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MxM's solo photographic and birding tour. KTP, Oct/Nov. '13

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MxM
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Location: Secunda

Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:27 pm

Hi Scottm

I do shoot jpeg, mostly as my 1D4 does pretty good conversion in-camera, but mostly owing to the volume of images in my shoots. I average 1000 shots a morning of water birds. This trip had over 8000, so practically, as I have extensive back-ups as well, I prefer jpeg.

I corrected a number of my images in PS5, a little time-consuming as the autocorrect was not to my liking. However, I only corrected those that I am entering into competitions and printing in my album.

The reason I have included images with less editing is to show impacts of poor choices and hopefully someone can learn something.

As I started my photography with film and built slowly up to decent equipment, I prefer to ensure that where possible I take the shots right the first time and only edit for brightness/contrast and saturation using levels and/or curves, brightness (there is just something about its algorithm that makes images pop) and saturation/vibrance. Then noise reduction and sharpening at times. Oh, and crop. Not much else. I like to think that this forces me to take better pictures first time.

However, your point around shooting raw is vital advise for others, especially those doing landscape work as it allows for saving detail in the shadows and highlights above the other things you mentioned.

Thanks for the note!

John
Moments by Mullineux Photography
Photographer, nature lover, birder

Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:30 pm

Day 3 continued

After the drive, I took a nap. Now, anyone that knows me is fully aware that I slept enough during holidays when a student to make up for the rest of my life, so naps are not something I even do on a rainy Sunday while not on standby. Nap time is a time either to watch TV or get done with that admin or tidy or play games or something, but not nap. But, 3.5 h later, what a new person I was. Rested. On holiday! The inner fun started here.

As I was preparing to leave the chalet to find necessities, I noticed that something was wrong. Something distressing. Later I would encounter scary creatures on my path. This was different. Jail… Well, sort of. My door could close and lock as a door should; unlocking worked too; ummm, but opening, not so much. Now I did not unpack my tools from the car as I would most likely need them in the wilderness, so I was trapped. Luckily there are no burglar bars, so I broke out through a bedroom window and opened the door. There was something whimsical about the predicament that made me smile a little, something about childhood oddities and memories coming back. It was almost mischievous getting out, nice. Later I would use a dish cloth wrapped between the two door handles to allow the mechanism to slip out the pillar – engineering in the bush.

Once on parole, I filled up the transport. R733 got me a full tank (at R13.70). Many may complain about the price, but, considering the distance to be covered just to get the fuel there, and let’s face it, having fuel is a luxury not a right although we are so used to it that seems counterintuitive, I think it is cheap. Also, the tanker has to get to KTP and that is it, no other purpose. Out and back. Plus the fuel providing infrastructure has to be built and maintained (I still remember the hand operated pump at Nossob years ago) – without correct design and maintenance, dirty fuel, or worse, dirty soil near the sump, would be a reality. The service was also great, on such a hot day, nice to see a working man smile.

I had some time now to wait out the heat before going out again. So, I fetched a few bags from the car and marched to reception where I was told I could ask for the office where I could leave items for the clothing drive – some blankets, clothes, shoes and travel magazines that I was not using could make someone else happy. Thanks to the organisers of this, you make it easy to want to participate.

Having dropped my stuff off, I decided to reward myself with something cold. I really ambled, much like one does on a Karoo farm when inspecting troughs from the homestead, nothing too fast. The heat was hot, but not that bad, but being so drying just drained every ounce of energy from me. I bought a 2 litre Coke Light (yes, I prefer its taste) and a Rolo ice-cream for R34. Taking into account that someone else brought it to the park for me and that both were kept properly chilled, bargain. I always feel that if you want to complain about prices of anything at a SANParks shop, just bring all the stuff with you. Or budget for it. But don’t complain, it is not that expensive when you again think that someone had to pay for someone to drive a refrigerated truck from far so you could have a frozen ice-cream of flavour you choose on the day. Again, a privilege, well sort of, on holiday, at least one ice-cream is a tradition for me. Passing me in the shop was a friend from the homelands, Secunda – one of three groups of friends from town I knew all on holiday there at the same time, who knew Secunda had that many people?

I got aspeaking to Robbie (a game ranger – not sure if this is offensive as a lower rank or something, but I mean it here as a general term). He was leading the night drive and noted that there were only 2 places booked so far. So I marched myself down to reception (by that I mean I ambled back to my hut to put the drink in the fridge and get the car and drove down) and booked a seat. I had cleared with Robbie that a flash was allowed with the proviso that he could tell me to stop using it if he thought the animal I was targeting was taking offense at the relentless paparazzo – seemed more than fair.

While at reception I mentioned the door issue. Oh the apologies. Shame, I can imagine that many other guests kick up a fuss; I anyhow was pleased with my dish cloth motif, so I said that they could rather fix it when I was gone. Given, partly as I had many thousands in equipment that I would then rather have packed away, but mostly as I did not feel the need to make someone rush out and fix it in the heat, rather a leisurely planned job when I left.

