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Back from Tanzania. Photos and thoughts to share (large post)

Andy Biggs

New member
Hey all-

I am back from 3 weeks out on safari, and I have a ton of thoughts and photographs to share from my latest back-to-back safaris.

First off, here is a quick blurb that I wrote on my blog a few days ago:

Well, I survived 2 back-to-back safaris in Tanzania. I had a wonderful time on both safaris, met some wonderful people, and came home with some great photographs. All in all it was a wonderful time, despite my battling flu-like symptoms for the first 10 days of my 23 days.

On the second safari we saw 41 lions, 5 rhinos, 7 cheetah and a stunning 5 leopards. With the exception of the rhinos, all of the above sightings occured during our 4 days in the Serengeti. Truly amazing.

I had the chance to shoot with both my 400mm f/4 DO and 500mm f/4 lenses, and I have some thoughts about traveling and shooting with both. First of all, the 400mm f/4 DO is an amazing little lens. It works beautifully well with teleconverters. It weighs less than the 300mm f/2.8 L IS. It is easy to hand hold. All in all I can only say great things about the lens. However, on Canon 35mm full frame digital cameras, like my 5D, I needed to use a 2x teleconverter for our leopard shots and the smaller bird opportunities. Well, the 5D won’t autofocus (I knew this already) with f/8 lenses (the f/4 plus 2x teleconverter results in a maximum aperture of f/8). Not that big of a deal, but it made me rethink what cameras will work best with the 400mm DO.

My test to shoot with both the 5D and 20D came up short in a few ways. I found that I really missed autofocusing with a 2x teleconverter, as well as the quicker autofocus acquisition and accuracy of a 1-series Canon EOS camera. My plan is to return to the land of the 1-series, and will probably end up purchasing a 1DMkII (used) and a 1DsMKxxx this fall. I was hoping that I could travel with smaller, more compact cameras to Africa, but I am afraid that my plans didn’t work out. Not a big deal, but I am more aware of the limitations of the 20D/30D and 5D cameras for wildlife at this moment.

In summary, here was what I took with me:

Canon 5D / 20D
24-105mm f/4 L IS
70-200mm f/2.8 L IS
500mm f/4 L IS
1.4xII and 2xII teleconverters

And here are some quick images to share. Feel free to ask me about the situation or gear surrounding each photograph. Since I can only include 4 images in my post, I thought I would include some big cat shots for the cat lovers out there. The rest of my images (unedited and not processed yet as of June 30) at http://www.andybiggs.com/june06/







 

Tom Yi

New member
Looks good, for this type of work, I'd figure a 20D or a 30D with it's crop factor would be better.
 

Andy Biggs

New member
Tom Yi said:
Looks good, for this type of work, I'd figure a 20D or a 30D with it's crop factor would be better.
It is all about pixel density, not crop factors. In other words, if you take a 1DsMkII image and crop it so it is like a 1.6 sensor, you will end up with a certain number of pixels. I am not sure how much, but you are actually better of shooting with full frame and a huge amount of pixels and then cropping down if you need to, versus starting out with a 20D or 30D camera.

Again, it is just pixel density in a given area.
 

Andy Biggs

New member
True, but I find that a 20D with a 500mm lens is just too much lens much of the time. That is why a full frame camera, plus a teleconverter every now and then, works best for me. If I shot with a 20D or 30D most of the time I would consider shooting with a 300mm f/2.8 or 400mm DO as my main lens, and not my 500mm.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Andy,

What about for wide angle views for landscape or migration of game or views at a pool with lots of animals?

Wouldn't this be where a 5D with a wide angle lens would be perfect?

I use my 5D pretty well for such wide angle work, but with Zeiss lenses and manual focus with a Brightscreen ground glass.

IOW, given the lightness of the 5D and lower price doesn't the 5D earn itself a place just for this kind if work.

Asher
 

Andy Biggs

New member
Asher Kelman said:
Andy,

What about for wide angle views for landscape or migration of game or views at a pool with lots of animals?

Wouldn't this be where a 5D with a wide angle lens would be perfect?

I use my 5D pretty well for such wide angle work, but with Zeiss lenses and manual focus with a Brightscreen ground glass.

IOW, given the lightness of the 5D and lower price doesn't the 5D earn itself a place just for this kind if work.

Asher
I suppose so, but also keep in mind that there are EF-S solutions out there, as well for wide angle on the 20D/XT/30D. I shoot many wide angles for my landscape work, but not much other than that. In other words, I haven't rigged up a remote camera to catch a wandering-by leopard or anything at a closeup range with a wide angle.

Just wait!.....
 

Rob.Martin

New member
Equip to use in Africa

When I go to Africa and I've done one Andy Biggs safari supreme!!, I like to have a flexible setup. I usually have the 1Ds2 hooked to a 600mm (sorry I like big mama glass) and the 70-200 on the 20D on the seat. For those more serence moments the H1/P25 is there for wide angle and other shots.
Here's a P25 shot from Kruger this year.
 

Andy Biggs

New member
I have to concur that Mr. Martin enjoys large lenses. He somehow figured out a way to bring both a 600mm f/4 and a 400mm f/2.8, along with his Hassy/Phase One setup.

