Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Photo Safari: What worked?

African safaris are the most trying environments for photographic equipment. Being in a safari vehicle is rough for the equipment and photographer due to road conditions. Whenever the vehicle is moving, I put my gear on a bean bag on the floor to stabilize it in place, put a plastic bag over the hood to keep dust off the front lens, and then a cloth over to give some protection from the sun and road dust. I carried two camera bodies with two mounted lenses and never change them to avoid dust inside the camera body or lens. No a problem for me opening the card slot in the camera since I used 16 and 32 GB cards which give me a whole day of shooting.
Where I went wrong this year? First, I did not bring enough digital storage for downloading the cards. I download nightly so I can have clean formatted cards for the next day. I carried two 120 GB and one 160 GB digital storage units, the type where one insert the card directly into the unit and the files are transferred automatically. I did run out of storage space 5 days before the safari was over. Fortunately, I had a 500 GB Passport portable hard drive available but no computer. Thanks to the kindness of one of my photo pals, who allowed me to use his notebook, I was able to download my storage units into the 500 GB hard drive. I do not carry a computer to minimize equipment weight and airport inspections. Next time I will take bigger capacity image storage units and maybe a mini computer. I arrived home with 246 GBs of images or 10,734 images; 60-70 % were lost mostly to out focus problems…a Canon tradition.

My second error was not bringing a 500 mm lens. I have carried one in the past but decided to just carry a 100-400 mm IS and 300 mm f2.8 IS with a 1.4X extender to minimize weight. I estimated that a 300 mm with the 1.4X will give me enough reach when used with a full size sensor Canon 5D MKII; this would allow for me to crop without much image quality loss--WRONG. I also used this combination with a 1.6X sensor Canon 50D camera that gave the reach, but the quality of the images I found not to my liking; the colors were harsh and images noisy. The 100-400 mm IS lens is the best compromise since it is easy to handhold and the push-pull zoom is faster than a ring driven zoom. I did also carry a 70-200 f 2.8 which never used and a 24-105 IS used just for a few landscape images.

Oh, and remember to choose your companions carefully.


SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

A most interesting post Jose.

Living in Africa and being so spoilt by not having to worry about weight on planes, I tend to take most of my camera equipment with me. Having spare bodies and a different lens on each is a HUGE help and eliminates a LOT of dust in the camera.

I have never used a bean bag but rather a soft cloth and I use a large towel to cover all the equipment which is packed on the seat next to me. We probably all have our favorite tricks we use under these circumstances.

I would have put in my 500mm lens first before anything else though as it is essential for wildlife shots.

LOVE the lizard and the baboon action shot.

Companions? Hmmm, I don't think I am going to comment on that. Judging by the picture, they were good ones with at least one being a bit of a clown so you must of had a fun time. :) :)

Thanks so much for sharing once again. Oh, and LOVE the pop-up comment box. So much easier now.

Juan C. Aguero said...

Muy buena informacion (tip)y comentarios de Joan (tambien)
Saludos desde Miami.

Jose's World said...

I wonder who this SAP is that always gets to comment first in all my posting.

A bean bag is a bag full of beans bought a the local market. Part of the tradition, at the beginning of the safari we stop at a local store and fill the bags with beans. This year we used 50 pounds of beans at a high cost of $48.00.It is used to rest the camera at the edge of the vehicle's open top. It is recycleable--at the end of the safari you give the beans to the driver who take them home and eat them.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

What a wonderful tradition Jose. 50 Pounds!! My goodness that is enough to last a year. :)

I will try to trace who SAP is and let you know. LOL!!

Is this window not easier for writing your comments?

sfox said...

Please buy yourself another decent portable downloader/storage device. Nexto has one and maybe someone else could suggest a good brand.

Misty Dawn said...

Regardless of how many things you say went wrong - these photos are still oustanding!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful pics, Jose!! And, isn't it amazing that after all this time and experience, you still have things to learn?


Ken said...

Great stuff. Colorful lizard. Nice action shots too Don Jose.

shirley said...

Wow !!! Amazing pics !!! José I have enjoyed watching for a while your beatiful pics !!!
Definitivamente es un fotografo excelente y fantastico !!!
Saludos desde Guate !!!

Anonymous said...

Great photos and hints. I am planning a visit to SA in March. I am pretty sure I want to go during a full moon. I purchased a photo safari at a charity auction here in America. I am getting excited about the trip...