It’s feeding time in the bush; at around four o’clock in the afternoon, we come across a little family of lions – dad, mum, and three tiny (and unbearably cute) cubs, lazing around a patch of grassland as our jeep circles them, then park up close by, hoping for photography gold.
Only a few minutes later, we strike lucky. While dad chills out in a tree, scanning the horizon for anything edible - ie, moving, and ideally not human-shaped - mum has moved faster. Before anyone can even react, she’s clamped her jaws around a young warthog and has, er, ensured it’s no longer alive. The law of the jungle is a harsh one, but there’s no point being squeamish about it. In fact, everyone in our jeep is jostling to get the best shot of her running off with it dangling from her jaws, ready to signal her cubs over for dinner.
This time of day is what photographers call the ‘golden hour’, because the sun is halfway down in the sky, prior to sunset an hour or so later. Our guide, Anton Louw, who has spent over twenty years working in the Phinda Game Reserve, in southern South Africa, is keen for us to make the most of it. It bathes everything in a warm, golden glow, and – top tip – if there are no animals around, it’s one of the best lights for taking selfies.
An expert at taking pictures himself, Anton recommends what angles to snap the lions from (as low down as possible, to make them seem more ‘immediate’, and closer to you – also, aim for eye contact with your subject whenever possible) and to try and keep the sun behind us when shooting, so it doesn’t bleach out the image.
We’re trialing the new Huawei P20 Pro phone, which is different from most smartphones in one significant way: its camera. Actually, make that cameras – this model has three of them, on the back of the phone, all programmed to work together to get the best shot possible. One is a 40-megapixel colour camera, another is a 20-megapixel monochrome, while the third is used for zooming (and don’t worry, there’s also one on the front for those already-mentioned selfies). And you don’t have to fiddle around with buttons and sliders to get a decent shot, you just have to use it on ‘photo’ mode, as the P20 Pro also has an AI sensor which automatically recognises the scene in front of you and adapts accordingly. So it will know if you’re photographing food (anything from smashed avo on toast to a juicy burger), an animal, or a sunset. Another unique feature is its Night Mode, which is programmed to take very good-quality images when there’s not much natural light around.
So what better to focus those three lenses on than a range of animals out in the bush, on safari? Phinda, thankfully, has plenty to offer. Over its 75,000 acres roam giraffes, warthogs, wildebeest, cheetahs, impala, hippos, and more. Our aim is to tick off the ‘big five’: the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros. And after our lion sighting – which comes just half an hour into our very first game drive – comes a brief encounter with a leopard. Alas, she’s too quick for us to get any decent shots; Anton explains she’s only just killed an impala, and plans to eat it out of sight, which is why she disappears into a bush a few seconds after we spy her glossy, spotted coat. Spoilsport.
We have more luck the following day, when, a few moments after we set out in the morning, we come across a cheetah, busily devouring her breakfast – another unfortunate impala. Heeding Anton’s advice, we wait until she sits up and turns to look directly at us before taking a shot. A bit later, we head off to take part in a conservation project, where, to try and prevent poaching, a vet rescue team sedate a rhino and then – humanely – remove its horn. We get some great close-up shots of the sleepy rhino, who’s had his eyes covered just in case he should happen to wake up….thankfully, he doesn’t.
During the rest of the day, we’re lucky enough to see dozens more creatures. We see a group of zebra, who pose prettily for us in formation, and a couple of lone giraffes, tall and gangly, munching leaves idly off a tree. We try the monochrome mode on a moody-looking buffalo, who stares menacingly over at us while we lean out of the jeep to get a good shot. Anton also recommends adjusting the aperture facility, which basically means you can make the subject look really in focus, while the background fades, so it will stand out more. All in all, with all the advice, and all the animals, three days go by in a blur (though thankfully our images don’t!) and at the end of this fantastic safari, we’ve got some amazing shots - as well as some incredible memories.
All pictures taken using the Huawei P20 Pro
How to take the perfect pics for Instagram
The experts from Huawei give their tips:
The more the merrier: Capturing the ‘impossible’ shot doesn’t take just one attempt. Use burst mode to take several images very quickly, so you don’t miss a thing. Also, take advantage of the ‘favourite’ button to keep tabs on your favourite shots, ready to upload to Instagram in an instant.
Gridlock: Unfortunately you can’t control how Instagram will cut the thumbnail version on your profile grid, but you can use the Instagram grid to make sure your favourite images stand out. Split your picture into six (for a landscape) or nine (for a portrait) and then post each slice as a separate image for a slick and professional-looking feed.
Stay out when the sun goes down: The sun doesn’t have to be shining for that Insta-worthy shot. Even though our eyes can’t see as much after the sun goes down and the stars come out, with the HUAWEI P20 Pro Handheld Night Mode, for example, you can capture perfect photos at night without needing a tripod, with handheld long-time exposure for up to four seconds.
Act natural: Over-edited shots can be unappealing, as they often end up seeming unnatural. When editing with filters, try to be conservative with which ones you use and how strong you make them, to maintain a natural look.
Golden hour: Natural light always reads better in photographs, so if you’re outdoors, early morning and late afternoon are prime times for that ideal Instagram shot. Play around with the position of the sun in your photos – for example, you can backlight people for aninteresting silhouette effect.
Flip it to get it: Because we’re used to holding our smartphones vertically, it’s easy to forget that you can switch this up to capture unique angles and perspectives, depending on what frames the image best. You can also hold your phone upside down, bringing the lens lower ifyou want to get a really low angle.
Keep it consistent: Have a constant look in your photos for a curated Instagram feed. Shooting in black and white is a great way to achieve a signature style.
Huawei P20 Pro – the facts
The P20 Pro is available to purchase now from all UK carriers and retail partners including Carphone Warehouse, EE, Vodafone, Three and O2, priced at £799. The device is available in two striking colours, Midnight Blue and Black. The P20 Pro features an advanced camera system to capture more light, more details and more beauty, including a revolutionary Leica triple camera and 5x Hybrid Zoom capability.
Rooms at the Bayala Private Safari Lodge & Camp start from £230, including breakfast. To book, visit gamelodgekwazulunatal.com