:)
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Andy and Rob,

I'm so impressed by anyone carrying a 600mm a 400mm a 70-200 as well as 2 bodies and a MF set up!

Do you get a porter, a wife or a hernia?

How about air travel? How do you pack?

Asher
 

Andy Biggs

New member
Asher Kelman said:
Andy and Rob,

I'm so impressed by anyone carrying a 600mm a 400mm a 70-200 as well as 2 bodies and a MF set up!

Do you get a porter, a wife or a hernia?

How about air travel? How do you pack?

Asher
Rob's girlfiend, sherpa, is also a keen photographer, and shot with the 400mm f/2.8. Hand held. Atta girl.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Andy Biggs said:
I suppose so, but also keep in mind that there are EF-S solutions out there, as well for wide angle on the 20D/XT/30D. I shoot many wide angles for my landscape work, but not much other than that. In other words, I haven't rigged up a remote camera to catch a wandering-by leopard or anything at a closeup range with a wide angle.

Just wait!.....
I would think that with more pixels to devote to the wide angle scene and a better lens, one might end up with a file that would allow a larger and more impressive print.

The 5D with the Distagons just need to be stopped down and set to close to infinity. I'm sure that a 21mm distagon would do wonders connected to your auto triggering device. What do you use?

It would seem to me that one might want to simply have an 8GB card and take pics from dawn at intervals since you don't know whether or not it is the game collecting or the lion stalking!

Asher
 

Andy Biggs

New member
Asher Kelman said:
I would think that with more pixels to devote to the wide angle scene and a better lens, one might end up with a file that would allow a larger and more impressive print.

The 5D with the Distagons just need to be stopped down and set to close to infinity. I'm sure that a 21mm distagon would do wonders connected to your auto triggering device. What do you use?

It would seem to me that one might want to simply have an 8GB card and take pics from dawn at intervals since you don't know whether or not it is the game collecting or the lion stalking!

Asher
That is very true, but also keep in mind that I spend more time worrying about getting 'the shot' than I do with MTF curves and the like. And prime lenses just aren't as useful as zooms while on safari, as changing lenses invites a ton of dust into your camera. Not optimal.

I will keep my 16-35mm, 24-105mm and the like for my wide angle needs. But extreme wide angles just aren't that beneficial out on safari, unless taking photographs of lodge and camp interiors.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
What do you use for wide views of game to the horizon?

What about landscape. Isn't the 5D the perfect camera for that with a Sigma WA zoom stuck on and never removed!

Asher
 

Andy Biggs

New member
Asher Kelman said:
What do you use for wide views of game to the horizon?

What about landscape. Isn't the 5D the perfect camera for that with a Sigma WA zoom stuck on and never removed!

Asher
I use my 24-105mm for most landscape shots, but rarely shoot wider than about 35mm. Yes, the 5D is a wonderful camera for landscapes, but wildlife landscape shots rarely need wide angles like 20mm or 24mm. It also has much to do with how much foreground is included with really wide angles, and lens selection has everything to do with making decisions on whether to include or exclude elements in nature.

I am moving to a 3-camera setup while on out safari: 5D for landscapes, 1DMkII for my 100-400mm and a 1DsMk??? for my 500mm.
 

Gary Ayala

New member
Very nice Andy. As one who does not shoot nature, I appreciate and admire all photogs that can capture images similar to those which you have shared. (If you need a Sherpa for your next trip ... I don't eat much.)

Gary
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Why not a 1DII. Andy, for the 500mm?

It has any extra 1.3 factor with no added weight! So one has a 650mm equivalent lens which would seem to be an advantage!

Asher
 

Stan Jirman

New member
Andy is on another safari, but since we talked quite a lot lately let me inject my observation, one which I believe Andy agrees with: The 1Ds2 has a higher pixel density than the 1D2(N). Therefore, the only reason to use the 1D2 would be the higher frame rate & deeper buffer. Other than that, a cropped 1Ds2 image to account for the crop factor will still have more pixels than a "native" 1D2 image.

I am going on his next safari in a week and will be shooting with the same combo: 1Ds2 with 400DO + 1.4x TC if needed (he has his 500mm rented out).
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Stan,

I wish you a great safari. When are you going?

I have no quibble with the 1DsII. I just think of getting the extra reach.

Asher
 

Stan Jirman

New member
I am going next week.

The extra reach is a big myth, Asher. Do the math: it totally depends on the camera. 1Ds2 vs. 30D, XT(i) - yes. 1D2 vs. 5D- yes. 1D2 vs. 1Ds2 - no. You don't gain any reach at all, you actually lose resolution per target square inch. Draw a sketch, it may help you.
 

Rob.Martin

New member
Stan Jirman said:
I am going next week.

