cancel
Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

What Canon lens should I use on Safari?

garymak
Enthusiast

I wanted to get an updated discussion going on this topic, which apparently is still open, since it looks like it's been 8 years since this went around - and a lot has changed...

I'd like to ask for those you have been to Kenya on a safari recently, what lens ranges worked best.  Don't care about what camera you brought, just what lens combination worked best for the environment in a dusty-road, open-Range Rover, carry-you-own-stuff, cramped-quarters.  There have been many new lenses in the past years, including updates to the zooms, and the new 600 & 800mm ƒ11 lenses.  (I have the 600mm among others.) If you have been to Kenya recently on a safari, I would love to hear your actual (not imagined or planning to go) experiences and what lens worked best for you.  Any thoughts on accessories would be welcomed. Thanks so much!

27 REPLIES 27

shadowsports
Legend
Legend

@garymak,

The errors you are receiving are likely due to formatting.  This can happen when you copy and paste text into the message body or composition window.  Just press the reply button, sometimes pressing once, pausing (when you see the HTML error) then reply press again usually allows the post to compete.

All of the recommendations here are good ones.  I should have provided more specific information for a safari.  Because weight is an issue, attempting to avoid FL overlap should be considered as much as possible.  In Africa, you won't be on foot much so you have the convenience of a vehicle. Lens changes can be challenging in dusty conditions.  A good travel tripod or mono-pod is recommended.

I'd go with 3 lenses and if possible utilize the remaining weight for a second body and back up gear.  Memory cards, batteries, back up charger.  This could help avoid lens changes.  Its dusty.  

I prefer zooms to primes.  Having FL's 15-500 (or more) covered would be great.  For my next trip, I may use a second body to dedicate to super telephoto zoom.  I'd use the other for shorter FLs and lens changes.  I found that I could do without my 70-200 in favor of my 24-70 and 100-500.  Africa would present a multitude of panoramic opportunities.  Chances are you will always have plenty of available natural light.  Except sunrise or dusk.  

I didn't miss the 30mm between 70-100, so having 15-70mm and 100-500mm FL coverage worked well for me.  We came across a few waterfalls where I was too close to use the 70-200 to achieve desired perspective.  I wasn't able to move far enough away.  You probably won't have these types of issues on an open plain.  Since light is not likely to be an issue, I'd opt for the versatility of a zoom (with variable aperture) in favor of a zoom with constant aperture and reach limitation.  If you are going to be far away from the action, then the RF600 or 800 with a tri/monopod also works.  

~Rick
Bay Area - CA


~R5 C (1.0.7.1) ~RF Trinity, ~RF 100 Macro, ~RF 100~400, ~RF 100~500, +RF 1.4x TC, +Canon Control Ring, BG-R10, 430EX III-RT ~DxO PhotoLab Elite ~DaVinci Resolve ~Windows11 Pro ~ImageClass MF644Cdw/MF656Cdw ~Pixel 8
~CarePaks Are Worth It

garymak
Enthusiast

Sept 1, 2023

I wanted to address in detail - and answer my own original question so to speak - on equipment to bring and use on safaris…. 

I just returned from a month in Kenya on 4 separate safaris, one of which was a National Geographic “Expedition” and the other three were private (i.e., just my spouse and I) safaris. The following comments - “advice” as might be interpreted - are based on my own experiences and what worked, what didn’t work for me and what I would do next time. It is not a disagreement with anyone else’s valid experience-based opinion on the subject. That said, then the following:

Equipment brought with usage:
- Canon R5: 75% of the time.
- Canon EF100-400 ƒ4.5-5.6 L: 90% of the time
- Canon RF 600mm ƒ11: 10% of the time
- Canon RF 24-240mm Iƒ4-6.3: 0% of the time
- Canon G1-X MKIII: 15% of the time
- Canon GP-E2 GPS unit: 100% of the time
- Canon Camera Connect iPhone App: 100% of the time using the G1-X MKIII to input GPS data
- R5 Settings: “Triple 8”: 1/800s, ƒ8 @ ISO 800 for 75% of the shots; other combinations depending on situation and time of day (i.e., lighting,) but if possible higher ƒ-stop and lower ISO if conditions permit. 1/800s as a standard shutter speed allowed for use with either of the telephoto lenses and eliminated blurred images from too slow a shutter speed.
- Flash: Speedlite 430EX III-RT, a few times. Not necessary really but I always have a flash with me as a matter of course.


