Tanzania Trip Report

Lunch at Tarangire

Nikon D40 converted to infrared, Nikon 18-200mm, f/11, 1/250, ISO 200

I got back from my 2 week photo safari in Tanzania about a week ago and I think my body has finally adjusted to being home again. My mind, on the other hand, may still be in Africa :) My brother and I did a 12 day guided safari with the purpose of trying to take great photos of animals and landscapes. In this post I’ll share a little of our experiences in the hope that someone else out there who is planning a trip to East Africa might find the information useful.

First of all, the trip was absolutely fantastic…truly a dream come true. There is something about East Africa that is so alluring that it makes you keep wanting to go back. Our guide company in Tanzania was Sokwe. We booked through Journey to Africa here in the states. I can’t say enough great things about Sokwe and especially our guide Msangi. They knew what the needs of photographers are and worked with us every step of the way to make sure that we got the shots we wanted. If you’re going to Tanzania and you want great photos…make sure you go with Sokwe.

This was my first major experience photographing wildlife and all I can say is that it is very challenging, but also rewarding. I knew from reading various blogs that African wildlife photography is a difficult endeavor and requires some serious gear to get good photos. So my gear bag included:

3 camera bodies (2x Nikon D300 & a D40 converted to infrared)
Nikon 18-200mm
Nikon 35mm f/2
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
Nikon 200-400mm f/4
Nikon 1.4X teleconverter
Various filters, 100GB of memory cards, hard drive backups

I don’t think I ever felt like I was under equipped during the trip, but I really couldn’t have gone without any one piece of camera equipment that I brought. The only exception being the Nikon 35mm f/2 which I only used once. I think our equipment choices were pretty well matched to the task at hand. What surprised us, though, is how few people we saw with professional camera equipment. Most folks were shooting little point and shoot cameras. I guess if you’re not concerned with photography and you want to just enjoy the experience, then that might be OK. One thing for sure is that carrying all the gear above got old really quick. Our carry-on bags weighed 30+ pounds and we were always paranoid that KLM would take issue with that, but they never did.

A definitive conclusion that both my brother and I came to in regard to equipment is the need for a super telephoto ZOOM lens (as opposed to a prime lens). Both of us had the Nikon 200-400 f/4 VR and shot with it most of the time. I could not imagine being without the ability to zoom in/out on a subject to compose the shot. I’m sure the 500mm and 600mm lenses are great, but I would’ve hated the fixed focal lengths (and the weight :)

This is just a brief update on how the trip went. Look for more here very shortly on specific equipment reviews and some discussion of the locations we visited in Tanzania…and of course more photos!

A Forgotten Image

posted by on 2009.01.01, under Landscape Photography, Photo of the Day
Nikon D300, Tokina 11-16mm, Singh-Ray Color Combo + 3 stop GND, f/22, 3s, ISO 100

Nikon D300, Tokina 11-16mm, Singh-Ray Color Combo + 3 stop GND, f/22, 3s, ISO 100

Upon browsing through my Aperture library of all my photos, I ran across this image from this past fall. It jumped out at me, which is odd since I obviously didn’t think much of it back when I took it because I didn’t even bother giving it a star rating when I was downloading all the images from the hike. Usually I immediately identify the images I like and process them to completion.

There are compositional things I don’t like about this photo, and there are plenty of technical things wrong with it, but I have decided that for some reason it’s a keeper. It’s funny what a fresh perspective can do. This makes me excited to continue digging through my old images so see if there are any other forgotten gems.