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sblitz

Shooting an African Safari with film?

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Okay, not as convenient or as cheap as digital, I have great developer/scanner in NYC, so the question comes down to -- is this still practical thing to do? What film would work best? I would be taking a Leica R6.2, so I get up to 1/2000 speed .... which lenses in the R category would be best? Or should I just an SL and stick R and M lenses on it (no I am not going to spend $7000 for the long vario lens) .... All thoughts and comments are appreciated, thanks to all in advance....

 

 

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Have you considered renting gear for the trip ?

 

That way you could get the correct setup of cameras and lenses. I did that when I photographed my friends daughters wedding. I rented 2 Canon 5D’s with lenses and flash units.

 

It might be a big expense but if your safari is a once in a lifetime trip it might be worth it.

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I love my Film-Ms and my other Cameras as my Rolleis and so on. But on a Safari i would prefer a good digital Body with

good telephoto- lenses. So I´d rather go for a 5D MkIII, Nikon D750/850 and  high quality telephoto-lenses.

Too much reasons to not using film, in my opinion. You have to be fast (good Autofocus), have to use short exposure times (High Iso).

An SL with manual lenses... choosing the disadvantages of both worlds for a Safari. Better to take a small M-Body with two or three primes

as a backup with you.

But a lot of pictures could not be made with a film body. No fast ISO 3200 in lowlight...

Edited by Fotoklaus

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I love the romanticism of your proposition. I say go for it!

 

Portra 400, a wide/normal, a 180/2.8 and 2x teleconverter and you are set. Take a beanbag for stabilisation. Post results on I Like Film

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I used an M2 exclusively last February for a Kenya safari. I found that my 200mm was fine for most situations shooting large animals. A 400mm would have been nice for birds etc.

 

I can't comment on films - I use/used XP2 exclusively, but if you want colour, someone else can advice.

 

Romantic proposition? Not from my perspective. Just my favourite way of making pictures. The only theoretical down side is that changing film takes 3.5 minutes. Big deal. The bean bag idea is very good - stability is illusive.

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Okay, not as convenient or as cheap as digital, I have great developer/scanner in NYC, so the question comes down to -- is this still practical thing to do? What film would work best? I would be taking a Leica R6.2, so I get up to 1/2000 speed .... which lenses in the R category would be best? Or should I just an SL and stick R and M lenses on it (no I am not going to spend $7000 for the long vario lens) .... All thoughts and comments are appreciated, thanks to all in advance....

I did it for twenty years without any real problem before going digital, so why not? I always used Kodachrome, but one of the other available slide films would serve. Or go B&W, I did so with the MM1 and was quite happy with the effect.

The Vario-Elmar R 105-280 and 1.4x APOextender are ideal in my experience. Bean bag +1! Forget about tripods - useless. A monopod/walking stick can come in handy.

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I think it's an excellent idea, Steve.

 

I don't know much if anything about the R system but in terms of focal length, for the type of safaris I have done - both walking and driven - 400mm has been sufficient, in my case a Canon EF 200/2.8L plus 2x extender which was a light and capable kit. Sometimes I've managed to get very close to wildlife so longer lenses have not been necessary, but for more illusive animals it's good to have some reach. 

 

A bean bag is really useful. I would also bring a small tripod, like one of the light Manfrottos. 

 

As for film, I used a lot of Ektachrome 200 and Velvia 50 at EI100. Today I would probably go for Velvia 100, Ektar and Portra, both 160 and 400 and XP2. There will likely be lots of light around most of the time, but if you go the extender route you'll lose a stop or two so depending on the lens you may end up with f/8 or even smaller as the widest aperture which could become tricky in some situations. An ISO 400 film helps a lot then and can be pushed for evening/indoor shooting. And as Chris Moss has shown in the Film thread, XP2 in 35mm is excellent at EI800 so that's also useful in those situations, plus it works great at base speed too for daytime photography.

 

I don't think manual focus will be a major problem, but AF is certainly very, very convenient if things start to happen quickly. A factor worth considering is the length of the focus throw which will affect how quickly you'll be able to focus. A longer focus throw will let you focus very precisely but takes time to use and risks missing shots. It's better to have an acceptably sharp shot of an animal than a perfectly sharp shot of the place where it used to be.

 

Good luck

Philip

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I think it's an excellent idea, Steve.

