Best spots for photography?

Nov 28th, 2006, 05:53 AM
  #1  
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Best spots for photography?

Me and my brother are planning a safari trip to Africa around August to November for about 14 days (preferably November as I've heard it to be best time for photography).
We want an operator and area in Africa giving us the best possible shots of mainly as wide a range of mammals as possible, but birds would be much appreciated too. The big five (with black &/or white rhino) is almost a must.
The help I need from the rest of you is to guide me to where in Africa to go. Our budget is absolutely maxed out at 3500-4000 US$ per person, not including trip TO Africa.

- We are mainly considering Tanzania, Botswana, and/or Kenya. So which would be best for our needs?
- Okavango Delta, Ngorongoro, Masai Mara, and Serengetti seem to be the best places, are they? and which one is probably the best that time of the year?
- Nakuru Park: Is it not much to see now after the environmental disasters?
- Is trekking an experience not to be missed (which can't be done in Botswana)? Heard animals get more frightened by that than getting close by car! ?

Do you have any operator to recommend for this?
- Specializing on advanced amateur photographers.
- Stay out on drives for at least 8 hours a day.
- 2 to max 6 people on the tour, no kids.

I hope I can get some help and input on these questions.
Thanks all,

Mats
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WayuU is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 06:40 AM
  #2  
santharamhari
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Depending on where you intend to travel to- August to November could be very good in different destinations.

Bear in mind, Africa is not a zoo. Regardless, of your choice of destination you should expect the unexpected....keep an open mind and embark on your safari and enjoy all YOUR sightings, whatever they may be.

Another option, is for you to do research on induvidual destinations to find out more about what appeals to you and what meets YOUR needs, both in terms of interests and budget.

There are plenty of trip reports and information on these boards about literally all the destinations in your list of choices. I suggest you spend a couple of days doing a bit of research to help you narrow down your specific interests. To do a search, just type in your topic in the little search box on top....

Cheers
Hari
 
Nov 28th, 2006, 06:56 AM
  #3  
 
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Mats,
I am not sure where you are getting your "information" from, but trekking is quite possible in Botswana, at many, many locations. I realize that you are new to this board, but there are quite helpful people here, with vast amounts of knowledge, and experience.
As Hari stated, you should search fodors for trip breports on the places that you are interested in, and LEARN from others that have been before.
I also echo Hari in that you cannot expect to see "the big five including b/w rhinos" unless you are going to a zoo. Locations that will let you see the big five including the white rhinos are out there, most of them are geared towards older folks, and from my limited experience, not good for fotos, as they show you the animals, then speed off to the next sighting.
My last safari was 18 days, including 3 days trekking black rhino. I saw three of them, however, no sightings were close enough to take "quality photos". You must understand that these are WILD, and dangerous animals, who do what they want, when they want, and they do NOT cater to tourists.
Best wishes for your trip- there is much great info here- just look!
suzic is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 07:31 AM
  #4  
 
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http://www.photosafaris.com/Articles/AfricaSafaris.asp has some excellent info comparing the various countries for wildlife photography ... his company runs tours world-wide with some of the really big names leading the Africa trips ... he prefers Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and Namibia, with Kenya his favorite.

- We are mainly considering Tanzania, Botswana, and/or Kenya. So which would be best for our needs?

For the months you mention Kenya (Masai Mara in particular) would be better than Tanzania ... dunno much about Bots myself.

For Tanzania my favorite time is late January thru mid-March when most of the wildebeests are on the short grass plains.

Is trekking an experience not to be missed

You will see more animals at closer range if you are in the jeep. Animals that are comfortable around jeeps will flee from a person on foot.

Do you have any operator to recommend for this?

In Tanzania I think Andy Biggs (look up his site ... he leads photographers on photo tours) uses Thomsons. We went on a Tz trip lead by two pro photographers last January and went back on our own in April and we used Roy Safaris both times and would recommend them highly. Many of their guides are used to driving for professional photo tours (we had five guides on our first trip).

Stay out on drives for at least 8 hours a day.

What you want is a guide who will go out from 6 - 10 AM and then again from 3 - 6:30 PM ... these are when photographers should be out ... most tourists have breakfast at the lodge and are out from 8:30 until they get tired, which often means they miss the best light.

- 2 to max 6 people on the tour, no kids.

What you definitely want is to get your own private vehicle so you can set your own schedule and have plenty of room in the jeep. This may cost more but will give you more photo ops.

