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A Safari of Returns: Tswalu and Welgevonden, South Africa, September 2015


Tdgraves

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@@Tdgraves

 

How to focus to infinity in the pitch dark? Very difficult to impossible. So you achieve the focus at last light, switch the lens to manual (if AF), and put a gaffer tape on the focusing ring.

 

Are we now even for the grocery list tip ;) !

 

 

My advice is to get the Samyang 14mmf2.8 lens ... excellent lens for what it costs: http://stormandsky.com/lens14mm

 

Get one before your next trip !!

Edited by xelas
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Day 3 Evening Drive 2/9/15   As it was the OH's birthday, today was the day for the aardvark. As each vehicle leaves the lodge, the guide radios in the direction they intend to go in and if there is

Day 2: Afternoon game drive, 1/9/15   Today was the day for dogs. Although they have radio-collared several of the pack and the guide knew their recent GPS location, it still took a lot of driving a

Day 1 Tswalu Evening Drive 31/8/15   I am starting this as the official day 1 as the time at our friends lodge was an added extra and not a true safari. We had a good send off with a full South Afri

Peter Connan

@@Tdgraves, that first star photo is excellent for a 50mm lens! You can of course (if you are so inclined) stitch a photo together from 6 or 9 exposures to get the same effect as a wide-angle lens would have given you.

 

To a large extent, night sky photography is an equipment race, but there are a few post-processing work-arounds that can make up for having some less than ideal equipment. The advantage with this particular method is that noise is effectively reduced.

 

As for focusing, I find when using my D750 that I can quite easily see the brighter stars using live view (to the extent that I now set up, compose and focus long after dark), not sure if your 5D's live view is good enough to do this too. This was not possible with the D7000.

 

The Samyang that @@xelas recommended is apparently an excellent lens for this purpose, but it suffers from variable production quality, so test thoroughly before you buy. If this scares you, I can heartily recommend the Tamron 15-30mm f2.8.

Edited by Peter Connan
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Tdgraves

Day 12 Morning drive, Makweti, 12/9/15

 

The plan today was to drive over a mountain pass, which was stunning.

 

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We had coffee at the top, overlooking the plains below. When we got onto lower ground, we found this couple in a courtship display, which lead to nothing.

 

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We met another vehicle that were at a lion sighting, but the two lionesses were flat in the tall grass, so apart from the odd tail flick, there was nothing to see or photograph.

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Tom Kellie

~ @@Tdgraves

 

May I please ask what species of small antelope are shown in the image between the zebras and the giraffes?

I'm notoriously weak concerning smaller quadruped identification!

Tom K.

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Tdgraves

@@Tdgraves, that first star photo is excellent for a 50mm lens! You can of course 9if you are so inclined) stitch a photo together from 6 or 9 exposures to get the same effect as a wide-angle lens would have given you.

 

To a large extent, night sky photography is an equipment race, but there are a few post-processing work-arounds that can make up for having some less than ideal equipment. The advantage with this particular method is that noise is effectively reduced.

 

As for focusing, I find when using my D750 that I can quite easily see the brighter stars using live view, not sure if your 5D's live view is good enough to do this too. This was not possible with the D7000.

 

The Samyang that @@xelas recommended is apparently an excellent lens for this purpose, but it suffers from variable production quality, so test thoroughly before you buy. If this scares you, I can heartily recommend the Tamron 15-30mm f2.8.

 

thanks @@Peter Connan I saw the very variable reviews on Amazon about it yesterday. Unfortunately the canon wide angles are so expensive, which is one of the reasons we haven't got around to getting one yet. Maybe next time....although, it always seems to be full moon when we are there :(

 

I have been reading about stitching anyway, having never done it, but I imagine it is pretty difficult to work out where to place the frames with no reference points (well, lots of tiny reference points which all look the same :wacko: )

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Tdgraves

~ @@Tdgraves

 

May I please ask what species of small antelope are shown in the image between the zebras and the giraffes?

I'm notoriously weak concerning smaller quadruped identification!

Tom K.

 

@@Tom Kellie sorry didn't label it, as they are the same as from the previous drive - klipspringer. One of the advantages of going to rocky, hilly areas...

