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Pierre's 2014 Safari

Late September is a very dry time of the year in southern Africa's major safari areas, presenting photographic opportunities and challenges. On the plus side, wildlife is concentrated around the few remaining sources of water with no vegetation to obscure visibility - it is a time of the year when one sees abundant game and large herds. On the other hand, the surrounding landscape is dry and barren, and dusty air can impact light quality during the "golden hour" before sunset.

My 2014 itinerary took me to southern Africa's three major freshwater ecosystems - the Okavango Delta (Botswana), the Zambezi Valley (Zambia), and Lake Kariba (Zimbabwe) - in addition to Victoria Falls and the Zimbabwe Lowveld. As expected, I saw an incredible volume and diversity of wildlife, in some of the most beautiful settings on the African continent.

The equipment highlight of the trip was the opportunity to try Canon's 200-400mm F/4.0 lens, with built in 1.4x teleconverter, which I rented from LensProToGo. It's hands down the best safari lens I've ever worked with, easily outperforming the 500mm f/4.0 lens that was my former favorite on versatility, and almost matching it for image quality at the highest resolution.

From over 1,000 captured images, the sampling below represents my 34 favorites. As is often the case, the photos that turned out to be most successful were not the "grand scenes" that attempted to describe everything from the size of the herds to the majesty of the landscape, but the micro-shots that focused on patterns, expressions, movement, and atmosphere. Some shots made it in, not by virtue of their artistic merit, but because they recall particularly memorable events - such as the 30 unforgettable minutes I spent with a young bull elephant as he forged his way across the powerfully-flowing Zambezi River, at times completely submerged but for the tip of his snorkel-like trunk. After a few shots I realized that the overcast sky and monotone greyness of the scene meant that no image would ever do justice to the amazing feat of tenacity that I was witnessing, so I put the camera down and silently cheered on the young behemoth as he played out his own small part in the daily struggle for life and death that is the great story of the African wilderness.

 

EQUIPMENT LIST

Camera bodies:

Canon 1Dx
Canon 5dMkIII

Lenses:

200-400mm (f/4.0) USM
70-200mm (f/2.8) USM II
24-105mm (f/4.0) USM

Accessories

Gitzo GH2780TQR travel tripod
Lowepro Vertex 300AW camera bag
Hahnel Giga T Pro II (remote shutter release)
Two batteries per camera

Filters

Tiffen Circular Polarizer
Tiffen Graduated Neutral Density (ND.6)
Singh-Ray Variable Neutral Density

 

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