Does photograghy become the end-all of the safari?

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Dec 17th, 2005, 07:27 AM
  #1
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Does photograghy become the end-all of the safari?

I just looked at Phil's student's Ceclia Lim's wonderful photos, and caught myself thinking "I hope I get a picture like that"... and then realized I should be thinking "I hope I get to see that!!!" I know I'll be one of those people who takes thousands of photos, but I really want to be able to enjoy the moments as they occur, and not be in a panic to get "great shots"... Maybe I'm worrying for naught?

And while I'm on random thoughts... Celia had a photo of a dozen (or more) pop-ups all clustered around 2 lions. Is that typical?

48 days to go!!!

Cyn
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Dec 17th, 2005, 09:31 AM
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I wouldn't worry about it! I enjoy taking the photos... but for me the photo is the reminder of the pleasure of seeing whatever it is. Even the blurred tail of a cheetah disappearing out of shot reminds me of the first cheetah I saw in the Mara..

Just set the camera on all the possible automatic settings and enjoy!
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Dec 17th, 2005, 09:52 AM
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with taking thousands of pictures, you'll be sure to get some great shots. make sure you try to enjoy the sights and animals through your own eyes instead of a viewfinder, once in awhile put the camera down and watch- it's amazing!
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Dec 17th, 2005, 10:41 AM
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Agree with the previous two posters about the photos.

Regarding many pop-ups -- that depends on who you are going with, and where. On our trip, we only saw this one time at the end of our trip. The rest of the time we were in the Masa Mara and our little group of a dozen in three Land Rovers never saw anyone else, except for one time--the folks who were filming Big Cat Diary were at the same place we were at when a pride of lions was trying to take down a hippo. It was an interesting experience to rewatch that later on the TV program.

You will have a marvelous time.
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Dec 17th, 2005, 10:47 AM
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Cynstalker:

We all have our own purposes and priorities in mind when it comes to any kind of travel, including a safari. If your ultimate goal is to simply enjoy the moments with wildlife that occur, you will place the priority there. Keeping those moments fresh forever, as well as sharing them with others as photographs, would become secondary in your case.

Others may place a higher priority on photography. As a teacher of photography, all of my own travel is geared towards expressing my feelings and ideas about what I see by making images. That is how I learn best, and how I can continue to help others learn as well. But that is my own choice. It has nothing do with how others travel.

So don't worry about your own lack of photographic obsession -- it is simply a matter of your own desires. As others suggest, perhaps it would be very satisfying just to put down the camera and enjoy a wildlife moment now and then for whatever it means to you. There will be other moments to make your pictures. There are no wrong or right ways to enjoy a safari and remember it later. There are only individual choices to be made.

As for those pop ups clustered around two lions, that is pretty much what I saw on three previous safaris in Kenya. A bit less of such traffic in Tanzania and Natal. And that is one of the reasons why I am going to Zambia in the wet season ten days from now. I have been assured that I won't have to deal with that issue this time around.

And thanks for the nice words on Celia's images. I will let her know.

Phil
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Dec 17th, 2005, 10:50 AM
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Re pop ups. Yes it is typical in some areas. I was recently in Amboseli and the main park was really crowded with those nasty little vans. Our guide knew where to go and took our open sided landcruiser into the concession so we had 3 lions all to ourselves.

When in the Masaai Mara, we saw barely anyone at all. However again, it was again helped by the fact that we had a heavy duty landcruiser 4x4 to depend on. It can get you to places the pop-tops just can't reach and if they can't get there, your photos, auto or not, will all be great!
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Dec 17th, 2005, 11:27 AM
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cynstalker,

I understand exactly what you are saying. However, while it is easy to get up in the photography aspect of the safari, there is plenty of downtime with little wildlife and during this time you can sit back and really enjoy Africa. However, when you get home and first see your photos, you will be thankful that you had your face pressed up against your camera, rather than sitting back and just watching the wildlife. The photos will live on and on, while memories will quickly fade.

It is the same with my sports photography. After I have photographed numerous fights, at the end of the night I feel like I didn't even get to sit back and enjoy watching a single fight, yet once the images appear on my computer, it brings it all back and makes it worthwhile.

Take the best camera and lenses you possibly can on safari, practice as much as possible beforehand and you will be glad you did.
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Dec 17th, 2005, 08:37 PM
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Cyn,
Since you'll be on a private safari, hopefully you'll be able to do both -get great shots and enjoy the moment - as you can set the pace of the game viewing. My advice would also be to not get too caught up with looking through the viewfinder all of the time. On a few of our walks and rides, we actually left the camera back at camp (knowing full well that we might miss a great shot) and just enjoyed the viewing through our own eyes - it was very liberating!