The extra reach is a big myth, Asher. Do the math: it totally depends on the camera. 1Ds2 vs. 30D, XT(i) - yes. 1D2 vs. 5D- yes. 1D2 vs. 1Ds2 - no. You don't gain any reach at all, you actually lose resolution per target square inch. Draw a sketch, it may help you.
We proved that on a Biggs Safari, where I took a Shot of a Lion, Andy (and the rest of the crew) took it as well, and my 1Ds shot, looking further away, actually held more detail. For larger prints this would be important. that's why Andy's a 1Ds man now (well I like to think that . . hehe)

Stan, wanna rent a 600/4?? hehe

Rob
 
Rob.Martin said:
We proved that on a Biggs Safari, where I took a Shot of a Lion, Andy (and the rest of the crew) took it as well, and my 1Ds shot, looking further away, actually held more detail. For larger prints this would be important.
Yes, that's correct. The 1Ds Mark II samples the image that's projected onto the sensor array at every 7.2 micron interval, while the 1D Mark II(N) samples that same projection at 8.2 micron intervals.

So the benefit of the 1D2 is in dynamic range and speed and storage capacity, while the 1Ds2 has more resolution (but slightly lower Dynamic Range) for a same sized crop of Silicon real estate. Pixel density, especially when combined with reduced output magnification, is what matters. The 1Ds2 seems to strike an exceptional balance between true output resolution and Dynamic Range.

A great example of when speed might be more important is nicely written down at this site.

Finally, as a means to address wider angle shots I'd like to suggest (panoramic) stitching, which provides superior resolution without the need to change lenses which is (especially) important in a dusty environment. It also lifts the restrictions of a given image aspect ratio, one can create anything between square and really wide images.

Bart
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Bart,

The hungry lioness trying to get into the meal eaten by 2 lions gets attacked and has to fight for her life. By a miracle, here spine is not crushed by male’s teeth.

All that in a mere 4 seconds.

1DSII, 11 RAW shots in full burst while 1DII captures 20 in the same action packed moments.

1DsII. 35 JPEG shots in full burst mode yet the 1DII grabs 70 JPG till stuffed!

So what would be more valuable?

Now in each case there about 20-35 seconds for the buffer to be flushed depending on use of the fastest SD cards.

I wonder whether using RAW is even optimal under these circumstances.

With Lightroom and Aperture able to handle a large JPG well, might it just be that the fight for life might best be recorded in JPG.

I would think that a lioness fighting a pack of hyenas to keep her kill might be one such circumstance.

Of course one would use the shot capability in bursts according to what one sees in the progress of the fight.

In any case, it is critical not to keep ones finger on the shutter just because one is so excited!

Asher
 

Stan Jirman

New member
I grew up with film. Went to Australia for 3 weeks with 20 rolls of film and came back with four spares - and I thought how lavishly I splurged. When I took my 1Ds (mk1) to Peru for my honeymoon, I survived each and every day with two 2GB cards, shooting raw + J. These 2GB cards came out just the week of our departure, and I paid $700 for each; but I digress :)

Strangely, the only time when I keep hitting the (pathetically shallow) buffer in my 1Ds2 is when taking pictures of my baby daughter who's moving rather erratically. I guess over the years I learned to look out for the moment and not to rely on the machine gun. My 1Ds2 is set to 2fps via personal functions...

If I won't have the picture I'll still have the memories, just as I have the memories but no pictures of the whales surfacing right next to our Zodiac in Antarctica. And that had nothing to do with buffer or card size but rather sheer excitement and stupidity.

It will be all good.
 

Ray West

New member
Hi Stan,


If I won't have the picture I'll still have the memories, just as I have the memories but no pictures of the whales surfacing right next to our Zodiac in Antarctica. And that had nothing to do with buffer or card size but rather sheer excitement and stupidity.
Not stupid, photos destroy memories, in many cases. Also squinting through a viewfinder never shows the scene, what is going on around - savour the moment, treasure the memory.

Best wishes, Ray
 

Andy Biggs

New member
Good discussion. Glad to be back home after 3+ weeks out on safari. Dead tired.

Regarding equipment choices, I have to say that I have migrated back to 1-series cameras for a while. I took a 1DsMkII and 1DMkII with me, and both have their specific uses. I used the 1DsMkIi on my longer prime lenses (400mm DO on my first safari and 500mm on my second safari), and my 100-400mm on my 1DMkII. I love doing blurred panning shots, and the 1DMkII + 100-400mm combo is perfect for those situations. And my 1DsMkII on a long lens is perfect for most situations, but I would love to have a larger buffer. Frames per second is a nice thing to have when you have 8fps, but for 90% of my shots 3 or 4 can work just fine. It is the buffer that is my biggest need.

I will be wading through 60GB of images from my 2 safaris, and I know that Stan has about 140GB of images just from his safari alone. If one ever needed a reason for a MacPro desktop, here it is.

Cheers.

Andy
 

Rob.Martin

New member
Andy Biggs said:
I will be wading through 60GB of images from my 2 safaris, and I know that Stan has about 140GB of images just from his safari alone. If one ever needed a reason for a MacPro desktop, here it is.
Andy
Andy, 60GB from two Safari's ??? Slowing down me thinks. Too much time taking in the atmosphere!!!!
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Andy,

Welcome back! We are looking forward to seeing some of your pictures. Note that we have a new forum for you to announce future Safaris! Get a rest, then, we'll chat.

Kind wishes!

Asher
 
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