EXPLANTION / DETAILS:
-R5+100-400mm: I used my R5 with the Canon EF 100-400mm L ƒ4.5-5.6 lens probably 75% of the time (on my R5) with the adapter ring and it works great.  I brought and used a 600mm ƒ11 only a few times (but really nice when I did). Earlier this year, in anticipation of this trip, I bought a G1-X MKIII (I’ve had the MKI and II and liked them very much) for use as a/close range camera (and video/companion shots.) You simply cannot change lenses in the field as it’s too dusty and too bumpy or too cramped or all the above… I read - and in my experience completely agree - that you put your main lens on in the morning and leave it on until you get back at the end of the day, otherwise, you risk getting dust in your camera and on your sensor. I absolutely recommend a sleeping bag size (5L) type stuff sack (- it allows full coverage and closing around the camera with a long lens -) to keep your camera in at all times except when using it. The first day I failed to do this and was horrified to find a rather thick layer of dust all over my camera! I meticulously cleaned it that night and never took it out of the stuff sack for the rest of the trip except when using it. Of course, when using it, you are stopped, so there isn’t very much dust blowing…. Also, used a window rest bag (called by various names) stuffed with light weight pompoms (not beans) all the time.

 

REPRESENTATIVE SHOTS ARE ATTACHED IN A GROUP, hopefully in order, as indicated in the sections below:

CANON R5 WITH 100-400mm ƒ4.5-5.6 L II LENS:
IMAGE 1: 2307221153 Kenya Masai Mara Return BIRD - GREY KESTREL Eating Grasshopper
Canon R5
EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM
ƒ11, 1/800 s, ISO 400
EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
focal length: 400.0 mm

2307221159 Kenya Masai Mara Return BIRD - GREY KESTREL Eating Grasshopper.JPG

IMAGE 2: 2307120193bw Kenya Amboseli National Park ELEPHANT Family.jpg
EOS R5
ƒ7.1, 1/800s, ISO 3200
EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Lens focal length:106.0 mm

2307120193bw Kenya Amboseli National Park ELEPHANT Family.jpg

IMAGE 3: 2307120673 Kenya Amboseli National Park BIRD - GREY-CROWNED CRANE.jpg
EOS R5
ƒ9.0, 1/2000 s, ISO 2000
EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Exif: Lens focal length:400.0 mm

2307120673 Kenya Amboseli National Park BIRD -  GREY-CROWNED CRANE.jpg


IMAGE 4: "2307230373 Kenya Masai Mara "The Great Migration" WILDEBEESTS Charging Down the Embankment.jpg"

EOS R5
Exif: ƒ10.0, 1/800 s, ISO 400
EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Lens focal length: 400.0 mm

2307230373 Kenya Masai Mara _The Great Migration_ WILDEBEESTS Charging Down the Embankment.jpg

G1-X MKIII:
Due to the above consideration (about not changing lenses) I decided that the lens I would have to leave on all day would be the 100-400 for obvious reasons. But since a telephoto is useless up close (obviously because of minimal focus distance as well as field of view constraints,) I would need something to cover the short range. The Canon G1-X MKIII ($1,000) is an APS-C type sensor in a very compact camera - the only APS-C type sensor in a “compact” camera (i.e., something you can put in your pocket or purse) and has an excellent video function. (Of course, there are a few other, much more expensive options, such as the full-frame Sony RX1-RIII for $3400+tax.) (There’s a rumored full-frame G1-X MK IV coming out this year…) If the action would be up close (for example, the shot below of the lion lying next to the Range Rover) then there would be little need to crop or “enlarge” the photo, and of course a camera with a short “telephoto” capability but a large sensor would be perfect. Therefore, my “wide angle lens” was the G1-X MKIII. It was small, easy to grab, easy to shoot one handed, and had a very easy high IQ plus video capability. Again, since the action is up close, the “advantage” of a full-frame sensor’s ability to be able to crop the image later and still have a reasonably hi-res photo is pretty much negated. The G1-X MKIII takes darn good hi-res images, and is perfect for wide-angle and near-distance shots. Another advantage is the ability to hand hold at lower shutter speeds without introducing camera shake.

