Tipping and bean bags

Old Jul 9th, 2006, 06:56 PM
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Tipping and bean bags

Please help me decide if I'm way off in my thinking or if my senior moments are more serious than I realized.

Many times on Fodors I see statements about tipping and bean bags that I just don't understand. Perhaps I'm way off base.

Many people say they take lots of $1.00 bills to leave as tips. I never give $1.00 bills for the reason that by the time an African converts it into Kenyan Shillings or whatever, they end up with only 70 cents. Since I wouldn't dream of leaving someone in the U.S. a 70 cent tip, I also don't do it in Kenya. Is my thinking way off on this? If my Coke is 1.25 I give them 2.00 and let them keep the change. Other than this I leave only 5 or 10 dollar bills, 20 for guides. Has anyone else thought of it this way?

As to beanbags, why do people take them? On all my 9 trips a good guide will immediately shut his engine off at an animal sighting - thus no vibrations. Why then use a bean bag? There is usually a bar that goes around the top of the vehicle and I use this to lean my cameras on to keep them stationary and pivot the camera on. Why do you all use beanbags? Are your vehicles left running? The only problem I've run up against is there is no way of baffling the microphone on my video camera which thus picks up more wind blowing sounds than I would like. I have tried covering the microphone area with thin gauze, and it does cut down on the wind sound but then picks up more of the whirring motor/tape turning sounds.

Please help me understand these two subjects so I'll know I'm not losing it entirely.
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Old Jul 9th, 2006, 07:54 PM
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"I never give $1.00 bills for the reason that by the time an African converts it into Kenyan Shillings or whatever, they end up with only 70 cents."

In Tanzania $1 is worth about 1,200 Tz shillings so they naturally prefer that to a 1,000 Tz shilling note as a tip.

"Since I wouldn't dream of leaving someone in the U.S. a 70 cent tip, I also don't do it in Kenya."

If it bothers you then change dollars to shillings and give them shillings ...

"As to beanbags, why do people take them? ... There is usually a bar that goes around the top of the vehicle and I use this to lean my cameras on to keep them stationary"

Depends on your camera and lens length ... this is probably fine for a light point-and-shoot ... someone with an expensive heavier camera probably wants to protect the finish ... also shooting from a hard surface can cause the camera to 'jump' due to the mirror slap if using an SLR, so most people would at least want to use a rolled up vest or something as padding. Finally a good bean bag can be moulded a bit and support the camera steadier than just the metal rail.

"Are your vehicles left running?"

No, turned off ... if they were left running a bean bag wouldn't help much anyway.

"Please help me understand these two subjects so I'll know I'm not losing it entirely."

It's a big world ... if you feel 70 cents is a cheap tip then tip more ... if you want to lay your camera on the metal rail no one here will object. But there are other ways to do it ...

Bill
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Old Jul 9th, 2006, 07:58 PM
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Jan,

You should tip what you consider right. I take $1 bills (for hotel porters etc) because I consider that's enough for five minutes work. 70 cents in Africa is a hell of a lot more than in the US or Oz. If the job is a bit bigger, and/or I'm tipping on behalf of both me and my wife, then I give two or more bills. A stock of $1 bills provides flexibility. For bigger tips for guides, camp staff, I take a stock of $20 and $10 bills, and, the odd $50...again, for flexibility. This is just my practice...it's up to you entirely.

I don't use a video camera so I don't know about beanbags for them. I would imagine they would be a hindrance with a movie camera more often than not. I'm never without one, or a monopod, with my still cameras though. It has nothing to do with whether the vehicle engine is still running, but everything to do with the lack of steadiness in the human hands.

When I first started photography, I used to ask similar questions because pros and serious amateurs were always talking about camera support. After a couple of years, I realised why. There is absolutely no way a still photographer can do better hand-holding the camera. Many of course think they can, because they have 'steady' hands, but a close look at their results shows how false that belief is. I'm always amused when photographers talk about how much sharper a particular lens is compared with another, yet they shun something like a beanbag, a monopod or a tripod which will make any lens perform better.

Of course, there are many occasions when hand-held is both practical and perfectly adequate and when some kind of support will be impractical and even a hindrance. I've found those occasions are very rare with wildlife photography. Canopy railing on a safari vehicle is better than nothing, but it doesn't cushion or 'grip' the camera/lens combination, whereas a heavy-duty beanbag of a smooth, durable material will do so at the same time as it allows the photographer to pan. I've used such a beanbag with an 8 kg combination of camera and lens on safari without problem. At other times, outside the vehicle in Africa and Australia, I've rested the camera on rocks, fallen trees and fence posts if I haven't had other convenient means of support at hand. Camera-support is just so sensible.
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Old Jul 9th, 2006, 08:04 PM
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Jan, I agree with the tips. My first trip I brought $100 in $1's, came back with about $87, used up all my $5's, $10's and most of the $20's. In Zambia, when the local guide/staff go to the village to convert the money, they get a better exchange with a higher bill, so they appreciate bigger bills, I don't know if it's the same in other countries as I've only been to Zambia. On my second trip, I brought about $20 in 1's for sodas/beer in the airport bar.
I never knew what the bean bag was for, but I dutifully carried my bag of stones on every game drive on my first trip, though it never left my backpack!
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Old Jul 9th, 2006, 09:08 PM
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Jan,

This is what i do.....Most of my Africa travel is safari camps, and i generally stay at one camp for a minimum 3 nights. So, i usually carry large denomination currency for guides/trackers and for the common tip box. I also carry travellers cheques, that i can encash as and when needed.

