Camera question

Old Sep 25th, 2007, 11:07 AM
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Camera question

I am planning a safari to Tanzania in early 2008 - as part of my camera equipment I plan to bring a large telephoto lens (500mm f4 +EOS1 DMkIII) - how is it best to balance this in the safari vehicle ? do you need a tripod ? if so which is recomended ? which head should you use ? is a bean bag sufficient ? are there other items in addition to bean bags that could be used to ensure stable shooting ? can window mounts be used successfully ?
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 11:51 AM
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Hi

In a safari situation and shooting from a vehicle a bean bag is about the best option. Check oout my safari pics at http://www.abidally.com/mp/home almost 98% of the shots in the Africa Gallery are with a bean bag.

There are two types of bean bags you could use. The kinesis flat pillow type bag is ok when shooting from a vehicle roof top but from a window it will be better to have something like the molar bean bag which is much more versatile in differnt situations.

http://www.vertexphoto.com/BeanBag.aspx


If in an open jeep like in Botswana you could consider a clamp system

http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/top...2086/0#3796022

Hope you have a great trip

Regards
Mohammed
(Sri Lanka)
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 01:54 PM
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Aboutime2008-

I am a big fan of the Kinesis Safari Sack. You can purchase them empty or with buckwheat, which doesn't weigh that much. I have a ton of these sacks sitting all around my vehicles, ready to go up and have camera gear rested on them.

www.kgear.com

Highly recommended.
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 02:54 PM
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I second the Kinesis Safari Sack. I even found they worked well in the Botswana open vehicles, providing you are willing to scouch down a bit, I used two full bags, one on top of another. In Tanzania, I often prefer to shoot out of the open side window because I like the line of sight perspective bettern than the down sight typical from the roof top position. The bags will bend or fold nicely for that application. I have seen the Molar bag but never used one. Looks like it would do a good job though. One word of caution though, don't let anyone convince you to expect the safari outfitter to supply a bean bag suitable for your "very nice" rig. Every outfitter supplied bean bag was too small for a 500mm f4 with a Series 1 body. You can bring the buckwheat as Andy suggests or bring an empty Safari Sack and fill it with rice or beans when you get there. We will also be in Tanzania early in 2008, please don't use up all the good shots.
Cheers-Chuck
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 03:06 PM
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I am doing some math out loud here. I fill up 15 Safari Sacks with about 40 to 50 kilos worth of red beans. The current cost per kilo is around 1,000 shillings or so, depending on how far away from Arusha you are. Since 1 kilo is 2.2 pounds, and each bag has around 3 kilos inside, you now know about how much to purchase.

After each of my safaris, I give all of my guides the beans, which keeps the family fed with beans until I get back to Tanzania!! Everybody wins.
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 03:20 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions, looks like the kinesis will do the job - will also keep the weight down - to put my mind at rest you wouldn't recommend a tripod for the trip if mainly wildlife and less landscapes - also which bags are you using for your gear, I am looking at the kinesis L511 for this kit however would like one case if possible for all of the kit (2 other bodies and 3 other lenses largest a 70-200 2.8) ? Lowepro.

I am sure there will be enough for all to go around Chuck - what is your planned itinerary ? with who ?

Andy - thanks for the mental math, agree a win win for all
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 04:44 PM
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Aboutime2008,
As far as bags go, I like the Think Tank line. I do have Lowepro but use it for non airline hauls (automobile). The Think Tank Accelerator fits my kit nicely. I leave the 300mm 2.8 LIS with 1.4 Teleconverter and the hood in shooting position on one body and a 100-400mm L IS on the other. Still have enough room for a short lens and a bunch of other stuff. The Airport Accelerator is legal on all the airlines and small planes (Sefofane) in Botswana. I think for the 500mm you might want to look at the one they call the Think Tank "Glass Taxi". I think it has more substantial padding then does the Kinesis. Both are high quality so you really can't go wrong. I think Lowepro recently came out with a new line similar to the Think Tank Airports, however, I have not seen or heard from anyone who has tried it.
As far a tripods go I wouldn't bother. Actually it was information on Andy's website that first warned me off of a tripod for Africa. He was right, although I do own a light, carbon fiber Gitzo and a Really Right Stuff Ballhead, I don't bother taking them. I have taken a carbon fiber monopod, equipped as suggested on the Really Right Stuff website. The monopod was useful in Botswana, however, I can't see much use for it in Tanzania. You are not going to hand hold the 500mm and for the occasional opportunity outside the vehicle or at camp, the monopod might be worthwhile. If you do take a monopod, be sure to get a clamp from Really Right Stuff, it makes the whole rig much easier to handle in a confined space. For landscapes, I often put a ban bag on the hood of the 4 X 4 and it works out O.K.. I would suggest a second body with a zoom telephoto, even in Tanzania, some of your opportunities will probably be too close for the 500mm.

