A quick note about photography gear for South Africa

July 01, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

A big frustration about long distance travel to exotic regions is always - what gear to bring. For our 2 month trip I bought a new larger pro backpack. The pack allowed me to bring all of my photography gear and laptop, card reader and a 4T external hard drive in the pack.

Kruger-3102-EditKruger-3102-Edit I brought 3 bodies - a full frame Canon 5D3, a crop sensor Canon 7D, and a full frame Sony A7R2 with a Metabones IV adapter to Canon lenses. I had at least 3 extra batteries and a charger for each body. I had a series of CF and SD memory cards with capacities from 16 gB (too small) to 128 gB each. I used all of the CF cards because of the number of shots with the 7D which uses only a CF card and had extra SD capacity. I brought a tripod for night shots and kept it in my checked luggage on the plane - never took it out of its carrying bag. I had both lens and sensor cleaning gear and ended up using only a blower for external lens dust.

I took many lenses and used only 3. I brought a 8mm fish-eye for fun, a 17-40mm wide-angle, a 100mm macro, and a 70-200 f/2.8, a 1.4x converter and used none of these lenses. I brought a series of ND and polarizing filters and used none of these. What I did use was a 24-70mm f/2.8 for wide shots on the 5D3, a 100-400mm for tele shots on the 7D, and a 28mm f/2 on the Sony for walking around in the cities. I never changed a single lens - even once (and never got dust on any sensor.) You could correctly argue that I didn't use the creative capacity of my lenses and other gear but I was consumed with finding and observing wildlife and really never had (or took?) the time to use the other gear. Over 85% of my shots were with the 100-400 on the 7D and about 15% split between the other two body/lens combinations. We were up every single morning between 5 and 5:30 and usually to bed by 9 PM and I was simply too tired for creative night shots - lazy, I guess.

Finally, a word about work flow while traveling. I tried to do nightly downloads to my laptop of all camera memory cards. All images were imported as copies with custom presets that did routine noise reduction, sharpening, added some clarity and vibrance, and adjusted the luminance for good dynamic range. Raw images were converted to DNG files on import and full-size previews were created. I added basic location key words on import. Most of this occurred while I was taking my evening shower. I tried, when possible, to do a quick scan through all of the day's images to make sure there were no systematic capture errors or camera malfunctions and added additional subject key words and geotaged their general location. When I had time I would optimize exposures on large groups of similar images using the synchronization tool in Lightroom. When we had wifi in the south of the country, I would try to do some first-round editing of a couple of images so I could post them to Facebook. There was no wifi or any internet access in Kruger or Mapungubwe so I didn't try to edit or crop images there.

I backed up my Lightroom catalog with every download to the laptop with an extra copy to a USB thumb drive always in my pocket. I did a full backup of the images and catalog to the external hard drive every couple of nights so that I had 3 copies of every image stored 3 places in the camper (in Kruger and Mapungubwe) or the car/B&B while in the south. This arrangement is far from perfect as all of the storage could have been stolen, damaged or even lost but I am happy to say that I didn't lose a single image from any of the 3 sites of storage.

Flying to South Africa I had my camera bag with me as carry-on in the airplane. Returning to the US I was forced to check the laptop in my luggage so I was not able to do any work during the 30+ hours to get home. To my great dismay, I was forced to check my entire camera bag in Doha, Qatar because of new TSA rules limiting electronics to nothing larger than a cell phone. I was able to place my external hard drive in my pocket and carry it during the flights home. Qatar Airlines did a wonderful job of double sealing the backpack, marking and hand-carrying it to the plane, and finally, hand-delivering it to me at US customs in Dallas.

Everything was covered for full-cost replacement by a rider on my home insurance for domestic and foreign travel. Piece of mind is a wonderful thing.

 


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