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About Swazicar

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    Resident in Africa/Former resident
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    Portland, Oregon
  1. I just did a quick search using Google Flights, and there don't appear to be any direct flights between Bozeman and Jackson (both are small places), so I'm not sure that flying is reasonable. (You can connect through Salt Lake City, for example, but that seems ridiculous, and costs $600.) If weather is good, I would think driving from Gardiner to Jackson outside the various parks would take at least 6 hours, assuming no problems. If you're a downhill skier, that of course would be a reason to go to Jackson, but that's a very different scene than what you'll find in Gardiner or West Yellowstone. I'm not aware of any direct transfer possibilities in winter but, again, my winter experience in the park is limited to the north/northeast (and my last winter trip to Jackson was in about 1983).
  2. This is the only question that I can (sort of) answer, as it relates to the only portion of the park I've visited in winter. This package is (effectively) what we did in February, except that we didn't stay in the park, we were a private group of three, and we skied instead of snowshoed. Our guide was from the same entity, and the daily routine likely was similar: Get an early start, drive on the only open road (to Lamar Valley), keeping in touch with other wolf watchers via radio to learn if/where wolves have been spotted, then drive fast to that spot. We saw wolves from two different packs on the first day, but then none after that. That was okay with us, because we'd seen wolves there before (at closer range) and we really were there just to see the park in winter and to ski. In my experience (four trips to the park) wolf watching is very hit-or-miss, and viewing is typically at long distances. So, if one is hoping for up-close and repeated views of wolves, one likely will be disappointed, based on my experience. Likewise, if one is accustomed to the type of viewing common in much of Africa, for example, one will be disappointed. That said, I think this package would be a good introduction to winter in Yellowstone, and it's reasonably priced. Of course, these things in the U.S. are a bit tame, relative to what many people are accustomed to and/or want, so you'd have to think about what your expectations are and whether this trip would meet them. I do think there are others here who have done the Old Faithful trip (for example), so hopefully someone with firsthand knowledge can provide info on getting from the north end of the park (Gardiner) to the interior sections via snow coach.
  3. @iceYes. I went in February 2017. We stayed one night in Bozeman, then drove to Gardiner, where we stayed for four nights in a house (not really a "cabin") owned by the non-profit organization now called "Yellowstone Forever" (which was formed by the merger of the former Yellowstone Association and Yellowstone Park Foundation). Each day, we went wildlife viewing for a few hours before spending the remainder of the day cross-country skiing. We used a naturalist guide from Yellowstone Forever, which also gave us a 25% discount on the house. The guide did all the driving, which was nice, but it's completely reasonable to do it on one's own; you'd just miss out on some local knowledge. Happy to answer any questions. I've also been to the park three other times, so I'm fairly familiar with it. -tom a.
  4. I've no experience with Olympus, but the mirrorless gang generally suggests minimizing chimping in order to prolong battery life. The improvement in autofocus of the X-T2 (relative to the X-T1) is such that I tend to check focus only after the first shot in a sequence, then not worry about it again. However, if one is using an adapted lens (requiring manual focus) then one may end up needing to do a lot more chimping. So, battery life (if measured on a per-shot basis) can vary a lot. I, too, have generally found the cheapo batteries to be fine. My only specific negative comment about them is that they tend not to hold a charge for as long as (in my case) Fuji batteries. If I put a fully charged Fuji and a fully charged cheapo on the shelf, then come back a month later and check the charge, the Fuji likely will be at 80% or better, while the cheapo will be in the 40%-50% range. Anecdotally, some people report that the cheapos have a shorter useful life as well. But based only on cost (at 1/3 the price), they're often the better option.