 

I don't know much if anything about the R system but in terms of focal length, for the type of safaris I have done - both walking and driven - 400mm has been sufficient, in my case a Canon EF 200/2.8L plus 2x extender which was a light and capable kit. Sometimes I've managed to get very close to wildlife so longer lenses have not been necessary, but for more illusive animals it's good to have some reach. 

 

A bean bag is really useful. I would also bring a small tripod, like one of the light Manfrottos. 

 

As for film, I used a lot of Ektachrome 200 and Velvia 50 at EI100. Today I would probably go for Velvia 100, Ektar and Portra, both 160 and 400 and XP2. There will likely be lots of light around most of the time, but if you go the extender route you'll lose a stop or two so depending on the lens you may end up with f/8 or even smaller as the widest aperture which could become tricky in some situations. An ISO 400 film helps a lot then and can be pushed for evening/indoor shooting. And as Chris Moss has shown in the Film thread, XP2 in 35mm is excellent at EI800 so that's also useful in those situations, plus it works great at base speed too for daytime photography.

 

I don't think manual focus will be a major problem, but AF is certainly very, very convenient if things start to happen quickly. A factor worth considering is the length of the focus throw which will affect how quickly you'll be able to focus. A longer focus throw will let you focus very precisely but takes time to use and risks missing shots. It's better to have an acceptably sharp shot of an animal than a perfectly sharp shot of the place where it used to be.

 

Good luck

Philip

You'll end up just short of 5.6 on a 280/4.2 lens using a 1.4x converter to get up to 400 mm,which is plenty in the bright light one is likely to encounter on Safari, using a 100 or 200 film. On a bean bag there will be no problem at all. The advised Vario-Elmar and APO-extender will give brilliant results wide open. (Or the APO-Telyt 4.0

)

For dusk and evening shots one will want a second body wearing a shorter, faster lens loaded with 800 film anyway. A Summicron 90 was my weapon of choice.

Unfortunately I cannot give any film advice. I always used Kodachrome or Agfachrome II in the past. Both have been discontinued

.

 

AS for AF, yes, very nice for action, but it struggles to get focus on an eye or a beak surrounded by fur or feathers. For more static shots I will always use manual focus. Action can usually be anticipated, though.

 

One trick is not to focus on the animal itself, but on the grass beside it. One can "walk" the plane of focus in the viewfinder and position it perfectly. Replace the screen in the camera by a full matte one - far better than the universal one which will black out the wedges of the universal screen on longer lenses.

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I have been on two camping safaris to Namibia and Botswana within the last three years.  With this in mind I would suggest the following

 

non  photographic:

 

a pair of quality 8x40 binoculars

comfortable long sleeved shirt for sun protection such as Patagonia Island Hopper Shirt

comfortable sandals

if you burn rather than tan,  Lipcotz or Cotz Plus SPF sunblock,  cotzskincare.com

ROR, residual oil remover, for lenses. binoculars, sunglasses, any optical surfaces

a child's enema syringe, from your local pharmacy, great for getting rid of dust

a pillow case, protection when in dusty environments

several clean microfiber cloths 

The North Face Rolling Thunder, rolling duffel bag , bombproof, well designed, airline carry on compatible.  Great for long airport marathons

good  bean bag

even better tripod, perhaps with an Arca Swiss ballhead

 

before you leave, if you have packed a week ahead of time, take your travelling duffel bag and Rolling Thunder and go down to Pets Mart, put your luggage on their floor scale, for weighing dogs, and make sure you are within airline weight limits, unless you want weight surcharge fees, the airlines have become real Nazis regarding weight limits

 

photographic:

 

Agfa CT Precisa 100 Its not Kodachrome but I was generally pleased with results.  Before departure I would go to a local zoo, and in particular zero in your exposure with elephants, being careful of really bright backgrounds.

If it doesn't sound too heretical, my Nikkor 400mm f 3.5 was just about my standard lens, at times with a 1.4 teleconverter.  Lowepro makes numerous lens cases that offers additional protection and in different sizes.  It fit marvelously well inside the Rolling Thunder.  On one occasion, at the Cape Town airport, the ticket agent threatened to put it in checked luggage.  I protested, insisted on seeing the supervisor, and upon seeing the lens, it became no problem.  

