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07-10-2013, 01:25 AM   #1
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Another South African gear question

Hi everybody,

I`m heading also for South Africa this year. We have booked a trip which consists in 2 parts: First we visit the North-east by car, after that we fly to the South and stay there for a couple of days before heading back to home.
The program looks a little like this:
Johannesburg - Magoebaskloof - Limpopo - Phalaborwa - Hazyview - Pretoriuskop - Swaziland - St. Lucia-Dundee - Drakensberg(next to Royal Natal NP) - Johannesburg and then we fly to Capetown for at least 3 days.

I`ve checked some of the other safari-threads (in particulair this one and this one) and found some good information, tips and tricks. But the thing is, while being in Cape Town, I`ll like to take a shot at the whales too since it`s seems to be matingseason. Maybe I even have a go for the great whites too, allthough I`ll probably not getting into a cage

As far as equipment goes:
K-5 and K20d (both w grips and spare batteries)
Sigma 100-300 F4 (sigma 1.4 TC perhaps?)
DA* 16-50
DA15 ltd
77mm ND500 and 49mm ND110
77mm and 49mm polarisers
Tripod, monopod and cable release
4x 16GB cards (2 UHS-1 for the K5, maybe get 1 or 2 more?)
Laptop, cleaning stuff and powerconverter

While in Cape Town I was thinking of driving to Gansbaai/Die Kelders and/or Walkers Bay for landbased whalewatching. Maybe a boattrip too.
Now I`m pretty confident about the safari`s but not so sure what to expect from the whalewatching and/or great whites.
I would offcourse love to capture a breaching GWS but that would maybe a little too much as it too early in the season but one can never know when lady fortune smiles upon you, right?

In best case scenario: Would the sigma 100-300 F4 do or should I take something longer too? I also have the 150-500.
I have a rental car all the time and we will be staying in lodges and hotels, so I guess weight isn`t a real issue since the gear can be selected to the occasion and leave the rest at the hotel or lodge.

Kind regards and TIA,
Jacco

07-10-2013, 02:56 AM - 1 Like   #2
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I visited South Africa during the whale season in 2008, more specifically Hermanus the week after their annual local whale festival. Hermanus has a walkway which is called the cliff path. Along this trail there are several spots where the path runs right next to the bay where whales can get really close to the shore. You can see them at a distance of about 50m, which means no extremely long lens is necessary. I used both my FA*300 and DA*50-135 on those occasions. Unfortunately the water is shallow near the shore, so you won't see any high jumps nor any sailing whales (tail up for a short while) nearby. Tails and heads will regularly come out of the water, so you *will* get a good look, but in deeper water things are significantly more spectacular.

I didn't take a boat ride into the bay in Hermanus, but we did see a few specacular jumps in the distance in deep water. If you want to shoot these from the shore, long lenses are in order. My FA*300 was only long enough to shoot a landscape of the other side of the bay with a jumping whale in front of it (the whale was only a small part of that image). OTOH, I wouldn't advise carrying extra long glass just for this. The heat reflecting off the water makes for a lot of shimmer in the air, so even with a longer lens, getting a good shot at that distance is going to be hard.

More recently in 2011 I visited Peninsula Valdez off the coast of Argentine: another of the few spots in the world where the Southern Right Whales can be seen from shore. The experience was similar, but additionally we did go into the bay on a boat that time. Having these gentle giants swim and jump right next to the boat ranks among the most memorable experiences of my life. Should you be able to do such a trip in South Africa, don't hesitate. 300mm was by far long enough, but for some shots 50mm was only just wide enough.



I have no experience concerning the great whites.

hth, Wim
07-10-2013, 03:04 AM   #3
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Sounds like an awesome trip, hope you post a couple photos when youre done!
I can't help you out much, but I went whale watching a couple times in Canada. Once it was on a fast boat and there was so much water being splashed and so many bumps and shakes, that I can't recommend bringing a camera. The other time was on a very slow big boat, and the sea was calmer, too. So a nice tele lens would be really great there, but I only brought a P&S.. If I had known, I would have brought a lens that goes at least to 200mm and a polarizer, to remove some water glare.
07-10-2013, 04:38 AM   #4
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I hope you have a great trip to SA!

