Field Guides

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Mar 6th, 2004, 06:40 AM
  #1
vwr
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Field Guides

We're going! Kenya and Tanzania - first of June. Many on Fodors have recommended several wildlife/bird guides (not available locally). Without being able to do a hands-on study, it's difficult to choose. With luggage limits, we'd prefer to take just one. So, would you go for a general wildlife book or a bird book? Which one book would you take? Being a bookaholic myself, I acknowledge how difficult this might be to answer. Thanks for your help, Kathy
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Mar 6th, 2004, 07:23 AM
  #2
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I should have added that the 'one' book will be mainly for identification purposes.
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Mar 6th, 2004, 01:00 PM
  #3
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I don't have any particular book to recommend, but we have found that every guide in Kenya and Tanzania has a bird book with them in the vehicle which is at your disposal during your trip. You will also find that every lodge/camp has books on wildlife and birds for your use.

So unless you want your own book and to add to your library at home, see which books the guides/camps use and maybe you can purchase those, after-the fact!
 
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Mar 6th, 2004, 01:42 PM
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we are going to Kenya in June. We already purchased our air. We will be there for 21 days. Can anyone recommed an in country safari company? I see on this board that the name Preador keeps poping up. I cant seem to find them. I have been in contact with a co. by the name of Suntrek Safaris. They seem reasonable and claim to be in Niarobi. How can I check them out to see if they are legit. Money is a foctor, so every bit of savings will help.
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Mar 6th, 2004, 06:30 PM
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Kathy, after our 2002 Tanzania trip I came back with photos of birds and herps we could not identify. Wife bought me National Audubon Society Field Guide to African Wildlife (at Barnes and Noble I think). 4"x7.75"x1.5 ". It is great with excellent photos, distribution maps, life history info. etc. But, it did not provide all I needed to id some birds we photographed (but never asked our guide about). We then purchased Field Guide to Birds of East Africa by Terry stevenson and John Fanshawe. It covers Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi and some 1,388 species. A bit larger at 5.5"x8.75"x1.5" and heavier being hard backed w/some 600 pages. The color plates are excellent with illustrations of mature/immature male/female. We will probably carry this one with us in June. We are not avid birders but want to pay a bit more attention to birds. For mammals and herps we feel we can make notes from guide tells us and/or recall (we trust) from previous sightings. The latter book we purchased thru overstock.com. If I remember right, there were posts on this board as to id books a year or so ago. I will sacrifice clothes to make sure I can take the cameras and one or two books. For sure will carry on these items.
Good luck in your search.
Dick
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Mar 6th, 2004, 08:17 PM
  #6
vwr
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Sandi, it's good to know that the guides/lodges will have books for us to access. I'm so 'up' for this trip that I'd like to do a little prestudy. Having a field guide will help us in our journal entries, too.

Dick, we don't go anywhere w/o our cameras and a few books. Our Africa book list was narrowed down to five which included the two books you've suggested. By the way, I've enjoyed reading about your 2Afrika experience; we've booked our trip through them, too. Regarding photography, what film speed would you recommend taking?
Kathy
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Mar 7th, 2004, 02:58 AM
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Kathy, we used mostly 400 asa. Such gave great pictures. With two of us using 35 mm slrs this next time, we will not have to worry about mixing. Also, I plan on using a digital Olympus 740 zoom as well. A previous poster mentioned being able to purchase wildlife/bird guides while on trip. I recall seeing them in lodge shops as well as in info centers at entrance to parks. Usually, most often, prices at the park centers will much, much lower than in the lodges.

Dick
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Mar 7th, 2004, 05:01 AM
  #8
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Kathy - in addition to the guides that are in the vehicles and at camps, many of the camps have little booklets with listings of all the birds and animals found in and around the camp or within the park where you are located. It's fun to be able to check off those that you've seen.

We were surprised that after seeing so many animals and recognizing most readily and often "from the rear" - we eventually found ourselves "into birds" - amazing ourselves that we were able to spot and pick these out at distances, and certainly close up. You'll marvel at the amazing colors of some of them.

I also always have a notepad and write down anything that is new or different, especially if I've managed to get a photo of the particular animal or bird. That's good when you're going thru your photos realizing just how much you absorbed at the time that you immediately identify some bird photos at first glance.
 
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Mar 7th, 2004, 09:27 AM
  #9
nkh
 
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Hi Kathy

Sorry this post seemed to get longer and longer....!

We took along a guide for animals and for birds on our trip (also with 2afrika - pictures at least of the Tanzania portion of out trip posted www3.sympatico.ca/thaynes) but found that we could have got by without the bird guide. Actually, since our guide was good at identifying things, we probably didnt need to take anything on the trip, but it was nice to look up things we had seen during the day when we got back to our lodge in the evening.

If taking one guide, I would second Dick's comments - we found the National Audobon Society Field Guide for African Wildlife excellent - good information, nice pictures, a reasonable size to cart around etc.(soft light plastic cover) - it does some of the more common birds (you can leave the bird guide at home for photo IDing when you get back)

The other book that we really enjoyed was one we bought and read through a bit before going (even if you dont take it with you when you go, although we were glad we did) - The Safari Companion: A guide to watching African Mammals (Richard Estes)(largish paperback). This book gives descriptions not just of what the animals look like (no pictures, just line drawings) but also how they behave, the lifestyle (ie life expectancy, habitat etc.) and many other interesting details. Gets to be heavy going in the "thousands of antelopes" section, but even a browse through was excellent. When out viewing I noticed I had some idea what some of the animals we saw were doing, and why - also great because if you see an animal doing something unusual you can look it up that evening as well. We found that this book added tremendously to the richness of our experience and our understanding of what we were seeing.

