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Author Topic: Digital Safari Equipment Tips article  (Read 4392 times)
Alistair123
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« on: July 17, 2007, 09:59:20 AM »
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For someone who is sitting actually planning a Safari to Africa at this very minute, this article could not have come at a more opportune moment. It answers just about all of my questions.

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How to book and arrange a safari is a subject unto itself that is beyond the scope of this article.

After the equipment decisions, this has got to be the most important area, one over which Im agonizing. As you say booking the wrong Safari, would lead to disaster however photo safaris tend to be very expensive as well few and far between.  Would it be possible to have a follow up article to address this subject?

Alistair
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gdublanko
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« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2007, 10:18:25 AM »
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Alistar,

I've used a company based in the UK called Safari Drive (www.safaridrive.com) for two self-drive, self-guided trips in Botswana over the past three years. They were excellent and the company came highly recommended by the guy who wrote the Brandt guide to Namibia. They also plan guided safaris as well in other parts of Africa. Good luck.
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Alistair123
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« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2007, 11:19:44 AM »
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Thanks, I'm in the UK so I'll take a look.

Alistair
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trainzman
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« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2007, 07:53:46 PM »
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Although I'm not anywhere near the level of photography mentioned in the article, I did nevertheless find it a most interesting read. Many of the hints and techniques can, with some modification, be applied to other less exotic photo trips.

Thank you,  Nathan Myhrvoid, for your words of advice.
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John Camp
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« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2007, 12:16:32 AM »
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I also enjoyed the article, though trips of this kind are not my cup of tea.

I do wish that the protected forums (like the Antarctic Expedition forum) were open on a read-only basis to other members of LL. I understand that expedition members need a place where they can work things over among themselves, without commentary from the cheap seats, but it would be nice if we could simply read it. Those of us not going could pick up a lot of interesting information. If that can't be done either for technical or marketing reasons, so be it; but it would be nice.

JC
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Giedo
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« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2007, 05:08:24 PM »
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Hi,
I also enjoyed the article.
But the article is written from a viewpoint of: no budget limitation and no weight restriction. How does the author take all this equipment along on his flights?
If you're interested in a specialist safari photographer and want to book a trip, go the website of Andy Biggs. I joined one of his safari workshops. He is great!

I also want to add that in my view, a Canon shooter can take advantage of the 1.6 multiplier of the cropped sensor bodies. The shooting rate of a 30D is fast enough and the buffer mostly is adequate.
On my yearly safari to East Africa, I take a 5D with 24-105 f4 lens and a 70-200 f4 lens together with a 30D body that is attached to a 300 f 2.8 (and a 1.4 TC), which gives me an effective 600+ mm f4.
I'm thinking of getting a second hand 30D to go with the 70-200, so I do not have to change lenses on my 5D.

I enjoy very much to be flexible. Canon's f4 zoom lenses with IS in combination with the excellent high ISO-performance offer me the lightweight that I prefer to 'the beasts' that are described in the article.

Again, this is an excellent article. But I tend to feel that if you travel a bit lighter you might enjoy more of the trip and feel less burdened by all this equipment.

Hakuna matata!
Giedo
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Giedo
Simonfish
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« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2007, 11:37:41 AM »
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I also enjoyed the article.
But the article is written from a viewpoint of: no budget limitation and no weight restriction. How does the author take all this equipment along on his flights?

I was going to write exactly the same thing!  I guess if you can afford all the gear he seems to think you need, you can afford the Gulfstream V jet to go with it!

A few things to note:

In different areas, the bush can be very different.  In and around Kruger Park in South Africa, for example, the bush is very dense so the animals aren't going to be that far away from you, and the only use for a 600mm lens is to get a shot of an elephant's toenail.  Same goes in many parts of the Okavango in Botswana.  Etosha in Namibia is a bit more open and you can't leave the road, so a longer lens would be handy.  That said, some of the very best shots we got in Etosha were taken with an 18-50mm on the 20D.

