Safari in Botswana, what extra equipment do I need?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Ja Di ksw, Aug 17, 2011.

  1. Ja Di ksw, Aug 17, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2011

    Ja Di ksw macrumors 65816

    Ja Di ksw

    Apr 9, 2003
    I'm taking a 2 week safari in Botswana, mainly to see the animals there though I'm sure some landscape shots will be nice as well. I'm wondering what advice people have for equipment? I currently have:

    Canon 40D
    24mm f/1.4L
    50mm f/1.8
    28-135 f/3.5-5.6 kit lens
    180 f/3.5L
    70-200mm f/2.8L
    300 f/4L
    580 ex ii (Flash)
    4GB CF card (2 of them)
    UV filters for everything
    Polaroid filter, one ND filter, a couple others
    Tripod - not so great but it works
    Unipod - same
    Manfrotto superclamp
    Cleaning supplies

    Any other ideas? I'm going to get more CF cards, though I don't know how much. What about extenders or the like? Advice would be greatly appreciated :). Also about composing shots or general advice for photos out there!
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    Seems like a lot of equipment to lug around if you're an amateur photographer. I really don't think you need all those lenses.

    One thing I'd make sure to have is some kind of insurance on everything. When traveling in African countries the likelihood of having things stolen is high.
  3. Ja Di ksw thread starter macrumors 65816

    Ja Di ksw

    Apr 9, 2003
    We're on a guided tour in a small group, so I'm not really worried about anything getting stolen - it's just the family. And I've got a bag to carry it all, plus we'll be driving place to place, so I'd rather be using it than having it sit at home. I still might get some insurance, though, thanks for the tip.
  4. Razeus macrumors 603

    Jul 11, 2008
    Take the 24mm for your landscape shots. Take the 300 for the safari animal shots. Take a mid-range zoom for normal shots. That's all you need. Travel light. You don't need the flash, you definately don't need the UV filters. You can take the 1 ND filter for your wide angle. That's it.
  5. someoldguy macrumors 68000

    Aug 2, 2009
    Couple of suggestions , having been to Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) twice .
    1- You REALLY want a 100-400 .(or something with the crop sensor equivalent maybe 70-200 or 70-300) See if you can find a rental place that'll let you take the lens out of the country ... insure it. Keep the 300/4 home . Don't bother with extenders
    2-Leave the 24L at home ... see about a 17-40 or 15-85 instead. If you borrow a 15-85 leave the 28-135 home.
    3- Things happen fast , you don't want to be fumbling with gear and miss stuff.
    4- Bring lots of CF cards ,you're in the middle of nowhere and you don't want to run out of storage .
    5- 1 or 2 extra batteries w/ charger and a current adapter
    6 -Take a decent set of binoculars.. the guides are good at finding stuff , but another pair of eyes is good , especially when they're yours.
    Botswana is a whole lot more verdant than where I was , but I suspect you'll be shooting mostly from vehicles so get a bag you can work out of comfortably.
    Most of all ... have fun!! ( and post some pics to make us jealous!!)
  6. Ja Di ksw thread starter macrumors 65816

    Ja Di ksw

    Apr 9, 2003
    Ugh, forgot to list the 70-200mm f/2.8L!

    Thanks for the advice someoldguy and Razeus :). I'm not so sure about renting some of that glass when I already have these and only the 40D body, and trying to save a bit of money now. One thing I'm considering doing (yes, I know I just said I'm trying to save money :p) is to get the 5D mark ii and take it along with the 40D, one for me and one for the girlfriend, then selling the 40D and kit lens when I get home to recoup some of the loss. Anyways, I'd rather take more stuff than I need than wish I had something sitting at home.

    Razeus - The flash is definitely something I've been wondering about, mainly thinking of bringing it for a fill flash when people are in the picture. I figure the animals will be too far away, and the landscapes won't be affected by it.

    someoldguy -
    1- the 40D doesn't have a full frame on it, so the 300 should be ok for that?
    2- I'm really thinking of leaving the 28-135 at home. Unfortunately I don't know anyone with a 15-85 to borrow from, but I'll keep looking.
    3- True, I'll have the camera in my lap the whole time we're driving, or around my neck for the brief walking periods. Especially if I grab the 5Dii that should help a lot.
    4- For a 15 day trip, how many cards would you suggest bringing? Right now it's only 8 GB. I had just barely filled both in a 4 day trip to Venice, but I was also shooting RAW+jpeg.
    5- I have 1 extra battery and definitely bringing the charger :)
    6- My gf is picking up the binoculars today or tomorrow, good to hear it's worthwhile to bring some!