  5. In three years of using mirrorless cameras, I've never found this to be a significant impediment. There may be good reasons not to buy/use a mirrorless camera, but this isn't one of them, in my opinion. Whether on multi-week sea kayaking trips off British Columbia, self-driving in Namibia, "safari-ing" in Botswana, backpacking in the Cascades or Olympics, or bear-viewing in Alaska, I've never been in a situation in which battery life gave me any concern whatsoever. Yes, I likely carry two or three more batteries than do people who use certain other cameras, but I've not yet encountered an airline for which that was an issue. And as I always want to have redundant and multi-method charging capability anyway (regardless of what type of camera I'm using) I don't find carrying the equipment needed to charge batteries to be a burden at all. That's only my experience however; others, of course, may have different experiences. I'm quite happy with Fuji's 100-400mm lens; that said, I do wish the upcoming 200mm lens would be a 300mm. The quality of Fuji primes is actually super, and combining a 300 with either the 1.4x or 2x converters would be plenty of length for me, as I'm not a birder. For others, however, that wouldn't work. As Fuji, Sony, and other mirrorless manufacturers cut into the market, however, I'm sure there will be additions to the long end of the lens line-up, whether from the camera manufacturers themselves, or from third parties, as noted above. But people get used to what they're used to, and I'm no different. -tom a.
  6. This is too late for Steven, but here's my back-up system, in case anyone is interested in a small, low-cost, but workable option: It's a "Kingston MobileLite Wireless G2." I bought it two years ago for $30. (The more recent version--the G3--is available for $25 from at least one major New York-based photo and video retailer.) It's the size of a cell phone (actually, it's smaller than my phone) and is controlled by a slightly clunky but workable app via a wireless connection with your phone or tablet. How it works: Charge it (it has a 4640 mAh battery) via a USB-to-micro USB cable. Turn it on, and it emits a wi-fi signal; connect via wi-fi from a phone or tablet; once connected, open the MobileLite app on your phone/tablet. Stick in your SD card, which then will become viewable via the app. Stick it your preferred USB-based storage (in my case, I have four 128 GB thumb drives; at least in theory, the device can handle drives of up to 2 TB). Using the "copy" command in the app, select the folder (containing your images) on the SD card that you want to copy; then select the USB drive as the destination for the copied folder. Wait for it to finish copying. Turn it off. If one doesn't like "gadgets," then this probably isn't a good option, in part because figuring out how to connect and use the app can take a few tries; it might be better simply to spend several hundred dollars more for one of the more refined options out there. Likewise, if one uses Compact Flash, then this doesn't help at all. For me, however, it works because I already had USB thumb drives lying around, the device has other uses (its battery can charge your phone or your camera batteries, for example), it's small, and it's cheap. It's got some other uses as well, but those fall more into the "gadget" discussion. It does take a while to copy a full 32 or 64 GB card, but one can just start it before supper and let it go, so that doesn't cramp my style at all. -tom a.
  7. @Julian Or, you could just take an appropriate plug, such as from a cell phone charger, that accepts a USB input. (That said, for a multi-week trip, I'd take at least three chargers, just in case. After all, they're cheap because they're cheaply made.)
  8. Short report on a grizzly in Yellowstone killed (by park officials) after repeatedly attempting to scavenge food from backcountry campsites. The site (Heart Lake) is a place the missus and I backpacked in 2010. Story is here: https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/news/17050.htm Hard to tell from the description the extent to which "bad" behavior by backcountry users contributed to the bear's behavior. Reading between the lines, however, if a party is following the rules, the window of opportunity for a bear to get "all" of a party's food, as in the event immediately preceding the bear's ultimate capture and subsequent killing, is pretty limited (although certainly possible, if a bear came along at just the right time). I certainly don't fault park officials, however.
  9. This is a U.S-based company but, just FYI, they have USB chargers for quite a few camera batteries (scroll toward bottom of page): https://www.voltaicsystems.com/adapters-cables At $10 each, I typically carry two with me, and use them with a combination of solar panels, rechargeable power packs, and mains electricity. -ta
  10. In what country do you and your parents live? (If it's the U.S., do you and your parents live in the same state?)
  11. @Peter Connan You're welcome. (And, if it's any consolation, next year's trip to Zambia will cost me about five times what the entire two weeks--not just the McNeil River portion--of the Alaska trip cost.) @Atravelynn It apparently was a big year for cubs: I think we saw 8-10 cubs of the year. It was nice not having to deal with rain, but I'd have preferred a bit more overcast to help the photography. I won't complain too much, however.
