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Found 78 results

  1. I've noticed there hasn't been much love for marine life yet on these forums so I've created a thread for these beautiful creatures. If you have photos please post them, I would love to see them!! I'll start with dolphins I had the pleasure of swimming with these guys in South Australia. Wasn't so lucky the first time because they swam away, but on the second attempt we got a few curious fellas come over to check us out
  2. With the increasing popularity of this topic and the "beginners luck" that all of the new 2016 participants have had, I thought I should be the first to start this year, in the hope that it increases my total. Here are a couple before we leave for the Kruger next week, where hopefully we should get at least 100 (???!!??) Following on from the suggestion from @@JohnR in http://safaritalk.net/topic/16171-tdgraves-big-year-2016/page-21 I took out the "optimum" combination of Canon 7D mark ii, 100-400 mark ii and 1.4x extender mark iii a couple of days ago when the sun was out. There weren't that many birds around, but he was right, this combination is much better than even then new lens on the 5D mark iii So here are my first couple of birds of 2017
  3. Please include species details, when and where taken, tech specs and any other pertinent details about the sighting. Thanks, Matt.
  4. Please include where and when taken, tech specs and any other pertinent details about the sighting. Thanks, Matt.
  5. Okay, who will get the ball rolling on this one? No links to Timon and Pumba please
  6. Please include species details, when and where taken, tech specs and any other pertinent details about the sighting. Thanks. Matt.
  7. I recently took a trip to Spain along with a birding friend of mine. I don't think Safaritalk is probably the right place to post the report but I do know a lot of members are in fact birders. If you want to read my report it's available on my blog site. You can share the "Trials and tribulations of a wannabe wildlife photographer" here:- http://davewilliamsnaturephotography.blogspot.co.uk and there certainly were quite a few!! Hope you enjoy the read and it gives some insights and ideas for the future. cheers Dave
  8. Please include when and where taken, tech specs and any other pertinent details about the sighting. Thanks, Matt.
  9. Hello Everyone, I have been a silent member of ST for a long time now. I have not posted any trip report (I started one and never finished it) till now, out of pure lethargy and nothing else, all the time enjoying reading other's! Thanks to some encouragement from Sangeeta, I am posting some of my images taken on a trip to Mana Pools in July 2016. This was a photography trip arranged by Wild-Eye South Africa, hosted by Morkel Erasmus, a great photographer from South Africa. The agenda for this trip was chasing the heavenly mana light, rather than chasing sightings (although we did chase a few sightings, albeit unsuccessfully). As a result you will find images of common subjects, presented in entirely different light (pun intended) :-). Morkel was a superb host and teacher and we had a small (just 3 guests) but lively group. I don't think I have laughed and enjoyed so much on any other safari that I have ever been. We stayed at a camp hosted by Tess Arkwright and Dave (they have a small operation called Mwinilunga Safaris), a great couple. We were guided by Kevin Lou, a Zim pro guide who was absolutely fun to be with and we always felt very safe with him. After that preamble, here are a few images. Can anyone help in putting images from my album (already uploaded on ST) here?
  10. I've about finished editing a few hundred images from my 15 days in the Kalahari and will shortly begin my trip report. Meanwhile, this video is a short 'tease' of the trip. https://youtu.be/6FfiXWzteEY I hope you enjoy this 3 minute overview. I promise to begin the tale shortly.
  11. I want to open with a 'thank you' to my friends on SafariTalk as your input significantly influenced my trip plans (in a good way) My first trip to Africa was a self-drive trip to Chobe National Park, Botswana in the early 2000’s. I went in with a group of acquaintances from South Africa. On the nights before, I had a lot of discussions about what I would see. Chobe was said to be one of the greatest destination in Africa to see abundant wildlife. That sounded great, but often I would hear ‘the only place where you will see more wildlife is Etosha!”. That trip to Chobe was all I had dreamed it would be and more. Africa was in my blood and I’ve been into the bush more than two dozen times since then; however, I never got to Etosha … and I continued to hear about how great it could be. Today, I lead small groups to Africa locations like Chobe, Timbavati, Sabi Sands, Hwange, Zimanga and Madikwe. I only take folks to places I’ve visited first hand so I really can share with them what to expect. I’m hoping to lead a group to Namibia, including Etosha in 2017, so I decided it was time for a scouting trip. In addition to Etosha, I wanted to check out a few other regions in northern Namibia. In particular, I’ve had great interest from travelers in getting a chance to visit villages, meet indigenous peoples and have a more cultural experience. Since I would be ‘moving quickly’ to check out several locations, I decided to make this a self-drive trip. To share the experience and to have a little ‘back-up’ for the trip, I enlisted 3 friends to go along. We took two vehicles, that way one person could sit up front and shoot left or right and one person could sit