EXAMPLES OF G1-X MKIII:

IMAGE 5: 2307221453sKenya Masai Mara Return LION Lying in the Shade of a Truck
G1-X MKIII
ƒ7.1, 1/160 s, ISO 200
Focal Length 45.0 mm
What part of this shot needs a telephoto? I was 5 feet away!

2307221453s Kenya Masai Mara Return LION Lying in the Shade of a Truck.jpg


IMAGE 6: 2307151261 Kenya Lewa Wildlife Conservancy Landscape Views near sunset.JPG
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
ƒ11.0, 1/160 s, ISO 200
Lens focal length: 24.7 mm

2307151261s Kenya Lewa Wildlife Conservancy Landscape Views near sunset.jpg

IMAGE 7: 2307151156 Kenya Lewa Wildlife Conservancy ACACIA TREES Destroyed by Elephants.JPG
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
ƒ16.0,1/400 s, ISO 200
Lens focal length:15.0 mm

2307151156s Kenya Lewa Wildlife Conservancy ACACIA TREES Destroyed by Elephants.jpg

 

PHOTOGRAPHER’S VEST:
I wore a photo vest (invaluable) and had that GX-! MKIII in my pocket and it was always at the ready. Another advantage is that the pocket acted as a cover from the extreme dust and I could just grab and start shooting or videoing. Frankly, the videos that I took came out for the most part, better on the G1-X than the R5 although that was mostly do to the fact that the R5 is quite sophisticated and I am not a videographer, and I just wanted a “quick and dirty” reasonable quality video, not a Hollywood 8K video…. And even though I saw some YouTube videos on how to set up the R5 video (which helped a lot) it still required tweaking of the ƒ-stop after the video was started, rather than the more automatic video feature of the G1-X which instantly adjusted the ƒ-stop…

CANON CAMERA CONNECT APP:
And with the Canon iPhone App, you could sync it with BlueTooth and have the GPS data input into the EXIF file on the G1-X MKIII, so that was convenient saving me from having to manually enter it from another photo taken at the same time.

CANON RF 24-240mm Iƒ4-6.3 LENS:
This lens - which has a lot of quirks to begin with, is often billed as a “travel lens” - and I admit I use it as such myself - for routine travel. It goes from wide angle to reasonable telephoto in a light, compact form factor. But safaris aren’t routine travel. I brought this and didn’t use it once since there wasn’t a single situation that called for it. I had the G1-X for the wide angle/close range shots up to roughly the equivalent of about 70mm with its zoom capability and it was always handy…. That obviated the need for using this lens for the wide-angle shots and mid-range shots. At that point, with a 100-400mm lens, I had a greater telephoto range than this lens provides, so the eliminated any situation (about 75% of the situations) where I’d want to use this lens for anything above 100mm.

CANON 70-200MM ƒ4L:
I will also add that I have a 70-200L ƒ4 lens which I did not bring, and am glad I didn’t, as it would have been useless with those ranges: 70mm is too close for close-in shots and 200mm is simple not enough for wildlife shots. At that point, the 24-240 is much more versatile. And of course the 70-200MM ƒ2.8L is an expensive, heavy monster, still suffering from the limitations mentioned, and adding extra ƒ-stops that you are really not going to need.

100-400mm LENS VERSUS or 100-500mm LENS?
On safari, or rather, “game drive” as they are called, the action is mostly far away, not up close, certainly for the big animals or birds. And while you do want the occasional “context” shot or group shot (e.g., zebras and wildebeests) you can pull back to 100mm and get that, but while you are “tolerated” in the vehicles, you still can’t get that close without the animals moving away, so there are always more or less at telephoto distance. There’s nothing like looking straight into a hyenas glaring eyes and snarling teeth as it eats it meal - as long as you are far enough away not to spook them. And then, of course, there are the elephants or rhinos, which by definition means you keep a very healthy distance between you and them…or be ready to move away really fast… or else…

And of course, for birders, it goes without saying, you need the longest possible lens.