Here's what I took on a 2 month trip to Southern Africa:

1 x 20D
1 x Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8
1 x Canon 70-210 f/3.5-f/4.5
1 x Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro
1 x Yashica 6x6 TLR (mostly for B&W)
1 x very small Sony laptop with Lightroom and a DVD burner
A small stack of DVD-Rs for backup
Monopod
Table-top tripod
Rocket blower, lens paper

If I'd been able to carry more gear, I'd have taken a second Canon body - maybe a Rebel - to keep the 70-210 and the 18-50 mounted at the same time, and I really should have taken an 80Gb iPod or some other small external hard disk because it got a little tight on my laptop's drive.  I also wish I could have taken a tripod, but that was more for landscape work than for animal shots.  Yeah, a 5D and some nice L lenses would have been great, but that stuff is too heavy and bulky to carry around for 2 months.  The Rocket blower is something I'll never travel without again - you're going to get dust in your camera no matter how careful you are, unless you never change lenses.  In Namibia, I got into the habit of cleaning all the camera gear every night and it helped a lot.  The Yashica was an indulgence, and I only took it because I really wanted to shoot the dunes in Namibia with it.  Now if only I had the time to get to the darkroom to print all the film I shot!

Also remember that if you're flying all the way to one of these places, hopefully you're going to be doing more than just go on safari, and lugging heavy gear around won't be much fun.  The cities in some of these places aren't all that safe (South Africa, for exmple) so you really don't want to be waving around a big bag of camera gear.  I took a messenger bag along, and carried that instead of a camera bag in the cities.  Because the rest of my gear was relatively small, I could usually fit most of it in the safe in our hotel room.

While Nathan's article was a lovely fantasy piece of equipment pornography, I really hope it doesn't scare off photographers without the means to buy such fancy gear.  And let's face, just how many people can afford all that stuff?  Going on a safari is an amazing experience, and shouldn't be missed just because you don't have $50,000 to spend on gear.  While these trips are expensive, they don't have to cost as much as you'd expect after reading Nathan's article.  Just do it!

Enjoy!
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AdrianL
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« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2007, 06:42:44 AM »
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A great article, esp. if you have all this equipment and can carry it.
I am planning a trip to South Africa in May 2008.  I will bring a 5D, with 24-105 and a Sony HDR-HC1 video camera to capture action.  This would be much lighter gear to carry, and would show off animal activity in a more interesting fashion than 200 or so still photos.
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mahleu
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« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2007, 02:26:43 PM »
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Quote
A few things to note:

In different areas, the bush can be very different.  In and around Kruger Park in South Africa, for example, the bush is very dense so the animals aren't going to be that far away from you, and the only use for a 600mm lens is to get a shot of an elephant's toenail.  Same goes in many parts of the Okavango in Botswana.  Etosha in Namibia is a bit more open and you can't leave the road, so a longer lens would be handy.  That said, some of the very best shots we got in Etosha were taken with an 18-50mm on the 20D.

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Just to add to that. Africa is a large continent, shooting gorilla's in uganda in dense jungle is the furthest thing from elephants in the dunes of namibia, or cats in the south african bushveld. knowing what kind of terrain and vegetation you're going to meet is invaluble. It's better to know beforehand if you won't need your huge lenses so you can avoid the hassel of travelling with them.
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Joe Roy
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« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2007, 11:36:06 AM »
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Thank you, thoughtful article.  Many tips that can be adapted to others style and equipment.  I was on safari in Masai Mara, Kenya in April 2007, while retrning from volunteer work in Burundi.  We were close up with giraffe, elephant, cape buffalo, hippo, lions, cheetah and much more.  My only camera for this trip was a Canon G7, traveling very light was necessary in my situation.  Bean bags would have helped, but I got some good animal pictures.  My primary interest was in the people I met along the way.

Africa has an amazing story survival and adaptation to tell you when you listen.  If you go on safari, I encourage you to be aware of the people who live in the areas you visit.  Think beyond the Hemingway experience.  Two reading suggestions: 1) National Geographic, Sept. 2005, "Africa: Whatever you thought, think again."  2) Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari.

Africa is something that happens to you.  Do go if you can.     Joseph
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