We will be in Tanzanina from February 26th through March 12th. Our in country ground operator is KIBO. We have used them before and were quite pleased. Our U.S. Agent is African Portfolio and we use them all the time, a pleasure to deal with. Our itinerary puts us at Gibbs Farm, Serengeti Serena, Ndutu, Kusini, and Swala. Except for Ndutu, all are new camps or lodges for us.
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 06:12 PM
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We use bean bags for smaller lenses up to say 100-400 or 400 f/5.6 but for the 500 f/4 we prefer a T-mount that spans the corners of the roof and has a tripod head screw so we can use the Wimberley pivot head. This is about as stable as a tripod if no one moves in the jeep and I think this is more stable than a bean bag (let the flame wars begin)

We ride around with this on the roof so you can shoot quickly, especially helpful with birds. But it won't work on many roof configurations, so we have to be careful which safari company we use.

Some details here: http://www.hiltonphotography.net/afr...l.htm#vehicles and scroll down a page or so.

do you need a tripod ?

You don't "need" one but we always carry one, sometimes two, and a few times each trip it comes in handy, for example for long-exposure night shots or shooting birds on a hike near Olmoti or at the picnic areas in Ngorongoro. You can get out of the jeep and shoot landscapes too in most of Tanzania. Usually we take only one but will be at Nakuru shooting flamingos this year and will bring two.

Bill

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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 06:36 PM
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Safarichuck - We use African Portfolio too. (Did we already go through this discussion?)

My question is: What types of vehicles will we be in as compared to the fully open jeeps we experienced in Botwana and South Africa?

Are the bean bags and clamps the best way to go instead of a monopod in the East Africa vehicles?

Our lenses are not that big. Maybe a 400 DO or a 70-200IS w/1.4x

Thanks.
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 06:37 PM
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I wouldn't bother bringing a tripod, as you will be in your vehicle most of the time. I think there have only been 2 situations when I have used a tripod: group shots where I want to be in the photograph, and stitched panoramas taken from the top of Ngorongoro Crater. Other than that, I have never used a tripod in east Africa.

Bill, I have seen the Todd Podd in action, but unfortunately it doesn't work with that many vehicles. It is too bad, because it is a nice invention. I still prefer a bean bag, as for me I think I am more nimble to move from side to side more quickly. Just a preference.

Regarding camera bags, I have been frustrated with what has been on the market so far. So I decided to start manufacturing my own camera bag. It goes into production in a few weeks, and I cannot wait to start using my bag myself out on safari. Yippee!! Expect the product out on the market in early 2008.
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 06:40 PM
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Andy,
Looking forward to your Bag in 2008 and meeting you soon, gosh really soon, in Tanzania.

Keri
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 07:22 PM
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See you down in the crater, Keri! It if is anything like last September and October, I expect some serious dust down there. Especially if it is windy. yikes!
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Old Sep 25th, 2007, 07:23 PM
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I forgot to mention that you can see my last prototype of my bag, as it will be with me for some last rounds of testing.

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Old Sep 26th, 2007, 02:44 AM
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Bill-H,
From your post I would guess that you are really focused (no pun intended) on birds. Dealing with the 500mm for birds might be a job best suited for a Wimberly but for all-around general safari photography I think the mobility to react quickly and to change your line of sight makes the bean bag just right. I am going to take a Wimberly on a Manfrotto head along with me to Botswana next summer.

