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Thread started 08 Jan 2014 (Wednesday) 19:03
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1st Safari Advice (what to bring)

 
zunimoon
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Jan 08, 2014 19:03 |  #1

Hi everyone,

I need your advice on what equipment to bring, I just read a bunch of similar posts, but thought I would start this and get more targeted advice based on the equipment I have. I'm going to Botswana next month and want to know what I should bring. I can see a bunch of you here have experience in safaris so advice on luggage restrictions would be appreciated as well.

Looking at my signature (list of equipment), what would you bring? I obviously want to pack as light as possible, but I'm ok to carry a lot as I'm not going to cut corners since this IS the trip of my dreams! My biggest dilemma is whether I should bring the 7D with the extender to get close and sacrifice the quality that the 5DM2 will bring, or whether the 5DM2 with the extender is sufficient, or do I bring both?

I don't own a monopod, do I need one? If so, which one? I planned on going handheld with the assumption that the truck will stop or be slow enough for me get away with it, but after more reading most people are bringing their tripod and beanbags - something I really don't want to lug around with me.

Thanks in advance to all that reply! :)


Canon 5D Mark II [gripped] | Canon 7D [gripped] | 24-70mm f/2.8L USM | 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM | Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 | Canon 50mm f/1.8 | Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 macro | 430EX | 600EX-RT | Manfrotto 488RC2 & legs | Canon Extender EF 2x II
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mag10
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Jan 08, 2014 22:42 |  #2

I've not been to Botswana, so I'm not sure exactly what kind of circumstances you will see on your safari, but when I went on safari in Kenya and Tanzania, I had a 5DII with 24-105 and 7D with 100-400 90% of the time. I felt that covered almost all situations I needed to cover, including a close encounter with a cheetah that jumped on our truck:

IMAGE: https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-Fv6GtTwtucs/UHCr8gsSiqI/AAAAAAAACvY/98yPbUay1rM/s800/IMG_4011.jpg

This shot was taken right after i ducked in the truck when the cheetah jumped on at exactly the same place I was standing and taking photos. I was able to quickly put down my 7D and grab my 5DII with 24-105 lens on it, in order to get this wide angle shot while the cheetah stood there for about 5 seconds.

I also brought the 17-40 i had at the time and used it with the 5DII for some wide landscape shots. If you've read the other threads, you'll see that its unanimous that you should bring at least 2 bodies. That way you have some insurance if one craps out, and also you won't need to constantly change lenses, which may make you miss shots and increases the chances of dust getting into the sensor. So definitely bring both your 5DII and 7D.

As for lenses, I would bring your 24-70, 70-200, and 2x extender. The tokina won't add much since it's only for your 7D and you will get wide enough with your 24-70 on the 5DII. You could also bring your 50 1.8 in case you need something for low-light situations. You may also want to think about renting or buying either the 100-400 or a 300 or 400 prime that you can use with your 2x. Again, this somewhat depends on how close your car can get to the animals on the safari. For me, I found myself at 400mm on the 7D a lot, and did feel that more reach would have been even better in certain situations. If you buy a used lens, you could probably sell it when you return for the same price, or just a bit less.

The flashes will not be that useful so you can leave those home, unless you plan to do a night safari. If you do a night safari, I read that a flash extender is helpful.

I didn't find a tripod or monopod necessary in the car, but I used a bean bag all the time. Ask your safari outfitter if they have bean bags in the trucks. Many do. I did bring my own Omni pod and loved it. it attaches on to the tripod column of the lens and made it easy for me to quickly move from place to place in the car. I also brought a tripod, but that was mainly used when I was at the lodge or camp and wanted to take photos my wife and me together.

As for luggage, do try to pack as light as possible. I had a med size duffle for my clothes and tripod, and carried my camera bodies and lenses in a backpack that I kept with me at all time. Some of the local airlines will be sticklers for luggage weight restrictions, but it usually just take some extra money to resolve. I also wore a photo vest that is able to carry some stuff on my body, in case i needed to lighten the weight of my bag or backpack.

Hope this helps get you started. There's a ton of information out there and I could go on for hours on what gear to bring. The research and gear shopping was actually part of the fun for me. Good luck and enjoy! By the way, here's an example of the type of shots you can look forward to :)

IMAGE: https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-2dyyb59vtBI/UHCuEY_mLjI/AAAAAAAACw4/GClhdy7Xqn0/s800/IMG_4443.jpg

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | Sony DSC-RX100M3 | Canon EF 16-35 f/4 L IS USM EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM | Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM ART | Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Dedicated flash ST-E3 RT controller

  
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powaysteve
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Jan 08, 2014 22:57 as a reply to  @ mag10's post |  #3

You will love it! I was in Botswana last year in August. It is an unbelievable country. You want to take both bodies as the dust factor is very high wherever you go. You want a wide angle on the 5D2 and a long lens on the 7D. You want to avoid having to change lens when out on game drives.

