Remember to Check Your Settings - Madikwe Hills Menu

Remember to Check Your Settings

By Roel van Muiden on November 10, 2014

Text: Roel van Muiden

Images Copyright Roel van Muiden and RvM Wildlife Photography 

Whilst out on Game Drive this morning my guests and I were treated to some special lion sightings. For the guests, the cubs playing and interacting was not only cute but informative into lion social behaviour. For myself, as an aspiring wildlife photographer, it allowed me to get off a few worthwhile shots. I was especially excited to have a look at the shots taken when all three lionesses and all nine cubs came down for a drink at the dam, facing our vehicle! What a boon!

When I arrived home from Game Drive I downloaded the files from this morning and yesterday’s drive. A few of the shots I had hoped would come out crisp and clear from the evening before were in-fact crisp and clear. I decided on a higher F-stop, meaning a smaller opening or Aperture, for a few particular shots to allow for a larger focal area and a more blurred background creating a greater sense of depth of field while still keeping the shot to a profile of the lioness. These shots would need very little processing in LightRoom.

The technical definition for Aperture – A device that controls the amount of light admitted through an opening. In photography and digital photography, aperture is the unit of measurement that defines the size of the opening in the lens that can be adjusted to control the amount of light reaching the film or digital sensor. The size of the aperture is measured in F-stop.(

The F-stop used for the below images was upped manually to f/8.0 to allow for the larger focal depth as described previously. This high F-stop worked well for the light conditions, the focal length, and the story I was aiming to show via the subject and image.

Raw File Lioness and Tree II -48          Post-Processing File Lioness and Tree II -48

Raw File Lioness and Tree -48          Post-Process File Lioness and Tree -48


*Images on Left are Pre-processed Raw Image and Images on Right are Post-processed jpeg

Image Settings for Image Set One and Two – Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 55 – 300mm lens: 1/125sec (1) and 1/160 (2), f/8.0, 270mm, ISO 400

Then as I continued on through the shots to this morning’s drive I started to get excited for the group shots of lionesses and cubs. Sadly, when I came to the shots they just did not look right. I was going to chalk it up to the overcast skies until I could take a nice long look at them and fully process, when my wife pointed out that she thought the shots looked soft. Oh no! I had forgotten to change my Aperture settings from the evening before and had not altered my ISO accordingly. Words cannot describe how sad it is knowing you had great subjects, great line-up and pre-thought of a shot, executed all of that, and then did not double check all your settings. Even though the image of the whole pride together had a lower F-stop due to my Aperture Priority setting, the camera was still holding other settings from the previous night in other areas, thus giving me soft and slightly ‘off’ shots.

An F-stop of 4.8 and 8.0, respectively, for the below images was too high for the light, the subjects, the focal length, as well as the story I wanted to portray. A much lower F-stop was needed for these particular shots in conjunction with a higher ISO. (My Shutter Speed for most of my shots is done via my camera as I tend to use Aperture Priority settings.) This lower F-stop, in combination with the rest, would have given me a clean and crisp shot as opposed to the fuzzy/soft images seen below in pre- and post-processing.

Raw File Keitametsi and Matatas and Cubs  -48          Post Processing Keitametsi and Matatas and Cubs  -48


Raw File Matata Cub On Branch -48          Post-Processed File Matata Cub On Branch -48

*Images on Left are Pre-processed Raw Image and Images on Right are Post-processed jpeg

Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 55 – 300mm lens: 1/100sec, f/4.8, 150mm, ISO 400 and 1/80sec, f/8.0, 130mm, ISO 800

Oh, well lesson RELEARNED, as this is a basic lesson for any photographer, but sometimes in the field things happen too quickly, or the rain comes and then goes and you are left with a great shot that must be taken quickly. Or maybe Murphy was just having some fun with me this morning. So take my advice past, present, and future guests of Madikwe Hills and the African Bush – 1) yes a decent camera is great to have on safari as the memories will last and last, 2) yes, at least a working knowledge of your gear is a good thing, (although most guides like myself either take images themselves or have a good knowledge of camera and can help you along your Safari with your image taking), 3) yes, I will have to say it again, CHECK YOUR SETTINGS. Even the hardened Bush Souls forget every now and then, much to the dismay of our portfolios 😉

For some more technical reading on Aperture please have a look at the following Blog by the amazing professionals at Wild Eye. I am self-taught and by no means an expert at any of this and the Blogs by the very experienced team at Wild Eye have helped me immensely with my Wildlife Photography. 






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