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Botswana March/April, wonderful!


PCNW
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We left the US on March 22 after realizing that my daughter’s passport only had 4 ½ weeks left until it expired. We took our chances with immigration in Maun and got lucky, all was well and nothing said.

 

We stayed at Vumbura four nights, Jacana for two and Chitabe for three nights. A fairly short trip but all we could do because of school. I used Erica from Safari Specialists and she was very competent and responsive. The camps were selected mainly due to a PV being available. Erica worked hard on that when other TA’s came up empty for availability of a PV. We just missed the Wilderness Specials and wouldn’t you know once the trip was paid for they extended the dates!

 

Jacana, while being very well maintained, was a little disappointing wildlife viewing wise. I had assumed that being a water based camp it might be similar to Sausage Tree in Zambia and that we would see a lot of hippos….we saw one I think. But I did get satisfying photography in in spite of the scarcity of animals.

 

Vumbura was very nice but starting to look a tiny bit tired I thought, Lazurus was our guide and was very good. Chitabe was our favorite because of how the management and staff interact with the guests. Tiny and Chris were exceptional as was Phinley, our guide. I relayed hello’s from Graceland.

 

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The highlight. Actually it started the evening before as we were following a pride of 9 lions with one small cub. We stopped as it was getting dark to take a sunset photo and as luck would have it in that 20 minutes they made a kill. We headed to the sounds passing that two month old cub all alone trying his best to locate his family in the pitch dark. Amazingly he found them shortly after we did. Listening to those sounds of crunching bones and the snapping and snarling in the dark and all alone at the site was thrilling.

 

We left early the next morning and again stopped for a landscape shot just missing a pack of two dogs killing a large impala ram. This was probably for the best since neither my daughter nor I think we want to witness that scene.

 

While the two dogs fed we looked to our right and there sat a leopardess also watching. After the dogs fed and left she took the kill, they returned chasing her up a tree. They left again and she hauled the kill into the thicket but was soon interrupted by a 2nd pack of 8 dogs. The impala was gone in no time.

 

We met Glen (Duma Tau) and his wife in the Joburg airport and flew with them all the way to Vumbura. We really enjoyed our time with them and discussing photography and gear, etc.

 

Photographically I was a little disappointed. I have many soft or plain OOF images and still have yet to figure out why. Different camera bodies and lens combo’s so everything points to me and my lack of experience and knowledge. We used the Lenseon with a Manfrotto super clamp coupled with a short stud clamped to the roll bars in front of us. I would do this again as it’s so easy to move from stabilized to hand held. I would make a few modifications to it however. As Duma Tau says my D4 was huge for rapid fps. I have 13 consecutive shots of lechwe jumping over water that set to .5 seconds each in a slide show look pretty cool. We also discovered time lapse for sunrise and sunsets and I want to play more with that feature.

 

I really, really look forward to going back to Botswana but I won’t miss the specials the next time around.

 

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I just purchased the Nik bundle and it's special effects.....can you tell?

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Allow me to disagree with your disappointment with your photographs. I think what you have shown us are simply great. Thanks for the wonderful pictures. Please post a few more including any details on where you took them.

Sorry you missed the green season discount. It's a shame that when the green season specials are extended people who booked at full price are not given a break.

Edited by AKR1
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As a photographer I won't judge your pics on these web formats. As others said; they look great. But smaller versions can easily be sharpened to make good pics.

 

Rather, I'd like to help with the full size shots. If I can! Would you mind posting a RAW/NEF? Curious to see what you are talking about. And if I can correct it in some way.

 

I am a bit perplexed why they would almost all be OOF when you say you cannot pinpoint it to one lens or one body.

 

Ciao,

 

J.

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Thanks Jochen, I'll take any help that I can get. The ones posted here are not the ones I have concerns about but I have many others. I'm ashamed to say I don't know how to post a RAW (not all are in RAW format) photo...you mean not resized and unedited? Will The Godfather...I mean Matt let us do that?

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Sure he will.

