a lioness in the neighbourhood and he probably went to look for her.
As you have seen from the photos in this article, the 70-200 mm lens was perfectly fit during our game drives. The photos are somewhere between wildlife and landscape photography, and since I love both this makes them even more special. As always, you need to be careful with the composition of your photos. If the animal moves, leave it some space to walk into, otherwise the photo feels cut off. Have a look at the photo with the lion again, and you’ll know what I mean.
I hope you enjoyed this post and hope that you feel more comfortable on
your next safari, even without one of the very long lenses. But if you have
one… bring it!
You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions.
- Out of Africa
About the Photography Blog
African Wildlife Photos is a unique and comprehensive library of photography resources, specifically focusing on capturing wildlife/safari images. We research best-practices and bring you the latest news regarding technology, styles and advice on getting the best wildlife photos.
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