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

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

Unread postby MxM » Sun Sep 22, 2013 8:30 pm

Hi all

Let the journey begin, one moment at a time...

I will be going on solo trip to KTP at the end of the year. My SO does not feel like sticking it out in the heat (having grown up in the Boland I feel I have a little training) and anyhow, this is a photographic trip for me, so 3 cameras on the front seat/seatwell mean there is limited space. So yes, it is just me, 1 car, 2 camera bags plus accessories, 12x40 binoculars, some cash, 1 coolbox, 1 small bag of clothes etc., jerry cans of water and petrol, spare toilet paper, booking forms and other items to be mentioned later.

I will be driving from Secunda the Friday after work (hope to leave around 12) and make it to Vryburg or maybe even Kuruman if the traffic and sun permit. I have 3 nights TR, 1 Nossob, 2 Grootkolk (intense anticipation for these days and nights!), 3 Nossob, 1 TR, 1 Urikaruus. Then on for 3 nights in Augrabies.

Mostly I enjoy wildlife photography but have found myself doing mostly avian (Marievale is so close and so magical) the past few months. Unlike most, I do not feel a need to focus on lions (although at least 1 black mane would be nice) but all subjects. Anything that moves or moved could make a special image. Landscapes, especially a thunderstorm and some night scenes are also on my menu. 17 years ago I had a family visit to KTP. Now it is a time for me to enjoy the silence, find some solitude (although the voices are welcome to join) and enjoy the art of nature around me.

Currently I sit on 360 bird species, hoping to find at least another 20 new ones over the 2 weeks.

So, why am I writing now already about a report if I have not even left yet? I plan on including notes on my packing thoughts, camera gear selections, route ideas and general excitement. Join me in the anticipation...

John Mx
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Mon Sep 23, 2013 5:59 pm

Let me just start by saying that I keep, every 15 minutes, checking the webcams, especially Nossob - A: because I can; B: I wish I were there; C: I want to know what is going on there right now (while I am in my office or on the plant).

From here on I will be numbering my posts in categories - if I want to add something to a section I can refer to the numbers.

2. Route to KTP planning

I am driving from Secunda. Only 1 driver. I prefer not driving more than 2.5 h between stops for a stretch and concentration gathering rest. I keep to the speed limit – partly because of the law, partly because speeding tickets will not help the cost of the trip (already looking at around R5k in petrol), partly because above 110 km/h my vehicle starts chowing fuel like a Hummer at the Dakar, partly because the amount of concentration needed is much less than going even faster, partly because then I can break/swerve for holes/animals in the road, but mostly because that is what will balance getting to my destinations safely and enjoying the world through which I will be going to get there.

Luckily I can leave work around 12, pack the CRV, greet the family and then it is a go go go – so I should miss most of the other weekend traffic. Although I was planning on going N17-N12, I have been informed by a colleague who travels the route to Potch monthly for the past few years that I should rather take the N17 to Nigel, cut across via Heidelberg and Vereeniging, onto the R54 towards Potch where I can join the N12.

I am still not fully decided on what happens next. Currently the plan is to get to Vryburg via Wolmaransstad and Schweizer-Reneke, but I may decide to go via Delareyville for no good reason still. Much will depend on road conditions as described by the brother of previously mentioned colleague who live in Klerksdorp and travels the area often. In a perfect world I will push to Kuruman, but somehow I see the sun setting too soon for that and as someone who grew up visiting the Karoo often, I prefer avoiding driving in the dark in areas where kudu may pay me a visit. Regardless, I will be rising before the sun to make my way to TR.

The town in which I overnight is currently not too relevant. I will make a list of accommodation options in each (simple self catering with no breakfast, just a bed and safe parking required) and phone my SO when I feel either too tired or that it is getting too dark to book me a place at the next stop. Perfect. Sorted.

Now for the fun. As this is a photographic tour, I need to take the scenic route. Although not a 4x4 bakkie, my CRV handles soft offroading pretty well. So. I am planning on going via Hotazel and Van Zylsrus – partly as I may never travel this route again, and partly because I feel a sense of adventure at this moment. This is a trip of photographic moments and experience, so why not take the road less tarred? An update from a fellow photographer who comes back the weekend from travelling the same route I have proposed may decide the final route.

But seriously, even at 75 km/h, the two routes will take me the same time. And I do not plan on getting any supplies in Upington. And I am anticipating the chance of amazing sunrise and landscape moments on this route. And I can stop almost where I want: I am not sure who else other than the odd farmer would be on the road? And sommer – that is a reason too, although my mother would disagree.