 

I have, in the past considered

 

 

 

 

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sblitz - Last time, in 2009, I shot digital in Botswana: wildlife with a Nikon D300 and a Nikkor 80-200mm/2.8 lens and a 1.4x teleconverter, and landscapes with an M8. Earlier safaris many years ago, I shot with a Leica IIIc and, mainly, Kodachrome film. Both digital and film gave me color that I liked. You can, of course, shoot either digital or film, depending how you feel. In other case, it's good to be able to reach 400 or 560mm EFOV.

 

I recommend, if you can get a hold of it, looking at a 1993 photo book by Nicolas Bruant, "Wild Beasts." Bruant found that
 the blazing African light was difficult, that it flattened the landscape and stripped it of nuance, which made him opt for black and white to enhance the strength of the images. Worth looking at the book whether you're going to shoot either film or digital.

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Not sure why you were quoting me but, thanks for the info about the R system, Jaap.

 

About evening shots. Last time I went I didn't have a second body for faster film but I didn't suffer as a result. For colour negative, a practice that I find useful is to expose ISO 400 film at EI100, and develop at box speed, which means the same roll can be used also at dusk fairly easily. Works less well with slide film of course.

 

My EOS 1N never struggled on fur or feathers. If I missed focus it was usually due to user error.

Philip

 

You'll end up just short of 5.6 on a 280/4.2 lens using a 1.4x converter to get up to 400 mm,which is plenty in the bright light one is likely to encounter on Safari, using a 100 or 200 film. On a bean bag there will be no problem at all. The advised Vario-Elmar and APO-extender will give brilliant results wide open. (Or the APO-Telyt 4.0

)

For dusk and evening shots one will want a second body wearing a shorter, faster lens loaded with 800 film anyway. A Summicron 90 was my weapon of choice.

Unfortunately I cannot give any film advice. I always used Kodachrome or Agfachrome II in the past. Both have been discontinued

.

 

AS for AF, yes, very nice for action, but it struggles to get focus on an eye or a beak surrounded by fur or feathers. For more static shots I will always use manual focus. Action can usually be anticipated, though.

 

One trick is not to focus on the animal itself, but on the grass beside it. One can "walk" the plane of focus in the viewfinder and position it perfectly. Replace the screen in the camera by a full matte one - far better than the universal one which will black out the wedges of the universal screen on longer lenses.

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continued from several days ago... sorry computer problems

 

In the past I had considered renting a long lens.  There were two problems:

 

Logistics-  At least in Southern California, Samy's was about the only option.  There is a firm in London that rents the Canon and Nikon super telephotos.  I had looked on line for rentals in Johannesburg and was not able to find one and finally Earth Ark Safaris in Maun may rent 600 mm's at USD $300 daily.  That is not a misprint. I considered renting in London but with a one hour wait just to get through customs, an hour into central London on the Underground, it was four hours + round trip.  I had a lay over of 8 hours and the danger of missing my flight seemed not to be worth it.

 

Price-  Those rental expenses ramp up real fast.  I figured I could purchase a used lens and break even with a lens of my own to boot. 

 

Other considerations,

 

www.wildsafarislive.com.  National Geographic has two live streamed game drives on line, every day, from the Maasai Mara and the Greater Kruger National Park of South Africa with some of the best guides in the business.  You can get a jump start on your trip in observing how they see and think, ahead of time of your trip, if you please.

 

www.bigcatpeople.com  A web site based in Nairobi.

 

www.africaraw.com-  based from South Africa

 

 

The Safari Companion,  Richard Estes,  University of California Press,  He has several other excellent books as well.

 

Tracker Manual,  Alex van den Heever, et al.,  Recently published book from South Africa.  The puppies from wild safari live highly recommend walking / tracking safaris.  On my next trip I will most likely schedule one in.

 

Have a FABULOUS time.  The people in Africa are kind, considerate, polite and patient unlike many of the tourists they put up with.  It will most likely be a trip and series of experiences you will never regret.  

 

Cheers,

 

Alan Orvis

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With the quality of photo’s you produce on our favourite thread Steve, you should have no problem with shooting film on safari.

 

I spent years in Africa (mainly West), and there’s usually too much light, rather than too little. ISO 400 should see you right for the main part and, if shooting B&W, you can always push, as has already been noted.

 

You know, if you shoot digital, you’re always going to wonder what if...

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Eoin - While it's true about the light, my experience in Botswana was that I got some the best lion pictures in the morning soon after first light, when I needed to shoot at ISO 1200, particularly on foggy mornings and telephoto lens. But no problem with Tri-X for that.

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I've done it with film before, slide film, about thirty years ago. 

