As a National Geographic photographer who has accompanied over 20 of these amazing private jet journeys, I've seen people get incredible pictures, but I've also seen some easily avoided missteps. If you can, please read and heed these pre-trip guidelines.
Avoid buying a camera right before departure. It's natural to want the latest and greatest camera gear for this type of experience. But photography, like playing a piano, is more about practice and familiarity with your equipment than it is about the latest technology. Nobody would upgrade from a spinet to a baby grand piano and expect to be a better musician overnight just because they bought a better instrument. It's all about the practice - and it's the same thing in photography. If you do want a new camera, buy it as soon as possible and practice with it as much as you can before departure. Go to YouTube, take some tutorials on the operation of your camera (alas, most instruction booklets are dry and unreadable), shoot lots of pictures and see what works (and what doesn't). Things happen very quickly on these trips. Whether it's on a gorilla trek or the sunset over the dunes of Namibia, you want to be prepared to capture a stunning photo, not fiddling around with your camera's controls. Practice, as the old saying goes, makes perfect.
Fully charge all your batteries every night. Don’t wait for batteries to die before recharging. Establish a nightly routine of charging up all your batteries so that you leave each morning with all the power you’ll need for the day’s photography. If your camera doesn’t already come with one, I recommend buying a standalone battery charger and carrying at least one spare battery. You’ll see so many fantastic things every day and there’s nothing more heartbreaking than getting a great angle on an interesting character in a market, or spotting a fascinating landscape, only to have your camera go dead.
Bring more than one memory card. Even if your card has capacity for thousands of photos, it’s always a good idea to have a spare. As you want to set your camera to its highest resolution to get the best quality pictures, you will find your cards fill up fast. A couple of 32GB or 64GB cards will probably get you through the trip (unless you shoot a lot of video, in which case you should bring at least a half dozen of that capacity).
Tablets like the iPad are not good for backing up media. Traveling with a laptop can be cumbersome, but keep in mind that you can’t backup a 32GB card to an iPad or tablet whose entire capacity is 16GB. Most of the time, SD cards for your camera have far more capacity than your entire tablet. If you bring enough cards, you will not have to erase or back them up during the trip — but don’t lose those cards. Most professional photographers will bring a laptop and two hard drives and make a copy of the day’s photos on both of those hard drives. Of course, for many travelers, this may seem like overkill. If backup is a concern for you, and you don’t wish to travel with a laptop, please contact me to discuss strategies you can employ.
Less is more. Don’t overload yourself with gear. Serious hobbyists can really load themselves down with lots of lenses and camera bodies in order to be ready for anything, but toting all that gear around can get exhausting. I recommend a camera with a good zoom range, from wide angle to telephoto, so you can cover anything from sweeping landscapes to distant wildlife without changing cameras or lenses.
Whether you opt for a camera that fits in your shirt pocket or a professional mirrorless camera, by remembering these simple tips, you’ll be prepared to capture all the amazing sights on your upcoming journey.
I look forward to meeting you on our trip!