I packed my flash, making sure the batteries were freshly charged. I paired my 6D and 70-200 f2.8 to maximise my low light capabilities. Also, the 500 would be really clumsy in a game drive vehicle. I took my monopod along too. However, as a general rule, while I will always have my camera with me on a drive like this again, such activities should rather be approached as experiences and less as photo ops. To me anyhow. Perhaps my settings were rubbish. Also, as I had feared, 200 mm was never going to be enough.

While waiting for the magical drive which started at 1900 if memory serves, I phoned home. I agree that cell phones are overused these days and ringtones and loud conversations on them are all annoying when in a serene palace like this desert, but being able to check in and make sure that all is well with the SO and little one, that’s pretty cool.

“Okay then, gotta go… Yes, I have everything… Talk to you later then… Bye.” It was time for the drive.

Getting to the vehicle I noted that it was full. Oh no. I was planning on taking some serious pictures and now there was only one seat left and other people and how was I meant to take from both side of the vehicle and what if they were bored and I wasn’t finished – see, don’t make it a photo trip. Luckily I had no such issues, well, except that nobody else cared about birds at all, but oy vey. There were 8 students with me, 7 girls from Holland, 1 German, and 1 other guy. By the end we were all in good spirits with some good conversation, albeit light – they were exchange students studying at Stellies, so how could I not like them? Also, their wanderlust had made 5 of them travel in a Polo Vivo through much of Namibia, coming to KTP via Mata Mata, good solid people. They even let me lean over them when needed.

A general note if on a night drive, when you stop, keep the torch far outside the vehicle lest you be plagued with moths (and other insects I am sure) until someone swots their neighbour to hospital. I got to hold the torch (made me think of simple times doing the same on a farm, only then it was for more sinister appearing activites); there is an art to scanning the vast bush with a torch.

On the drive we spotted, scrub hare, springhare (kangaroo), sociable weavers nest, spotted eagle owl x3, 2 PCGs roosting, jackal, bat-eared fox, brown hyena, lion, AWC, porcupine; we learnt about the rats that split trees, that there is 17% protein in kameeldoring pods and their seeds can be used for coffee (incidentally, the kameeldoring pods also make lovely rattles for 16 month babies, plus then the baby gets some streat cred as who else has such retro play things?). Thanks Robbie for such a relaxed and informative trip. I will not go into much detail as I am sure much gets repeated with each drive I would like others to enjoy the knowledge imparting as much as I did. A special mention though to the porcupine that continued to scurry in the road although our lights were off – what a special sighting.

There were only 2 decent shots I got on the trip. The others are memories, sure, but not worth sharing.
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After the drive, partly owing to the long nap but fuelled by the adrenalin of such a fun activity (which was like R203 or something, bargain! Especially if you are alone and that is almost how much petrol you would have used, for a family of 4, perhaps not cheap, but consider budgeting for 1 drive, on a trip, sometime, just for the memory) I had supper. 2 pies, some coke and a crossword by headlamp. Uh oh… the wind is blowing… uh oh… (please read that as if a pantomime) I knew to be wary if the wind blew, and sure enough, a small but scary scorpion came my way. Luckily I noticed it and moved away from where it may have wanted to walk. I quickly noticed that it moved away from my headlamp’s light, so using that, I persuaded the fella to move on and cause a nightmare somewhere else. It is owing to creatures like these that I did not want my littlun to join me on the trip, on curious poke and ouch, no more fun panto scream, real pain and rush to Upington yelling.

After the crossword, it was off to bed.
Moments by Mullineux Photography
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Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Sat Mar 08, 2014 3:28 pm

I was asked the question by a serious hobby wildlife photographer via the pm system but thought I would share the response if there are others with the same Q:

May I kindly asked what your white balance is as I really struggle to get this right sometimes. I prefer daylight for daytime and cloudy for cloudy days etc but I sometimes wonder if the "Auto" white balance is the right way to go.

This is a really good question. As one of the pros that has mentored me said, this is the only thing to leave on auto. There are times, particularly when I would like a specific effect that I go manual, but then I also do not use the presets but rather set the exact temperature that suits me. This is initially a little trial and error but after a day or two your eye will be well set in. This is of course only really good when shooting from the same spot for a few hours and something specific is in mind, you may be limited on other options if shooting on a specific WB setting.

So in short, to get all the pics right on WB, it is best to shoot auto. Of course, the better the camera the better this will work. For example, in tricky light conditions I find that my Canon 1D4 works better than the 60D, but the 60D still does a good job. It is also easy to forget to check your WB the next day (as I effectively did) and then many pics require significant pp work!

John
Moments by Mullineux Photography
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Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Sat Mar 08, 2014 4:49 pm

Day 4 teaser

This was arguably the best day anybody in the world could ever have, and that includes Noble peace prize winners at the awards.