So, a good zoom telephoto like the 100-400 - or the newer 100-500 - becomes the main lens. A lens like the fixed 600mm ƒ11 works only in limited situations like when you are parked and viewing the action far away for a long time (such as the Great Migration shots.) Then you can risk changing lenses in those situations, but not as a routine practice. You absolutely cannot change lenses while the vehicle is in motion. The roads are awful, bouncing you and your gear all over the place, and of course, creating a dust storm that will ruin your equipment if it gets inside.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE 100-500L ZOOM LENS:
I will probably pick up the 100-500mm lens before the next “safari adventure” for a couple of reasons - IF I think the IQ and build is as good as the 100-400. I’ve heard various conflicting opinions on that. (I may start another thread to hear people’s first hand opinions.) First, the 100-500 lens is much lighter. After holding that 100-400 for long periods, even when being able to rest it on the roof rim, it is quite heavy. A noticeably lighter lens would be a great, and also help steady hand-held shots. It also would make the backpack that much lighter. And, as long as you’re at it, and extra 100mm reach is never a disadvantage. In the Lion Eating Elephant shot below, an extra 100mm would have allowed me to not to have to crop as much, increasing the final resolution.

Also, even thought the 100-400 has “faster” apertures, I’m rarely shooting at ƒ4 or 5.6 anyway (see comments below) so the “faster” lens characteristic isn’t particularly important. There is way too much emphasis, IMHO and IME, on “fast lenses” forgetting or ignoring the serious downside of image blur due to too shallow DOF. “Bokeh” is one thing but many photographers misinterpret what that is. It is the background blur, i.e., “bokeh”, to eliminate distracting background objects a/o render them into pleasing backdrop colors and shapes. It is NOT having part of the focal point of your image out of focus because you use too shallow a DOF due to a too-wide aperture. Having the eyes of a person or animal in focus but the rest of the head start to fade into blur is not “bokeh” - it is a poorly shot image with the wrong settings. A telephoto lens compacts the DOF so that even at mid-range settings, such as ƒ11, you still get a shallow DOF, for example, the shot of the Cheetah and Wildebeest (last one). If it were not for the very distinctive shape of the horns, the image would not work, it would just have been some indistinguishable dark object in the foreground (which I would have then cut out, making a very different image)… and that’s at ƒ11!


ADDITIONAL REPRESENTATIVE SHOTS:
IMAGE 8: 2307170037 Kenya Masai Mara LION Eating ELEPHANT REMAINS.JPG
EOS R5
ƒ9.0, 1/800 s, ISO 800
EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Exif: Lens focal length: 400.0 mm

2307170037s Kenya Masai Mara LION Eating ELEPHANT REMAINS.jpg

IMAGE 9: 2307160508b Kenya Masai Mara National Reserve ZEBRAS Crossing the Mara River.jpg
EOS R5, ƒ9.0,1/800 s, ISO 800
EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Lens focal length:400.0 mm

2307160508b Kenya Masai Mara National Reserve ZEBRAS Crossing the Mara River with NILE CROCODILES Chasing and Attacking.jpg

Below, in the crocodile attack shot, it would have been nice to have had the ƒ11 600mm for some of these, but the action was happening and it was dusty, and you just can’t change lenses. Besides, for inclusion of some background context, I shot at 360mm here. So a 100-500mm would have been better, allowing a wider range of focal lengths instantly…

 

IMAGE 10:

2307170757s Kenya Masai Mara ZEBRAS Crossing The Mara River Being Attacked by NILE CROCODILES.jpg
Canon EOS R5
Exif: ƒ9.0, 1/800 s, ISO 800
EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Lens focal length: 360.0 mm

2307170757s Kenya Masai Mara ZEBRAS Crossing The Mara River Being Attacked by NILE CROCODILES2307170757s Kenya Masai Mara ZEBRAS Crossing The Mara River Being Attacked by NILE CROCODILES


IMAGE 11: 2307160628 Kenya Masai Mara National Reserve Along the Mara River NILE CROCODILE with Its ZEBRA Kill.JPG
Canon EOS R5
ƒ9.0, 1/800 s, ISO 800
EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Lens focal length:400.0 mm