As to your question about seeing other vehicles. Unfortunately that can happen, particularly if you visit the most popular parks in high season. In February, we witnessed more than 2 dozen vehicles at one sighting in Amboseli. However, elsewhere on that same trip we saw few other vehicles and on this recent trip in November we saw very few other vehicles, so it just depends on the combination of parks and season.

I took a look at your itinerary. In the Aberdares and Loisaba, you don't have to worry about vehicle density at all. At Lake Nakuru you're likely to see several other vehicles particularly on the afternoon game drives (many tours spend one night at Nakuru before proceeding to the Mara thus leaving early in the morning, so the later morning game drives at Nakuru are less likely to be crowded). I'm not sure about the Mara in March, but it's also dependent on where in the Mara you stay. You mentioned private camping in your itinerary thread, do you know where the campsite is (I admit to not reading all the way to the bottom)? Most of the larger lodges are located on the northeastern side, so that's the area with the greatest number of vehicles. You can also discuss this with your guide and let him know your preferences (avoiding crowds, etc.)

I know less about Tanzania, but I think you're likely to see many other vehicles at Ngorongoro in February. In the Serengeti, again I don't know exactly where you're camping, but the park is so vast that I would think you can easily avoid the crowds if you wish. Most of the larger lodges are in the central Serengeti, so my guess is that would be the area with the highest concentration of vehicles.
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Dec 17th, 2005, 08:46 PM
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Oh and if you don't get great shots this time, that's what the next trip is for

BTW I'm really looking forward to hearing about your trip when you return. It sounds fantastic!
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Dec 18th, 2005, 08:46 AM
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cynstalker,

Great question you have posed.

It will be interesting if you share your perspective on photography on safari when you return, knowing your concerns before you leave.

That's why the new digital technology is nice. You can choose a high optical zoom camera so you don't need to have a big lens that can be cumbersome and adds to luggage weight. Since you can just snap snap snap and then delete delete delete you don't need to think about whether a shot is worth it or not. Then if you have Photoshop or similar you can fix up flaws that occurred in the field.

One down side to technology that I've seen has occured during those relaxing times when, it was suggested on this thread, that you can just sit back and enjoy Africa. I see people using all of that down time to download and edit their photos on their laptops. One woman (not in Africa) actually stayed up so late fixing her shots that she didn't feel good on the outing the next day and couldn't enjoy what she had paid big money and traveled a great distance to see.

Another woman I encountered took an interesting approach to creating travel memories. She had a sketch pad and sketched what she saw. She explained that while she was not artist, (and from what I saw on the sketch pad she was accurate in that assessment) the act of drawing cemented the memories in her mind. Her husband snapped the photos.

The subject matter in Africa is so spectacular that you will no doubt have many great shots that you can share here upon your return. Have a wonderful trip.
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Dec 18th, 2005, 12:43 PM
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Cyn -

All of the above is true. But I can assure you that your guides will keep you far enough away from other "visitors" in their "vehicles." The Royal African campsites are so far away from other "anything" that nearby - is nobody! While out on game drives, these guys know just what you want, when and how - no worry, no problem!

I've taken more photos then I could have expected from my very first safari to the latest and still nowhere near what some who post here keep clicking away at. Granted, at first sight of animals in the wild, one can go crazy... then a bit of reality sets it. More so with film when this may be limited, less so with digital... but take the time to smell the air! (I'd say roses, and there are some... more often it won't be what you smell). It's amazing to let your senses free - sight, sound, smell, taste.

While one of the funniest moments on our recent trip was my friend who had never been and was so excited about everything (so refreshing and smacked me into the reality of what I first experienced years earlier)... but the best photo was of her just gazing out on the Mara Plains and not a camera in sight. A moment of peace and tranquility. Can't think of a better place.

Go at your own pace. I'm with Patty - if you miss something - just arrange a return visit. So many of us do, so join in the adventure!
 
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Dec 19th, 2005, 05:36 AM
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Cyn, great questions. Just the other day I popped in a cd made from pictures downloaded from digital camera and enjoyed a slide show of trip to southern Tanzania. When the daughter joined me we chatted about memories of particular scenes and relived our trip. Patty and Sandi and others add an great perspective in not getting too caught up in continuously looking thru a camera as one can miss the essence of the whole experience. Such is one reason I have shyed away from taking a video camera.
Depending on the particular park or reserve and restrictions as to off-road driving, having "vehicle free" photos may be easier than you suspect. Also, the guide/drive can make a big difference. If they are in tune with your interest they will position the vehicle for good photo opportunities. In our trips to East Africa I have very, very few with vehicles in the picture. And, for some I wanted to have a photo with vehicle to illustrate a particular point as either proximity to game or size or other relationship (such as herd of elephants crossing a busy road).