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Tom Kellie

thanks @@Peter Connan I saw the very variable reviews on Amazon about it yesterday. Unfortunately the canon wide angles are so expensive, which is one of the reasons we haven't got around to getting one yet. Maybe next time....although, it always seems to be full moon when we are there :(

 

I have been reading about stitching anyway, having never done it, but I imagine it is pretty difficult to work out where to place the frames with no reference points (well, lots of tiny reference points which all look the same :wacko: )

 

~ @@Tdgraves and @@Peter Connan and @@xelas

 

I've been using in Africa the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II wide lens, as well as both the EF 24mm f/1.4L II and EF 35mm f/1.4L lenses.

All three have been superb performers for landscapes, as well as for getting a ‘different’ look.

All three have been used for night star photography, but not by my hands, due to lack of skill.

Graduate students traveling with me at times have found that they yield literally ‘stellar’ results, if you'll pardon the pun.

I've been mulling over taking the EF 14mm f/2.8L II with me on one of the next safaris. It's a bit tough to handle but great fun to use!

While I'm mentioning wide lenses, may I please put in a plug for the lovely Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/2 ZE wide lens?

I use five Zeiss manual focus lenses, all of which are reliable, with gorgeous color rendering. The 35mm lens takes splendid dark sky images.

Were there but a means of doing so, I'd be delighted to lend you a wide lens for your Kruger trip.

Paired with your new camera, they'd yield top-quality star images, were moonlight not flooding the heavens.

Tom K.

p.s. Thank you for the klipspringer identification.

Now you know that I've never seen a klipspringer, thus didn't recognize them.

Edited by Tom Kellie
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Peter Connan

@@Tdgraves, I have never stitched either, as my editing program can't, so I have no idea how easy or difficult it is. Since one would normally include some foreground, the bottom row should be reasonably easy though.

 

I have read in a couple of articles that many photographers who do this type of photography with Canon cameras use the Nikkor 14-24 f2.8 zoom with some type of adapter, as it's said to be better than any comparable Canon lens.

 

I have also read in a couple of tests that the Tamron I use is, at 15mm and f2.8 particularly, better than the Nikkor mentioned above. It is a fraction of the price (although more than the Samyang) and is built like a tank. As it has Vibration Compensation (Tamron-speak for IS) it is also a very handy lens indoors. I have successfully managed sharp photos hand-held at 1/2 second exposures.

 

It's disadvantages are that it is relatively large and heavy and cannot easily mount a filter.

Edited by Peter Connan
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Tdgraves

 

thanks @@Peter Connan I saw the very variable reviews on Amazon about it yesterday. Unfortunately the canon wide angles are so expensive, which is one of the reasons we haven't got around to getting one yet. Maybe next time....although, it always seems to be full moon when we are there :(

 

I have been reading about stitching anyway, having never done it, but I imagine it is pretty difficult to work out where to place the frames with no reference points (well, lots of tiny reference points which all look the same :wacko: )

 

~ @@Tdgraves and @@Peter Connan and @@xelas

 

I've been using in Africa the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II wide lens, as well as both the EF 24mm f/1.4L II and EF 35mm f/1.4L lenses.

All three have been superb performers for landscapes, as well as for getting a ‘different’ look.

Were there but a means of doing so, I'd be delighted to lend you a wide lens for your Kruger trip.

Paired with your new camera, they'd yield top-quality star images, were moonlight not flooding the heavens.

 

 

A very kind offer @@Tom Kellie if only there were a shortcut into Leopard Hills and back. On the map they are so close, but with the roads, it is very far :(

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Peter Connan

~ @@Tdgraves and @@Peter Connan and @@xelas

 

 

 

I've been using in Africa the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II wide lens, as well as both the EF 24mm f/1.4L II and EF 35mm f/1.4L lenses.

 

All three have been superb performers for landscapes, as well as for getting a ‘different’ look.

 

All three have been used for night star photography, but not by my hands, due to lack of skill.

 

Graduate students traveling with me at times have found that they yield literally ‘stellar’ results, if you'll pardon the pun.

 

I've been mulling over taking the EF 14mm f/2.8L II with me on one of the next safaris. It's a bit tough to handle but great fun to use!

 

While I'm mentioning wide lenses, may I please put in a plug for the lovely Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/2 ZE wide lens?

 

I use five Zeiss manual focus lenses, all of which are reliable, with gorgeous color rendering. The 35mm lens takes splendid dark sky images.

 

 

@@Tom Kellie, indeed the 35mm f1.4 is an oft-used starscape lens. It's light gathering ability is exceptional. However, it is rather too long to capture the whole milky way (at least in the southern hemisphere), and one is once again forced to stitch images together. The achievable results are stunning though!