in the back and shoot left or right without interference. In addition, the second vehicle would provide a little safety insurance in case of vehicle troubles since we were going rather remote. Just a little more background and I promise to get on with the primary story and some photographs. For my 2017 Namibia trip, we will be with a larger group of photographers via train visiting the Quiver Tree forest for night photography, Kolmanskop for some ghost town taken over by desert shots, Sossusvlei and Deadvlei for the classic sand dune shots. Considering the size of Namibia and the travel times, I am concerned that following the first portion of the trip, travelers will not want to go too far before a stop and to see some wildlife. Basically, I wanted to find one high quality stop between Windhoek and Etosha. The two best options seemed to be Africats (Okinjima) or Erindi. AfriCats is a non-for-profit organization that rehabilitates cheetahs, wild dogs and hyenas. While I have heard good things, that sounded a bit zoo-like. In my research on Erindi, it sounded a bit like a variant of the private reserves around the Kruger. Write-ups noted that Erindi is known for big cat sightings and has both self-drive regions and also off road tracking. In addition, they have a few animals I know I won’t be seeing elsewhere in northern Namibia such as crocodiles, hippopotamus and wild dog. While I’ve seen these many times, some of my 2017 travelers will be taking their first and possibly only trip to Africa so these are a nice add. I finalized upon an itinerary as follows: · Day 1 - Arrival night in Windhoek with overnight at a Guest House · Day 2 - Drive to Erindi in the mornig, afternoon game drive and overnight. · Day 3 - Morning game drive at Erindi, mid-day drive to Etosha, afternoon drive to Etosha, stay first night at Halali. · Day 4 - Morning and afternoon game drives and 2nd night at Halali · Day 5 & 6 – On the 3rd and 4th nights in Etosha at Okaukuejo Lodge. · Day 7 - Etosha game drive to the western gate (Galton Gate) then proceed to Grootberg Lodge for overnight stay. · Day 8 & 9 - From Grootberg, head north to Khowarib Lodge, just south of Sesfontein for two nights. On one day I wanted to visit a Himba settlement and on another full day I wanted to look for desert elephants along the Hoanib River. · Day 10 - On the last morning, we would drive back south to Otjiwarongo for a night · Day 11 - The next morning, drive to Windhoek to fly out that afternoon to Jo’berg and back to the States That’s a pretty grueling week and a half with 2000 miles of driving including 1500 miles of driving on gravel and dirt. I would never do that schedule with a tour group, but this was a scouting trip and I was taking along some seasoned travelers/photographers. Now, let the story begin! Okay, I have to throw in at least one photo to start things off.
  12. Including when and where taken, tech specs and any other pertinent details from the sighting. Thanks, Matt.
  13. Including when and where taken, tech specs and any other pertinent details about the sighting. Thanks, Matt.
  14. Include when and where seen, tech specs and any other pertinent details about the sighting. Thanks, Matt.
  15. I'm off to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier soon. I plan to take a full frame camera (Canon 1Dx) and also a 1.6x crop sensor (Canon 7D mkII). For lens choices, I plan to use the Canon 100-400mm and I will also take along the 1.4x teleconverter. I will have some wider lenses, but bottom line, I will be able to shoot as as long at 560mm equivalent (with 100-400) a much longer limit of 784 with the 7D mkII combined with the 400mm and teleconverter. That sounds like a lot but it will be at a maximum of f/8 with a sensor that doesn't allow a real high ISO. When the light is low, I will most likely only have 540mm allowed by the 1Dx and 1.4x teleconverter which will still be at f/8 but allows a slightly higher ISO. My question: is this really enough? Do I need to shoot at least 600mm to get truly great Kgalagadi images?
  16. Hi Safaritalkers I thought I would open up this question. I have a pretty good idea what works for me, but it is always interesting to get other views and learn something new. My gear as a background for my thoughts. I use pro body Nikon cameras, now I only have Nikon D4 (x2), but a D500 will join my bag in the future. I have owned and experienced some Nikon bodys (D90, D300, D7000, D3, D800) now sold for different reasons. I have a Ricoh GR (compact with APS-C sensor and 28 mm lens) for snapshots. I have a almost full set up of lenses (50 mm f/1,4 24-70 f/2,8, 70-200 f/2,8, 300mm f/4 PF, 200 mm Micro AF, 600 mm f/4 and TC-1,4 and 2,0). Only lens i´m considering buying in the future is 14-24 f/2,8. Anyway, Auto focus: I always work with "backfocus", AF on the thumb button (AF-ON) and not on the shutter. I move around a lot which focus point it is measuring from according to composition. I always use continous focus. I almost always use one (singel) focus point. Sometimes I try different focus setting with more helping/active focus points like d21. But to often focus is lost on some pictures because of grass. Only when I photo birds in flight (BIF) I go for all focus points (d51). Obviously landscape I would do with single point AF. Something I have not experimented with is focus following setting (I use normal - "3"). It would be very interesting with comments and experiences of this. Mode: I always use manual. And almost always with auto-iso with a maximum setting of 12800 iso. When really dark or when auto iso goes over 6400 I often go to manual iso