David Batzofin is a Wildlife Photographer and the author of the Travel & Things blog. His passion for this type of photography started back in 1966, when he went on a trip to the Kruger National Park, for his birthday. He remembers he was shooting with a Kodak Instamatic and only upgraded to SLR on his 21st birthday. In 2006, he went digital and has never looked back.
Photography has taught him that you have to stop and take time to enjoy whatever is in front of you instead of constantly looking through your lens. He wants his images to tell a story, to educate, entertain and inform the viewer through his work showcased on social media and exhibitions.
He is inspired by nature, saying that anything from sunrises to sunsets to the smallest glow sparks something in him. When taking photos in nature, David thinks you cannot call them photoshoots, but encounters with animals you’ve been waiting for. His favorite encounter was with a Pangolin:
I had waited 53 years to get to see one in the wild. Luckily for me, my guide knew how important the sighting was for me and left me and a tracker with it for 90 minutes.
When taking pictures in the wild, he says that beauty can be found in the smallest creatures as well as in the largest, so having a good eye for the unusual is essential:
It is not always about the Big 5 or large mammals, but the smaller creatures as well. Lying in the dust in a game reserve photographing dung Beetles are some interesting things that I get to experience. That being said, and this might make me unpopular, I don’t believe that you can teach someone to be a great wildlife lensman or woman. If you have an innate eye for the beauty in nature then that can be enhanced by doing a photo safari with an experienced photo guide.
Taking these photos takes a lot of work, even though there’s a common stereotype that wildlife photography involves luck:
Portrait photographers as well as those in the wedding industry seem to be put on a pedestal, while people believe that wildlife photographers are merely lucky with their images. You try and sell your work and see how quickly you are accused of overcharging. What the possible recipient of your image does not realize is just how much work goes on behind the scenes.
When it comes to sharing his expertise with someone just beginning in photography, his main piece of advice is related to equipment:
Spend your money on lenses and not camera bodies! I get laughed at a lot as I still shoot with Pentax, the camera that I began my career with 48 years ago. Don’t get sucked into sales hype around the major brands. Most camera bodies have similar characteristics. At the end of the day, if you have passion and patience, then you could still be shooting with a film camera. (Something I recently started doing again)
My go-to lens for the past decade or more has been and still is a Sigma 50-500mm, f/5.6. This can be used in almost every conceivable wildlife/ landscape situation.
The Holy Grail of wildlife lenses has to be the Cannon 400mm, f/2.8.
One day when I win the Lotto, this will be my first purchase.
David is also one of the most active members of our community and an experienced Ribbet user. He says that he would recommend Ribbet to any photographer, and furthermore, they should upgrade to the professional package immediately. Here’s how the app helps his photography:
The edits are quick and painless and I look forward to sitting down to get images fixed as quickly as possible for clients.
How I wish that I had found Ribbet several years ago so that I would not have wasted hundreds of dollars on the benchmark photo software. I hope to see apps that can be used offline so that I can access the software while in the bush where there is often no signal.
Finally, we shifted the conversation toward his project, the Travel & Things blog. It started in 2010 as an outlet for his magazine and newspaper articles – not something that related to his initial career choice as an electrician. In 2012, Travel & Things was runner up in the South African Blog awards, culminating in winning the coveted first place in 2019 and it has held that position every year since then.
Travel & Things is currently a contestant in the South African Tourism awards and is at number 10 on the leaderboard across all the categories and it is at number 2 in the Media category. I am also hoping that once the world returns to the new normal we will be going to Rwanda to see the Gorillas.
Learn more about David and his work on his blog: https://travelandthings.co.za/