If you can rent a 100-400mm for the trip or some other long lens. A lot of my shots were at 400 or just under. Everything I shot was handheld. Whether or not you can use a monopod depends on how many people are in your truck. The vehicles are open top modified Land Rovers most everywhere so even using a beanbag is difficult.

The better guides will position the vehicle as close to the animals as they can get and will shut off the engine so its easy to shoot handheld. Many guides do photography themselves so they have an appreciation for how to position the vehicle relative to the animal and the sun.




  
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NatDeroxL7
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Jan 08, 2014 22:58 |  #4

I just finished a rental period with the 200-400, and I was amazed at both the features, usefullness, and incredible image quality of the lens. Being able to go to 560 with the flip of a lever was also very, very useful.


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mag10
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Jan 09, 2014 00:00 |  #5

powaysteve wrote in post #16589998 (external link)
The vehicles are open top modified Land Rovers most everywhere so even using a beanbag is difficult.

There are actually a few different types of vehicles, though powaysteve is correct that most of them are modified Land Rovers with pop-up roofs. There are also vans, multiple row jeeps, and I even saw some buses. Here is a good video about the types of vehicles:

http://youtu.be/wkKq3q​7SO7A (external link)

We had a pop up roof Land Rover and I had no problems using either a beanbag or omni pod like this:

IMAGE: https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-siZngLiWx60/UEbIfYYlpTI/AAAAAAAACTY/_BIXH92YHM8/s400/DSC01239.jpg

There may be some vehicles where you might be better off using a monopod or hand holding is your only option, so check with your outfitter to see what kind of vehicle you will get (or better yet, specifically tell them the type of vehicle you want). Of course, the other factor will be how many other people are in the car with you. My wife and I were lucky enough to have a car with either just the two of us, or just one other couple. If you can afford to, I would def. recommend booking a private safari or one where they don't put more than 4 people in a car. This way, you don't have to cater to too many people's needs and you get plenty of room to move around and time to take photos. Also, sometimes you have to wait for the animals to do interesting things or for good lighting - the last thing you want is to have other people in your car say they want to move on or go back to the lodge or camp because they don't feel like waiting any longer.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | Sony DSC-RX100M3 | Canon EF 16-35 f/4 L IS USM EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM | Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM ART | Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Dedicated flash ST-E3 RT controller

  
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Neilyb
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Jan 09, 2014 02:24 |  #6

The age old question. Depends where exactly you are going in Botswana? I would definately not want to make you spend money but for a tele 400mm is the minumum on a 7D, either prime or 1-4 zoom. 1-4 will be handy as many drives start or end when light is very low and IS can be a plus so lang as things are sitting or not moving.
Any longer than 400mm will be useful for birds but during the day heat tends to destroy long shots of anything, if you cannot fill the frame at 400 you will just have a shimmering picture anyway.

Take 24-70, useful range. If you can stretch to a 400 (even better IMO a 300 2.8 and TCs) do it, you will not regret it. The 70-200 with a TC will not compete either IQ or AF wise with a proper 400 lens.


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hollis_f
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Jan 09, 2014 04:43 |  #7

I've been to Botswana twice and it's my favourite place in Africa.

Two things I'd strongly recommend. Take both bodies (imagine the anguish if you took just one and it developed a fault). Get a longer lens (preferably 100-400 or 400 f5.6) and stick it on the 7D.


Frank Hollis - Retired mass spectroscopist
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markisclueless
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Jan 09, 2014 04:53 |  #8

Agree with Frank - a 400mm equivalent is a must (which gives equivalent of 620mm on crop body).
A beanbag is a must as it is sometimes difficult to move your monopod around in a game viewing vehicle - and you don't want the risk of missing the split second action shot whilst you asking people to move out your way.
Lastly - enjoy one of the most beautiful places in Africa


Canon 7D mk2 | Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II | Canon 400mm DO IS II

  
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hollis_f
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Jan 09, 2014 05:18 |  #9

markisclueless wrote in post #16590408 (external link)
A beanbag is a must as it is sometimes difficult to move your monopod around in a game viewing vehicle - and you don't want the risk of missing the split second action shot whilst you asking people to move out your way.