settings. Obviously shutter times and aperture is on back and front wheel. I always have them preset according to what I expect might happen, but is quick to change when it is action. Exposure: I use full area exposure measure. I have point measure on the pv button and use it sometimes. But I use exposure compensation all the time. FN button: On the fn-button I can change to different crop modes, but I never use this. I crop al lot in post. VR: I use it with care. If possible I turn it of. So basically I use it if I have to go to 1/2 of shutter times / lens length. I almost always use a beanbag (when in a car), which helps stability a lot. I do prioritize short enough shutter time before low iso. Be aware that if you have VR on and put the camera on a hard surface (car frame) then the movements of the VR will make the pictures blurred. Handhold it or use a beanbag. Tripod setting for tripods. Lens changing: I try to avoid it. On big reasons for 2 or 3 cameras. But I also do sensor cleaning my self, and normal do that a couple of time on a safari trip. I check for dust spots (zoom in on bright pictures) several times daily. Flash: I don´t use flash on wildlife or birds. Shooting people i sometimes use it, but I don´t even bring a flash on safari. Decision making: 1) Settings like shutter times and aperture according to what I expect. Focus point center, because of speed and availability to crop in post if necessary. 2) I always work to find what I am looking for. Which means I look for good light, good angles and good background. I choose what place/habitat I am in according to this more than chance of finding an animal. Often if I have a good spot and know animals is/might be around I sit and wait for them to come to me and the good photographic spot. 3) Shot away if something interesting pops-up. Hope for the best. 4) If subject is around for more than a sec, I start thinking of optimizing that picture: I change focus point to make a better composition in frame. I change aperture and shutter time, dependent of action of subject, size of subject (depth of field, DOF) and background. I change exposure compensation. I use 10 frames/s and usually take a few bursts. Even with many exposure there is almost always one or a few that is better than other because of the subjects facial expression, eyes etc. 5) Change camera with different lens, to have another perspective. I more and more work to include more habitat, which means shorter lenses. 6) Start changing my position to get better or new angles, backgrounds etc. 7) I sometimes take several pictures in a panoramic fashion with intention to stich them in post. 8) I sometimes use bracketing on landscape photography, like 5 exposures with 0,7 exp steps. I think that is it. Developing in post is a much larger knowledge area. Obviously it reflects on how you take a picture, but that could not be covered here. Once again, I guess my only active question is about the focus following setting. But i´m interested in any reflection and discussion on this topic.
  17. As a "veteran" of the big year, I am embarrassed that so many new faces are getting involved in this and I am yet to post a single photo. And it's April! We did have a lot of photos to process from our recent Kruger trip, so I'm using that as an excuse and I'm sticking to it! I like @@Peter Connan 's idea of numbering them, which should make it easier to come to a total, although the mysterious prize promised by @@Game Warden has never been awarded, AFAIK....... So I will start with the new species that we managed to spot in the Kruger National Park and go from there. P.S. please forgive me for any misidentifications, it is bound to happen again sooner or later
  18. An inexplicable start of new year it was..! 11 Tigers & a leopard..! In all a dozen of Predator cats of Tadoba accompanied me in the start of this year, as if an indication to stay around them all this year and many more years coming ahead. Besides the hectic schedule, the glimpses of these extremely ROYAL Bengal Tigers helped me to keep up. Haven't expected it to be this amazing..! Excited as ever, Seeing off 2016, welcoming 2017..!!! Once again Wishing you all a very Happy New Year . May this year bring you lots of glory and Happiness....💥💥💥 Keep in touch for more updates.
  19. Who has attended/participated in a formal photographic safari? Did you like it? What did you get out of it? How was it similar to or different from other wildlife-focused trips you've taken? Would you do it again, under the same circumstances? Having done one, would you do a second? My questions are based, in part, on my looking into a possible trip to Zambia next year. If my wife decides she's unable to go, either because of the timing or because she doesn't want to blow another 10-12 grand on a trip to Africa, one option is for me to go alone. If I go alone, I'd seriously consider a green-season photographic safari. I'm not really a photographer, but I'm a guy who has had cameras for many years. I like the idea of a solo trip having a more defined focus (so to speak), and it's quite likely I wouldn't do a true wet-season trip to Africa if my primary interest were in seeing tons of wildlife. I'm not good at "resting" during the middle of the day, so I think I'd sort pf like being able to stay out for full days at a time. I'm not mentioning specific names or locations, as I don't want this to be a "How was your experience with Photographer X?" thread. That said, if you had a really good experience, I think it's fair for you to mention any specifics you think are pertinent. Thanks in advance for any thoughts. -tom a.