2307160628 Kenya Masai Mara National Reserve Along the Mara River NILE CROCODILE with Its ZEBRA Kill2307160628 Kenya Masai Mara National Reserve Along the Mara River NILE CROCODILE with Its ZEBRA Kill
Now, a discussion on aperture:
-APERTURE SETTINGS
As a portrait photographer and NILMDTS photographer myself, but also doing a lot of landscape and environmental photography, I am keenly aware of the problems associated with using shallow DOF “landscape” ƒ-stop standards for portraits or with telephoto lenses in general. There’s nothing more frustrating than to have a great shot of, say, a cheetah or leopard lined up in your viewfinder and then seeing your shot later with half the body blurred because you had too wide an aperture/shallow DOF. Equally, if the shot is blurred because your were trying to “squeeze” the limits of your SS. So, given the lighting (which was generally pretty bright even in post-dawn morning and up to pre-sunset evening) the “Triple 8s” worked well as a good balance of DOF/ISO (resolution)/SS, and for the most part, all my images came out well in terms of focus/blurriness, from which, of course, there is little recovery. The most recent cameras have great high ISO sharpness, and with new AI sharpening programs like Topaz, if the rest of your shot is tack sharp and all in focus, you can do wonders with any loss of resolution or noise due to higher ISO than you can if your image is blurring or out of focus to begin with.

---Reached the hidden character limit of this website. Continued on next entry...

 

CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS:

Finally, a discussion about “C” settings on your camera:

“C” SETTINGS
- If you don’t already use it, start experimenting with using “C1”, “C2” and “C3” on your camera. If you already use it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t done so, once you do, you’ll wonder how you shot without it. Having some basic settings preprogrammed into your camera to instantly switch depending on the fast-changing environment is, I think, essential to capturing as many “fleeting moments” and “there it is and gone” shots.

These two bird shots of a somewhat rare (not too rare but hard to find) “African Lilac-breasted Roller” illustrate the point. The shot of the bird on the rock off to the side of the vehicle, taken at ƒ10, 1/500s, ISO 400, AF spot, general tracking. I had been shooting at that most of the day with the lens resting on the roof rim of the vehicle. The bird was resting on a nearby rock. After taking the shots, we noticed his buddy suddenly fly down and stand in the road in front of us. There was another vehicle barreling down the road in the opposite direction and I realized that this bird was going to take off as soon as the vehicle got much closer. I immediately changed to my “C1” settings (what I use for “Bird settings”) which then changed everything to ƒ9, 1/2000s, ISO 2000 plus changed the AF tracking to fast moving and activated the “eye” and “animal” AF settings. I aimed and waited a few seconds and got the next shot, a Lilac-Breasted Roller framed by a huge Land Rover tire. Shot would have been impossible if I’d have to fiddle with all those settings first.

 

IMAGE 12: 2307221537 Kenya Masai Mara Return BIRD - LILAC-BREASTED ROLLER.JPG
Canon EOS R5
ƒ10.0, 1/500 s, ISO 400
Lens focal length: 400.0 mm

2307221537s Kenya Masai Mara Return  BIRD - AFRICAN LILAC-BREASTED ROLLER2307221537s Kenya Masai Mara Return BIRD - AFRICAN LILAC-BREASTED ROLLER


IMAGE 13: 2307221579 Kenya Masai Mara Return BIRD - LILAC-BREASTED ROLLER Flying in front of Land Cruiser.JPG
Canon EOS R5
Exif: ƒ9.0, 1/2000 s, ISO 2000
EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Exif: Lens focal length: 400.0 mm

2307221579 Kenya Masai Mara Return  BIRD - AFRICAN LILAC-BREASTED ROLLER Flying in front of Land Cruiser2307221579 Kenya Masai Mara Return BIRD - AFRICAN LILAC-BREASTED ROLLER Flying in front of Land Cruiser

 