 

You can add any attachment to a post you write on this forum. Just click on the "more options" button while typing your reply, and the "Attach files" magically appears. :)

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Beautiful pics and the line drawing effect looks very natural, is that part of the nik bundle?

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Wild dogs chasing leopards - that must have been a great sighting! The clarity and lighting in your photos are terrific - more please!

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Great report and your photos are fantastic, thanks for posting.

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Akr1 I only took a few days worth of notes but will insert them here. But it won't really help to tell the story of the particular photos. This is a copy and paste and not really written for this forum but for family.

 

 

 

Botswana

 

Ok, so...I screwed up our flights and then two hours before we leave Gainesville I realize Caroline's passport only has 4 1/2 weeks until it expires. That would be a problem since Botswana requires SIX months. If bad things come in threes what's next??

We make tons of phone calls and decide what the hell, we're going anyway. We'll deal with it when we get there. Fortunately the Moun airport isn't too formal and we sneak right in. Erica had suggested if a male immigration officer then smile, flirt, beg and if all else cry. If a woman the art of distraction was important. We didn't need any of that but we sure were grinning like a cheeser cats just to be safe.
The plane we took to Vumbura was so small that when I stepped up to climb into the back seat it tilted back. I'm not kidding and I'm not sure what that says about me or the plane. Five of us were crammed in with no room for our luggage. It came on a separate plane. Our camera bags wouldn't even fit in the luggage hold, they rode in our lap....barely fitting there. I got airsick and was really glad when I finally saw that dirt airstrip ahead.
Our game drive produced a large journey of 12 giraffe, a red beaked eagle, a bevy of red saddle billed stork, two herds of elephant with young ones a waterbuck and a herd of sable, a beautiful antelope that we had never seen. We stopped near a big bull elephant, got out and had a bush break and a sundowner. No cats today.
At Vumbura the rooms are solid on one side and screen on three. After our game drive and a great dinner of lamb and hack we headed to our room. Caroline decided she was getting a shower... outside...in the dark.....in this in unfenced camp in the Okavango Delta. I couldn't let her show me up and did the same. Some people might worry about the wildlife like the lions that killed that man in Zambia last year that was showering but we agreed its really only the spiders that worry us. After a hot and dusty day it felt great.
No a/c but with the screens and paddle fan we're cosy under the duvet. One of our favorite things about today were the African smells....the wild sage was especially fragrant and became a familiar welcoming smell coming into and out of camp.
Wow, they didn't want me to leave my customary bathroom light on and I just turned out our lights...its very dark in here.....and Caroline has gone to sleep.....and I'm all by myself.....
The frogs are partying tonight! 5:30 is our wake up call.

 

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On our last full day at Vumbura we had a light breakfast and were on our way by 6:00. We very soon we heard lions roaring and started tracking, tracks were coming and going in all directions and Lazurus was getting us dizzy. After 2 1/2 hours we gave up the hunt only to stumble on them.

Three lions, one male and two lionesses. The male was keeping close tabs on one female as she will soon be in heat and he didn't want her sister to be a distraction. At one point he charged the sister coming very close to Caroline's side of the jeep. If only we had had the video going.

Our afternoon drive took one hour to track the African dogs. When we found them we had about15 min. with them then turned around for an hour drive home in the dark, well worth the trip as this was the first time we have seen dogs in the wild. The light was too dim for good photography but Duma Tau has already posted those excellent shots of the same sighting.

We had a traditional dinner in a boma with the staff dancing. The meal was fantastic, ox tail, fish, maze of some sort with a tomato relish, a foreign looking sausage, and the best chicken I've ever had. We hate leaving.

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At Jacana we had a dear sweet man by the name of Mauruti who was a particular rule follower driving with two hands on the wheel at all times going no faster than we could walk.....on flat ground. But he shared an interesting story of being in a boat on a main channel when he felt a bump and a shudder. After continuing a little further he looked down and saw a hole in the bottom of the boat and they were taking on water, sinking basically. They had to pull over, off load the guests into the papyrus and call for help. A hippo coming from nowhere had gouged the boat and gotten a tusk caught for a short while. This explained his behavior when we saw the lone hippo.....he stopped, reversed, got a running start and raced past the hippo. We were thinking this man wouldn't do well in a canoe on a small channel of the Zambezi river FILLED with hippos.