  20. I can’t fully recall what the events where that led up to me booking a place on this short safari but they went something like this. Last summer I was waiting impatiently for our trip to Zimbabwe in Sept to happen. I was keen to photograph dogs again and I think Neil Aldridge may have announced a Wild Dog trip in Botswana on Facebook that coincided with another trip we were planning in 2015. So I did a quick internet search for other wild dog photographic opportunities and found this small group trip through Steppes Travel. I showed the link to my wife, Angela, who said I should go, surprisingly, on my own. Something she would start to regret as the departure date grew closer and when I returned with stories of the trip. This is my 1st Trip Report. As the trip was a photo safari, the pictures I have chosen to show here are not the best I took on the trip (I do have a few I am really pleased with) but I hope they help illustrate and document what I experienced. The trip started here on the Sunday, 8th March. With a bottle of Painted Wolf Chenin blanc and a nice chicken dinner. Monday morning was spent packing and I left for the airport after lunch. A trouble free taxi journey from east Essex to Heathrow meant I had plenty of time to relax and wait for the evening flight to Nairobi. I managed to get a few hours sleep during the flight. We landed ahead of schedule at around 6am local time. Visa and immigration sorted, luggage collected and airport finally exited I was met by a local representative and met some of my fellow photographers who had flown in on the same flight. We were heading out to the camp the same morning. The transfer to Wilson was slow, but as the internal flight wasn't until 10:20 and the majority of the passengers were in our group we had plenty of time to get there. As we waited for the flight more members of our small group started to appear. There was 7 of the 8 participants on the internal flight to Nanyuki. The flight was bumpy but I think I dozed off as it didn’t take as long as anticipated, it’s not a long flight anyway. We were met by Steve and the final guest at the airstrip. Steve took our luggage and one guest in his pickup and another local driver Anthony crammed the remaining seven of us into his vehicle. It was 1 and a half to 2 hours to the camp from here. The drive started off fine but eventually we ran out of tarmac and it started to get a bit bumpy and very dusty. We spotted a few giraffe, impala and elephants on the way to the camp. Nothing worth stopping for. Eventually we arrived at Laikipia Wilderness Camp, met Albie and some of the staff. After some drinks and more introductions we were shown our tents and given a brief opportunity to settle in before lunch. During lunch Albie went round the table and asked people about their photography experience and what camera gear they had. There were 7 out of the 8 in the group that were photographers. The group was split into two open side/top vehicles so that almost everyone had a row each or we could at least rotate rows and positions. Steve and Albie were going to rotate vehicles every day so that we could either benefit from Albie’s photography knowledge or Steve’s tracking and local knowledge. We were also joined on most drived by local guides/trackers Mugambo and Adam. In between lunch and afternoon tea there was just about time to get cleaned up, unpacked and ready for the first drive of the day. Tea was at 4:30 and we left shortly after. Bolting down one of the lovely cakes that were baked on a daily basis throughout our stay. Drive 1 - Tuesday 10th March Afternoon As this was a Wild Dog themed safari more effort than usual was made to locate the dogs on a daily basis. There were two packs that had recently been in the area both moving in opposite directions. Our first drive Steve went after one pack and Albie went after the other. I was with Steve’s group this afternoon. Every so often we would stop and Steve would popup through his sun roof and scan the airwaves for the dogs then we would head off in the direction where any hint of a signal was coming from. We had a good afternoon spotting a Bustard (Arabian) A nice little herd of Plains Zebra A few elephants and plenty of Dik dik (aka Dog Food). The signal for the pack we were looking for was getting stronger and it was time to off road. The terrain in this part of Laikipia is rocky with thickets of bush and cacti. Ideal country for dogs to easily disappear. We circled an area until the tell tale sign of a dog’s Mickey Mouse profile gave them away against the backdrop of a cactus. It was a joy to see the 9 or 10, 9 month old pups left with an adult to babysit. Steve positioned the vehicle as best he could, it was a tight spot and we were shooting into the sun. Not ideal but still an opportunity to get some shots and hopefully they might get up and move around. It was getting to that time of the day when they start to hunt. The adults showed up, it wasn't clear if they had just been behind another bush or whether they had come from somewhere else. But I think it’s safe to assume the former, it was too early for them to be returning from a hunt. With the adults back the pack was now up to roughly 19 dogs (we didn't manage a very accurate head count). There was much squealing and we got to watch some of the meet and greet antics that dogs are famous for. Bush was dense people were moving in the vehicles, getting any clear shots in good light were challenging. The youngsters were curious and kept checking us out. After the wake up and re-establishing their bonds the pack started to move. It looked like they were ready to hunt. We followed where we could, using roads to cut them off as they ran through the scrub. It was very interesting and exciting to watch the adults of the pack in action with the youngsters following up behind. We followed while the light was good but as it faded we left them to it. Hopefully we would catch up with them in the morning.
