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Jochen last won the day on September 21 2014

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About Jochen

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    Order of the Pith

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  1. "We know what has to be done, we just don't know how to get re-elected afterwards" I'm totally stealing this. So spot on. The core of the problem with politics is that it is for the people (and ONLY for the people), and that it's always about the short term.
  2. This was an interesting read, but all of you are debating this from an outsiders perspective. What lacks is somebody who knows the situation from the inside. There's more going on than anything that can be proven/quantified with a research project. Don't get me wrong; I do not claim to be that person that's "in the know". All I can say is that I know some fantastic and 100% nature-minded people here in SA, people who are very wealthy as well, and they all tried (or are still trying) to establish ecotourism businesses in Botswana, and most of them are giving up, or are about to give up. So if you're wondering why the ban on hunting hasn't resulted in more ecotourism successes and -jobs, maybe you should all be looking at Botswana's internal kitchen. I'll share a few anecdotes. - One person was involved in relocating rhino to the delta (so his heart is definitely in the right place), and leased an ex-hunting concession. He wanted to make it work but ran into a brick wall when it comes to environmental assessments for some new lodge locations. He simply can't get the permits he needs, even though his camps are 100% green and sticking to the Botswana standards. They simply want more money in the form of bribes. This is not just employees of whatever department he's dealing with. It goes high up. - One person was sold a lease on a small island in the delta, and he made it work. After a few month the camp was kicking, and in the months to come above 90% occupancy was going to be reached. That was apparently the right time to let him know that the person who had leased the island to him was not entitled to do so. Within 24 hours he had to dismantle the whole camp and find some place else for his current customers. The financial hit he took to be able to reroute all his customers that were in the pipeline made him virtually bankrupt. Lo and behold; a mere two weeks after he was pushed off the island, the camp was kicking again, even with the same name! The camp indeed made a bit of a name for itself in that short time frame, and now someone else is reaping the benefits of that. - A couple from SA managed a new lodge for a while, only to find out that the owner could not keep his promises. Not because the owner didn't want to, but because the employees wouldn't allow this couple from SA to do anything. For starters; the guy was promised he could guide, but guides in Botswana are very protective of their job and do not accept FGASA standards. Even though this guy was FGASA level 3, with full trails qualification and an SKS birding, he is not even allowed to take the exams in Botswana to get the certifications he needs. After a while both the guy and the lady of the couple weren't even allowed on the game drive vehicles anymore. The local guides simply did not want any authoritative figure on their vehicle to check how they conducted their game drives. So they did whatever they could to get the management couple to be forced to stay in camp. Don't know what authorities they went to but at one point the whole camp was forced to stop operating (you can imagine the loss of income). Local staff was very hostile towards this SA management couple, even though they never even slapped anyone's fingers. It was just that SA people are not accepted in the work force. It was racism, there's no other word for it. I am not taking sides here, it is just my own conclusion, after the couple told me their story (the woman in tears). I know these people very well. They are very honest people and not racist at all. After a while they just gave up and found another job back in SA. Here in SA their whole staff (both black and white) love them. The owner is still there, but doesn't know what to do. He can't find Botswana people with the skills needed, and at current no operator wants to work with him and no agent wants to sell his camp, simply because the quality of service is very low. Basically the staff has taken the whole place hostage, but the owner has trouble laying of people as they are very well protected. So he is losing money fast. - Another couple spent most of their capital to acquire another ex-hunting concession. But now they found out they cannot get the permits to stay there and supervise their business. Simply because all permit applications in that district were stopped because of a local scandal (bush meat trafficking). No amount of begging and pleading helps. At this point they are both stuck in SA, not knowing what goes on exactly in their camps. They do get bad news very regularly. Recently they were told that the staff got stuck in a river with the most expensive vehicle. No one wants to take the blame (obviously), and they heard the vehicle is total loss. These owners are very frustrated because they don't even know where the vehicle was towed to, nor what state it is in. - Another person had a camp on a concession of a local community, but was pushed off because of some inter-community dispute (if what I heard is correct). No matter what legal actions he tried, nothing helped. He had to go. He's back on now, and is happy about that. But while he was gone, he lost all his personal belongings as his house in Maun was robbed empty. I could go on for a while. There's lot more stories like this, trickling down to us here in the south. Bottom line seems to be that the Botswana people do not want to work with (or for) any other nationalities. So stopping the hunting business may have been a good idea, but after that it went downhill. Maybe they thought more local people would step up and start an eco-tourism business. But it seemed it was mostly foreigners that stepped up, and that is not to the liking of a lot of people (both regular staff as well as people in the government. Botswana has the name of being "the ultimate place" when it comes to the government protecting it's wildlife and the promoting ecotourism. But I found out there's a very dark side to it... All SA people who got involved in Botswana seem to say the same; "stay away from that place". That seems to be the bottom line at this point.