The route home will be TR to Augrabies via Upington, then Augrabies via Upington on the N12-N17 to home. So why travel the same road twice?

Now I am already lus to pack and get going. Still 60 sleeps. Huh, the wait.
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby Son godin » Tue Sep 24, 2013 4:47 pm

Hi John,

I've got 66 days before I will start the same journey as you to KTP. We will leave early Sat morning due to the fact that the road can be busy on a Friday near Jo'burg and towards Potch. Will think about the one your friend is suggesting too.

All these years we've travel through Delareyville and haven't done the Wolmaransstad road. Not that its a good road, but at least I know the pot hole section is not that long (relatively to the total distance).

Difficult to say that you must not take the Van Zylsrus road, but I would say if you can get to Kuruman on a Friday (done it before arriving at 8 pm) the Van Zylsrus road can be tempting. You can get to VZR for breakfast still and arrive lunch time at Twee rivieren.

Don't forget to stop at Rooiputs No 4 on your way to Twee rivieren from Nossob. Would love to hear about all your sightings and number of pics taken. :dance: :dance: :dance: :thumbs_up:
Trip Reports - Painted, spotted and striped animals of the Koppies, TT of Three Arid Parks near Namibia in April 2015

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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:33 pm

Hi all

Thanks for the interest so far. Helps psych me up - just come of a 12.5 h callout, on a pph, seriously! Guess that makes the time I will be getting off all the sweeter, particularly as nobody will be able to phone me.

On that, is there any way that I will be able to let my SO know that I am ok while in the north? Was thinking of sticking a sign at a given time and date in front of the webcam, but not sure that that is really a nice idea. Buying a satellite phone also seems excessive. Really like the idea that nobody can contact me, but would like to get a message out.

If anybody travels the roads I have mentioned in the meanwhile and can give feedback before I leave, I will much appreciate it. I will consider the Kuruman by 8 thing, but being only 1 driver may make it a stretch. But now I want the breakfast in VZR so badly!

If there are things that somebody would like me to comment on wrt the places/roads I will be going, accommodation, camera gear (to be discussed in detail another report before I leave with a review of what I used afterwards), photo spots, or whatever, please let me know. Will comment/review if I have the knowledge/facility.

Otherwise, let the sand start blowing my way but settle as I arrive at its red origin.
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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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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Thu Sep 26, 2013 7:54 am

In reading some other TRs, I have the following questions:

A - what are the general items of etiquette (other than keeping quiet) at a wilderness camp?

B - what are the best sites at both Grootkolk and Urikaruus (and how would I go about making sure I get to prebook one)? Please take into account that I will be taking shots of the waterhole and beyond as well as of little birdies nearby.

Thank you for your time

(PS - my next section will be on camera gear selection)
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Fri Sep 27, 2013 1:25 pm

3. Camera gear planning

Now here is a lot of thought. I have many photography items, but which to take. Simple, ALL! I would rather end up lugging some extra kit around than wishing I had bothered to bring something.

If there are any questions or personal reviews (as in more personal opinion as opposed to normal online technical reviews) for something I have in my kit bag, please ask in this thread, I would love to share. If there are any suggestions as to extra stuff or different combinations, please let me know.

As the thread title says, this is a solo trip. So 3 bodies with dedicated lenses will take up my passenger seat instead of a second spotter and conversation specialist.

3.1 Camera body selection

So what am I taking:
3 bodies:
- Canon 1D mkIV (medium format)
- Canon 6D (full frame)
- Canon 60D (crop sensor)

Why so many you ask? Well, each has a purpose and as a team they allow for me to have different options (based on light available and focal length required) without switching lenses.

Each camera will be paired with a specific lens (to be discussed later). I will, however, have other lens options in mind were the conditions different to what I planned/expect.

So, what does each do best:
- Canon 1D mkIV
    o Can shoot at 10 frames per second,
    o Has a brilliant AF system,
    o Can shoot ISO400 even in dim light without too much noise,
    o 1.3 crop extends reach of lens,
    o Has an extreme battery life of around 1500 shots (thus enough for a full day),
    o Is my dream body and I use it preferentially (even though it is super heavy).
- Canon 6D (full frame) – still need to buy this guy, planned for purchase on 1 November at expo
    o Can shoot ISO1600 without noise,
    o Can lock focus even in extremely low light,
    o Full frame allows for wider shots.

- Canon 60D (1.6 crop factor)
    o 1.6 crop extends reach of lens significantly (better than using a 1.4x converter too as there is more “zoom” added but without increasing the maximum effective aperture which in turn means more shutter speed for moving subjects),
    o Light body making it ideal to walk with,
    o Shares battery with 6D (will have 3 batteries between the 2 bodies),
    o Simple to operate.