  21. A set of truly stunning pictures in this Sundays NYT by photographer Andrea Frazetta. "My birth as a photographer took place in Africa: The first assignment I ever took was in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the Danakil, a desert in Ethiopia, I felt this very real sense of nowhere, as if I were suspended in time. It is such a wild place, and feels like the heart of Africa. It’s the region where Lucy, the famous hominin, was found; it was the start of humanity, and it feels like it. But it is also such an extreme place to visit, one of the hottest in the world. You can really only go during three months of the year — between December and February — and even then it was so hot, I couldn’t do anything after the morning. I felt terrible at first, but then something happens — you get used to it. The area feels prehistoric. You have all this light: It’s white and dusty, and there becomes a kind of charm to a place without colors. But then you go a little farther from the salt plains, and the landscape becomes a psychedelic experience, all greens and reds and veins of minerals. And then there are these other moments that were very dark, almost black, because we had to arrive in the middle of the night to see the volcano. This was a visual journey, to go from white to color to dark. It’s the cycle of photography. The landscape really took me out of my comfort zone. It is an atmosphere like hell. The noise of the lava, the gurgling, is incredible. It’s one of the only countries in the world that lets people so close to the crater of the volcano. I could feel my feet burning, and at one point one of the legs of my tripod was melting from the heat of the ground. But there were moments so full of joy and so pure, like when my guide Ali ran into his friend in the middle of nowhere, this vast white desert, and they were so happy to see each other. They did the keke dance, a dance of joy. He told me that when you meet an old friend, you dance like this, with your hand in the air. It was so beautiful, because it was so unexpected." NYT Magazine 9/25.2016
  22. Hi I came across this article this morning and thought it was worth sharing. http://mintonsunday.livemint.com/news/the-ugly-side-of-wildlife-photography/1.0.1386835189.html There are so many questions this article raises and certainly some disturbing incidents, especially in India. However, think referring to everyone who take photos of animals as "wildlife photographers" is misguided. One group should know better, the other, especially first-time safari goers, need to be educated by guides dan rangers. Curious what others think of this...
  23. While star and night-time photography is nothing new, recent advances in digital camera technology has really made this genre a lot easier. One unfortunate fact in night photography is that one needs to be in an area or location where light pollution is low, and the lower it is, the better the results will be. Among photographers, there are often arguments about the use (or otherwise) of manual mode. Some seem to believe that you are not a real photographer unless you control each function of the camera, while others believe that they pay good money for all aspects of the camera, including the built-in light meter, processor and programming that make all the automatic and semi-automatic modes work. However, at present, experimenting with night-time photography requires the use of manual mode, as no current built-in light meters are sensitive enough to handle the low levels of light inherent in this type of photography. Herein probably lies the biggest deterrent for newbies, but just like in most other forms of photography, the ability to review your images almost immediately is one of the biggest advantages of digital technology, and effectively makes this barrier much easier to overcome. The genre may be roughly broken into a number of categories: Astro-landscapes (also known as starscapes). Star trials. Northern lights/St. Elmo’s Fire/Aurora Borealis. Time-lapse photography. Digi-scoping. Let us define each category briefly, and have a quick look at what equipment will be needed: Astro-landscapes:The basic idea is to capture a landscape or fixed item of interest, with a spread of stars in the background. This is perhaps the simplest category, requiring the least in terms of specialized equipment. Really all you need is a digital camera, a wide-angle lens and a tripod. A cable release, a small torch, a rag or two, something to cover the viewfinder and, if you are in a cold climate, some chemical warmers may also come in handy. However, because you need to gather a lot of light in a short period of time, it can be quite challenging to the camera and lens combination. The wider the angle of the lens and the faster it is in terms of maximum aperture, and also the better your camera is at high ISO’s, the easier it is to get good results, but there are post-processing tricks to get around less than ideal equipment. Star trials: There are basically two methods to create star-trials. The first is to take a single very long exposure, capturing the earth’s rotation relative to the stars, and the second is to take a whole series of shorter exposures, similar to astro-landscapes, and then stack them digitally atop each other during post-processing. Equipment requirements are similar to the equipment needed for astro-landscapes. However, if one wants to use the stacking method, a cable release or intervalometer will be required, while if the single-exposure method is followed the requirements on the camera’s ability at high ISO’s and the lens’ speed becomes less important. On the other hand, the single-exposure method is a bit more fraught with the possibility of wasted effort, for reasons that will become clear in a minute. Northern lights:Firstly, one obviously needs to do this near the poles, where the Northern lights are visible. Other than that, equipment is very similar to that needed for astro-landscapes, with the addition of warm clothing and the understanding that chemical warmers become almost obligatory. You may also need some extra batteries, as the batteries’ capacity are significantly reduced in very cold conditions. Time-lapse:Time-lapse photography is basically taking a series of still photos at frequent intervals and then editing them into a video format. It is in no way limited to night-time only, but those that encompass the time period when day turns into night and vice versa really add an extra dimension. Equipment will vary depending on the subject matter, but typically the same equipment as for the categories above will do a great job for simpler videos, except that one definitely needs an intervalometer. Note that the fancier Nikon cameras (from D7000 upwards) have one built in. Additional equipment that will come in handy sooner or later are a smartphone or tablet loaded with an application such as DSLR Dashboard, a cable or WiFi to connect that to