Sunday, July 1, 2007
Scouting Report: Tanzania
Getting the most from a safari demands careful planning given today‚’s baggage restrictions
Essential Gear. Besides a good digital SLR (or preferably two), a long lens is the one necessary piece of gear for this kind of trip. I have an old manual-focus 500mm ƒ/4 that was my staple lens in the film era, but with the 1.5x magnification factor of my Nikon D200, I’ve been using my 80-400mm ƒ/4-5.6 VR zoom lens more and more for this work. It’s much smaller and lighter (albeit a stop slower) than the 500mm, and with the magnification factor, it gives me the 35mm equivalent of a 600mm at the long end. I miss the speed on occasion, but not as much as I had feared, especially with the VR helping out in lower light.
I always carry an empty four- to six-liter-sized waterproof sack with me to Africa. Once I arrive, I make a quick stop at a market to buy eight pounds or so of dried beans or rice, and voila, I have a large, stable beanbag on which to brace my shooting rig on the roof of the Land Rover. This is a much more elegant solution than carrying a ready-made beanbag from home, because you’re not using up your precious baggage weight allowance carrying beans from the United States all over Africa!
A beanbag is much more useful than a tripod or monopod because most of your game viewing in East Africa is done through the pop-top roof of a Land Rover, so there‚’s a ready shelf at just the right height on which to brace the beanbag. If your quarry isn‚’t moving (like, say, a lion that has just eaten or is resting), you’d be surprised at how low you can go in shutter speed with a long lens firmly braced on a large beanbag. This stability, along with the help of Vibration Reduction or Image Stabilization technology, makes up quite a bit for the lack of a fast ƒ/4 or ƒ/2.8 aperture of the larger, heavier lenses.
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