-ACCESORIES
I used a small tabletop Manfrotto tripod a few times; it was small and light and handy. I might have used a monopod in the safari truck several times if I’d had one, but didn’t really miss it, using the What was useful, however, and used every day, was the “gun rest bags" or "window rest bags"! Usually they are bean filed, but of course that weighs a ton, so I went to our local arts & crafts store and bought a huge bag of pompoms (!) which weighed virtually nothing, and filled it with them. That provided a safe, soft and secure rest for the telephoto lens on the metal rim of the roof of the safari vehicles (when we had those “pop top” vehicles (which we did not on the NatGeo safari) and that was really useful. A couple of times the vehicles actually had some bean-filled rest bags there but they were extremely heavy and I found it was difficult to use as lifting it with one hand while holding a heavy camera with the other was difficult to do quickly - and you risked bopping somebody on the head as you moved it! 🤦‍♂️


600mm LENS:
This is where the 600mm came in handy. It wasn’t so dusty here, so I risked it and changed lenses as the cheetah was far off, probably 200+ yards…


IMAGE 14: 2307220352 Kenya Masai Mara Return CHEETAH
EOS R5
ƒ11.0, 1/800 s, ISO 400
RF600mm F11 IS STM
Lens focal length: 600.0 mm
Range probably 200 yards/meters. Another 100mm with a 100-500mm lens would have been nice, re: ditto previous Lion shot.

2307220352 Kenya Masai Mara Return CHEETAH2307220352 Kenya Masai Mara Return CHEETAH

 

IMAGE 15: CHEETAH Stares Down his Real Target - the WILDEBEEST.jpg
EOS R5
ƒ11.0, 1/800 s, ISO 400
RF600mm F11 IS STM
Lens focal length: 600.0 mm

2307220727 Kenya Masai Mara Return CHEETAH Stares Down his Real Target - the WILDEBEEST2307220727 Kenya Masai Mara Return CHEETAH Stares Down his Real Target - the WILDEBEEST

 

---Reached the hidden character limit of this website. Continued on next entry...

Another learning is that, regardless of whether you are on a private tour (of which we had 3) or a small group tour (like the the NatGeo tour) you still are limited in what, where and importantly, when you can take your shots. Meaning, those unbelievable “National Geographic” shots are the result of:
a) a special permit that allows the NatGeo photographer to go to certain places and get out of the vehicle, return day after day to the same spot and prepare for an anticipated shot;
b) plenty of guides/guards to insure that the aforementioned hidden lions 10 feet away are spotted and shooed away so you can shoot in safety;
c) a budget that allows the photographer to come with lots of equipment and wait all day (or night, depending) for a specific event that s/he will be well-informed of by the guides, who are being paid to wait with him/her as long as it takes.
d) has a clear field-of-view with no other distractions or people or objects blocking the shot or disturbing the natural progress of the event;

In other words, the NatGeo photographer waits for however long it takes for the shot; the tourist shows up, takes whatever shot might happen to be available in the limited time after s/he shows up in the time allowed, and in competition with scores of other tourists and dozens of other vehicles jostling for the best spot. In the end, the National Geographic photographer gets the “National Geographic” shot, and the tourist gets the tourist shot. On that note, as we well know, there is a different between a "tourist snapshot," and a photographer working under limited touristic constraints. Nonetheless, even if we think we all would be in the latter category, of course we would still not be in the “National Geographic” category for reasons “a”, “b”, “ c and “d.”

Nothing illustrated the issues of “d” above as the “Great Migration” shots. Probably 25 vehicles full of tourists (us in one of them) waited in the blazing sun 100 meters from the edge of an embankment on the Mara River, across which from the Tanzania side the zebras and wildebeests were massing. Park rangers (God bless ‘em!) kept the eager tourists at bay; the zebras (who cross first) are easily spooked. Many, many attempts at - literally, sticking their foot in the water - are made before some unpredictable “feeling” goes out and the first ones actually start to cross, and then the build up of the other zebras and wildebeests on the top of the embankment above start to follow until the floodgates of animals running headlong down the steep embankment and into the river can’t be stopped… and so it begins and lasts for perhaps 10 minutes or 40 minutes to an hour. (Another learning is that the “Great Migrations” occurs over many days - weeks sometimes depending - and is in bursts of several hundred to many of thousands of animals at a time. BUT, if something - like the roar of 25 Toyota Land Crusiers all racing to beat each other out to a good viewing spot at the top of the embankment on the arrival side - spooks the first animals, they will just stop and run back up the embankment and mill around for an unknown period of time - could be an hour, could be several hours, could be maybe tomorrow….