  3. Glad your experience was different, @Towlersonsafari. I was actually really worried after my recent experiences in KNP. @Dave Williams; seems OSV's in other parks behave really badly then. Are these parks that mostly have nothing else than OSV's though? I mean; I see you don't mention them for Etosha. I've been there myself, both on self drive and in a guided vehicle (from Onguma lodge), and indeed the low volume of vehicles means that there's hardly anyone doing something stupid. You know, maybe I got to see what I saw in KNP because there's simply too many vehicles there, and because this park has tar roads.
  4. Hey all, For the record; OSV = Open Safari Vehicles. In KNP these vehicles have a guide behind the wheel, and then 10 passenger seats (one next to the guide, 3x 3 rows of seats at the back). They differ from game viewers on private reserves, in the sense that the OSV's are obliged to have a front window, side panels and a (canvas) roof. Also the back side needs to be closed with canvas. Just came back from a short trip to Kruger National park. We stay mostly on our own farms (in Balule, a private reserve), but if students stay for two weeks then we also take them on a short trip into KNP, with an overnight at a campsite of one of the restcamps. It is the first time I join such a trip (as this group was rather small). Normally I stay at the lodge while the students are gone, and do repairs, administration, etc. Anyway... I know there's a bit of rivalry between self-drivers and tour operators, but I've never experienced it myself. In particular; if you follow any of the KNP-related Facebook groups (like "Kruger, best place on earth", or "Friends of KNP"), now and then you come across these posts from self-drivers complaining that a guide is misbehaving (cutting them off, hogging a sighting, ...). I now have experienced this rivalry first hand. But what I experienced was very different then what's being written on those Facebook groups. I don't mean to pick a side, but to be honest there's no wheeling around this; for me it was the self-drivers that were the "problem". To give but a few examples; - We were followed almost constantly by a few self-drivers, and it was clear they were hoping to "cash in" on the "expert" eyes from our guide as he was trying to spot the animals. Whenever our guide stopped, they would rush in often and park in front of us. - At one point our guide stopped on the road to exchange some info with a guide coming from the other direction. They exchanged maybe 5 sentences. It lasted less than a minute. During that minute one self driver had to stop behind the other guide's vehicle. Maybe he had to wait for 30 seconds before he could drive on, but that was enough to get him angry. As he passed us, he shouted "get each other's phone numbers then you can talk as long as you want", followed by some swear words. Our customers were shocked. - Almost any time on the tar road, even if we were close to the maximum allowed speed limit, lots of self-drivers would fly by, going way faster than what was allowed. In only those two days, we counted more than 10 occasions where - because of that person driving too fast - he/she missed a very beautiful sighting of a big 5 animal. One time a person flew by a cheetah right next to the road. - It seemed none of the self-drivers was aware of animal's needs, or they simply didn't care for the animals' wellbeing. To give but one example; at Kumana dam, we stopped to let a buffalo herd pass the road on their way to the dam. Self-drivers squeezed in front of us and some even parked smack in the middle of the herd and the dam. When a portion of the herd turned back, afraid of the vehicles, that was the sign for yet some other self-drivers to speed past, causing some animals to run off even further. - None of the self-drivers seemed to be aware that the sound of their engine has a serious negative effect on the stress levels of animals. That roaring engine is a sign of aggression to them! In two days, I've seen more annoyed elephants, rhinos and lions than I've seen on Balule in a whole year. What's even worse is that almost everyone had their AC going, which makes the engine noise even louder. Note that it is the dead of winter now, and while we were there a cold front rolled through. I mean; driving with their windows open would have had the same effect as running their AC. I could go on but I guess it's clear; my guests as well as ourselves were really shocked by all this, and it seriously impacted our KNP trip experience in a negative way. My questions to the ST gang; - have you experienced the same in KNP or in any other reserves any where else in Africa? - if you are a self-driver, are you aware of the impact your engine noise and the position of your car have on the animal you are watching? Thanks, J.
  5. Thanks all! Oh my word! I didn't realise how long it has been since I've been in Namibia.
  6. Hey all, When I was last there it was not allowed for self-drivers to enter Etosha west gate. Everyone had to enter through the south or east gate. If I recall correctly, it was the lodges with concessions in the western sector that were responsible for this rule. To make that side of the park more exclusive so to speak. To have less day-tourists driving that side. I also recall that because of that rule, some lodges outside that gate were struggling. Is this still the case? Thanks, J.