    And I'll definitely post some pics! Though my PS skills are pretty lacking and I almost never use it, except occasionally to touch up colors or remove dust spots.
  7. matteolesinigo macrumors newbie

    Aug 17, 2011
    I've been to Kenya last month. Have a Nikon D7000 so APS-C format, not full frame so with a magnifying factor of about 1.5. Focal length is crucial when you want to take close up pictures of animals. I bought a Sigma 150-500mm that means an equivalent of a 750mm maximum. And once you are there mm are really desirable. 400 or 500 lens should be de default choice.

    Also take cleaning stuff. There is a lot of red sand that will eager to get into every part of your camera.
    In 2 days safari I got about 600 pictures that corresponds to 4GB more or less (16Mpx jpeg). As probably you won't go back for some time for a Safari you will end up taking multiple pictures of the same subject, also 4 or 5 to be sure to get at least once right. So memory should be very important.
    Battery is also fundamental.
    Stabilized lenses are important, you will not able to use a tripod or a gorilla pod as on the car the engine vibration are felt, so you'll do every picture by hands.
  8. Ja Di ksw thread starter macrumors 65816

    Ja Di ksw

    Apr 9, 2003
    Quick side question:

    Is there something (such as write speed) I should definitely look to have (or avoid) when buying new CF cards?

    matteolesinigo - Thanks, this will definitely be the only time I'll be on safari in a long time, quite possibly ever. I'm really thinking of getting a teleconverter for my 300 f/4L. Cleaning stuff I'm well stocked up on (I'll have to watch out for the red sand when switching lenses! Hope I don't get any on the sensor :( ). For the stabilizing issue, do you think I should just leave the tripod at home? It's one of the few things I have that can get annoying to carry around, it's just so bulky.
  9. h1r0ll3r macrumors 68040


    Dec 28, 2009
    The faster the write speed is usually best. If you shoot JPEG's and single shots then you should be fine with a low write speed however if you shoot RAW and burst shots then the slower card write speeds will lag. Personally, I always get a card by some name brand manufacturer as opposed to whatever is cheapest. Some opinions might differ on this but the cheap cards are usually cheaper for a reason.

    Also, I always bring extra batteries with me wherever I go just in case. Nothing sucks more than getting in your shooting groove only to see that little red battery light flashing on your camera.

    I'd pick either the monopod or tripod. Don't think you'll need both so if it were up to me, I'd bring the tripod (assuming it's not too heavy to lug around).
  10. jabbott macrumors 6502

    Nov 23, 2009
    Last weekend I went to a wild animal sanctuary (photos here) and focal length is very important. I was primarily shooting handheld with a 70-200 f/2.8L II and 2x extender, and was between 30 and 1,000 feet away from the animals (30 feet for the tigers, 250 feet for the lions and 1,000 feet for the camel). Dealing with the extender was clumsy so I would think that a 100-400mm would be a better alternative. You can find this lens on the Canon refurb store for $240 off the new price.

    You may also want to check out Andy Biggs' recommendations for safari camera gear here.
  11. someoldguy macrumors 68000

    Aug 2, 2009
    How many people in your vehicles? Are the vehicles going to be fully open , or have pop tops? Both my trips we were in pop top 4wd vans with 4-5 people . I used a monopod or relied on IS . No way I could have used a tripod in the vehicle.
    70-200 on a crop body gives you the equivalent of 320mm which is pretty minimal . My first trip , back in prehistoric days , I only had a 75-300 is and a film body . Got some good shots as we had large animals come extremely close , but also missed a lot. Matteolesinigo is right , there's no substitute for mm's . A 1.4 extender shared between the 70-200 and 300 will certainly help with reach ( getting the 300 out to a full frame equivalent of 670mm )and will only cut max aperture by 1 stop plus will retain autofocus. Don't go real crazy , or agonize too much . Once you're on the ground you'll always find something that you'll wish you'd bought , especially when you see some guy with a 600 on a gimbal mount on the top of his vehicle ... it's just gear lust.
    I found it real helpful to keep cameras , and lenses in ziploc bags when moving between stops.Don't know about Botswana , but East African dust is real fine , and can get into everything .My second trip we took some of the disposable dust masks like you use for sanding drywall .If there's a couple of vehicles , and you're not in the lead , you're travelling in a dust cloud .
    Take the flash , use it around the lodges and at dusk to squeeze out a few more shots if the subject's are reasonably close . 580 flashes have pretty good range.
  12. monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    ziplock bags. plenty of them -- enough for everything that can reasonably fit into one.

    It's true that my own "way out there in the wild" experience has been in hot, wet places (Solomon Islands) but where you have dust and whatever else might be flying through the air, the ziplock bag is your friend. Cheap, easy to use, doesn't take up much room when packing, etc.