Our budget is absolutely maxed out at 3500-4000 US$ per person (14 days)

You can probably do this in Tz if you skimp a bit on the lodging, staying a few nights in the Wildlife Lodges ... we have a 16 night trip for next January in Tz, two to a jeep, 13 nights in safari lodges and are paying a bit more than what you want but are staying at six nights at Serena and Sopa lodges that are about twice as expensive as the Wildlife chain. So you can possibly squeeze thru on costs ... or drop one or two days and make it for sure.

My understanding is Kenya is about 10% less expensive than Tz for similar trips.

Here are photos from our trips in April and January, showing the types of photos available to dedicated amateur photographers in Tanzania ... April is less expensive because of the 'rainy season discount' (we paid at the low end of your range for 10 nights in April staying at Serena lodges, for example, with a private jeep) ... there's an email link on the web page if you have specific Q's ... http://members.aol.com/bhilton665/africa/

Bill












Bill_H is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 08:36 AM
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What environmental disaster did Lake Nakuru suffer recently? Anyway, the animals will still be there and although it wasn't one of my favorite places it is fantastic for catching shots of leopards and rhinos you may have missed elsewhere - plus colubus monkeys and of course the flamingos and pelicans(enironmental disaster?? aside). It is also close to Lakes Baringo and Bogoria, the former of which is a fantastic place for bird photography (providing you go out at the right time, as Bill said). Another plus about these three places is that you can stay cheap and cheerful, leaving you with more money to spend elsewhere - a definite plus, although your budget would be just about all right for Kenya anyway.....

But yes.... the thing to do is to look at the trip reports and click through to all the attached photos - don't blame Kenya for my photos though ;-)



kimburu is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 09:14 AM
  #6  
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Need to clear out some things I see.

I'm getting a lot of answers. GREAT. Thanks all. Atm I don't have time to answer everyone personally but I will, at least the most interesting ones.

Just so that I don't get any more info on the animals being wild and it not being a zoo, etc.

My background:
First off, I'm among the most experienced travelers. Lived 20 years in 4 different countries outside Europe where I now live + all short travel and vacations. Been on non-arranged trips in the Andes & the Amazones among others. I work with a wildlife and environments organization.

I don't expect to see all the Big 5. I DO though hope to see 2 or 3 of them and that will make me happy.

I've been researching and saving money for this trip for 4 years now. I've contacted a bit over 60 operators by now.

It's now in the final stages as I most certainly will be doing the trip in November as most pro photographers recommend this time for especially Kenya.
I have 3 Nikon cameras and the main one is the D200. I have lenses ranging between 18 and 500 mm. + the 1.5x the camera gives.

I will search some when and If I get the time. Problem is that during my 4 years of looking around on the internet I havenít found any place (have not looked everywhere of course, and not here either) helping my photography needs. All forums and statements relate to the normal tourist and his normal speedy photography needs.

Again, thanks and I hope to get more answers.
/Mats
WayuU is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 10:07 AM
  #7  
 
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Mats

I think you are overlooking some of the answers you have received if you think we are not "helping my photography needs. All forums and statements relate to the normal tourist and his normal speedy photography needs." I told you in another forum how you could visit Botswana on a private safari (just you and your brother - no other guests).

I don't know how to address your photography needs better than to tell you to go on a private safari where you set the hours you go out and what you stop for and how long you stay. Bill H also said you should do private vehicles. You can do private safaris or private vehicles in several countries with your budget.
sundowner is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 12:12 PM
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I don't expect to see all the Big 5. I DO though hope to see 2 or 3 of them and that will make me happy.

Well, elephants and buffalo and lions are pretty easy to see in most of the parks, surely all the ones we visit in Tanzania, so that's 3 species you'll see for sure.

Habituated leopards are easy to find in parts of the Masai Mara (Kenya) and in Tanzania's Serengeti you can find them resting in trees along the river near Seronera (see the pics from my April trip). We saw seven or eight without even looking specifically for them in 3 days in April, for example.

Rhinos are harder to find but there are places in Kenya where they are relatively easy, and in Tanzania there are around 20 in Ngorongoro Crater, where we saw four in a couple of days. Again, see the pics I linked to earlier (January trip for rhinos, one pair even bluff-charging the jeep).

We even saw all members of the big five within about 10 minutes time (admittedly a very rare occurrence) at Ngorongoro. So the Big Five is doable with the days and money you have available.

I most certainly will be doing the trip in November as most pro photographers recommend this time for especially Kenya.