National Geographic photographers don’t have to deal with that crap…

Anyway, we were lucky - and it was pure luck each of the three times we showed up at the Mara River crossing, that within half an hour, we managed to catch a migration segment. We talked to a lot of other people from other groups including drivers who said they’d been there for hours on previous days and…saw nothing. So, luck plays a role sometimes.

 

Again, those are my experiences and learnings based on a month in Kenya on 4 safaris. I hope people contemplating a safari in Kenya or similar country will find this info useful, or at least food for thought in making decisions on what kind of photographic equipment to bring.

Perhaps one final, non-photographic note on safaris in general, again, from my perspective as a photographer taking a safari for the first time: “The Little Things” can make or break your adventure, and you better make sure that the people booking your trip (or selling you on the idea) have first hand experience in exactly what you’ll be doing and can contact people on the ground to find out exactly what conditions are. For example, there’s a big difference in what type of vehicle you are in, and unfortunately, with the NatGeo safari, we were in lousy vehicles: open sided, closed roof, which meant viewing, except out of your specific seat, was limited, and the dust - oh! The dusty roads! - just blew in on you and your face (and all your stuff) and down your throat. Even before the end of the NatGeo safari, we all sounded like 2-pack-a-day smokers… cough cough cough… Closed sided, “pop-top” vehicles are the way to go! And they are cooler, since the sun is blocked from the sides and the roof is open, so you get a breeze while barreling down the road (and even while stopped) and not much of the dust, which blows through the top and out the back end…. That’s just one example. So ask questions - lots of questions - and demand accurate answers, and get lots of details - and hold your travel agents responsible for their answers! You’re spending a boatload of money on these trips, so make sure you know exactly what you are paying for up front.

Thanks for reading. And thanks to all who contributed previously before my trip. Everyone’s contributions - even if I did something else ultimately - gave good food for thought and consideration.

(PS: I will probably be adding a lot of the shots over the next couple of months to my instagram account for those who might be interested: https://www.instagram.com/garymak.photography/

I'll be honest, I had no idea we had a realistically-reachable character limit here.  Bravo! 👏

Thanks for your response, Danny! The error message states that the character limits is "20,000 characters" but that's baloney.  It is somewhere around 1/2 to 2/3 of that.  Counting the characters in Word or TextEdit to around 14,000 was the only way to get the replies uploaded.

 

Another dumb programming quirk is that this website won't tell you that until after you've already tried to publish... and then it won't tell you how many characters it thinks you have so that you might may adjustments off line.  I spent upwards of an hour - with many upload attempts, breaking up the entry until finally, magically, mysteriously, it was accepted.  As a result, there are now multiple typos and mistakes to the original upload, that, also, magically, mysteriously, you can't fix because clicking "edit" does't do anything.  So hopefully readers will be able to figure out what was meant to be written in those cases.  

 

There were also numerous "error" messages of technical gobbledygook in red that were indecipherable, so I just hit "x" and ignored them each time they popped up and prayed that they weren't going to block publication...

 

A good forum website should state plainly upfront what the character limitations are, plus any other limitations or weird quirks, such as copy/paste formatting issues from applications like Word (not uncommon and as "shadowsports" mentioned above), illegal characters, etc.  Especially in a photography forum like this, where the postings often including images that need to be with text, it should be easy -not complicated- to copy/paste in one shot, not like this website that requires you to constantly stop, go to the photo load, drop the photo in position, go back to the text, etc., etc.  As we all know, mysterious things happen with technology - often - and investing more than a couple of seconds writing on a post on line instead of off-line is tempting fate.  Yet this clunky forum application makes that difficult.

 

Now, after several attempts over several day and several hours of work, I've discovered the official hidden character limits, got a feel for the actual character limits, got the process sort of figured out.... and it's a lot of work.... but interestingly enough, this isn't my day job so I am not on here everyday... I So next time, I may have to relearn everything.  Even so, figuring out the actual character limitations takes time and is cumbersome and is unique to each posting.