 

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Phinley and Lazarus were two a four names given to me by a photo safari leader familiar to Botswana and they were both very good. Phinley was the man of day several of our days at Chitabe finding/tracking several good sightings. He is a cool cucumber but the morning he found the two dogs and then saw the leopard and a 2nd pack of dogs he was pumping his fists like an athlete. It was so exciting that they tolerated a few more (than three) vehicles at the site for a short while.

Akr1 I believe you we're the one commenting on the swaying grasses in Botswana in the green season and I have to agree, it was so lovely. We followed a lioness early one morning into an open field with those soft waving grasses as she stalked and pushed a huge herd of zebras watching all the while for a weak, injured or young one to target. On this morning all were healthy so she did what lions do best....sleep.

 

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And the following image taken on the last full day at Chitabe. The colors looked like it would be great, and all was well until the elephant turned and walked away. But as Phinley said it's a great way to END, so I used this photo to end my family slide show and will use it again today.

 

The End!

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Thanks all for the kind words. Kittykat, and those interested, Google is offering the Nik bundle of six plugins for $149. and there are places that are offering a $15.00 coupon. All of the effects used here were with that bundle. Mainly the Color Efex Pro for the soft focus (used long ago), HDR Efex and Silver Efex Pro for the b and w. I'm still fumbling along with these as they're new to me. I've always liked the soft focus and determined to bring it back into vogue.

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Thanks PCNW

 

I need some memories of the Okavango on this somewhat depressing day with constant reports on the manhunt for the madman who committed the atrocities in Boston.

Also your pictures are stunning. I particularly like the Lechwe jumping over the stream, the elephant under a brilliant colored sky and the Nik enhanced lion "sketch". You and the D4 came through!

 

Separately, i recently discovered a company called woodsnap that prints photos on wood. I saw it at someone's house and they were beautiful. I have an order in with a picture from my recent Mara safari. You may want to check them out.

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@@PCNW the photos are beautiful!!!

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Great photos and report. First time I've heard Vumbura described as tired.

 

Jacana mokoring is not really about big stuff (as you now know), bit it is a beautiful area.

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So I'm scrolling through the report, mouth agape at photo after photo, when this asinine comment jumps out at me: "Photographically I was a little disappointed." You were hoping for mating pangolins in the moonlight with no graininess maybe?

 

There's variety, sought after species, good light, animals doing interesting things, sharp images. It's all there. You even sepia (using it as a verb) with great talent. The one of your daughter in the mekoro is a family treasure. Nice one of her with the flower too.

 

Were you on the plane when you realized the passport expiration date? I have dreams about stuff like that.

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Great photos Patsy! You and your daughter taught me a lot at VP and in Bots ... and one of the things is to not leave home without a D4. The ideal combo to take on safari is the D4 and D800. BTW, I loved being part of the passport story!

 

Your leopard, lechwe, and wild dog photos are my favorite. Great composition too. You can tell it's not your first photography trip. There's no way you would have got the lechew photos without the D4.

 

Your Friend, glen

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Marvelous photos. Not sure what issues you had with focusing on the D4. I only get focus jittering (rapidly going in and out of focus) on my D800 and D800E and only rarely on my D4. And that's with four different lenses on safari.

 

You have a wonderful eye and your treatment of the photos make them a treat to view.

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Just caught up with this wonderful report and I LOVE the photos. Hopefully you will find out what went wrong with the ones you aren't showing us before your next safari. These are glorious.

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Great stuff PCNW - thanks for the report. I really like the lechwe jumping the stream - was this in the Jacana area?

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Thank you Twaffle, John, Africapurohit for the kind words.

 

Pangolin after being at Jacana where they put a lot of effort into maintaing their decks and walkways with wood preservative and so forth I noticed that the wood of the decking and walkway at Vumbura had not been treated and is showing signs of aging. Our door hung a little and drug at the bottom and I think our cushions had been left out and got wet, they were heavily stained. While Vumbura was our nicest camp it is the first place that I've been to that doesn't quite look as glossy as the brochure.