The pro photographers I know and admire most recommend August or September, maybe October for Kenya. None recommend November for either Kenya or Tanzania since that's the month of "short rains". Check the Van Os trip (Sept I think), Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's trips (mainly Sept except for a lion-buff trip in January or Feb) and also Art Morris and Todd Gustafson's trips to Kenya, which are in September. I would match the photos these guys take against photos from people recommending November and see which ones look the best.

A friend was just in Kenya (late Oct) and was bitching about the light (or at least that was his excuse for not doing as well as hoped) because it was overcast part of the time.

Who is telling you November is better? Especially for the wildebeest migrations, which often have mostly ended in Kenya by then.

Problem is that during my 4 years of looking around on the internet I havenít found any place (have not looked everywhere of course, and not here either) helping my photography needs.

There are a couple of really good photographers on this forum with excellent Botswana pics, John Afriglah and Johan - Belgium ... John has answered several of my Q's about Bots photography, for example.

I'll put together a few links specifically about photographing in Kenya and Tz and post a bit later.

There is plenty of useful info available for photographers.

Bill
Bill_H is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 12:41 PM
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Mats, here are some links to pro photographers leading trips to Africa, specifically Tz and Kenya ... I see that the McDonald's are now going thru November so you were right about some pros pushing that month. The others are more September oriented in Kenya and late Jan - Feb in Tanzania.

You can see which lodges these guys used and in some cases which safari companies and book a similar trip on your own in the price range you mentioned, I think.

http://www.birdsasart.com/toddkenya/index.htm Todd's Kenya trip Sept 2005 ... I shared a jeep with him a few days in January in Tz and he's an exceptionally talented photographer ... these shots were made on a single 14 day trip.

http://www.birdsasart.com/todd2006gallery/ Todd's pics from Sept 2006 Kenya trip

http://www.photosafaris.com/Tours_20...aMasaiMara.asp Van Os Kenya trip Sept 7-21

http://www.hoothollow.com/KenyaSafar...LL%202007.html Joe and Mary Ann used to do their Kenya trips in Sept but have begun pushing the dates out and he is there in November in 2007 so this agrees with the time frame you mentioned ... the friend I mentioned was at the same camps as Joe and Mary Ann a few weeks ago in Kenya but complained about the overcast skies though ...

Here are a couple for Tanzania, with mostly the dates I mentioned earlier.

http://www.andybiggs.com/safaris_workshops.html dates for Andy Biggs' workshops in Tz ... Andy contributes on Fodors and can probably suggest specific driver/guides for you at Thomson's

http://www.hoothollow.com/Tanzania%2...Report%20.html ... explains in detail why they pick January for Tanzania

http://www.hoothollow.com/Tanzania%2...Report%20.html results of Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's trip to Tanzania in Jan 2005

This is basically the itinerary and dates my wife and I did in 2006 with Todd and Art and will do again in 2007 on our own.

Todd G also leads trips to Tz in late Jan and February.

Hope this helps ...

Bill
Bill_H is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 09:59 PM
  #10  
santharamhari
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Mats,

Check out Johan's thread that is currently on....you will find his pics from his recent trip.

Andy Biggs and John Milbank have fantastic websites with their pictures.

All 3 of them, along with many others post regularly here.....so, you hv found the right internet site for your research....

Hari
 
Nov 28th, 2006, 10:02 PM
  #11  
santharamhari
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Mats,

Private safari is something i recommend if you are serious about photo ops. Your party stays at a sighting and focus////

If you are in a group, then it is hard......one person wants to see birds, one person wants to see cats, another person this and that......tough!!!!

Hari
 
Nov 28th, 2006, 11:31 PM
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Hi Bill H
Some lovely images there!
What sort of camera/lens gear are you using?
Cheers
Marc
africaddict is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 07:16 AM
  #13  
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First to sundowner:
You missread my statement on "photography needs". The keyword in that sentence is "looking around". Before I started posting threads all over I searched and "looked around" on the net and could not find anything helping me.
I'm sure your replies to my posts is one of those informative ones helping me in my decision making and I thank you for that. I can't know which reply is yours since you did not use same screen name.

Bill:
Sending my thanks and reply by email.
But, one question I have is the same as Marc and so it belongs here.
What equipment DO you use?
What equipment do you recommend as a minimum for an Africa safari?
Is flash usage forbidden on any other mammals than humans?

Thanks to Hari too. I am concidering private guide and vehicle.