Never used a monopod, sometimes used a beanbag. But most of the time I was shooting handheld. That way I didn't need to ask people to move out of the way, I just shot around them.


Frank Hollis - Retired mass spectroscopist
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Neilyb
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Jan 09, 2014 08:10 |  #10

Beanbag if you have the front seat of the jeep or a high sill (or are in a car self driving), having taken tripod and monopods to Africa I can say I never once found a use for them except sunset shots. Have been to Botswana and South Africa. Of course if you are doing any stops in Vic Falls take a tripod!


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zunimoon
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Jan 09, 2014 08:52 |  #11

You guys ROCK, but you probably know that already!

For the record, I'm going to Maun, Botswana in late Feb - Mar this year.

Ok, so I'll definitely take both bodies. The 24-70L on the 5D and either my 70-200 with 2x extender on the 7D, or if I can find a 400mm at a decent price I'll get it.

Just so I'm clear, are you guys using the omnipod or beanbags just to rest the camera on the vehicle while shooting handheld?


Canon 5D Mark II [gripped] | Canon 7D [gripped] | 24-70mm f/2.8L USM | 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM | Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 | Canon 50mm f/1.8 | Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 macro | 430EX | 600EX-RT | Manfrotto 488RC2 & legs | Canon Extender EF 2x II
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hollis_f
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Jan 09, 2014 09:18 |  #12

zunimoon wrote in post #16590811 (external link)
Just so I'm clear, are you guys using the omnipod or beanbags just to rest the camera on the vehicle while shooting handheld?

Most safari vehicles I've been in have either had pop-up roofs and sliding windows or have been open-sided, with the rim of the bodywork waist-high.

With the former (PIC (external link)) you can stand up and rest your camera on the beanbag which is on the body of the vehicle. However, these vehicles are designed so that small people can see without standing on the seats. So I find the camera is too low for me if I use a beanbag. So I do nearly all of it handhold.

The second type of vehicle (PIC (external link)) is even worse as the camera perched on a beanbag is at waist level. Maybe a flippy-out LCD might work, but I doubt it.


Frank Hollis - Retired mass spectroscopist
Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll complain about the withdrawal of his free fish entitlement.
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cdiver2
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Jan 09, 2014 10:19 |  #13

As has been stated I would go for a private safari. My wife and I had one in the Serengeti and we never missed a shot, As Frank stated the open top with a bean bag was a little low but I had no problems, one foot on the floor and a knee on the seat and I was where I wanted to be. Using the side windows I just kneeled on the floor bean bag on the window and everything worked out there.
I used a 100-400 for 98% of my shots, the only time I wanted longer was for birds I found they were not as approachable as the other critters. A flash with a extender may come in handy with the birds. I often came across a bird shot that was back lit, that with distance would mean overexposing the sky to get the shot or use fill flash.
You will find that the baggage weight limit deciding factor will be with your bush flight (if you have one). We were about 10lbs over but the flight was less than 1/2 full so they let it go. To keep weight down we purchased clothing for the safari Columbia pants and top and Ex fficio underwear.
Very light with a mesh in them to let your body breath and a plus they can be washed in a hand basin (if you have to) and they dry vey quickly. Some places may not wash women's underwear ask before you go. One other thing we did was overnight in our arrival city and left our normal clothing with suitcase at the hotel and picked them up on the way back.
enjoy your trip I know you will love it.




  
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cdiver2
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Jan 09, 2014 10:40 |  #14

One other thing I forgot to mention. I also took a power strip (six outlets), mine is a Wanpro, The electric cable comes off the strip and you can buy a cable with a different plug on it for use in other country's. At some of our locations the charging stations were very crowded it was great to come in at the end of the day use only one of the camps outlets and plug everything into my strip and leave it until the next morning, no running to see if something had charged so I could plug something else in.




  
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zunimoon
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Jan 09, 2014 12:20 |  #15

So it looks like the 400mm is a must. Could I get away with using my 70-200mm w/2x extender on my 7D to get further, or are you guys recommending a 400mm lens w/the 2x extender on the 7D to get even further than that?


Canon 5D Mark II [gripped] | Canon 7D [gripped] | 24-70mm f/2.8L USM | 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM | Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 | Canon 50mm f/1.8 | Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 macro | 430EX | 600EX-RT | Manfrotto 488RC2 & legs | Canon Extender EF 2x II
www.zuniphotography.co​m (external link)

  
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1st Safari Advice (what to bring)
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