    Also -- I don't know the Canon line, so I don't know about different lens mounts/bodies, but if I were going on a once-in-a-lifetime trip I would find a way to take two bodies. If you were a Nikon guy I'd say to grab a used D40 or D60 and stick it in a bag -- isn't there an equivalent Canon body? With a single body you have a single point of failure. Sure, the risk is low, but if the body goes out, all your other kit is useless.
  13. matteolesinigo macrumors newbie

    Aug 17, 2011
    Two bodies is a great solution if you can afford it. I had my old D40x with a 18-105mm that was used by my gf and the D7000 with the 150-500mm. At every corner you would like both close ups (animals are so beautiful) and larger panorama (animals in their natural environment and landscape are so beautiful) and the least thing you would like to do is continuously changing the lens. Notice that (at least for my experience), longer focal length needs smaller aperture to give you sufficiently sharp images (the suggested aperture for the 150-500 @ 500 was f8), therefore autofocus may not work perfectly if you don't rise ISO sensitivity to a medium level. I took pictures almost all the time at 500mm with f8 or f10, ISO about 1000 and time smaller than 1/750 (you know is better to shoot at the inverse of the focal length when you do it without tripod or other support).
    To me the tripod is not essential as for my experience the vibration of the vehicle will transmit to the camera and on jeeps they are quite constant.
  14. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    IMHO this is the kind of trip that I think you can easily justify renting a 400 f2.8 or similar, if you are in a situation where you actually intend to shoot a lot and can easily transport it around (sounds like you can). Also renting a teleconverter in conjunction gets you even longer, and since you're working off of an f2.8 lens, you will still have decent AF performance and shutter speeds when really extending the FL. Using TCs on your 300/4 (especially anything beyond the 1.4) is going to severly hamper the AF ability, as well as lose a lot of light.

    Something like:
    -24 and 50mm primes for walking around/wider shots
    -70-200 for "close by" wildlife (can use TC for a lighter more hand-holdable setup)
    -rented supertele like 400 f2.8 for the serious wildlife shooting, with a TC for occasional extra reach)

    Maybe replace one or both primes with a more versaile zoom, or maybe bring a versatile zoom plus the 50mm prime for more casual shooting, or bring all 3 (versatile zoom, 24, and 50 primes) if you can transport the gear.

    Also, at least two bodies and lots of backup storage are an absolute must. Rent a second body if you have to. I think typically people go on safari and use 2 bodies simultaneously. Keep one mounted on the supertele all the time (probably sitting on a monopod), and another ready for lighter handheld use that can take a variety of shorter/more versatile lenses as the situation dictates.

    It would be a terrible shame to go all the way to Botswana only to have your only body fail on you after a couple days' shooting, leaving you to haul around many pounds of now useless photo gear for the remainder of the trip. The other thing you don't want to happen is to run out of storage space halfway through the trip.

    I don't know exactly how much it costs to go to Botswana for 2 weeks, but I imagine it's a lot. Buying several extra CF cards or even some gear rental is not going to make a big difference in the total cost of the trip- you'd be stupid to go unprepared because of a few dollars' difference.

  15. TheDrift- macrumors 6502a


    Mar 8, 2010
  16. Ja Di ksw thread starter macrumors 65816

    Ja Di ksw

    Apr 9, 2003
    Sorry for the late reply, been getting everything wrapped up at work and for the trip, can't believe how busy it's been (and didn't get everything done I wanted....). Anyways, replies below, though I gotta say I caved and got the 5D! I'll be selling my 40D and kit lens after the safari to help get some of the money back.

    Quick question, would you put the telephoto on the 5D and the wide angle on the 40D, or the other way around?

    h1r0ll3r - I ended up getting another fast CF card. That makes 2 cards with 4GB and 1 card with 16GB. All fast. Then I have an iPad adapter to move them over to my 64GB iPad each night, so that's almost 84GB, should be enough :). Going to take the tripod, as well. Oh, and 2 batteries per camera, and we can charge them with the car so it should be ok.

    jabbott - Great pics! I love tigers, my favorite animal (and cats in general). It was really helpful to see what pics I would get at a certain distance with certain lenses, thanks a ton :D

    someoldguy - I definitely have gear lust :). I'll pack lots of ziplock bags, that's a good idea. We have some dust masks too. I ended up getting the extender, since I've seen good results for the canon extender in combo with the L series lenses (other lenses, not so much).

    monokakata - That's part of the reasoning that convinced me to get the 5D. Plus it takes video :). We'll see, hopefully neither will have a problem, but at least I have some insurance now if one does. And yes, lots of ziplock bags!

    matteolesinigo - good idea, I'll probably be having the wide angle on the 40D and the 300 (with 2x adapter) on the 5D.

    Ruahrc - Got the 2 bodies now! And with backing things up on the iPad at night, ~84GB storage, should be enough I hope. I tried the TC on the 300, and it works ok in the day, though light is def an issue in the evening. I guess I'll be taking it off at dusk, but in the day it will be ok.

    TheDrift- - I would love that lens! Unfortunately my last name isn't "Jobs" so I don't think I can really afford it...

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