the camera, and a slider or dolly system. Digi-scoping:Effectively this is the process of attaching an imaging device to a telescope. This fascinating hobby unfortunately requires some fairly serious equipment. Firstly a telescope and an adaptor to bolt a camera onto it, but also either a “barn door mount” or an “equatorial mount”. These devices allow you to follow the stars or galaxies you are aiming at, with various degrees of accuracy dependent on the complexity of the equipment and the trouble taken in the calibration thereof. Equipment: Let’s take a closer look at what you will need. As mentioned before, the basic kit for astro-landscapes is a good starting point for all the other categories except digi-scoping. Firstly, a good, steady tripod. Ideally a sturdy but lightweight one that can be erected with the legs wide open to get the camera low to the ground. Because you will not be using a long, heavy lens, you don’t need one with a very high load capacity, but because you will be taking pretty long exposures, it needs to be sturdy, but remember that you might need to walk a ways to find that stunning composition. Next up, the camera. The ideal is a relatively recent full-frame, (or larger), camera with a relatively low pixel count. The Sony A7s is perhaps the best camera for the job available now, but all the current full-frame cameras from the major manufacturers will do a very good job, and acceptable results can be achieved with any of the current 1.5x and 1.6x crop-sensor cameras assuming you are prepared to put in a little bit of extra effort during post processing. The lens is perhaps the heart of any imaging system. The shorter the focal length, the longer the exposure can be before the stars start “streaking”. Remembering that the primary obstacle is gathering enough light, a shorter lens is generally better. However, because slightly longer lenses are available with faster apertures, the focal length is not the be-all and end-all, but generally the ideal is something between an effective 14mm to 35mm, with the fastest aperture you can find. Perhaps the most popular lens for full-frame cameras for this type of work is the Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8, (to the extent that even some Canon photographers use it with a suitable adapter). Personally I am very impressed with my Tamron 15-30mm f2.8. Optically this is apparently tough competition for the legendary Nikkor, especially short and wide open. However, the lens need not be a zoom, and nor does it need auto-focus. For full-framers on a budget, the Samyang/Rokinon/Bower, (all the same), 14mm f2.8 is quite popular, although one apparently has to be careful as their quality control is said not always to be stellar. A 20mm f1.8 is also great and the various 24mm f1.4 lenses on the market also make excellent choices. Personally I like the really wide angles, as you can get more of the milky way into a single photograph, but better results can arguably be achieved by using one of the longer ultra-fast lenses and pasting several photos together in a panorama. Obviously, the chosen lens should ideally be pretty sharp, preferably right up to the corners, but coma performance is also important, (coma shows itself as slight “streaking” of the stars in the corners of the frame). If you are using a crop-frame camera, head and shoulders the best lens to use at the moment is the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 Usually, either a cable release or an intervalometer will be very useful. If the camera does not have a built-in intervalometer, perhaps it’s better to just buy an intervalometer and get it over with. If you are using an external intervalometer, make sure you have some spare batteries handy. You will also find a torch of some kind virtually indispensable. It need however not be large or powerful. If your camera has a strap, take some rubber bands to tie it down with, and if you are shooting during the pre-dawn hours a rag rubber-banded over the camera and lens is useful for keeping your camera dry from dew. It is also recommended to close the viewfinder during long exposures to prevent light entering the camera from the back from making it onto the image sensor. Some cameras have a built-in shutter while others come supplied with a clip-on plastic one, but failing either, a cloth or some sticky tape can be used. So how does one go about it? Start by setting up the camera, ideally while it is still light. Set the quality to RAW and the white balance either to dailight or to a set temperature. Most people seem to prefer a temperature of around 3500K. Place the camera on Manual mode and if you are planning to use autofocus, set it to single-point. If you are going to focus manually, just set it up now. Depending on what type of result you are going for, you want a drive mode of either continuous or self-timer. Make sure you have enough room on the memory card/s and enough juice in the battery. The hardest part is getting a nice composition when it’s dark. And the key is not to. Find your composition while it’s still light enough to see. However, then you will not be able to see the milky way yet. If you are in the southern hemisphere, the problem is not too bad though, because the milky way will have its’ bottom end pretty close to due south, and that is also where you normally want to be pointing for a star trail as well (in the northern hemisphere, you want to be pointing north) as this is what gives you the circles. Unless you specifically want to put the turning point at a specific location, you don’t normally have to be too accurate though, since with a wide-angle lens you are covering a relatively wide sweep of sky. Also, the Southern Cross is generally the first constellation to become visible, while there is still enough light to change the composition if you so desire. A tip here: if you are in a less-than-ideal area in terms of light pollution, find yourself a hole or depression. Focus is the next thorn. Again, fortunately we are talking about wide-angle lenses, which are fairly forgiving in this regard. A lot of people recommend setting the lens to the so-called hyperfocal distance and taping the focus ring down, while others recommend doing the same but at infinity. Personally I like switching to live view, zooming in on one of the brightest stars and focusing as precisely as possible on that. The really OCD guys take separate exposures of the foreground and the stars, focused individually. If you want to focus on the foreground, you will either need to do this while it is still light, or shine a torch at it, which should provide enough light for the AF system to work or for live-view manual focusing. Note that once focus is acquired if not before, you need to switch the AF system of to ensure that the camera does not try to re-focus for the next shot. Some guys tape the focus ring down to ensure that the focus doesn’t shift. After this, the most challenging part