Saturday, March 1, 2008
Notes From The Field
A recent excursion yielded some keen insights from OP's tech guru
There’s No Going Back
I didn’t have my one-ton camera bag on safari—the big Ford van had to stay home. Anytime you have to travel by air to the field, your photography will be limited somewhat by the gear you brought. So you need to be thorough and thoughtful in your preparations, considering not only the limits of the airline industry’s tolerance for photographers and their equipment, but also the conditions under which you’ll be working when you get there.
Before I left home, I thought about every possible photographic situation I hoped would present itself, and I talked to the guides and others about their experiences in the Delta so I’d know what to expect. Then I packed three Lowepro bags as carry-ons: a Nature Trekker AW II, which held the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, lenses, extenders, extension tubes, filters and other small accessories; a special long-lens bag that carried the 500mm with the 1D Mark III; and a smaller backpack, the Micro Trekker 100, that held Kathy’s 5D, two lenses and a small Canon HD video camera. Our fourth carry-on had essential personal items and the laptop computer with its cords and backup drives. I checked a hard case filled with a tripod, a monopod, battery chargers and a variety of smaller accessories. In Botswana, all the carry-on bags had to be stowed in the small luggage holds of the prop planes used to move from camp to camp in the bush. I’m happy to report everything made it there and back intact.
On safari, nearly all photography had to be accomplished from within a 12-seat Land Rover with the canopy top and its supports removed. Each vehicle carried three to four photographers and a driver/guide. Photographers had to carry with them, and keep organized and ready in their allocated space, everything they might need for that session. Once you’re out on a game drive, there’s no turning back.
When the subject is wildlife, you can be sure the decisive moment will come quickly and, too often, won’t last long. So you have to be ready all the time. Set the camera to the prevailing lighting conditions, with the ƒ-stop and shutter speed appropriate to the anticipated action. Be sure you have enough card space in the camera (or film) to handle the action without fumbling with a replacement; it’s agonizing to hear your companions’ cameras capturing like crazy while you can’t even look up to see what’s happening. If the card is getting full, change to an empty one in advance of the action, as you did with film.
On this safari, some of the other photographers and myself always had two camera-lens combinations ready. One of my cameras had a 500mm tele attached; the other had a 100-400mm zoom. Often, the action would start a ways off and quickly move to close proximity, with no time to switch camera bodies and lenses. There were times that I wished I had a third body with a 24-105mm lens, but that’s when Kathy would yield her Canon EOS 5D and a wider zoom.
You Never Know What’s Next
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