Re: film We took AGFA Vista 400ASA film and were very happy with our results (see website for some scanned-in examples) We had both SLR and point-and-shoot camera and photos posted are a mixture of the two.

Comment about film: We took the advice of a friend of ours who knows about photography and did some tests before we went - bought film, took pictures and had it developed at developer we intended to use. Everyone likes different effects and different shops/developing systems will do better or worse for different film types. The following cost us about 80 CDN, but we felt was worth the investment.

We bought 1 roll of each film we wanted to try per camera (we tried AGFA Vista 400, Kodak Royal Gold 400 and Fuji Superia Xtra 400, all of which have their adherents here and on other photography boards)

We then made the neighbors very confused by going through our closet + dishtowels etc. and finding a range of colours and textures (lt pink, red, royal blue, pale blue, bright + pale green, purple) and a range of earth tones (black velvet + matte black, bright white, cream, khaki, grey, dk brown + tan etc) For each block of colours we did the following:

For each film type: Lay out the 2 colour "blocks" in the sun and photograph with point + shoot and then with SLR shoot on auto and overexpose by +1, +2, underexpose -1 -2 (more settings if you want to/have film). Move everything into the shade and repeat.

We felt really silly until we got the results back - for our system/developer we found a huge difference between films

e.g. Fuji couldnt cope with colour range of white/black/earthtones in the sun (grass went almost black) and it oversaturated the pink/red (sweater lost ribbing and turned into "blob". The Kodak was good for reds but gave electric-teal grass particularly in full sun and had trouble with anything blue or green in dappled shade (under a tree) The AGFA is a lower contrast film and actually gave really good results across the colour spectrum. Also, we found that it worked best when overexposed +1 or even +2 so we set the SLR to shoot +1 for the whole trip.

Have a wonderful trip!
Nicole
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Mar 8th, 2004, 04:23 PM
  #10
vwr
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Hello Nicole,

Boy, am I impressed. We've always talked about doing some comparison shooting but we've never gotten around to it. The last vacation, we took eleven different types of film (40 plus rolls of 100-800 iso) figuring that each of us would shoot different brands to compare. That didn't work out as I mainly used the digital. Given that there are a few months to go, I'd like to do what you did and compare Agfa to Kodak High Definition, Portra UC and Portra VC. See, you're an inspiration!

Film speed: Both you and Dick said 400. Are mornings typically overcast? Without having asked, I would have bought 80% 100-200 speed, 20% 400 speed. Seems like that needs to be reversed.

There are two votes for National Audubon's field guide. We were able to find a copy of The Safari Companion at the bookstore. It's a book I'd like to have in our home library; there was a lot of information there. I think I'll order the Audobon book for now and some Swahili tapes and see how that goes.

Kathy
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Mar 12th, 2004, 08:31 AM
  #11
nkh
 
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Hi Kathy

Glad you got a chance to look at the Safari Companion - if you dont want to buy it, perhaps the library has a copy you could take out to read through?

I am not sure if our film experiment should be described as "impressive" or "inevitable" given that both my husband and I are scientists, and the "logical proof/approach to undertaking" habit is pretty hard to leave at the lab......yes, I guess it makes us sad science geeks....but ones that can take decent pictures

Your list of films includes some that we eliminated simply due to price - we took a LOT of film, and we used a LOT of film - maybe more than some people but with 2 cameras we used almost 50 rolls of 24 in 15 days. We could have used less but it was nice to not worry about saving film for later, and to be able to take 2 pictures to make sure something worked. (Or in my case when using SLR and polarizer taking photos of Kilimanjaro.....7 pictures with different combos to make sure 1 worked!)

The final test we did before going was to go to the local zoo and take photos of African animals using our film of choice - also gave us practice with using the camera for wildlife, of course.

re: film speed
We took all 400 speed film
- in early morning exposures were a bit long, but were fine with stationary van and beanbag to sit camera on roof of van. By mid-day we were up to fast exposures and the polarizer was very useful, evening similar to morning. The problem with different film types is that unless you want to reload your camera when your film is half-finished, you may end up with 800 speed film in at noon since you didnt use the film up in the morning (if you have multiple cameras, this can be avoided). Up to you whether you bother to take 800 or not (depends on your camera too).

One practical suggestion we adopted from the board here - we numbered our films before we left, and kept a notebook with us in the van at all times which we used to jot notes about the day (like what the guide said a bird/animal was) and which film was in the camera. We did NOT load films in number order - just noted "25 out, 17 in" chronologically. Worked really well, because although you think you will be able to keep all the pictures of lions straight, trust me, you may not!

Nicole
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Mar 12th, 2004, 08:37 AM
  #12
nkh
 
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whoops, sorry Kathy I wrote the films backwards (got 800 not 200 into my head)

200 would be fine for daytime, but we did use 400 the whole time (needed the polarizer for the SLR, though at midday) - it will depend on the film too since the AGFA was very tolerant to overexposure, whereas Kodak is NOT for example. I wouldnt bother with 100 speed film, particularly since you do a lot of morning/evening viewing.

If you want to take 2 types, probably 60%-70% 400, 30-40% 200. The comment about getting stuck with the "wrong" film in the camera still applies though.

Nicole
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Mar 12th, 2004, 06:19 PM
  #13
vwr
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Hey Nicole, that's what the scientific process is all about...making it work for us! I also think it's great that you take LOTS of pictures; I'd rather overshoot a scene than undershoot and miss that special shot. It helps keep our film costs down by going through bhphotovideo.com. Thanks for advising on speed percentages.
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