is getting the exposure right. Let’s start with the basics: there are three factors determining overall exposure, being exposure time, lens aperture and ISO. These are adjusted to suit the overall light level present in the scene you want to photograph. There are a number of units used for expressing the level of light present, but the one used in photography is called Ev or Exposure Value, (also known as “stops”). The camera’s built-in light meter measures this, and either makes adjustments to the above three factors automatically, (in Automatic mode), or adjusts one or more of the factors, or even just gives the photographer guidance with regard to the suitability of the values he or she has chosen. The manufacturers of modern cameras do everything in their power to make this process as easy as possible, and one of the simplest ways they do this is by ensuring that each increment of adjustment has the same effect on the exposure value. Normally, this is one third of an Ev. And one Ev, (or one stop), adjustment either doubles or halves the amount of light captured. However, the light meter is of almost no use for the photography we are considering here, because the light meters in modern cameras are only effective down to about -2 or -3Ev, but to capture a reasonable amount of stars, we need to be capturing at least -7Ev. So how do we determine the correct exposure? My method is to start with a basic exposure, similar to what one would need to capture an astro-landscape photo. I recommend this because it is the fastest and easiest way to get a base to start adjusting from that is suitable for virtually all the categories, and yet is easy to remember. Start with the aperture. Simple: open it as wide as it will go. Secondly, the exposure. There is a rule of thumb that reads that the exposure is calculated by dividing 500 by the effective focal length. This varies somewhat with the camera’s resolution and the exact piece of the sky you point the lens at, but it’s good enough to start off with. So assuming you have a 14mm lens, the first try at exposure would be 500/14 = 35 seconds. Set the camera to the closest exposure to this, which would generally be 30 seconds. Lastly, set the ISO to the highest value you are prepared to deal with, or calculate the ISO for an Ev of -7, (there are a number of photography apps and programs available that can do this, and you only need to do it once, since the camera and lens remains the same). As a rough guide, a 30-second exposure at f2.8 needs at least about 3200 ISO. Once it’s nice and dark, take a test shot and evaluate the results. Note that because it is dark, a correctly exposed photo may look too bright on the LCD. It is important to evaluate the exposure by looking at the histogram. Also zoom in close in the corners, and check for signs of the stars streaking. If the stars are streaking, you need to reduce the exposure a couple of clicks, and of course increase the ISO by the same number of clicks. However, be careful to note the direction. Coma looks very much like streaking, except that streaking will be in a predictable direction, (by keeping in mind the earth’s rotation and the direction the camera is pointing), while coma would probably be in more random directions. If you have changed the exposure but the “streaks” are still the same after the next test exposure, then it is caused by coma, in which case you can try taking the exposure back up to the previous setting and closing down the aperture a little instead. Foreground illumination is a matter of personal taste, and also a matter of choosing the conditions carefully. The immediate foreground can be illuminated by a variety of means, such as shining a torch into the palm of your hand and reflecting it onto the area in front of the camera, or firing a very strongly diffused speedlight. However, this can only illuminate the immediate foreground. If you want to illuminate the whole area in front of the camera, there are a number of methods one can try. These range from waiting for the moon to start rising, or shooting under a very weak moon, to taking a much longer exposure from which you erase the stars and then stack with one or more photos of the stars. Note that for a series of photos to be used for a star trial, only one photo needs to have the foreground lit, while if you are taking a series of photos to be used to make a time-trial video, you will need to use natural illumination or provide similar illumination for the whole series. Once again, use the histogram and highlights warning to get the foreground illumination right. If you are taking an astro-landscape only, then the fun part is done. If you want to carry on to do a star trial, you now have three options. If you are happy with your camera’s noise performance at the ISO levels you have taken the above photos at, you could just carry on taking photos on continuous drive mode. Keep in mind that the stacking procedure will tend to cancel out a lot of noise. Just lock the remote or cable release’s button down. On most Nikons, the camera will take a maximum of 100 photos in a single string. If this is not enough, you need to be ready to release and press again. I don’t know if other camera brands have a similar restriction. If not, then you could either increase the exposure time and reduce the ISO by the same number of stops, (for which you may need an intervalometer as your camera probably doesn’t have set exposures of longer than 30 seconds), or you could try a single long exposure. Again, you will be increasing the exposure and reducing the ISO and possibly also the aperture to the extent that you get the length of trails you want. The biggest disadvantages of the single-exposure method is that a single exposure will take between one and a half and several hours, and if the exposure is out or somebody inadvertently shines a light on the subject during this period, there is no recovery except to start over. In a stacked image, one can easily just delete the affected images, and you can test the exposure more accurately beforehand as described. For either method, calculating the exposure time is done by doubling the exposure time for each three clicks you reduce the ISO or the aperture. The other advantage of using the stacking method is that you can use the same string of photos to create an astro-landscape, a startrail and a short time-lapse video. Although I have no personal experience here, I understand that the method above can also be used as the basis for capturing the northern lights, although one would usually be operating at a somewhat lower shutter speed and total exposure value to retain some shape in the lights, as the Aurora Borealis moves around quite quickly. If you want to take a series of photos to make a time-lapse video from, keep in mind that your camera needs to be in landscape orientation. If your intention is to capture the transition of day to night or night to day, you will need to