 

Lynn I noticed the passport as I went to do the online check in two hours before we were to leave for the airport. My heart sank, Caroline was crying, my husband said we couldn't go and my TA said to wait a day and try to get it resolved. All I knew is we couldn't get in if we didn't go and if all else failed we would do something in SA.

 

AKR1 I'll look at Woodsnap, thank you for the info.

 

Glen that was a great trip wasn't it?

 

Regarding my disappointment the more I worked/looked at my photos the better they seemed to get. I think part of the problem was that I went to Africa for the first time this summer somewhat new to photography and had zero expectations. I came home (relative to my ability) with some very satisfying photos. I had put a lot of time and effort into getting better before this Botswana trip and made the mistake of having some expectations. Now I know that's the problem. The funny thing is I just looked at my summer trip images and they don't look quite as good as I remembered, lol.

 

I just went to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery to practice for TZ again w/o any expectations and came home very satisfied. No focus issues that couldn't be explained. Previously I had lusted after a photo trip that Andy Biggs is doing at Mara Plains in May but can't make it work for several reasons. While I was at the rookery I met Chas Glatzer not knowing that he is the other pro doing that trip with Andy. After doing some research on Chas I think I'd like to find a way to go on a tour or work with him one on one. He was very helpful in the few minutes that I talked with him.

 

If anyone is ever in Florida The Rookery is worth the visit. A photo pass gets you in early and you can stay late for the good light. Some of my images from that little safari:

 

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This is the rookery boardwalk:

 

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Nat Geo was there for at least three days filming the gators with this zoo keeper. At one point while they were filming from the boardwalk I walk over and said "Hi guys, who are you with"....w/o looking up one said in a low voice "National Geographic and if you would stop walking and talking we could get back to filming"....I humbly tip toed back to my little space....

 

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And I thought I had nice gear:

 

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Momma!!

 

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And one last one from Botswana

 

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Thanks again to all those encouraging words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And yes Andy it was the Jacana area, actually at Camp Jacana. Patsy

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A kindred spirit. My wife and I go to our HK Park Aviary to practice before going on safari. Unfortunately Florida looks a little far to go for refresher courses :-D

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Really lovely. I am among the Lechwe photo lovers and the leopard shots are fantastic. You definitely need to find yourself "not guilty" of incompetence!!!

 

FWIW, think your own analysis of your photo "problem" is probably correct. I have that feeling every trip. You'll improve but it takes time and in any case you will always be "disappointed" as there's .always someone sharper - or so it seems!

 

I have to clear my throat when someone says their photos are too soft and then wants to use the soft filter on them. Hrrumph!!

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A bit late to this fab story and stunning snaps ~ but happy to find a TR from PCNW as I remember all her planning for this adventure.

 

As a non-photog, I appreciate the incredible talent here on the forum; however, for ME, coming home with memories in my head are just as perfect as capturing the shot.

 

Patsy, your shots are quite beautiful as so many here on ST... I have no idea what all these" options" being discussed are to change or improve the shots, but I thought yours were also outstanding since I remember you just in the last year or so began your photography studies!

 

Glad you loved Chitabe as I did. I think I mentioned the staff becomes family as soon as you arrive. And they stay with you as you leave.

 

VP was also one of my favs; the two camps at VP are a bit different and perhaps you were not at the "re-built" camp after the fire - everything brand new. The view was what captured my heart. Of course I can't remember if it was north or south!

 

If I were ever to return in Green Season, VP and Chitabe would be definites. Love to add 2 more and would have to do a bit of chatting with Erica on which ones.

 

Returning from my own "blue water" safari in the Caribbean. The only wild animals I saw were poolside at a bar. I would not dare post those pics for fear of retribution. But I tried to convince many they needed to get on ST and plan a "once in a lifetime" trip to Africa ;) Always thinking of Africa no matter where I happen to be.

 

I did miss my daily fix of ST while away. And was happy to see your excellent review upon return!

 

 

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