Cheweyhead:
Hi Keri, I think we already discovered that we both use Yvette De Vries at African Portfolio. She has always come through for us and does a very professional job. As far as the vehicles in East Africa, they are enclosed and so entriely different. Shooting from the roof is easy because you can stabilize with a bean bag and you can get a good 360 degrees of visability. African Portfolio's ground operator, KIBO, has in the past not had poptops with the sun cover that extends overhead. I hope they haven't changed because I hate the interference and limitation the braces on the pop tops cause. Try shooting out a side window, much better than shooting down onto the backs of large close subjects. We will be only the two of us in the vehicle so very much mobility. The most we have ever safaried with are four plus the driver/guide. One thing to keep in mind that in Tanzania, unlike Botswana, the vehicles are not allowed off road (at least in the parks). That puts a focal length burden on the photographer. I'm not sure waht your longest lens is but you might want to bring a 1.4X Teleconverter along? Keri, think about a pillowcase (dust), I suggest that to everyone and most people love the result. If you have any particular questions, please feel free to email them to me, Yvette has my address.

Andy,
I recall you mentioned the bag last year. I couln't wait so I bought the Think Tank Airport Accelerator. I'm at the point now where I have to sneak new bags into the house. Perhaps arrange with the UPS man to pick up my packages at the corner gas station. Tell me, what will be the capacity of your new bag or bags (i.e., in mm of lenses that it will carry)? Off topic a bit but what are your most recent thoughts on the Canon Mark III. I followed your early history with that body and held off buying. Now I'm trying to decide wetween the 1D Mark III and the 1Ds Mark III. Do you think the 5 frame per second frame rate on the Ds is sufficient? Will the 21 MPIX of the Ds give a better image on a full frame body than 10 MPIX on a 1.3 crop body??

Regards-Chuck
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Old Sep 26th, 2007, 02:48 AM
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Keri,
I should have also said that Yvette has my telephone number as well so, call if you are short on time.
Cheers-Chuck
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Old Sep 26th, 2007, 05:27 AM
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Chuck-

My bag will be 9x14x20, and can accommodate a very long lens plus much much more. If you send me an email to andybiggs at gmail dot com, I will show you some photos of the bag. The bag weighs less than 4 pounds, yet has a very comfortable harness system that retracts back into the bag and out of view. This makes the bag much easier to use when shooting from a vehicle, as you place your bag on a seat beside you. If you have all of the straps going every which way, it makes it more difficult. Think of the bag as a cross between a Moose Peterson MP-1 (lightweight but poorly made) and a Lowepro Pro Trekker AWII (comforable to wear, but heavy). So I have a comfortable, well-padded back that is under 4 pounds.

This is what I carried in the bag to Africa in July:

Canon 1DsMkII
Canon 1DMkII (rental for a customer)
Canon 1DMkIII
Canon Rebel XTi (converted to infrared)
Canon 20D (rental for a customer)
500mm f/4
100-400mm
24-105mm
1.4x
2x
Edirol R-09 audio recorder
Epson P5000 storage device

Not bad, eh?

Regarding the 1DMk3 versus 1DsMk3, I have to say that I really do like larger file sizes, even if it means I need longer lenses to compensate for the field of view difference for the full frame camera. Even though the 1DsMk3 isn't out yet, I think the biggest limitation of the camera is the small-ish buffer, and not the frames per second. I was looking at my Lightroom database the other day, and realized that most of my favorite shots have been captured with my old 1DMk2 and my 100-400mm lens. I use my 1DMk3 now, but I always put my fastest camera on my 100-400mm, as I use that combo for blurred panning shots. I am not a birder, but do occasionally grab some bird shots. A 1DsMk3 is going to make that more challenging to fill the frame up with your subject.

In the end, the 10mp 1DMk3 is a wonderful camera. Some weirdo autofocus issues still need to be addressed, and I hope that the 1DsMk3 doesn't exhibit the same issues. I will be a $12,500 guinea pig if that is the case, and I won't be happy about it. The new interface is wonderful, the battery life astounding, and I have no reasons why I cannot come home with images that I am happy with.
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Old Sep 26th, 2007, 06:11 AM
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Bill-H,
From your post I would guess that you are really focused (no pun intended) on birds.


Hi Chuck, we don't actually go out specifically for birds, it's just that with the Wimberley we can focus and shoot fast enough to photograph them easily.