How do I plan to use each?

1D mkIV for most of my shots as it will be paired with my longest lens. The idea is that it has the best compromise between noise and crop factor. All high speed work (think cheetah chases and martial eagle dives) will be done with this ferocious moment finder – the AF and fps will ensure that I get the moment I see on my memory card. The length will also aid in record shots of birds for ID in the evenings.

6D will be my animalscape and landscape body. At low light, especially, it has a ginormous dynamic range and amazing colour depth allowing for visually appealing images. I may prefer to use this on some of the morning walks as I can push the ISO. For the ISO I will certainly select this body for any night drives.

60D will be my in between body. Capable of much but less of an allrounder than the 1D mkIV. This may well be my daytime walkabout body (weight saving).

John
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Fri Sep 27, 2013 10:10 pm

My reason for using the 60D over the 70D is that I already own it. Were I to choose now, it would be difficult - the 60D (as it is now an outgoing model) is a real bargain for a good camera, while the 70D, by all accounts, is a monster of a new body. So if money were no object, yes, I would go for the 70D. But as the 60D was my first DSLR, it will always be special to me. Plus I rather like its simplicity and no nonsense work ethic.

I too fear that I will end up using the 1D4 above all other bodies. Simply because it is a canon in a fist fight when it comes to wildlife. However, I am excited about the 6D at Grootkolk at sunset/sunrise...
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Sat Sep 28, 2013 3:46 pm

Sorry, there is lots I have to say here so I will upload this chapter in sections.

3.2 Camera lens selection

So what am I taking (fine, I am taking ALL my lenses):
6 lenses and 1 converter:
    - Canon 500 f4 L IS mki,
    - Canon 70-200 f2.8 L IS mkii,
    - Canon 24-105 f4 L IS,
    - Canon 100 f2.8 L IS,
    - Canon 1.4x mkiii,
    - Sigma 50-500 OS EX APC,
    - Sigma 10-20 EF-S.

Why so many you ask? Well, each has a purpose and as a team they allow for me to have different options (based on light available and focal length required) – much the same as per the bodies. Also, I really don’t want to be stranded wishing I had a macro or what if, touch kameeldoring that it wont, one breaks?

Lenses, more that anywhere else in photography make you choose your compromise. You need to balance image quality (sharpness, colour, vignette), weight, focal length, aperture range, cost and AF speed. Sadly, even with unlimited budget, you still need to choose your compromise (having debated with many pro’s I have found there is no perfect combo, just generally preferred ones).

Were I a gazillionaire, I would swap my 500 f4 mki for a 600 mkii and include the new 200-400 with built in converter (which would replace the 70-200 in the car). But I am really happy with what I have. I anyway find that I am pretty decent with a new piece of kit as I first had to learn to use something less good – technique and knowing your equipment are significantly more important that just having the bag of metal and glass of everybody’s envy. But let’s face it, good kit does help your odds to take some special shots to show off later and stare at on your desktop while at work wishing you were where the wind blows and lions roar.
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Sat Sep 28, 2013 3:48 pm

3.2.1 Car pairings

Hmmm, more thought and questioning has gone into this than anything else. Well, here goes:
    - 1D4 + 500 + 1.4x,
    - 60D + 70-200,
    - 6D + 24-105.

I have a deep love for the 1D4 + 500 + 1.4x combination. If there is anything out there, this combo can get high quality images thereof. No flying birds or running mammals, regardless of speed or changes in direction or angle of movement, this combo will track and capture the action. Also, the sheer volume of high quality shots in a sequence allows me to be very picky as to which frozen split second best portrays the emotion and beauty of the moment as I experienced it. This will also obviously be my snap the bird, ID the bird, put the bird on the life list tool.

The 60D + 70-200 will be the agile whatever is close combo. This lens is so sharp and so sharp to AF, I will get detail of anything that is only 320 equivalent mm away.

The 24-105 is one of my favourite lenses and my most used non-wildlife lens (use it as my main studio lens). The animalscapes and landscapes possible with the combo have not been tested (still need to buy the 6D) but am looking forward to working a style that I rarely do but was my initial inspiration to take photography seriously as an art form and not only a memory capture for family moments.

I am still concerned about the gap between 910 and 320 equivalent mm (1D4 and 60D) – anybody got some advice on the need to have something in between? Otherwise I will wing it – hence the inclusion of the highly underrated bigma (50-500): it is light once you have used a 1D4 + 500 and although the maximum aperture at 500 is only 6.3, the all-in-one lens feel it gives by moving through such a large range is special. The image quality is decent (although it does have significant chromatic aberrations in high contrast situations, like a bird in a bright sky) and sharpness decent.