Bean bags hv been discussed above.....by all means, you dont need to buy one to carry on safari most vehicles in Africa should already have one in it.

Hari
 
Old Jul 9th, 2006, 11:14 PM
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You are right in the first part Jan, but in Kenya I don't see the problem with tipping in shillings myself - unless it's an amount worth keeping until a favorable exchange rate comes along (like for your guide). 100/500 shillings beats a dollar/5 dollars any day - especially since you have absorbed any conversion costs - and since they are available in unlimited amounts from the ATM it's easy to restock.

In any case I think people take the $1 as a guideline - it's just to be "polite" like in the US, where I believe ignorance of the 15% rule has led many a European to wonder why the service goes downhill in bars the second time you visit ;-) I expect most people leave more anyway.

Personally I wonder whether discussion on tipping the right amount isn't excessive, but am willing to believe that some people genuinely suffer sleepless nights over tipping just the right amount to be polite without being ostentatious.

If you are a generous person you are going to tip more than less generous people. If you like to flaunt what you've got you are also going to tip more than average. If you've spent more than you can decently afford already, to the point that tips are coming out of your kids' school fees, you may well tip less. If you are paying $800 per night you are likely to tip more than if you are paying $50. If the staff are great you'll tip more.

If you're genuinely concerned, Jan, don't be - you're likely in the first category, which isn't a bad thing. If you're giving people a nudge, good on you - never a bad idea to ask people to think outside the box.

I'd keep in mind that 10 dollars may be a few days' wages (surely at the very least one for any ordinary hotel staff?) personally I feel it's a bit ostentatious to palm even half that to the bellboy for carrying my bag 20 meters .... but that's to do with culture rather than any meanness of spirit on my behalf - honest... (sound of bagpipes floating over the glens)


With the bean bag issue, in addition to resting long lenses, maybe some people just have shakier hands than you - proving that you are not ready for "senior" moments just yet.

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Old Jul 9th, 2006, 11:43 PM
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If the camp does not have bean bags, you can take a pillow case and. . . . Hold it, wait a sec, I think I feel deja vu coming back.
Never mind.
regards - tom
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Old Jul 10th, 2006, 12:16 AM
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Good on yer tom. Have you thought of giving up your day job?

Just a thought Jan, in case it helps...this is not a matter of beating the other guy, like 'my hands are steadier than yours', 'no they're not...' It's a matter of bringing back better shots than you took last time i.e. you've got steady hands but they always do better with help.
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Old Jul 10th, 2006, 02:11 AM
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Thanks to all for your detailed descriptions. It does help answer my questions. I'll have to try the beanbag support next time and see if it helps.
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Old Jul 10th, 2006, 10:06 AM
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In Kenya, I tip camp staff in shillings. It eliminates any exchange issues for them

I'd also like to know if there's anything that can be done about wind noise with camcorders.
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Old Aug 17th, 2006, 07:00 PM
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Since were all on this topic anyway...
I'm leaving in two weeks for my first safari and this may seem like a stupid question, but what is considered proper etiquette: tipping your guide after each drive, tipping after each day or leaving one large tip at the end of his service??? Any thoughts?
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Old Aug 17th, 2006, 07:21 PM
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One tip at the end of his service would be the standard thing.

John
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Old Aug 17th, 2006, 09:11 PM
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On the wind noise for camcorders. What you could do...

Sometime there's a plug for an extension microphone which would override the internal one. Get a mic with a long cable, plug it in and leave the extension mic somewhere out of the wind. Or get a really nice windsock.
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Old Aug 18th, 2006, 12:20 PM
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As Pumbavu stated a windsock (or windsield or windscreen) is the best way to kill the wind sound from your recordings..but they really only work on external mics. What model camcorder are you using? Most manufacturers make inexpensive external mics (with cheap foam windscreens). The're relatively small, the sound is great, and if you get a "shotgun" style mic you can even zoom in on your subject and cut out any sounds around the camera.
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Old Aug 18th, 2006, 12:31 PM
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Thanks for the tips. I'll look into an external mic for this trip. I need to buy a new camcorder too as the zoom isn't working properly on my old one and I don't think it's worth fixing at this point.
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