  7. @pomkiwi indeed a little bit blurry those images. It's what you would expect at 1/15s shutter speed. But I must say; that 1st pic came out very useable. You must have very strong arms! I noticed that the lions nose is a bit burned out. So in other words; your shutter speed was actually too long. Or to say it yet another way; your camera tried to imitate daylight conditions a bit too much. This is actually typical with night-time shots. Especially with those spotlights they put on the animals; they light up the centre of the animal, but the rest is more dark, and your camera "meters" the whole scene, and in doing so overexposes some parts. There's a little trick to counter this. At night time I always underexpose by two stops. This avoids blown out sections in my shot (and let's face it; photo editing software can get a lot of detail back from dark sections anyway), and at the same time it allows me a faster shutter speed (your shutter needs to be open a lot less long if you're not asking for a pic that looks like it's taken during the daytime) which means I got more chance of walking away with an image that is sharp!
  8. I can tell you what I did. I drove back to the lodge and called it a day. The guy next to me felt the same way. And the guy who sneezed bought us a bottle of whiskey. Which we downed before it was noon. And then we bought a second one. Also; on the way back to camp my back started hurting. Never had that before. I could barely move, or turn my steering wheel. It subsided a bit as I rolled into camp. I looked it up on the web. It was my adrenaline glands releasing too much adrenaline for my kidneys to handle.
  9. I hear what you're saying, @douglaswise. FWIW I used to be one of those "angry anti-hunting people". Don't get me wrong; I still hate hunting. Or rather; I hate that it still needs to happen. The keyword here being "needs". It's what none of the angry people want to hear. It's what I didn't want to hear. But now that I'm here in the bush permanently, I see how complex the matter is, and how a small amount of trophy hunting is needed to "balance the books". I don't know what the exact situation in Zim is like though. I can only shed a light on what's happening here in the Kruger Lowveld. Once or twice a year, the private reserves "feel the heat" from the anti-hunting community. And that community does not seem to (want to) understand the difference between the reserves themselves and the ecolodges on them. The result is that these angry people call for a ban of all lodges on these reserves, while those very lodges are the only things that are slowly pushing out trophy hunting. It really is an "ecotourism vs hunting" battle. But how can ecotourism win, if you support (or ask for) a ban on it? Even worse is that lodge owners of Sabi Sands (Mr. Varty, for example) and providers of photo-safaris who use Sabi Sands' lodges, decide to get on that same "ban those lodges" train. While they very well know that their own reserve has a history of trophy hunting as well. While they very well know that their evolution to full eco-tourism was a rough ride (there was leopard- and lion baiting there, in the old days). And while they very well know that their reserve still has some way to go (just one example; theirs is the reserve with by far most landscaping going on, to make it easier for their customers to see certain key species. However this has a serious impact on a lot of other species; insects, grass-nesting birds, ... And we all know an impact at the bottom of the food chain has an impact all the way to the top). Of course it's easy for them to talk; they're by far the most commercialised of all reserves (52 lodges now). They don't need trophy hunting that much. But it's a blow below the belt. They just want to put their own reserve in a better light, and lure some more customers their side. So much for all fighting at the same side; for ecotourism. Ah... I'm rambling now. But it's difficult for me to stay out of discussions like this. Sometimes, I wish people would be able to stand in my shoes, just to feel the impact of those five horrible minutes when I was looking down on a freshly poached rhino cow, while the vet was cutting the tiny unborn baby out of the womb... But then again that's something I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy. Anyway if we are to win this bloody poaching war; we need that money, people. Preferably by ecotourism, but by trophy hunting if needed.
  10. I think you hit the nail on the head here! If you go to a shop without knowing what you need, no salesman can help you. Ah, scratch that. These days, no salesman really helps you. He will "feel" what your budget is, and gently push you above that while at the same time pushing the box over the counter that's giving him the biggest profit margin. Yes, looking at some performance indicators is important (lowest F-value the lens can go, what zoom level it has, how high it can go in ISO, ...), but beyond that testing the camera before buying it is the only way to assure yourself that you got the right tool. If you buy a camera where you have to go through 7 menus to change the ISO then you can forget about using my method, for example.
