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Billhansen2003
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Africa tour


Hoping this is not too far OT. It's probably more wildlife than landscape or people photography, but hopefully it will be a bit of each of those.

My wife and I are going to take our first trip to east Africa in September. We'll be in Kenya and Tanzania for about 12 days, some times in formal lodges or the permanent tented camps, some times in more remote settings. We're told that WiFi is usually not available, and electricity is sometimes not available, and is intermittent when it is available.

I have several questions for those who have done similar Tanzania-Kenya tours.

How have you backed up your images? I'd like to have two backups, in addition to my SD cards, which I do not plan to re-use until after I get home and upload them to my home computer.

Which lenses were most useful? I plan to take my Canon 70D body, rent a second 70D, and also rent a Tamron 150-600 lens for the long work, and an 18-135 STM for the shorter focus work. I'll take a Sony RX100 for short work too. I'll rent the long lens for a long enough period of time before the trip so that I'll be able to practice with it - or I may actually buy one and sell it when I return. The 18-135 STM I'll just rent for the trip. I have the Canon 70-200 which gives me plenty of practice at those focal lengths, but which would leave a "hole" in focal lengths on the short end.. I've thought of taking my 70-200 IS instead of renting an 18-135 STM, but the thought of that "hole" in focal lengths from 70 to 150 (100 to 225 in FF equivalents) bothers me. I'm interested in any opinions about that "hole".

I'm told that it's very dusty on these trips, and filters are necessary to avoid wiping the lens too often. I thought I'd put B&H UV filters on each lens, despite the possibility that filters could degrade IQ somewhat (but Serious degradation of IQ when using a high quality UV filter has not been my experience in the past). What are people's thoughts on filters? I have a variable ND filter and a CP filter, but I've thought these might not get much use.


I'll take several backup batteries for each camera, but inevitably I'll have to recharge batteries. Has anyone taken backup battery storage? I do have a 6000 Ma battery backup which would charge a cell phone, and might be able to add accessories so it could charge a tablet computer. It seems like 6000Ma isn't enough. What have others done?

Is a tripod necessary? I've seen some people recommend them, but others say to leave them home. I can't take my big Manfrotto - it's way too heavy. But I have a small and light Slik tripod, not perfectly steady in a wind, which I might be able to fit within the severe weight and bulk limitations for equipment.

Any and all advice is welcome.

Thanks - Bill Hansen




Feb 26, 2014 at 02:48 PM
Genes Home
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Africa tour


My opinions are as follows, based on 3 trips to East/South Africa:

1. Tripod. Don't bother. You will be in vehicles and moving around with few opportunities to set up and take static shots. It ends up being just "something else to lug around."

2. Filters on lenses. I say yes. UV/Haze or just a multi-coated clear glass. Dust, Dust, Dust. I always carried a towel to wrap camera in on the seat next to me, just to avoid the dust coating that was unavoidable. Some people throw hissy-fits over this issue. I've used filters on lenses since 1969 when I got my first SLR in Viet Nam and have decided that if I am worried about my lens front elements (dust, volcanic gas etching, sea side salt issues, etc.) my mental state is more relaxed if I use them.

3. Re the dust. DO NOT PLAN ON CHANGING LENSES ON YOUR CAMERAS......except at night at the lodge/camp when you are cleaning things. JUST DON'T. My 24-85 (it's old and not weather sealed) had to go back to Nikon for cleaning after my last trip. My 80-400 didn't. see below.

4. Camera configuration. Not being overly wealthy (a super-telephoto costs as much as a trip to Africa.....guess where I want to spend my money!), my last trip I carried my "old reliable" Nikon D700 (full frame) with a 24-85 zoom for close in/wide angle work (and needed it when we parked, like, right next to rhinos and grazing zebras!) and a D7100 (1.5x crop) with the new 80-400 VR zoom. The latter did probably 85% of all my work and the only time I wanted bigger/longer was occassionally on birds. I have been very happy with the quality of the images I got from it. I did carry a 70-200 and 1.4/1.7 teleconverters, as backup, but never used them. BTW, I had a 12-24 with me, but never used it....and probably wouldn't have even if I had carried a third body. Your idea of a small pocket camera is good.........I haven't done it becuase I carry a stabiliized mini-cam (am upgrading to the Canon HF G20 for this fall's trip) with me as well as the still gear. And, if you are wondering....my opinion of DSLR movies is why I have a seperate HD mini-cam. Better quality, better sound, no "focus search" and no "focus noise" on the soundtrack, better motion stability, more flexibility even with having to handle two different pieces of gear. Personally, I would worry about taking a Tamron lens to africa to bounce around in my vehicle for several weeks, and would pay the extra money to rent a Canon lens.

5. Batteries and charging. Never had a problem. If you check your chargers and such (like your electric razor) you will find that they are all rated for 110/240 volts and 50/60 cycles. You simply need a set of universal adaptors. Please note that I have found i need three different adaptor plugs when traveling from Kenya/Tanzania/Mozambique/South Africa. If you check with your tour providor you should find that you will have electricity always DURING THE DAY at the least, and most places not running on generators will have 24 hour electricity. Take enough batteries to run your camera(s) all day, with a backup set on chargers at your room/tent (some small places may have a designated charging station, so use some kind of tape or permanent marking to identify your batteries and chargers. I have never been anywhere where "battery backup storage" would have been useful.