adjust the exposure during the series. In this case, it is necessary to use an intervalometer, (either built-in or external), and to set the gap between exposures to a value a few seconds longer than the longest exposure you are expecting. The actual adjustments can be done manually, (in which case you need to be present all the time, and you need a very sturdy tripod), or it can be automated by applications such as “DSLR Dashboard” on a smart-phone or tablet plugged in to your camera or connected via WiFi. This application downloads the JPEG preview of the previous photograph, evaluates the histogram and adjusts exposure on this basis. The latest versions can adjust all three exposure variables within limits set up by the user, and can do so very smoothly for flicker-free results. Lastly, let’s look at post-processing. Keep in mind that some techniques here may determine the quantity and types of photos you take. Also, the more basic your camera and the larger your output, the more effort you will be putting into the post processing. The most challenging category to post-process is Astro-landscape. The reason is that in either star-trials or time-lapse videos, noise is much less obvious. In star-trials, you will either have a very long exposure taken at relatively low ISO’s to work with, or the act of stacking a bunch of photos will tend to cancel out a lot of the noise, while in video, resolution is much lower and thus down-sampling takes care of a lot of the noise. If you have a good full-frame camera and wide-angle lens combination, you can get to fairly large print sizes using just basic processing of a single photograph in a program such as Adobe Lightroom. If this is not good enough, there are a number of techniques that can be used to improve the results. Firstly, there are a number of plug-in programs that may be able to do a better job of noise reduction. Secondly, one can take a short series of photos and copy them into two sets. After importing them into Photoshop, delete the stars from one set and the foreground from the other set. Then two photomerge stacks are created, (one from the photos in each set), and a median de-gausing filter is applied to each. This cancels out most of the noise in each area. Then, the two halves are combined in a single photograph. If this method is to be used, it would be even better if two sets of photos were deliberately taken, one set focused on the stars and one focused on the foreground. The foreground photo could also be a single photo of longer duration at lower ISO, (reducing the need for noise reduction) and higher exposure, (reducing the need for light-painting). Another method is to take a series of photos with a longer, faster-aperture lens at different angles and combine them into a panorama. This effectively increases the resolution of your camera and makes the grain of the noise much smaller for a similar output size. Using either of these longer methods, a very large print of stunning detail and quality can be produced. For star trials, the method used to take the photos will determine the post processing required. If a single long exposure was taken, it can be processed normally just like any other photo. If a series of photos were taken, my preferred method is to develop the first photo, (if light-painting was done, it must be the “painted” photo), and develop it in a program such as Lightroom. All the adjustments are then copied to all the other photos in the stack, and then export them in a batch to JPEGs. I then have a quick look-through and delete any photos where inadvertent light pollution is present. It hen import them into StarStax, (a freeware photo-stacking program) and process them using one of the program’s set methods. For time-lapse videos, I recommend the combination of Lightroom and LRTimelapse. LRTimelapse is a program designed to assist in calculating and smoothing out small exposure differences and then creating a video, but the actual adjustments are done in Lightroom. Basically it identifies “keyframes”, being the photos where an exposure change happened, which are then developed according to rules laid down. The program is available either for purchase or as freeware, only difference being that the freeware version limits the user to time-lapse sequences containing not more than 350 frames. Text and photos courtesy and copyright @@Peter Connan Note: this was due for publication in issue 4 of the Safaritalk Magazine.
  24. As I said in introductions we are as green as grass when it comes to Africa or African safaris. We are however experienced back country campers (packing everything required on our backs and heading off where the roads don't go and the grizzlies do). We do not plan on back packing in Africa. Conversely we don't need a tent big enough to park a car in either. We are hoping for a middle ground. We'd like a camp where one can relax at night after game drives or walks, but luxury (being waited on hand and foot) is not what we require. How does one plan a trip like this? Is it traditional to book a hotel room for before and after your bush adventure? Are certain countries more politically stable (thus more desirable to us)? How does one go about choosing a tour operator (from the far side of the planet)? Is South Africa a good/the best place for a first safari? How does one gain the knowledge to ask the important questions regarding planning a safari? Should we plan on driving to our safari location or hire transport? This may be our only trip to Africa so getting it right is more important than doing it on a shoestring budget but we are not wealthy (just retired teachers) so to some extent we will be fiscally restrained. Thanks in advance for your expertise and patience. My mate in Yellowstone NP:
  25. Next week I'm heading back to South Africa for 4 days being with and photographing animals. This time I'm spending one day with a photographic guide who has encouraged me to bring an external flash. I will be taking a Speedlight SB700 with a mounting bar allowing some separation from the camera to avoid the flash being along the lens axis. Previously I have not bothered with a flash for a number of reasons. From a photographic perspective I have enjoyed the challenge (and sometimes the results) of shooting in fading light and also with the aid of a spotlight. I came back seriously impressed with the low light capability of my D7100 and also the power of post-processing Raw images in Lightroom. From the stand-point of animal interaction I had some reservations about the impact of the bright burst of light on the subject of my attention (it goes without saying I think that I would not use a flash if there was hunting going on). So I'm asking for some views: 1. What is the opinion on using flash in general - any situations that we should discourage it? 2. If and when I am using it - do you have any tips to do so successfully?

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