I will just show some images from one of the sightings. The full story and day report and many other images of this and other sightings will follow.

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Moments by Mullineux Photography
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Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Sun Mar 09, 2014 5:58 pm

11.4. Day 4 – The big loop

Distance covered: 268 km
Route travelled: Nossob river-upper dune road-Auob river
Daily fuel consumption: 8.4 l/100km
Maximum temperature: 37oC (only 23oC at noon)
Food: TR restaurant, oats biscuits
Highlights spotted: lion, honey badger, cheetah
Favourite moment: male lion’s stare
Birding lifers: lanner falcon, namaqua sandgrouse
List of birds for this trip: martial eagle, bateleur, lanner falcon, greater kestrel, namaqua sandgrouse, African hoopoe, sabota lark, capped wheatear, wattled starling, southern grey-headed sparrow,

I was up at 0510. Took a really quick shower (partly for time, partly to save water in the desert). First I checked to see if I could escape my prison, yup, more of a cave than a prison then – the cloth from the previous day still worked. It is so much fun making things work as you go along, well, I enjoy it anyhow. I grabbed my gear, made the juice (this time a mix between a “makes 1 litre” iced tea of some flavour and a pair of scoops of orange Game, worked well, lots of ice, as in a tray; refilled the tray), put it all in the car, did a tyre inspection, and I was off to the permit office.

Today I planned the mammoth task of the UDR. I had told myself before I started the trip, that I would drive on every road a non-4x4 could. Just that I could report of all places in this report as well as know, for my next trip, where I want to go and what I may skip.

The intention was to go up the Auob this time. However, when I got to the split I noticed a large bank of heavy dark cloud lingering over that side of the dunes, so I decided that I would be better off rather going up Nossob and down Auob. What a good choice that would turn out to be!

The start to the drive was slow, in retrospect anyhow, as I saw only the normal grazers and common birds. But, all was to change…

Yes, it is brown, but this marico flycatcher was a new one for my list. This was one I really wanted as I do not get them my way.
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As you can see from the skies, the light was low but at least it was bright, if you know what I mean by an overcast day having strong light. Note: overcast weather, especially if the overhead conditions are not too heavy, allow for great photography! So long as there is enough light getting through, the cloud/mist acts as a filter and prevents heavy shadows, this means that you can take decent images until much late in the day. I was still enjoying the dunes and, although common, still enjoyed finding a springbok.
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Although not always successful, and until you have practiced a lot (and I mean more than 1 hour a lot), slow shutter panning shots can be very effective. The background has a large role to play in that it allows you to shadow the movement but look for colours and that will complement your subject and contrasting pieces (like some shadows or trees) of something that will add lines to further enhance the movement. A general rule of thumb for these shots is 1/100s is good, but, it depends on what effect you are looking for (how much blur, especially relevant with birds and wing blur), how fast your subject is, what your focal length is (longer focal lengths may be able to be set faster), et al. What is important is to first learn the technique and then apply it to a situation you like until you get a good sharp head somewhere - that eye is the key, even here.
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I next came across a new guy for the trip. Instead of a boring portrait I tried a high key shot (basically deliberately overexposed using the exposure bias setting). The idea was to get the darker subject to stand out from the background, but dont think this is really a good example. It is an idea though. Better to try and fail than lose an opportunity. Also, these sorts of okay images allows me to learn what works and gives me ideas on how to work a scene the next time.
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Moments by Mullineux Photography
Photographer, nature lover, birder

Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:06 pm

Day 4 continued...

As I continued on my merry way, I looked again for some unique shots of common sightings. The springbok had little bundles bouncing around with a mixture of excitement and trepidation - one moment they were running amok, the next hiding behind Mommy. This made for some attempts at family scenes (a general note to anyone looking to get into stock photography, family and related issues make for successful sales). But, I had to get the timing right to make sure that I could get a special moment, that split second that is the difference between a record shot, a nice shot, and an emotional shot - it is all in the pose and interplay between the family members. If ever you wondered why it is said that photographers need patience, this is one example: having found the subject, I now needed to wait with a plan, and wait, until the angles were right and the eyes of the subjects spoke to my viewfinder. Click. While the next few examples are of the same animals (think they were exactly the same, but certainly the same herd and without me changing my position in the car - same window, same angle, same idea - the emotions in them are not identical: each looks to offer something different. While browsing, think how each makes you feel, as in the initial unplanned reaction (of course if you are not really into photography, this exercise is probably futile - the idea is to think what you want to see, but to capture the moments that make you feel something; by practicing seeing and feeling at the same time, as corny as that sounds, one can learn to practice when to push the shutter button and thereby get an image captured that later will take you back to the wonder/amazement/happiness/fun/shock/whatever of the sighting, rather than a mere reminder of what species you spotted). Wow, that was a longwinded aside, apologies, but I like long sentences (but I am not allowed to use such in my real job).
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Ostriches are a pain. The amount of contrast present makes it a real challenge to get them well exposed while keeping detail in the feathers, particularly the males. Anyhow, when I get it better I will share how, for here, I was just looking for a nice record and hopefully a noteworthy pose. Take an extra 2 minutes with a subject and look for something different; the guy with the same camera as you in the bakkie right next to you may have the same pictures, but if you wait, sometimes, something special or at least different, happens that will make your shot more special and better to share or look at yourself later).
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Moments by Mullineux Photography
Photographer, nature lover, birder

Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Wed Mar 12, 2014 4:28 pm

I have just heard that one of the images from this trip has been selected as a finalist in the Getaway Gallery! Yeay. My first competition finalist placing.

The image in question is from Nossob, a few days on in this report. Let's just say that life vs death is explained in one frame.

Thanks for the comments and following until now, I appreciate the efforts. I will keep the pages coming now that we can move forward. Oh, but there is still so much to share on this trip!
Moments by Mullineux Photography
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Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Thu Mar 13, 2014 6:37 pm

Day 4 continued

Next up came the excitement. I almost want to share the 3 sightings at once. But they were around 20 min apart, so I will divide the feedback accordingly. Next came my first lion sighting, at Kij kij (after this came 2 cheetahs and a honey badger with little else between the 3 sightings).

But oh boy this sighting was the ultimate, I mean the real thing. Well, eventually. There I was, minding my own business driving north in the Nossob river bed, when I saw something large lying on the left of the road, so I slowed down. As I got closer I noticed that it was a male lion. Yeay. Finally, it was as if my KTP trip had arrived. What an amazing sight. However, he was lying facing away from me, but at least in the sun and not under a tree. I took about 3 photos after which I realised that they were really boring shots of the back of a lion, whoopy. Looking ahead to the waterhole (about 400 m ahead), I noticed that there were 2 cars (or maybe 3, not sure anymore), so I made my way to the traffic jam to see what I was missing as I was certain they must all have seen the giant lying not 20 m from the road.

As I got the waterhole, I noticed that there was nothing. Well, there was one thing, Hannes Lochner and his super kitted out photo vehicle. So I decided that I would pretend like I knew what I was doing and wait for the big guy to make his way to the water, surely, at some point, even if only midday, he would walk to the water, or do something. Added to that, if the legend that is Hannes Lochner is waiting here, it cannot be such a bad idea.

Biding my time I took some shots of doves flying off the rim of the waterhole (knowing that I would later take many shots of a more special nature at CQ while at Nossob, but hey, practice is good). Next thing I notice, and I do have a new prescription so I should have seen this much earlier, as if out of nowhere, I saw a lioness walking to the water. (The collar was removed in one of the shots, something I rarely do in Photoshop, but this is not a competition type photo, so I prefered to take it out using the healing tool.)
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Thinking that I would take a winning shot that is almost ironic with its focal point, I focused on the background music to the concert that is the lion.

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But then, something amazing happened. All attention swung to the other side of me, no longer was I shooting through the passenger window, as in the distance, as in 400 m of distance, I saw the male lion start approaching.
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You will notice that I have tried to make a number of different crops given the surroundings and action. Have no misconceptions about it, I took hundreds of images in this 20 minutes of magic. The approach of the king was slow but purposeful, the wind blowing in his magical locks, a large black mane and large paws made him a prime specimen. Note also how I have tried to capture him when I can see his eyes and when there is either a sense of movement (shown by the position of his legs/paws) or something different as a behavioural shot.

He kept getting closer... O did I mention, he gave a huge yawn? Like seriously, how perfectly is this sighitng going so far? There were now about 2 extra cars, but there is so much space at Kij kij that we were all assured a spot.
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Seriously, how are those for a set of teeth.

I hope you are not bored by the lion pics yet? Not only are there many left from this sighting, but many other sighting to come.

As an aside, I was using my 500 + 1.4 (on the 1D4) for these shots. Later I switched to the 70-200 lens (on the 60D) as his majesty was getting very close. While he was drinking, I also removed the 1.4 from the 500 and shot with the lens directly on the body - this is the only time on the trip that I changed lenses in the field - I closed all windows, waited for the dust to settle, obviously the aircon was off as the car was off; I set up all that I wanted to move and had the caps for the converter ready - 20 s and I was done, 1.4 removed, 500 replaced and caps on the converter. Btw, please, please please, when changing lenses in the field, switch off the body and wait like 30 s for the charge on the sensor to dissipate as this will lower the static forces that will suck dust in.

Forgot to mention - once the male stated moving, although I had closed the passenger window, I have less than no idea what the lioness was doing.