6. Image backup. I have a baby laptop and a pair of 1 TByte external "passports." I tend to backup every night and, as you propose, carry enough Sd and compact flash cards to last the whole trip without re-use.

7. Cell phone. Your U.S. cell phone won't work in Africa without an expensive SIM card and local service. We have an inexpensive international phone with by-the-minute service that we only use for emergency notification. (mobal.com)

Hope this helps and doesn't confuse, and wish you the best of all trips.



Feb 26, 2014 at 03:31 PM
Billhansen2003
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Africa tour


That's all great advice. I'm happy to know that a battery backup will not be needed, that tripod isn't necessary, and that your image backup is close to the same as mine. Also happy to have the use of UV filter confirmed. I was forewarned about theneed to avoid lens changes, and that's the reason for the lens selection I mentioned. I'm thinking that between the 18-135 and the 150-600 (or maybe the Canon 100-400) I should certainly be covered for all focal lengths.

We've been told by the trip provider that her people in Africa will contact her directly if there's an emergency, and our house-sitters/dog-sitters will have the phone number of the tour provider as one of the primary contacts. We've also considered renting an international phone for a month, but we may omit that.

Thanks again - Bill



Feb 26, 2014 at 07:22 PM
Sashi
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Africa tour


My wife and me did a hiking trip in Tanzania in 2006 and what we found out are:

1) Ditch the tripod, unless you plan to take shots of the night sky (in which case you might use your duffel bag or some other thing you already are carrying). We had walking stick/monopod combinations, but we were also hiking for a large portion of the trip, so it was useful.
2) We had two bodies and lens covering the focal range 18 - 400mm, with a 1.4x extender. Unless the subject was landscape or people (in our case about 5% of the shots), the focal range 18-200 was rarely used. Most of the shots were between 200 -300mm, and sometimes 400+mm. However, if you want photos of birds (surprisingly lot of varieties in East Africa), would definitely recommend 400+mm focal range.
3) Batteries, carry a lot of them. We also bought a Radio Shack inverter which plugged into the cigarette lighter of the Land Rover (the one we had had two USA outlets and one USB outlet) and allowed us to charge our batteries and the tour guide's phone. We ended up giving it to our tour guide.
4) Spare cards were taken in abundance and we had two Epson 60GB Photo viewers for our backup (did not want to carry a laptop)

HTH

Sashi



Feb 26, 2014 at 08:31 PM
 

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Billhansen2003
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Africa tour


Thanks for sharing your experience. I smiled when I saw that you took 120 GB of backup storage (you two Epson Photo Viewers). I know that's necessary, but I've been all but called an idiot for planning to take that much. You've mentioned the focal lengths you used most often. Were your camera bodies crop sensor (APS-C etc) or full frame?


Feb 27, 2014 at 01:17 AM
marcy45
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Africa tour


I am going back to Tanzania and Rwanda in April - last year I took 2 Mk IV bodies - a 70-200 is f2.8, 24-105, 16-35 f2.8 and a 500mm pretty much covered everything - did use a tripod for night shots with the 16-35 - going with the same lenses and bodies again -
I used 1TB hyperspace portable hard drive that could download the cards - worked great - had 2 of them did not take a computer - used I-Pad and we found each camp we stayed had some wi-fi - had a great time



Feb 27, 2014 at 04:55 AM
sibirdie
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Africa tour


If you have a unlocked cell phone you can buy pre-pay SIM cards locally and use a service like pingo for long distance calls. Usually, if you receive a call, your phone does not get charged. So make your call out and have your caller (office) call back on their cheap service. I had to make several calls a day to my business and this method worked fine. There usually was network service in the camp and many times there was service in the bush. The Kenyans use their SIMs for everything including making payments so SIMs are easy to find in small villages.


Feb 27, 2014 at 11:06 AM
Sashi
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Africa tour


Bill

Thanks. Too much storage is never a bad thing, especially when it's split over multiple devices. Both our cameras were APS-C (Canon 20D bodies). A few other things.

1) Don't carry too much gear (either photographic or otherwise). Not a question of safety (Africa is much safer that way, and as an Indian, I speak from experience :-) ). It's much of a hassle lugging everything all over the place.
2) While I did not change lens often, I did do them frequently at certain times. A Giotto rocket blower was my savior at the night-time campsites. It's compact and gets the job mostly done.
3) Always plan for the unexpected. While the guides are very knowledgeable, it's wildlife after all. My wife and me paired with different focal lengths on our lenses, and had a clear plan for the day about who covers which area (closer or farther). As my luck would have it, it was always me covering the longer focal lengths (due to the heavier lenses), but most of our birds were captured at the 300 - 400+ range. So if you are shooting as a pair, plan it out well (trust me, the temptation to change focal lengths is very great, as you keep listening to your better half talking about all the keepers she's getting), or if you are planning to do it on our own, have your wife/guide act as the spotter, so that you have some time in advance to change the cameras/focal lengths.

Have a great trip!

Sashi



Mar 06, 2014 at 03:20 AM





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