  12. Tools shorter than seven inches in length generally are allowed in carry-on; if longer, they have to be checked. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/screwdrivers-shorter-7-inches
  13. Great! Another convert to medium format!
  14. Fujifilm has done stuff like this in the past (but not for 50% off the price of a $1,200 - $1,500 camera). One example: https://promo.fuji-offers.com/gb/pages/tradein/home
  15. Okay, let's finish up. After all, how many photos of yet another bear eating yet another salmon can one look at? The answer, of course, is "a few more." I'll jump back and forth with a few unrelated images below, before finishing up with a couple of final thoughts. I mentioned previously the different fishing techniques of different bears. Now, I don't know that the fellow immediately below was the best fisher, but he certainly seemed the most efficient. Meet Brave Heart: Brave Heart's technique was both simple and elegant: Sit down in the middle of the river, facing downstream, such that an eddy formed immediately in front of him. Then, he'd wait until a fish swam into that eddy, and he would scoop it up, moving only his head and front paws. On consecutive days, one of the people in our group kept track of how many fish Brave Heart caught while we were there. The total? Twenty-six each day (just while we were there). Wow. Occasionally, another bear would come along and try to fish in the same eddy, which didn't seem to bother Brave Heart too much. Other bears had identifiably characteristic behavior as well. One of the rangers noted that if two adult males were play sparring, one of them likely would be a bear known as Mask. Immediately below, we have an older, larger bear, known as Aardvark, on the left, and Mask, on the right: In the next image, the smaller Mask works the body of his larger playmate: I think I learned a lot about bear behavior on this trip. I'm still precessing how much of that knowledge is applicable elsewhere, however. When hiking or backpacking in grizzly country, which I've done quite a few times, one of the cardinal rules is: don't come anywhere near a mother and her cubs. At McNeil River, however, one ends up in situations like the following, which is no big deal, at least there: These bears, walking in a constricted area on the edge of the lagoon (there's a rock wall off-screen to the right), are heading straight toward us and now are not more than 10 meters from us. The cubs (referred to as "COY"s, for "cub of the year," meaning they were born earlier this year) are clearly a little wary, as this is their first season, and thus their first season of experience with humans. The mother, however, is quite relaxed and calm; rather than turn around or head out into the water to bypass us, she simply walks ahead, and the cubs follow her. This scenario--running into bears in this constricted section--was raised with us just that morning by the ranger leading the outing. Our tactic?: move as far from water's edge as possible, right up against the rock wall (allowing the bears the option of staying on course or moving out into the water), get out cameras in advance (so as not to be fumbling around as the bears passed us), and wait. We got our shots, the bears moved on, and all was well. This works at McNeil River, but I wouldn't even consider this in the other places I've encountered bears. All round, a fantastic experience, perhaps once in a lifetime. I WILL apply for another permit when I'm again eligible to do so, but who's to say whether I'll win. For me, this experience was right up there with mountain gorillas in Zaire in the mid- and late-80s, albeit somewhat less exotic. For those interested, our per-person costs directly related to the McNeil River portion of the trip were: Nonrefundable permit application fee: $25 Four-day guided permit: $350 for non-Alaskans Roundtrip float plane fare between Homer and McNeil River: $700 ($750-$800 might be more typical) Self-purchased and self-prepared food and drink while camping at McNeil River: $100 (guesstimate) Rental of waders: $25 One also has to get to Alaska, of course, so that would be a major cost for most international visitors (but not so bad for those of us on the west coast of the U.S.). A note on the permit cost: Apparently the cost of the permit has not increased since it was initially established. Revenue from the application fee and permit sales used to fully fund the program; with the passage of time, however, the fees and sales now cover only about half the cost of operating the program. The state is now evaluating costs, and seems likely to approximately double the cost of the permit, to $700 for non-residents. Bear in mind that that would be $700 for four days of guided activities, a bargain by world standards, in my opinion. Happy to answer any questions, if you have them, and I promise not to inflict and more images on you. -tom a. portland, oregon

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