Btw, the ultimate image from KTP is still coming, and it was at this sighting - the stare of the beast...
Moments by Mullineux Photography
Photographer, nature lover, birder

Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Fri Mar 14, 2014 10:03 pm

I was planning on more images, but I think that page 16 is full.

So I will write about something that I think does not get the right consideration or proper open discussion. KNP vs KTP for different people.

Before I begin, I refer specifically to KNP when it is not flooding and KTP when conditions are favourable to a visit (roads not in flood). Also, I drive a mid-range SUV (manual CRV 2.4 petrol) and stay in chalets.

There is much said, to what I read anyhow, that KTP is the ultimate and best place to go, no question. But it is not that simple. It is amazing, for sure! The bird life is of a specialised region making it good for those looking for some specials and the flurry of raptors, from the cute pygmy falcon to the absurd looking Boeing of a lappet-faced vulture, keep even the least avid birder impressed. That said, KNP has amazing variety, more bird in total (it would appear) and many are of the colourful persuasion. Thus, birdingwise, I call it a tie.

In terms of animals, I enjoy seeing zebra, elephant, possibly rhino, buffalo and a host of other mammals. However, for predators, especially lions and cheetah, well, there is no comparison, KTP all the way! So here it is a personal choice, and I feel that both win if alternated (although if lions are your focus, this conclusions is moot).

In terms of crowds, I found the 2 similar, although I go exclusively out of holiday seasons. There was a surprising amount of traffic in KTP, especially around Nossob. I attribute this to the amount of desirable road (based both on road available and areas of the road most liked, for example, Nossob to Bedinkt stretch - always packed with vehicles). In the mornings, at Nossob the queue would dissipate and at 50 km/h rush to either Kwang or CQ, which is fine, I guess, but not when I was expecting a tranquil desert. Where there were major sightings (especially two of my lion sightings and the leopards) there were major traffic issues. In Kruger, this is much the same for the southern regions, but north of Satara I did not remember this issue. I could take many a drive and not see anyone for at least half an hour... That said, I expect traffic in KNP.

The road conditions, in my limited KTP experience, were similar - some KNP roads are also really rough or badly corrugated. Although, and dont hate me, sometimes I like a tar road, less looking at the road when you are the only person in the car, and more time looking for things at which to point a camera.

In terms of accommodation choice, sorry, KNP all the way. Well, unless you fork out for the wilderness camps in KTP which offer something special. But choice of levels and prices of accommodation makes it easier to have fancier parts of a trip balance with simpler parts to balance a trip budget, or use a cheaper few nights to make money available for a night drive. I did like the accommodation I had in KTP though. I just think that having the option to have a chalet with no private bathroom but rather requiring the use of an ablution block at nearly half the price makes sense to me. Maybe not to others. But it is nice to have options. So see this more as yeay for KNP than boo for KTP.

In terms of shops, KNP. Done. (Please do not see this as a negative criticism on KTP, the location and circumstances, especially of Nossob, make the simpler shop necessary. But it is like comparing two people running the 100 metres and thinking something odd of Bolt beating the u/14 colours meet second place guy - KNP just has the ability to have better shops. KTP does their best and a good job under the circumstances).

In terms of location, KNP wins. Let me explain. Were you to need a doctor, dentist, hospital, Honda garage, you know, it is easier if you are in KNP, the southern region especially.

Now for 3 big deciders - general feel and family compatibility and photography.

For variety and the number of really good images, KNP. For winning shots of predators, KTP. Birds and green backgrounds, KNP; new bird species and Autumn backgrounds, KTP. Landscapes, duh, KTP all the way, especially when there are some clouds. Startrails or night photography, KTP. So, here it depends on what you want. For the less serious, I would rather recommend KNP as you get to practice more and use the camera more. For someone looking for a shot he does not yet have or wants a good clean foreground and soft background far behind the subject (which will most likely be a lion), KTP. So I call this a tie. I like both.

For family, well, KNP I think. KTP can be hot, which if you are from the Boland, does not matter. KTP can be cold, which if you are from the Karoo or Secunda, does not matter. KTP can be boring - smaller kids may not like this, but boy, the excitement of seeing so many lions up close and their first cheetah (my SO is still hoping to see her first cheetah), perhaps worth the long duller hours. So it depends on your family, their age and interests and personalities. I, personally, do not like the idea of kids under 6 around the scorpions and snakes and super giant murderous killer malevolent evil wasps of KTP. Although, there are also mambas and mosquitoes in KNP. I would prefer KNP for the dangerous critters though, personal choice. The ground squirrels in camp with many points for KTP while Letaba's bushbuck wins something back for KNP, but the squirrels are so amazingly cute I would give it to them rather. So, until my little one can handle understanding that getting near a scorpion means an emergency drive of much speed to Upington, I go KNP in the winter and remain indoors from like 1900.

