Yawning Lioness, Vumbura Plains, Botswana
Canon 1DsMkIII, 400mm f/4 + 1.4x, 1/320 sec @ f/8, ISO 400
The second part of my southern African safari took place in the country of Botswana, and was geared towards 100% wildlife photography. I put this trip together with Michael Reichmann, and we had 11 particpants plus a few non-photographing spouses on this trip. I have to admit that this particular safari was one of my most favorite trips to date, and I want to personally thank everybody who made this trip a very memorable one. The safari was not without its issues for me personally, as I was worried about my family back home. They were hunkered down to survive a direct hit from Hurricane Ike as I was out on a beautiful game drive in the Okavango Delta. Sometimes life throws good things at you at the same time you are thinking of something else or somebody else. My family handled the storm quite well, but I was glad to get back home to be with them when my safari was through.
As this photographic safari was dedicated for 100% wildlife, my equipment mostly reflected this intention. The challenge was my packing for two different safaris in two different countries; Namibia and Botswana. If I had only a wildlife safari in Botswana my equipment selection might have been slightly different. Here is what I took with me:
- Canon 1DsMkIII (x2)
- 16-35mm f/2.8 L
- 24-105mm f/4 L IS
- 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS
- 400mm f/4 DO IS
- 1.4x teleconverter
- Gitzo GT3540LS tripod and RRS BH-55 ballhead
- 116GB of CF cards
Lechwe, Mombo, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana. September 2008
Canon 1DsMkIII, 70-200mm, 1/500 sec @ f/11, ISO 400
We had three different locations on this Botswana safari:
- Vumbura Plains, Okavangao Delta
- Private Mobile camping, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta
- Mombo Camp, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta
My primary wildlife lens on this trip was the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS. I love this lens, because it is a small and lightweight telephoto lens. It weighs less than the 300mm f/2.8, and is roughly 1/2 the weight of the 500mm f/4. Optically speaking my 500mm f/4 is a better lens, but the larger 500mm is less manueverable when shooting from open vehicles. Why would a 500mm be more difficult? The easiest and most common way of supporting a long lens is by using a monopod. A monopod is a great tool, but requires setting up and getting ready for a shot. I have found that in some situations I can hand hold a 400mm f/4 for my initial shot, and then will put the lens on a monopod for situations when I have the time to sit and wait for the perfect shot.
Picnic Lunch, Monopods and Elephants, Mombo, Botswana. September 2008
Canon 1DsMkIII, 70-200mm, 1/250 sec @ f/8, ISO 200
I did find that many of my photographs were either too tight or too loose from a composition standpoint. So I wish I had some focal lengths in between 200mm and 400mm. Hello, Canon, can you hear me? I love the Nikon 200-400mm f/4, and someday I just might buy a D300 or D700 to go along with it. Am I ready to bail on Canon? Not really, but the 200-400mm is definitely the best wildlife lens on the market at the moment. I value the ability to properly frame a shot, and many of my images as of late tend to be taken with shorter focal lengths. 5 years ago most of my images were captured at 500mm, and these days they seem to be taken between 100mm and 300mm.
Running Elephant, Vumbura Plains, Botswana. September 2008
Canon 1DsMkIII, 400mm f/4 DO, 1/8 sec @ f/16
I think my outfit worked pretty darn well. I absolutely love having a pair of 1DsMkIII bodies, and the lenses I chose worked fairly well. A 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS is a fantastic lens for shooting from helicopters, but given ample light I could also make a case for using the 100-400mm.
What did not work?
I wish I had my 100-400mm zoom with me, primarily because I either had too much lens or too little. Since Canon doesn't make a 200-400mm f/4, the 100-400mm is the next best thing. I typically shoot my zoom lenses between f/8 and f/14, and the 100-400mm lens works well once stopped down a little bit (It isn't that great when shooting at wide open apertures, though).
Oxpeckers, Mombo, Botswana. September 2008
Canon 1DsMkIII, 400mm f/4 + 1.4x, 1/640 sec @ f/6.3, ISO 400
This Botswana safari was filled with an enormous amount of great safari experiences, and I look forward to going back to Botswana in July 2009. I will have a different setup with me, but will it contain some Nikon equipment? We shall see. If Nikon has a camera that captures larger files, that will certainly make my life much easier. I don't like obsessing about equipment, as it does take away from one's capacity to think critically about what they are about to photograph. I enjoy every second when I am out on safari, and that is what I value most: the experiences. I just hope that I come back home with photographs to go along with those experiences, and that those photographs stir my soul. I am just starting to dive into my Botswana images, and I can easily say that some of these images bring a smile to my face.