Telephoto Lenses: Best Choice for African Safari or Your Back Yard

Capturing Animals in their Natural Habitat


Owning a bunch of telephoto lenses was the last thing on my mind when, as a youngster, I dreamed of going on safari and getting an up-close experience with the animals in the African jungle. Of course, I hadn’t a clue of the danger. It was like dreaming of being a “cowboy” without realizing the blood, guts, and gore — well, maybe the flies, dirt and saddle sores — that accompanies that title. Alas. watching Animal Planet was the closest I came to realizing my big safari dream. So I kept right on dreaming of that day – someday. Me Tarzan!

Then came the day when I got to go on a real safari. Talk about a letdown! It wasn’t at all like I imagined. I didn’t stroke a lion’s head or ride on the back of an elephant. Instead, I stayed safely in the jeep and watched while my dad used a telephoto lens to bring the animals up close (to him!) without even smelling their foul odor or seeing the flies that swarmed around their heads in constant confusion.

As a teen, I was disappointed, but understood the real danger and knew that someday I would have my own camera with appropriate telephoto lenses. And I would go back to Africa. Someday. I still have that dream, and I’m learning how to use my camera to take awesome wildlife pictures to prepare me for that day. (Of course, I ‘m practicing on squirrels in my backyard and my two cats that chase them.)

I still have that dream, and when that day comes I’ll be able to take awesome wildlife pictures because I’m taking lots of suburban wildlife – well, butterflies and birds. It occurred to me to share with you about why the telephoto lens was such a dream come true for me. I bet you’ll catch the dream, too. And, if you do, please let me know. Maybe we can safari together! Wouldn’t you just love to hear this kitty purr? LOL


Why Telephoto?

The primary reason is that telephoto lenses are perfect for taking pictures of animals in their natural habitat. For example:

  • You can catch a perfect picture of an eagle in a nest that is on a cliff without too much trouble.
  • You can also take pictures of dangerous animals like lions and alligators without coming into close contact with them.
  • Telephoto lenses enable you to capture photographs of objects that you cannot get close to such as a dragonfly in the middle of a large lake or pond.
  • The telephoto lens is handy when photographing timid animals like rabbits and deer who will dart away in fear at the scent or movement of an unknown creature (such as a photographer)
  • (this is a secret) The telephoto lens is also great for getting unposed pictures of my sister so that I can embarrass her on Facebook. Just kidding. 🙂

Types of Telephoto Lenses

There are two types of telephoto lenses. Fixed and zoom. Fixed telephoto lenses are the cheaper of the two because they have a fixed focal length. However, many photographers prefer the telephoto zoom lens. This is because they can vary the focal length to their liking and as a result, take a wider range of photographs.

Telephoto lenses provide the added advantage of highlighting the subject. Therefore, when you take a picture, you are always emphasizing the subject. The backgrounds on most telephotographs usually fade out enhancing this effect. The lens enables many natural photographs to be taken.

When purchasing a telephoto lens, buy one that suits your need. If you are consistently taking pictures from a fixed distance, you may want to opt for a fixed lens. This will save you some money but will not compromise on your ability to take good photographs.

If you are purchasing a zoom lens, buy one that gives you the best value for money. Zoom lenses vary in cost depending on their zoom capability. Therefore, make sure you are getting good value for the money you pay. Remember to check shutter speeds of lenses and how they react to camera shake before purchasing the lens. Always replace the lens cap on your telephoto lens after use to prevent it from getting scratched.

Photography is so much fun and there’s so much to know. I hope you’ll join me in my quest to uncover the mysteries of taking great wildlife pictures. See you soon!