General feel, hmmm, all will say something subjective. I love KNP, always have, it is the original family holiday place for me. It is where I nurtured a love for taking pictures. KNP is holiday for me. KNP is also closer than KTP for most of SA people. But the unmistakeable silence and serenity of KTP is, well, KTP - English has yet to discover a word for it. Driving along at 30 in both, window down, 2 hours after sunrise: KNP is filled with anticipation of what will happen next; KTP, who cares, I am in KTP, this quite open calm land that is KTP. So for me, 2 out of 3 visits will be KTP, if just about me. There is just something about the dry heat mixed with the dunes mixed with the quiet mixed with nothing, lots of nothing, mixed with anticipation - the anticipation in KTP is for something mindblowing to happen next, or perhaps something really seemingly insignificant to catch your attention for that day whereas KNP is anticipation of what I will see next.

So I guess that is it. KTP is feeling. KNP is seeing. You choose. I will stick with 2 of 3 in KTP.

The idea of this long summary (prefer this to thesis) is that there is nothing wrong with being a KNP person in a world that seems to tout KTP. KTP is great if the weather is less of an issue, driving extreme distances (both to get there and in the park) is no worry, lower volume but higher value sightings are sought, no medical or other emergency needs nearby are of concern and if you like open areas with calendar vistas every 5 minutes. KNP is great if you are looking for less stress (knowing that if you forget tomatoes you can get; a dentist is an hour away), greater choices for accommodation types and costs, starting a bird list or have kids that like seeing lots of animals, even if it is just to tally the number of impala sightings on a day (I, on 1 trip to KNP, diarised EVERY sighting, with time of day, what was seen and how many, for EVERY sighting - kids like these things; guess I did it as i couldnt drive anyhow being like 12).

So choose your preferred one, but try both, then decide on a third visit. But dont let others convince you that one is so better than the other that only one is worth your leave. Btw, for the sake of brevity, haha, I did not include in the discussion places like Addo ENP, the Karoo NP and MZNP which are all seriously worth visiting.

Have a pleasant weekend and start checking availability at a new park for your next holiday.

John
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Sun Mar 16, 2014 2:45 pm

Day 4 continued

Okay, so I promise these are the last images from this sighting. I was waiting specifically to get a certain shot, a stare, a giant black-maned Kalahari royal stare. And I did. By taking enough shots and waiting for the time the beast stared straight through me making me feel like I was in the open and entirely unprotected, vulnerable to his power, you know, THAT look. (Incidentally, seeing exactly this is on my dear mother's bucket list - this, notwithstanding what I said in my KTP vs KNP discussion, I doubt can be experienced anywhere else!)
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Notice how the following image, which is also really nice, has less power...
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Being the gentlemanly king that he is, after a drink with his female he came to lie near the cars. After we all rearranged just a little, I could get this shot (one of my SO's favourites). The B&W brings out the textured and contrast in the face of this magnificent giant of a predator. (Also, monochrome is an easy way to hide bad white balance settings.)
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After an amazing viewing, the two lions walked to the dunes. Giving one glance back. Then, off they were.
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And so I continued to the northern side of Kij kij, rather not following the lions but keeping to my plan. These lions had given their all already.
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Mon Mar 17, 2014 11:30 pm

Day 4 continued

Now for some memories rather than great pics.

Shortly after leaving the lions, I was bustling northwards. I was still, and I can clearly remember, with a raised heart rate. The excitement of not only my first predators but also the quality of the sighting were still very much with me. What a mistake, sort of. While it is great to remain excited, it is perhaps prudent to keep focus on finding the next treat of a sighting. As I was driving I almost most two cheetah on my side of the road. They were lounging around 20 m in from the road. Oops. I hit the brakes with what I thought would be a respectable amount of power so as not to scare my first spotted cats and hopefully end in a position to photograph them without reversing, but oh no, too loud a stop. Although not frightened, the pair of felines decided to get up and relatively quickly (relative to how quickly I could switch off the car, remove the key from the ignition and get my camera out) up the dune.

At least I got a few shots in. This goes to show, A, be prepared while in a park (whether driving or standing at a waterhole/hide) and B, enjoy all sightings for what they are, even if there are no good photo ops, it is still a privilege that few people have, to view game in the wild. And fewer get the cool cats we have with the surroundings we have, and all in the same country as we live (or at least have flight access to).
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Both the above shots were heavily processed to get any detail as the backlight from the sky was not conducive given my generic settings at the time (they work for most situations, but when there is challenging light one needs at least a little time to make adjustments, even if only to exposure bias. But oh well.

[Sorry (especially to anne-marie) I forget what it was like when I still used a dongle or used the network at congested times. I will try and keep my posts shorter but the number of images to share is set at around 550, so we will need to keep the pages turning. Later there are again a few sets of images that will be challenging to split, but I will do my best. Unfortunately I already have 3 image sizes as I post images on various forums and commercial sites, so making a 4th size is a little tedious; that and I like the detail maintained in a 800 longest edge post, especially those looking for photographic details. Perhaps this is why page 16 was not viewed as much in the end, pity, was hoping for more feedback/comment on the KTP vs KNP thoughts.]