But now, that is only for the car. What about the other opportunities. Well, I have thought of them too…
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Sat Sep 28, 2013 3:50 pm

3.2.2 Morning walks

I am not certain here. I think I will take 2 (lighter one in a sling bag):
    - 1D4 + 500 (1.4x in bag, just in case),
    - 6D + 70-200.

70 mm should be wide enough for animalscapes and the range of 70-200 should allow for decent scene shots of large mammals nearby. Also, the high ISO ability and 2.8 lens allow me to shoot handheld (when not lying on the ground for that sweet low angle) and still get sharp images.

The long set is again for bird ID as well as smaller mammals et al. or larger excitement that is far away. This I will be carrying with a monopod though. The 1.4x will most likely get put on as the light comes through, would like the f4 while it is dark to prevent going much above ISO400 on the 1D4 (I am allergic to noise).

3.2.3 Night drives

This is probably the only simple one for me: 6D with 70-200. It is small enough to manoeuvre in a packed vehicle, high shutter speed opportunity, lower focal lengths allow for handholding being less dicey and I doubt I will need or be able to utilise a 500 focal length on a drive. The main thing is that the combo is relatively small and light allowing me the opportunity to enjoy being on the drive (which is what it is all about, right?).
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Sat Sep 28, 2013 3:52 pm

3.2.4 Hides

Okay, so this is the really simple one:
      - 1D4 + 500 + 1.4 on gimbal,
      - 70-200 (body depends on light – low light = 6D, wanting some more length, 60D).

3.2.5 Speciality shots

Anything with an ultra wide feel will be with the 60D and 10-20 (highly underrated combination, colour and IQ are really good, and here the combo is even relatively cheap).

Low light animalscapes and general landscape will be with the 6D + 24-105. I realise it is not that wide, but wider is the above setup.

Night shots with frozen stars will be both the 6D + 24-105 and 60D + 10-20, not sure what will work best. Startrails will be with the 6D and 24-105 or 70-200, depending what I want to do.

Animal shots from the wilderness camps may become the 6D with 500 for best light gathering. But the amount I use this will depend on how I feel and whether I really want to take anything off my 1D4 and how far I am from the action which in turn depends on which hut/tent I get.
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Sat Sep 28, 2013 4:00 pm

If anybody has any advice or comment or insight on the pairings, please feel free to reply or pm. I am willing to change my plans but would prefer to have a solid plan going in.

Advice/suggestion on focal lengths for Grootkolk, Urikaruus as well as morning walks and night drives will be dearly appreciated.

John
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Sat Sep 28, 2013 7:14 pm

Hehe, nope, the food is really not very important to me on this trip. I will eat basic stuff (to be discussed later in a separate chapter), but so long as I have enough and can get some roosterkoek at Nossob and venison biltong while in the park (I like to support the parks, they go to effort to keep things in the shops, and I like my game biltong) I will be fine.

I plan on being up as light starts (before sun is up) and will keep going as long as my body allows.

I understand, there is quite a lot typed there, but I like doing things in sections and with lists (as if nobody has noticed). Hope that somewhere somebody gets some value out of my lists.

John
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby Caracal » Sat Sep 28, 2013 7:32 pm

I use a 400mm 5.6 on my Canon 1D ..that is as good as it gets for me I am afraid. But it is an awesome lens and I can handhold quite comfortably with it and it has given me some awesome shots as well. I do have a 1.4 mkii converter but tend not to use it too much. I have a 70-200 2.8 but not mk ii on a 50D body as well. That gets used less than the 400mm though. But as you say the perfect lens for a night drive. I have also used it quite successfully on a tripod in the evenings at Urikaruus. My general purpose lens is the 24-105 mm lens..awesome lens as well When we are driving I have that attached to the 40 D . But if I want to do landscapes etc in camp I will then attach to the 1D.......
You have many awesome toys to play with..looking forward to seeing your photos

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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread postby MxM » Sat Sep 28, 2013 7:58 pm

Caracal, the fact you use a 520 equivalent and then drop to 200 (50D is full frame, right?) without choosing to use the 1.4 for extra reach, makes me more comfortable with my ranges.

Have heard great things of the 400 5.6. Handholding for steady shots I don't really trust regardless of the weight, I can pan with the 500 handheld, but stationary shots are a challenge.

Thanks for your interest. Hope to see some images and comments from you from your upcoming trip before I leave?

Have a great evening

John
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