________________

I contacted Andy Biggs in early March an he told me he could not accomodate my budget. Same goes for other pro photographers' itineraries. I wish I had a well payed job but I'm satisfied I make a change in the world.
I have to find cheaper way for my trips.
WayuU is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 07:42 AM
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Hi Bill H
Some lovely images there!
What sort of camera/lens gear are you using?


Thanks Marc ... most of the shots on our web page were taken with Canon 1D Mark II digital bodies and the 500 mm f/4 L IS lens, typically with a 1.4 converter. This is a sports/wildlife camera with high frame rate (8 frames/sec), good for when the action is fast-paced, like the lions mauling each other. The IS (Image Stabilizer) on the long lens is also helpful shooting from a jeep.

The Nikon big guns on our first trip used the Nikon D2x with either 500 or 600 f/4 for the long lens and the 200-400 f/4 VR, which is a wonderful lens that is better than the Canon zoom in this focal range.

Several of the people on the January trip had shorter lenses like the 100-400 (Canon) or 80-400 (Nikon) with typical 1.5x or 1.6x consumer-grade digital bodies and did very well on the larger animals but were handicapped when trying to shoot birds because of the shorter focal lengths.

As you can see from the photos people post with their trip reports many people do well with even simple point-and-shoots.

Bill
Bill_H is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 08:20 AM
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Hijack - sorry, WayuU.

BillH.
As always, thank you for always posting such useful and detailed information. I always appreciate your pointing us to wonderful and inspirational photographers - yourself included.
Question:
Your first link of Todd's Sept. '05' shots feature a monitor lizard (?) facial shot which appears to have 3 eyes???? It's in the 7 th row down 5th from the left. I've seen this photo previously and do wonder if you know what it is. Could that beast possibly have 3 eyes?
His photos btw, are some of the best compositions I've ever seen.
Thanks;
Sherry
cybor is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 08:29 AM
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What equipment DO you use?
What equipment do you recommend as a minimum for an Africa safari?


Mats, see my reply to Marc ... I also have a separate web page up describing all the gear people took on our first trip with 15 photographers (tripods?, roof mount options, flash options, filters, computer/digital storage gear etc) and I'll email the link to you. It's too photo-geek oriented for Fodors but you'll probably find some useful info on it.

For the minimum gear, you said you had a D200 and a 500 mm lens so you are in great shape, assuming the 500 is auto-focus and you can keep it stable on the roof.

Is flash usage forbidden on any other mammals than humans?

No, you can use flash ... in January when every day was clear I only used fill-flash in the thick forests at Manyara on birds but in April, when it was often overcast early in the day, I used fill often, but again mostly on birds. Only a couple of the mammal shots had fill flash and in general I wouldn't use it on them because of stink-eye and because the animal probably considers it rude and inconsiderate but AFAIK there are no rules against it.

I contacted Andy Biggs in early March an he told me he could not accomodate my budget. Same goes for other pro photographers' itineraries

Yeah I know they were out of your budget range, but there's good info on those sites about when to go and which lodges to stay at and in some cases which ground operator they used. I'll bet Andy would even recommend a couple of drivers if you go on your own with Thomsons. Also by seeing their photos you get a sense of what kind of photo opps are out there at those times of the year.

Then the trick is to shave the costs with some careful planning, which you can do with your budget for Tanzania for sure (and probably Kenya as well).

Bill

Bill_H is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 08:40 AM
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Your first link of Todd's Sept. '05' shots feature a monitor lizard (?) facial shot which appears to have 3 eyes???? ... Could that beast possibly have 3 eyes?

Hi Sherry, this one? http://www.birdsasart.com/toddkenya/...r%20lizard.htm ...

I think from left to right it's maybe ear - eye - nostril

Bill
Bill_H is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 08:57 AM
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Yes, that's the one. Ok, I can agree with the notril but the ear (I'm sure it has to an ear due to it's placement) looks to have a strange reflection like an eye - no? Humor me, if you will
I guess it can't be a 2nd or 3rd eye unless Todd's discovered a new species - one never knows.
Merci.
cybor is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 12:01 PM
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Definitely ear, eye, nostril from left to right. No doubt about it. My most numerous and probably favourite outback subjects are lizards (dragons and monitors).

John
afrigalah is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 12:25 PM
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I wonder if perhaps it's because my least favorite critters (shameful I know) are reptiles that I didn't realise that they do indeed have ears that stick out - who wooda thought! It was probably a good design decision to include hearing devices.
I'm laughing at myself with you
Sherry
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