Until the next amazing sighting...
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby Morkel777 » Tue Mar 18, 2014 8:45 am

Some nice images coming through here, John! Keep them coming. :clap:

Regarding your comments on white balance and shooting jpg, I thought I'd chip in for the benefit of all reading and following the discussion here... :wink:

1. White Balance differs with camera brands. I used to shoot Canon and their Auto WB had a much warmer tone which I was comfortable using most of the time, regardless of the weather. Nikon's Auto WB is much cooler, often rendering a green or cyan cast to the image, with my Nikons I almost always have it set on Sunlight WB.

2. The advantages of RAW far outstrip the amount of hard drive space the files take up - hard drives are becoming cheaper by the day and you should be able to get a nice sturdy shock-proof portable drive of 1TB for under R1000 which you can use on your travels.If you shoot with the aim for competitions and stock images I would say it is a bit irresponsible to only shoot in JPG. The amount of files will be the same, but you will get more out of them. Also, with most international photo competitions they actually require you to submit the RAW files to ensure that there was no unethical editing done. If you don't have it, often your image cannot progress through to the final rounds.

3. White Balance is VERY easily corrected when shooting in RAW - it's a simple as using a slider or drop-down selection in Lightroom or Photoshop to select the appropriate WB setting (as if you were doing it in the field on your camera) if the colour balance isn't to your liking.

4. The problem with shooting permanently in JPG is also that the camera applies certain processing criteria (which you pick in the menus) to the photo before you even touch it on the computer - these are of course WB, but also saturation, sharpness and contrast. The file you end up with is already comressed and much of the original data thrown out. If I may offer a critique, the images you've posted here look very saturated to my eye, even for KTP summer light, and that's most probably because of the preset you're using in your JPG shooting. Shooting in RAW gives you more control over the final look and feel and I can only ever recommend to all aspiring photographers reading this that you need to make the mental switch to start shooting in RAW.

5. I always compare it to music files - in the old days if you wanted to put a music CD onto your computer it would convert the files to WAV files. Then came mp3 files. What you are doing when you convert to mp3, is that you are telling the computer to throw away what IT thinks is excess data in the sonic waves and to compress the living daylights out of the file. Play any WAV file and its corresponding mp3 file in a proper sound system and you will hear the compression and clipped frequencies clearly, the WAV file (which is uncompressed) will soar above the mp3 like an eagle above a dragonfly. With RAW to JPG it is the same - you are telling the camera processor to decide for you which data points to compress and/or discard - on my D800 it makes the size go from 70mb (RAW) to 10mb (JPG) - this is a compression ratio of 85%! You are losing 85% of the control over the final output of your image, in effect. With the RAW you can recover blown highlights, blocked shadows and do quick colour balance corrections, appropriate and selective noise reduction and sharpening and retain immense detail, giving you the control as opposed to putting the camera processor in control.

Anyway, just my 2c... :thumbs_up: :whistle:

Looking forward to more of the sightings as you roll them out! Specifically those spotted kitties at Auchterlonie... :popcorn:
Planning the next trip already...

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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Tue Mar 18, 2014 10:35 pm

Day 4 continued

Now having been brought back down to earth as I had ruined a perfectly good opportunity for some really good images, and more importantly, I had ruined a perfectly good cheetah watching sighting opportunity, I went forth with renewed focus.

Many trips to KNP and no decent shot of a bateleur. I love me a bateleur (btw, I know that this is poor English, but sometimes I prefer to phrase things that way, just sommer). This is so far the best I have. No action, nothing overly special, just a clear shot with not leaves covering the bird, the bird showing off its amazing plumage and a bg that is not distracting. To me, the direction of the branches adds to the feel of the image, somewhere between framing the subject and making a leading line to and from the subject. Like I said, I like it.
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Not far from the cheetah spotting (haha, but I more mean that I saw them, I could not view them as a sighting more implies) I saw a stopped car on an otherwise lonely northbound Nossob road. I could not see anything interesting. Usually I can spot what is being ogled and then decided to join or pass the opportunity, but nothing... I asked the driver who quickly fondled for a book and in a thick German accent (of course I could be mistaken as I could see to what he was pointing and probably was not listening too well) said that it was a ratel, ..., honey badger. WOW. I had never seen one before, and there is one right here, I mean there, I mean, where? I still could not see it. Then, out from the shade and from underneath a stump, my first elusive KTP resident (sure, I had seen the porcupine, but I know those from the farm, a honey badger is a really special sighting to me). And I could take a picture, yeay. The tourists moved on. I waited, hoping to get him in the open. Much to my happiness the black and white creature (that is not a zebra) moved into the open, walking straight at me. Then he noticed me. Oh no. Not that I could hide, but he noticed the car and it was out of place in his sandy slightly bushy world. He suddenly moved really quickly and towards my aft where he crossed the road. So quick was he that I could not get a nice shot of him from close, but what I had would mark a memory forever. If you are reading this, thank you tourist couple for not playing dumb and pretending to look at a map and have a heated discussion and rather sharing a wonderful sighting.
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Now, you see, although the first few days were relatively dull (as in compared to this, day 4), be patient and the big guns will fire, but dont forget to appreciate the other creatures, especially when nature is giving a not so much with the teeth day, just be thankful that we can see amazing creatures in the wild in their natural habitat, and the habitat is pretty, all the time, all the way from north to south!