  11. Not really. See what I wrote in previous post. True. But only if your camera can deliver what you want it to do. It's a subject under canopy so there's a fair chance your wanted F4 + 1/600s would push the ISO all the way up to 3200 (which is VERY grainy and almost without detail in these bridge cameras), and still the camera might not be able to get what you need, resulting in an underexposed image. Bottom line; I still don't see why "chosen fixed aperture- and shutterspeed settings" would result in a potentially better result when compared to using a simple rule that lets you optimise settings depending on available light. Otherwise put; with the exception of subjects in full daylight; light is a rare commodity that you cannot waste by choosing the wrong (fixed) F-values and/or the wrong (fixed) shutter speed. Because if you do, it's going to have an impact on your results (a grainier image, higher in ISO, than you could have gotten ...or even no sharp image at all). Hope this makes sense.
  12. The blur is not caused by a wrong focus. The blur comes from the owl that moved slightly, or (less likely) the photographer's hands that moved slightly. These are things you can only counter with a higher shutter speed. A higher aperture value would not have resulted in a sharper image, I think. Besides, even if in this case you're right; it's a bad idea to go to a higher F-value just to avoid issues with a few wrongly focused shots. At a higher F-vaue, you'd lose much more shots because your camera cannot get the needed shutter speeds no matter how high he pushes the ISO.
  13. If it's a stabilised lens, then your needed shutter speed setting is not too far off. But the camera "took a chance", so to speak. Shutter speed should have been 1/250s. This is why choosing the ISO yourself is a better option IMHO. If you would have chosen ISO 800, the shutter speed would have been what's needed to get a sharp picture with this stabilised lens.
  14. @Zim Girl; yours is a fantastic example how the "auto ISO" method can be less than ideal. Well, maybe it behaves better on a camera where you can set both aperture and shutter speed. But still... First off; let me start by saying that photography is not an exact science. You don't need exactly 1/600s for a 600mm shot. This is just a guideline! If you've got stable hands, or if you can brace your camera in any way, then you can get away with a lower shutter speed. But the point is; the further you are from the ideal shutter speed, the more you're taking chances. In other words; knowing exactly at what zoom level you are is not necessary. I think that - after having used your camera a few days - you can easily guess at what zoom level you are, and your guess will not be far off. And if you estimate more or less correctly, you can also choose a shutter speed that's more or less correct. The trick is not to fool yourself and don't guess too low. The only time I allow myself to drift way off from the ideal shutter speed, is when using a stabilised lens. If your lens is stabilised, you only need half the normal shutter speeds, and you can even get away with 1/4th of the normal shutter speed. In your example; you would need only 1/300s and can even try 1/150s. Now, on to your examples... If I understand correctly, you zoomed out all the way, and set your F-value as low as possible. So far so good. But then it seems you relied on auto-ISO, and the camera decided to choose ISO 400, which in turn resulted in a shutter speed that's too low, which in turn might lead to blurry images (the 2nd image in particular seems blurred). Is your lens stabilised? That might be the reason why your cam decided not to go higher in ISO. Maybe it though 1/125s was enough for a 600mm shot. It guessed wrong though, the 2nd image is proof of that. What I would try in this particular case is this (if your lens is not stabilised); - set ISO manually, to 1600. This will increase your shutter speed to 1/500s. Close enough to the 1/600s required. - set ISO manually, to 800, and zoom out a bit. If you can get to a shutter speed of 1/250s at - say - 400mm, and if you slightly crop that image later in your photo editing software, your result might even be better (still lots of detail in the subject, and very little ISO-noise).
  15. I think it's more a problem that people buy a cam just before going on safari without learning how to use it. Often they think "the more I pay for it, the better the shots should be". The inverse might be the case! (in the sense that you might have to learn to work with an expensive camera before you can get any decent results out of it) And then there's also a number of people who simply don't want to learn how to use their camera. This group kinda overlaps with the people I described above; they buy expensive stuff and use it on Auto. "I paid a lot for this and now I want amazing results just by pressing a button". Story time! I'm driving guests around on Balule. 5-star lodge, wealthy people. It's after dark and we've got the spotlight on a leopard in a tree. I use my method (as described in the first post of this thread), with ISO set to 2000 and 2 stops underexposed. I fire away in burst. Tak-tak-tak-tak-tak... I show my results to some people behind me. Oohs and aahs. Right behind me sits this guy... he's got the same lens as me (70-200 IS L F2.8) but his camera body is top of the range, while mine is an old 2nd hand one. He aims and fires. Click ...clack. Click ...clack. Exposures of about a second! He instantly get s grumpy, and angry at his camera. I know this leopard. She's skittish, so I know she's not going to sit there for long. So I ask if I can quickly grab his cam and alter the settings. He gets it back within 5 seconds and I say "try again". He fires away. Frrrrrrrrr.... the thing sounded like it was shuffling two books of cards! He looks at the results, and I hear "Oh my God look at this honey! Awesome! I'm going to keep it on these settings as of now!" Noooooo....

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