Dealing with the 500mm for birds might be a job best suited for a Wimberly but for all-around general safari photography I think the mobility to react quickly and to change your line of sight makes the bean bag just right.

I don't follow this ... you can "change your line of sight" faster with the gimbal head than with the heavy lens on a bean bag.

Here's a couple of interesting posts from someone who went with Andy to Tanzania and felt the bean bags were limiting for long lenses ... to quote "one of the trip members who also had along a Canon 500mm f4/L IS (bought just weeks before the trip) had the misfortune of having it tumble off the roof of his Land Rover onto the road, a fall of about 8 feet. The 1.4X Extender that was attached to it shattered, but the 500mm survived" ...

Speaking of the bean bags supplied by Andy he wrote "they didn't solve the problem that those of use with larger lenses encountered, which is the need to constantly hang onto this heavy equipment heaving it up into position and then back down again. Unlike as seen in Figure 1 above, one can't leave a setup like this unattended, or some $15,000 worth of lens and camera can easily fall 8 feet to the ground, as happened to one of our workshop's photographers."

The T-mount is stable enough that we can keep it on the roof all the time, just moving it from side to side as necessary, which is far easier than having a single bean bag (if you can put multiple bean bags up secured with bungee cords then it's similar though).

He also mentions the Dutch photographer he met with the 300-800 Sigma (a lens about twice as heavy as the 500 f/4) ... I met this guy in April 2006 in Tanzania and he had dropped the Sigma off a window bean bag, only about a 3 ft fall but it broke the lens.

This was the same trip where we had the cheetah jump on our roof and bump into the unattended T-mount with Wimberley twice as he slipped on the roll-back roof cover. Big difference in stability.

Here's the links to the web site referenced above ... I don't like the 'solution' he came up with much either, he sheared a pin because he has to keep the mount at such an awkward angle.
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/lo...tanzania.shtml
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/re...ow-widow.shtml

As Andy mentioned a drawback is these only work on a couple of types of roofs, so when we are booking a new place (like Kenya) we make sure the guy knows what we need in jeep roofs. It's also a drawback that they sell for over $200, but after using one and also using bean bags it's no contest to me, it's worth it.

Bill



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Old Sep 26th, 2007, 06:56 AM
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Andy,
I have sent you an email, along with a few of my own images. Please be gentle.

Your comments on the 1Ds Mark III vs the 1D Mark III are really helpful. I never really considered the buffer question. Actually I was more concerned about the file size and the amount of storage I would need, both at home and in the field. I had pretty much discounted that after looking into the enormous hard drives now available. Even though I'm a casual birder and seldom do BIF captures, I do like to try and capture animal interaction. The buffer limitation would cramp my limited abilities. I'm looking forward to your new bag, perhaps my wife will indulge me just one more bag. She is a good sport, provided I take her on safari.
Regards-Chuck
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Old Sep 26th, 2007, 06:56 AM
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Andy,
I have sent you an email, along with a few of my own images. Please be gentle.

Your comments on the 1Ds Mark III vs the 1D Mark III are really helpful. I never really considered the buffer question. Actually I was more concerned about the file size and the amount of storage I would need, both at home and in the field. I had pretty much discounted that after looking into the enormous hard drives now available. Even though I'm a casual birder and seldom do BIF captures, I do like to try and capture animal interaction. The buffer limitation would cramp my limited abilities. I'm looking forward to your new bag, perhaps my wife will indulge me just one more bag. She is a good sport, provided I take on safari.
Regards-Chuck
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Old Sep 26th, 2007, 10:14 AM
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Bean bag story. On my May 2007 safari at Leopard Hills, my ranger was Marius. Great guide, chap and excellent photographer. His standard kit is a Canon 30D with 100-400 L. And he likes to use a bean bag, actually two that are sort of velcroed stacked together for height. Anyway, we were viewing two leopards when Marius dropped this bean bag combo over the door sill. One of the leopards heard it and came over to investigate while Marius begged him not to take his bean bag. Well, the leopard took it anyway and began playing with it and the other leopard joined in. We left the sighting, minus bean bag, to let another vehicle in. But good news the leopards tired of it and another ranger (different camp) retrieved it for Maurius. It was muddy and had a few holes in the bags. I got it all on video, Marius has a copy.

regards - tom
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