 

I shot a Canon AE1 with a motorwinder and used a Canon 500 mm lens, the latter indispensable for wildlife. 

 

The dust was terrible. I don't think I ever did get it all off and out of that camera body.

 

I cannot imagine shooting anything but portraits and camp shots with a Leica out there, film or digital.

 

If I was going today I'd rent a Nikon digital body and a long zoom lens, couple extra batteries. 

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I must be doing something wrong then 

- I've been shooting African Safaris on a yearly basis with Leica since 1988...

Started out with an M3, Visoflex and "trombone" 400, later with a series of R cameras and all kinds of long lenses, finally a 280/4.0 APO, then a few years to Canon 10D and 1D , as Leica didn't offer anything digital, jumped back to the DMR, M8+Visoflex + Noflexar 400+ extender, M9+Visoflex etc , M240 (finally a versatile M !), Monochrom+ Visoflex ,   and only moved to Panasonic last year (like quite a few wildlife photographers did - Canon and Nikon are losing ground). With the advent of CL the Panasonic is relegated to extremely long and stabilized and backup, I am in the process of integrating the 105-280 Vario-Elmar into the mix, very happy that it did not sell last year

.

I can easily see myself doing a Safari using a couple of SLs, Vario-Elmar 105-280,  APO 180/3.4  
+ extenders and some other lenses, It is just that I don't like the camera for the rest of the year.

 

I do wish that Leica had a 1.4x APO-extender L. It would put a whole different perspective on gear choice.

 

As for dust - unless you are in the Namib or Kalahari in a storm, it never becomes a real problem. The photographer suffers more than the camera. Minimize lens changes by using two bodies and use the bathroom after running the shower for the humans, it will get the dust out of the air, to blow off / clean the sensor as needed - which is surprisingly rare.

 

Actually, the cameras suffer more mechanically. It is inevitable that cameras get dropped on scrambling through the bush. Sometimes a 4WD drive can give photographer plus gear a hefty slam, vibrations from older small aircraft would dislodge rangefinder adjustment on Ms before the M240 unless the camera is cushioned well, etc. Fortunately, Leicas are well built. 

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continued from several days ago... sorry computer problems

 

In the past I had considered renting a long lens.  There were two problems:

 

Logistics-  At least in Southern California, Samy's was about the only option.  There is a firm in London that rents the Canon and Nikon super telephotos.  I had looked on line for rentals in Johannesburg and was not able to find one and finally Earth Ark Safaris in Maun may rent 600 mm's at USD $300 daily.  That is not a misprint. I considered renting in London but with a one hour wait just to get through customs, an hour into central London on the Underground, it was four hours + round trip.  I had a lay over of 8 hours and the danger of missing my flight seemed not to be worth it.

 

Price-  Those rental expenses ramp up real fast.  I figured I could purchase a used lens and break even with a lens of my own to boot. 

 

Other considerations,

 

www.wildsafarislive.com.  National Geographic has two live streamed game drives on line, every day, from the Maasai Mara and the Greater Kruger National Park of South Africa with some of the best guides in the business.  You can get a jump start on your trip in observing how they see and think, ahead of time of your trip, if you please.

 

www.bigcatpeople.com  A web site based in Nairobi.

 

www.africaraw.com-  based from South Africa

 

 

The Safari Companion,  Richard Estes,  University of California Press,  He has several other excellent books as well.

 

Tracker Manual,  Alex van den Heever, et al.,  Recently published book from South Africa.  The puppies from wild safari live highly recommend walking / tracking safaris.  On my next trip I will most likely schedule one in.

 

Have a FABULOUS time.  The people in Africa are kind, considerate, polite and patient unlike many of the tourists they put up with.  It will most likely be a trip and series of experiences you will never regret.  

 

Cheers,

 

Alan Orvis

Agree with a lot in this post, especially the book recommendations. However, bear in mind that the Masai Mara and Kruger are well-groomed and touristy places, with graded (in the Kruger even tarmacked) roads, no off-road driving and limited walking opportunities. If one considers going to wilder places, those videos will give a wrong impression.

 

BTW, North Luangwa is a wonderful place to go for walking Safaris, South Luanga specializes as well and is a bit more comfortable.

 

And do consider the ultimate experience in Safaris: Gorilla trekking in the Congo, Rwanda or Uganda, or a Chimpanzee Safari in Mahale, Tanzania. Those are trips that will change your life.

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