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Trip Report Trip Report: Kenya August 2011

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Kenya Trip Report - Monday August 15th to Wednesday August 31st

Wow, what a trip! We spent time in Nairobi, Samburu, Lake Nakuru, and the Masai Mara. Our tour was tailored for photography so we did a few things to enhance photography.

1.We drove between locations since we had a ton of gear (my telephoto lens alone weighs 10 lbs and my camera bag weighed over 40 lbs) so nice not having to worry about how to get the gear on a plane.

2.We used land cruisers with the 3 hatches on the roof so no pop-up roofs or open vehicles – this worked best for us. Usually for photo tours you have no more than 3 people per vehicle so you have one person per row to have an unobstructed view left or right out of the vehicle, we actually went with 2 people per vehicle to allow for extra space and the extra space was useful a few times.

Our safari company provided several bean bags per person so we didn’t have to bring them, but for my large telephoto lens (Canon 800mm) the bean bags were a little cumbersome so I used a Todd Pod (http://www.gustafsonphotosafari.net/?page_id=43) which is a metal T that can support a Wimberley mount. This mount would not work in a pop-up roof or open vehicle. My 800mm on the todd pod & Wimberley was a little tall (I am 5’6”) so I stood on one of the bean bags most of the time while shooting. I watched a few folks try to balance large telephotos on tripods in vehicles or on some cumbersome clamps and it just didn’t look like fun.

3. A word on gear - I like tight portraits and birds so the 800mm worked for me (over 70% of my pictures). It is a long lens and sometimes too long so I would switch to a medium zoom or put a teleconverter on and go closer. You don't need a big telephoto lens for many of the shots the most important thing is to take what you are comfortable using. It seems that a lot of people get worked up on what gear to take and just remember you will most likely come back with pictures you like regardless. That being said the 800mm is a beast (I only saw one other on the trip, but a fair amount of 500mm & 600mm) and it did attract some attention when we were out. A little odd that some folks out there are going through their vacation pictures and they have a shot of me and my lens as part of their vacation pictures.

4. Since we were driving we had the same drivers for the whole trip and my driver, Peter, was a rock star. Seriously, his wife used to work at Sheldrick so the keepers knew him and he used to work with an anti-snare team in the Mara Triangle so it seemed like everyone knew him everywhere we went. Peter was awesome and by spending the whole time with us we developed a great rhythm and he really honed in to our likes and dislikes. Because I had the 800mm and Peter has a degree in ornithology we ended up doing a lot more birds than I had expected, but it worked and we went with it. The group was 7 plus 3 drivers and we had all our meals with our drivers since they were part of the family. Behind the scenes I asked Peter if the drivers liked eating with us or if they preferred having some down time and he said they like eating with us.

5. Except on transit days we always got a boxed breakfast so we could maximize time out of camp looking for photo opportunities and usually returned to camp around 11:30/12:00. My buddy and I saw 3 cheetah kills and if we had gone back to camp for breakfast it would have been 0 cheetah kills. We were usually out of camp by 6:15 am.

6. I am paranoid about losing pictures so I took the laptop with a tb hard drive and downloaded to it after each drive. I also used a psd (personal storage device) with a tb drive so if something happened to the laptop I could still back up to the device and then I also kept a copy on a portable hard drive. I always had the psd with me (usually in a pocket), and the hard drive in the camera bag so even if my laptop disappeared I could back-up. I take too many pictures to not reuse compact flash cards like some do, but while my system is heavy it works and I have redundancy.

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