 

So, you have to ask yourself - and Canon - is this a user-friendly forum application then?  Or should Canon be working on having a first rate forum application that matches its "high-end" marketing image that invites, and makes it easy, for users to share (and easily edit/correct) their experiences, commentary and images?  IMHO, Canon should be doing a much better job...

adriant
Apprentice

Hi all, first trip to SA coming up next week.

10 day self drive through KNP with a SA friend and then 5 days in Umlani/Timbavati with guided drives.

i have an R5 and R7

Will take a 24-105

My BIG question is should I take the 300 f2.8 mk2 or the 200-400 + 1.4x? I like the flexibility of the zoom but hate the weight.

In understand you get a lot closer in Timbavati. Is a 300mm too long to be useful there? And is 300mm too short to be useful in KNP? The R5 has crop mode which helps. I could also use a 1.4x tc. I just don’t want to change lenses on the fly.

Planning to take a bean bag.

Mammals more important to me than birds.

Cheers 

Everything here should be understood in the context of OMHO - "One man's Humble Opinion".  Another person may have a different opinion or take.  The purpose of this forum - I believe - is to hear from as many different people's experienced opinions as possible make your own decision.  That said, the following:

Africa isn't a zoo, nor is it the Galapagos so "getting up close" to wild animals is not only impossible, but darn risky to life and limb, too. They also move around. Sometimes surprisingly close - if they choose, since you cannot "chase them" but usually far away.  

Therefore, given that, what kind of lens do you want?  Standard? Wide-angle or the biggest, longest zoom you can afford/hold?  I choose the latter. No question.  Every time.   A zoom is much preferred over fixed because the truck will stop someplace, and that determines how far you are from whatever it is you are going to photograph.  Things might move in too close (picture of the lion reclining on the wheel of the safari truck in the above series of images, for example) and if you've a fixed lens, you're out of luck.  Mostly, whatever lens you bring, you'll wish you had more.  So, that said, I think that's your answer.

You said you're bringing two bodies, and R5 & R7.  Keep in mind that the concept of "crop" isn't some magical increase in lens reach.  It's a smaller sensor which presents an image AS IF if were a full frame image that you just "cropped" to highlight the subject better and eliminate extraneous matter.  It doesn't magically give you any further reach.  At the end of the day, you'll be able to enlarge that full frame up to the same focal distance of your "crop" photo - and have lots of extra stuff in the image to boot.

Given the two camera sets, I'd load the one up with a wide angle, leave it on for your entire trip, and load the other one with the biggest telephoto zoom you've got, and leave it on for the trip.  As I previously noted, it's much too dusty to change lenses in the field.

Regarding the f-stop, frankly, since the telephoto lenses compress the DOF anyway, it's still hard to get your subject and background in focus at ƒ11 anyway, so I wouldn't worry about "bokeh" issues much.  Several times I tried hard to get both in focus as ƒ16 but it didn't work well.  Therefore, the wider aperture will be useful for those twilight shots - perhaps.  There's plenty of light in Africa, and of the two, faster-lens or longer lens, I'd choose longer lens every time. IMHO.

Also, think about filling your bean bag with pom poms.  They are one hundredth of the weight but will provide plenty of padding and forming for use in the truck.  Those bean bags normally weigh a ton and are hard to one-hand move when the action moves... IMHO.

Good luck!  I hope that addressed some of your concerns.

Hi, My vote would be for the 200-400.  The 300 has little flexibility but is suited for a hide or the lodge.  On the truck you don't necessarily have the ability to direct your driver to where you may need him.  While Timbavati is a hunting area you may be surprised how close you will get to the big cats.  My wife took this as both the lioness and I were  looking at apparently the same Impala.  She was under 100 yards and was less than impressed with our choice of positioning so we let her take the field and moved on.  The 100-500 worked where a 300 might not have been a good choice.  There is really no wrong lens solution for Africa. For every shot you don't get there will be more down the trail.  Do you have twice as many memory cards as you think you'll need?  Have fun on your trip.kitty.jpg

Avatar
click here to view the gallery
Announcements