Fine, enough plugging SANParks, next I spotted my first new small raptor. A lanner falcon. There were not that many on show while I was there but I hear that the numbers increased around late February.
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By now I had turned onto the dune road. Filled with glee and inner peace from what was a day that I will never be able to forget and a day filled with sightings, all in a day, that few even dream of, I went across the dunes without thinking too much about what would be next and rather enjoying the anticipation of what would be next. As it was getting hot now, so good photographs would be extremely challenging, I decided to focus my attention on some birding. Yes, I look differently for animals and birds; small birds anyhow, I look closer to the road and in/under bushes more closely and rather discount looking too far, however, on occasion I glance to see if there isnt a pair of fighting leopards or something a little way further from the road. Here I spotted what would be one of many fawn-coloured larks (again, if someone thinks this is some other species, please let me know!).
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Until further along the dune road...

John
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Wed Mar 19, 2014 11:17 pm

Day 4 continued...

So innocent, and almost random when you are lucky enough to spot them, this steenbokkie, with his partner, were standing in the open. Given it was hot and noonish, I was even more pleased to see them. I think this is the first time that I had seen 2 together. Unfortunately, the other friend (that is what I will call her for now) was hiding in the bushes.
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I already have a greater kestrel on my list, but at least this is a decent record of one now. I severely increased the exposure bias and further enhanced the dark colours/areas in Photoshop later. This shot is almost full frame as I had to park short of being parallel with him lest he would not fit the shot. Also, something I am sure most do, but when approaching a subject be mindful of bushes, stray branches and leaves or other distractions and ensure that your approach take up the best spot the first time; reversing not only wastes fuel and time, but restarting the engine or accelerating may scare off your next prize shot. It was hot here though, so almost everything, apart from some drongos, were actively seeking some shade.
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Me thinks this be a sabota lark, but again, always open to suggestions. I really did photograph EVERY bird I saw unless I could ID it immediately as a commoner that I already had a really great shot of, but even then, just in case (especially as this is not my area so I may not know of some varieties or species that I may think, and only think, are something I have seen when indeed they could be new).
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Yet another giant of the air, ummm, on the ground. I know I have said this before, but I am reminded of it each time I see one of my images of these glorious natural wonders that is the kori bustard: wow, I enjoy spotting one, special each time!
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I apologise for the number of images here, but when I saw what was next I could not leave it for another day... The lion may have the ground, but the air belongs to another king, or perhaps a tsar rather, the martial eagle. I was watching this juvenile perched in a tree, quite happy with myself for spotting it, when it took off and flew parallel to me to a tree with even thicker shade. Wow, how fun it is seeing these giants float or accelerate as they feel fit! Oh, this marked the first sighting on the Auob stretch of the day. SO even when an area is providing little, look for something, it is there, somewhere.
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Until next time, have a pleasant day.

To all that have passed such flattering comments, keep them coming, I mean, thank you (in a modest tone of course). To those who have posed questions or queries, thank you equally, it keeps the mood alive.

There are mostly a few really interesting bird sightings left for this day with some mammals of a more artistic nature thrown in. But hold on folks, there is a sting in the tail...

John
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:31 pm

Day 4 continued

As I entered the seemingly long section between the last waterhole on the Auob and the T in the road leading me back to TR, I stopped, slowly easing to a halt, when I heard and soon thereafter saw, a call in the night (okay, it was day, but that sounded more dramatic, which is how this felt to me at the time, dramatic). The call of these guys is truly deafening. A series of shots of the northern black korhaan male that was kind enough to call, cross the road and continue to call for me. A new species for me on this trip (although I had spotted one slightly earlier on this trip) so it was extra make-me-happy to have such a special sighting of him.
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I reached the T and had to make a decision, one I am sure many before me have had to make: go straight back to camp or try venturing back out a little longer, just in case? Having been so inspired and dazzled that morning, I decided to roll the dice and look a little further so I turned left and headed back towards my new favourite waterhole in the world, Kij kij. Sadly, there was little to see on the way there and back. But still, it was a pleasant drive that allowed me to calm down just a touch after such a special day. I did, however, spot a little scaly-feathered finch that was a little closer than most of its friends.
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