 

In terms of focal length, even 14-15mm feels a bit too long t capture the whole of the milky way.

 

As for the Zeiss lenses, in many ways a good old-fashioned manual-focus lens is actually preferable in this particular genre of photography. Firstly because an error in camera setup will not result in lost focus as the camera tries hopelessly to affect automatic focus, and secondly because these manual-focus lenses tend to have a longer "throw" to the focus ring, making it easier to achieve precise focus.

 

Unfortunately though 35mm is as said above perhaps a little too long, and at f2 perhaps also a little bit too slow.

Edited by Peter Connan
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Tom Kellie

@@Tom Kellie, indeed the 35mm f1.4 is an oft-used starscape lens. It's light gathering ability is exceptional. However, it is rather too long to capture the whole milky way (at least in the southern hemisphere), and one is once again forced to stitch images together. The achievable results are stunning though!

In terms of focal length, even 14-15mm feels a bit too long t capture the whole of the milky way.

 

As for the Zeiss lenses, in many ways a good old-fashioned manual-focus lens is actually preferable in this particular genre of photography. Firstly because an error in camera setup will not result in lost focus as the camera tries hopelessly to affect automatic focus, and secondly because these manual-focus lenses tend to have a longer "throw" to the focus ring, making it easier to achieve precise focus.

 

Unfortunately though 35mm is as said above perhaps a little too long, and at f2 perhaps also a little bit too slow.

 

~ @@Peter Connan

 

Given your history of producing lovely deep night images, your comments carry much weight.

But what of the EF 24mm f/1.4L II lens?

That lens has been consistently the top performer for night images by my students, as I stand aside and watch.

We've been in Kenya's Amboseli National Park in deepest night, using the 24mm lens, with fine results of snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro surrounded by stars.

Do I understand you to say that your concern is about capturing the entire Milky Way in one shot?

Ha! I'd never even considered that, being content with clear images of star clusters.

The Zeiss lenses work very well in many settings despite the need for manual focus.

It's certain that the Zeiss Apo-Sonnar 135mm f/2 ZE telephoto lens will be with me on safari next week.

It performed very well in Sabi Sands several months ago, photographing wildlife.

The frequent advice offered by you and @@xelas is so appreciated.

Tom K.

Edited by Tom Kellie
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Those terrific shots of leopards are making Tswalu Kalahari all the more appealing because it's not supposed to be good for viewing leopards. I'm getting increasingly excited about visiting there next year.

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Peter Connan

@@Tom Kellie, I think we should take this discussion somewhere else as we are ruining the trip report. I will start a new thread?

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Tom Kellie

Those terrific shots of leopards are making Tswalu Kalahari all the more appealing because it's not supposed to be good for viewing leopards. I'm getting increasingly excited about visiting there next year.

 

~ @@optig

 

Given the wonderful sightings in your most recent safaris, when you're at Tswalu you're bound to bring back excellent sightings.

One gets the sense that patient days in Tswalu might turn up almost anything.

I enjoyed your trip report so much that the prospect of your Tswalu trip report is well worth waiting for!

Tom K.

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I've never actually been crazy about meerkats, but I'm happy to say that your photos of them on page 5 have captured a certain energy that I find irresistible.

 

The sociable weaver shots also deserve special mention!

 

I hadn't heard of that particular hare species before...looking it up, it seems to be not very widely distributed...a great sighting!

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kittykat23uk

Lovely shots of the red rock rabbit. I would love to see this species .

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Tdgraves

Day 12 Evening Drive, Makweti 11/9/15 (date on am drive is incorrect)

 

We didn't even need to start the drive to see wildlife, this klipspringer was right outside the dining room on the way to afternoon tea....

 

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We were aiming for an area of the reserve where the elephants had been seen recently. It rapidly clouded over.

 

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This large bull was very close and we stayed at the sighting for a long time, as it was our vehicle mates first elephant sighting and no other vehicles had found a herd.

 

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There were a couple of dagga boys opposite, in the long grass

 

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I have never seen so many oxpeckers on one animal before

 

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We also saw eland, but too far for photos

 

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We didn't quite make it to the planned sundowner spot, so we were on the plains watching wildebeest.