Also, again depending on the nature of your safari (private versus larger group in vehicle) it isn't like you have to move on as soon as you see animal "x" or setting "y". You should have time to thoroughly enjoy a stop. Once the guide knows of your interest the pace should be comfortable. Also, arrange for a word or other signal as to when to move on and of course what topics really interest you.

I am excited for you with less than two months to go! Please post a report and don't spare the details as many of us relive our trips that way. And, if you take photos share some.

Once you get "over" seeing the first elephant, lion, whatever take a deep breath and look around. If you are like me, you will be amazed at lots of other things to take in. The oxpecker riding on the back of the cape buffalo, the flowering plants (that have been brought into this country and are considered weeds or invasive species), the ticks on the face of the lion, the agama that was on the rock next to the bird you just photographed, etc. Another reason we simply had to go back.
Dick
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Dec 19th, 2005, 06:52 AM
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Cynstalker

I agree with everything posted above and am confident you will soon find your own balance between looking through a viewfinder and just looking.

One thing nobody else has mentioned yet is that you have other senses with which to remember a great safari.

I am watering at the mouth remembering a leg of lamb in the Okavango Delta which was cooked in honey, having been baked slowly for hours in an earthenware pot, buried underground and surrounded by glowing ashes.

I am smiling as I think of being woken by the sound of a hippo passing my tent wrenching up the grass as he carried on his way eating as he went.

I am always reminded of Africa by the smell of woodsmoke; the smell you get in the water from a bucket shower when the warm water has been heated over the fire. I also love the smell of Africa after it has rained onto dry and dusty earth.

Great photo's make you go 'wow' but even average photo's or less than average photo's (into which category mine fall) remind you of all the other parts of an African odyssey which make it so special.

Don't be in a panic to get great shots. Enjoy your safari and bring back great memories.

Yours, Richard
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Dec 19th, 2005, 07:14 AM
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The experience itself is certainly paramount for me - no question. I'd rather miss the photo than miss the experience itself and will always make time to put down the camera and enjoy the scene before me - with my eyes, with my sense of smell, with my ears and even with my touch when we're on a walking safari...

But for me this is seldom a source of conflict with my desire to take photos - I can visualise what I want to capture (the composition, how much zoom etc) before lifting the camera to my eye and it takes me very little time to frame and focus the shot and take it.

The photos are extremely important to me too. Like it or not (and I do not), my memory is not brilliant and many of the details fade over time (and not very much time either). I really appreciate and enjoy looking through my photos regularly to relive and remember the details.

For the same reason I keep a reasonably detailed travel diary during the trip and try and write in it every day. The diaries, together with my photos are a source of frequent pleasure to me.

Also, I'm into photography itself. I've been into it since I was a young kid and it's an activity that gives me pleasure in its own right - creating an image that I really like and that I feel others may enjoy too is something I get a lot of pleasure out of.

It's another part of a good holiday for me. That said, as I said above, it's still the experience of being there that is paramount and I would not want to miss any of that for a potential photograph.

I am sure you'll find a balance that works for you.

Best wishes
Kavey
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Dec 19th, 2005, 07:32 AM
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Richard, You are so right about the other senses, especially the sense of smell that is so closely related to memroy. Now whenever I smell potatoes, I am reminded of the potato bush!
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Dec 27th, 2005, 01:42 PM
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Thank you all for your kind responses! And you're right - the memories that are invoked are what matter. I have a picture at home that has "nothing" in it, and yet I laugh whenever I see it because I know what was there just before I snapped. SO, if the pictures aren't great, I WILL still have the memories! I like the idea of sketching - it really would make an impression in a different way.

Patty - I'm not sure where in the Mara. The company we're going with have their own sites.

Dick- I know just what you're saying about "once I get over my first sight of"... I know my hands will be trembling the first time I see...ANYTHING! I remember reading in Sandi's trip report about the tears that flowed when the cheetah jumped on their vehicle - that would be me all over!
Richard-in someone else's answer to another question, they said that the smell of bug spray always reminds them of being on safari. I thought that was a great way to look at a negative. Of course, what you describe is much more appealing than bug spray.

I'm now down to 38 days. It is really starting to come up fast!

Cyn
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Dec 27th, 2005, 02:44 PM
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Cyn, the first time I saw the N Crater from the rim I was almost in tears. Then, our guide Godfrey mentioned to the group not to touch the one plant as it being a stinging nettle. Not that I needed a physical incentive to cry. Sure enough, not that I touched it, but yes indeed it was just about the same stinging nettle as we have growing along streams here in Pa. Having read several of the posts in this thread and then looking over a copy of notes from our first trip to Tanzania I was reminded of the wood smoke we smelled when we deplaned at Kilimanjaro Airport. Wow! Enjoy the excitement as it builds! 38 days...
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