 

On the way back to the lodge, we encountered an elephant road block. There were two males right next to the road and Gary did not want to push them. Every time he got bored and gave it a go, they would get agitated and we had to reverse. Unfortunately as we had come over a mountain pass, the only alternative route was about a two hour detour, in the dark. So we waited and waited and waited, for about 45 minutes. Eventually they moved slightly away from the road and we just went for it. Phew. We didn't really want to get stuck in the bush and our bladders were bursting! We were rewarded by a fleeting glimpse of a brown hyaena as we made our way back. We were so late back, it was straight into the boma dinner. Two other guests had arrived, Californians on their honeymoon. They would, by chance, have a private vehicle for their entire stay.

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Atravelynn

"I have never seen so many oxpeckers on one animal before" Think of the ticks and other little critters this giraffe was packing.

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Tdgraves

"I have never seen so many oxpeckers on one animal before" Think of the ticks and other little critters this giraffe was packing.

Eeeeew I'd rather not, thanks @@Atravelynn

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Tdgraves

Day 13 Morning drive, Makweti, 12/9/15

 

Today we were on the hunt for cheetah. There were plenty of white rhinos en route. Gary had trouble convincing the new safari goers that this species is in trouble, as they were literally around every corner! We got to the spot where two cheetah had been seen, but they had settled down for a rest. With binoculars and patience, you could see the odd tail flick or head movement. We had been joined by the other vehicle and decided to take our coffee break with them, in case they decided to get going again. As we had turned the corner to the sighting, we started a bird, which I assumed was a kori bustard, but is was actually a Denham's bustard - a lifer for us and Gary. Luckily, during our coffee break, he made his way closer to us and we were able to get some shots.

 

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The cheetah were not playing ball, so we carried on. When we got to the airstrip, we were in for a surprise, another cheetah!!

 

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He posed for a few shots, before doing what the others had.....

 

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On the way back for breakfast, there were more rhino and other general game.

 

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It was quite windy and when we got back to the lodge, they couldn't understand why we were so cold and wearing thick clothing. Despite it being set up on the balcony, we elected to have breakfast inside and light the fire! Brrrrr. Afternoon tea had been planned to be a picnic, as part of a longer game drive, but this also had to be changed due to the weather.

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Tdgraves

Game around camp

 

There was a waterhole in front of the lodge and the managers thought it'd be a good place to set up the motion-sensitive camera. It is the only water source in a fairly large area and there were frequent game sightings. There were often a variety of fresh tracks, so we were hopeful.

 

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One morning there were lots of fresh civet tracks on the drive and Gary hoped it had come to drink, but if so, it had evaded the camera :(

 

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White-throated robin-chat

 

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The deck at the restaurant overlooks a garden and valley, so was a good spot for birds (and of course vervet monkeys) including some new species..

 

Yellow-bellied greenbul

 

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Southern black tit

 

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Tdgraves

Day 13 Evening Drive, Makweti, 12/9/15

 

The other guide was desperate to produce a leopard for his newlyweds, so it was decided we would go as a loose convoy into leopard country, a rocky valley in the hills.

 

The first sighting was of giraffe, but this afforded us some birding time...

 

Cardinal woodpecker

 

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Cape white-eye

 

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brubru

 

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Pale flycatcher

 

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As expected, there were many klipspringer.

 

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Despite the best efforts of both guides, the spotty cat remained elusive. However, it was a really beautiful drive and in the valley of the hills, there was a stream. There were no other vehicles about.

 

We had to wait for the other guide to identify this kingfisher, as Gary had never seen one and it didn't look like the illustration in the books (which is why you need three!), probably because it was already nearly dark. A half-collared kingfisher, yet another lifer.

 

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The night drive section yielded bushbabies and this the best shot I've ever got of a civet (not saying much really!)

 

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The other vehicle peeled off in a slightly different direction to us nearer the lodge and found the lions hunting and saw their second serval, something that eludes me (beginners luck eh?). Unsurprisingly, they were late back for dinner :(

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Tdgraves

Day 14, morning drive, Makweti, 13/12/15, our last drive :(

 

The lions had been calling since the early hours and sounded very close, so they were the obvious target. We had not been looking long before we found their tracks.

 

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"These are really fresh" said Gary, before spotting a lioness across the other side of the road!

 

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They posed in the beautiful light for a few minutes, before calling the cubs

 

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And then they were off

 

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So many photos - I will continue in a separate post!

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Atravelynn

You got great views and shots of the Denham's bustard. Your camera trap caught those zebras in really nice light to produce a couple of really good shots!

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Those lion photographs with the golden background are so beautiful. I love the ones of the cubs They are so adorable. Makes me want to scratch their tummies. You motion sensor camera did well at the small waterhole. The pictures of the zebras and their reflections are great.

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