I've been whale watching twice from boats and I kept my camera under a weather-proof jacket to guard against splashes. The one year I went a tourist had his Sony Alpha ruined when they launched and he took the full force of a wave that came over the boat. If you want to go on the boats, have a bag ready for the wet times and keep the camera stowed until you are out at sea. The 100-300 should be fine for watching whales. If you are going to shoot from the land, the 100-300 with TC or the 150-500 would be your best bet. The 16-50 will be fine as a normal walk-around lens.

If you are going on game drives, I would keep the 150-500 on one body and the 16-60 on the other. Very often something will happen close by and you wont be able to capture it with a big zoom.

For travelling I would recommend making a choice between the 100-300 with TC and the 150-500, and then leave the other one at home. My choice would be the 100-300 with TC.

How were you thinking of carrying all your kit? A decent camera backpack would be a good option! The airline staff will probably want you to put it in the hold but resist the temptation. Your tripod could be a problem unless it collapses really small.

I think you are also on 220V so you should be ok as long as your battery chargers are the two-prong type. You should be able to get a convertor plug at the airport when you land (we are the 3 round-pin type of plug).

I hope this helps.

07-10-2013, 04:52 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ishpuini Quote
I visited South Africa during the whale season in 2008, more specifically Hermanus the week after their annual local whale festival. Hermanus has a walkway which is called the cliff path. Along this trail there are several spots where the path runs right next to the bay where whales can get really close to the shore. You can see them at a distance of about 50m, which means no extremely long lens is necessary. I used both my FA*300 and DA*50-135 on those occasions. Unfortunately the water is shallow near the shore, so you won't see any high jumps nor any sailing whales (tail up for a short while) nearby. Tails and heads will regularly come out of the water, so you *will* get a good look, but in deeper water things are significantly more spectacular.

I didn't take a boat ride into the bay in Hermanus, but we did see a few specacular jumps in the distance in deep water. If you want to shoot these from the shore, long lenses are in order. My FA*300 was only long enough to shoot a landscape of the other side of the bay with a jumping whale in front of it (the whale was only a small part of that image). OTOH, I wouldn't advise carrying extra long glass just for this. The heat reflecting off the water makes for a lot of shimmer in the air, so even with a longer lens, getting a good shot at that distance is going to be hard.

More recently in 2011 I visited Peninsula Valdez off the coast of Argentine: another of the few spots in the world where the Southern Right Whales can be seen from shore. The experience was similar, but additionally we did go into the bay on a boat that time. Having these gentle giants swim and jump right next to the boat ranks among the most memorable experiences of my life. Should you be able to do such a trip in South Africa, don't hesitate. 300mm was by far long enough, but for some shots 50mm was only just wide enough.



I have no experience concerning the great whites.

hth, Wim
QuoteOriginally posted by Ishpuini Quote
I visited South Africa during the whale season in 2008, more specifically Hermanus the week after their annual local whale festival. Hermanus has a walkway which is called the cliff path. Along this trail there are several spots where the path runs right next to the bay where whales can get really close to the shore. You can see them at a distance of about 50m, which means no extremely long lens is necessary. I used both my FA*300 and DA*50-135 on those occasions. Unfortunately the water is shallow near the shore, so you won't see any high jumps nor any sailing whales (tail up for a short while) nearby. Tails and heads will regularly come out of the water, so you *will* get a good look, but in deeper water things are significantly more spectacular.

I didn't take a boat ride into the bay in Hermanus, but we did see a few specacular jumps in the distance in deep water. If you want to shoot these from the shore, long lenses are in order. My FA*300 was only long enough to shoot a landscape of the other side of the bay with a jumping whale in front of it (the whale was only a small part of that image). OTOH, I wouldn't advise carrying extra long glass just for this. The heat reflecting off the water makes for a lot of shimmer in the air, so even with a longer lens, getting a good shot at that distance is going to be hard.

More recently in 2011 I visited Peninsula Valdez off the coast of Argentine: another of the few spots in the world where the Southern Right Whales can be seen from shore. The experience was similar, but additionally we did go into the bay on a boat that time. Having these gentle giants swim and jump right next to the boat ranks among the most memorable experiences of my life. Should you be able to do such a trip in South Africa, don't hesitate. 300mm was by far long enough, but for some shots 50mm was only just wide enough.



I have no experience concerning the great whites.

hth, Wim
Thanks, Wim. It certainly does.
A collegue of the wife told us to avoid Hermanus because it is too touristic, Walker Bay and Die Kelder are next to Hermanus and much more quiet. We`ll do some further research but I guess we will gonna take the boat trip too, just because we are there anyway

Great shots and I`ve checked out your galleries, very nice work.

QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
Sounds like an awesome trip, hope you post a couple photos when youre done!
I can't help you out much, but I went whale watching a couple times in Canada. Once it was on a fast boat and there was so much water being splashed and so many bumps and shakes, that I can't recommend bringing a camera. The other time was on a very slow big boat, and the sea was calmer, too. So a nice tele lens would be really great there, but I only brought a P&S.. If I had known, I would have brought a lens that goes at least to 200mm and a polarizer, to remove some water glare.
Thanks and yes offcourse, I`ll post some
As for the whales, I did 3 boattrips on the Azores (with only one being fruitfull). My main problem was that 100mm was sometimes too long when it comes to dolphins)
Watersplashing wasn`t really a problem but that also depends on the type of craft. Not sure what they use in SA.

Nice tip on the polariser, 82mm and 86mm arent exactly cheap but for such a trip I`m going to ignore my Dutch genes
07-10-2013, 05:26 AM   #6
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I did a similar trip a few years ago (desperately want to go back) and the longest lens I had was the DA 18-250 (wish I had the DA 300). 250 was long enough, I thought, but the 1.4 TC won't add much to your bag, so take it just in case. A lot smaller and lighter than the 150-500.

Recommend making the hike up Table Mountain while you're in Capetown. Spectacular views.

Have a great trip.
07-10-2013, 05:33 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Chuckie Quote
I hope you have a great trip to SA!

I've been whale watching twice from boats and I kept my camera under a weather-proof jacket to guard against splashes. The one year I went a tourist had his Sony Alpha ruined when they launched and he took the full force of a wave that came over the boat. If you want to go on the boats, have a bag ready for the wet times and keep the camera stowed until you are out at sea. The 100-300 should be fine for watching whales. If you are going to shoot from the land, the 100-300 with TC or the 150-500 would be your best bet. The 16-50 will be fine as a normal walk-around lens.

If you are going on game drives, I would keep the 150-500 on one body and the 16-60 on the other. Very often something will happen close by and you wont be able to capture it with a big zoom.

For travelling I would recommend making a choice between the 100-300 with TC and the 150-500, and then leave the other one at home. My choice would be the 100-300 with TC.

How were you thinking of carrying all your kit? A decent camera backpack would be a good option! The airline staff will probably want you to put it in the hold but resist the temptation. Your tripod could be a problem unless it collapses really small.

I think you are also on 220V so you should be ok as long as your battery chargers are the two-prong type. You should be able to get a convertor plug at the airport when you land (we are the 3 round-pin type of plug).

I hope this helps.
Many thanks, Chuckie.

Sorry, I forgot to mention this in my list. My trusted travelcompanion is a Dakine Sequence: which has accompanied me on many trips. It a big and versatile backpack but on flights I pack only bodies, lenses and laptop.
Never had a problem with it as handluggage because tripods, chargers etc will be in the checked luggage. The bag even has it`s own raincover and 2 waterproof pockets on the waistbelt.

And you are right, I was also thinking of the 100-300 on the K5 for the action and the 16-50 on the K20 for scenery and closeups.
BTW: I read somewhere that beanbags are of little use on SA safari`s, is this true?

QuoteOriginally posted by jrpower10 Quote
I did a similar trip a few years ago (desperately want to go back) and the longest lens I had was the DA 18-250 (wish I had the DA 300). 250 was long enough, I thought, but the 1.4 TC won't add much to your bag, so take it just in case. A lot smaller and lighter than the 150-500.

Recommend making the hike up Table Mountain while you're in Capetown. Spectacular views.

Have a great trip.
Thanks, I will!
That is if the clouds don`t spoil the view
07-10-2013, 05:51 AM   #8
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Been there. Done that.

The whale watching in Hermanus an be hit or miss. The young loll around with their Mom's, sometimes near the short cliff, sometimes just far enough away you can only see their spray, sometimes a breach. For photography you'll need patience. I'd look for other photogs and take your cue from them. The longest glass you have will help, and that's the same for all wildlife shooting in SA. What Chuckie says about 2 bodies/lenses is good advice. Hermanus is a toursity place, but a good scene. Wind can be chill, though.

You can buy a tripod in SA, but take the camera gear in your carry-on.

I saw the Great Whites in Mossel Bay by boat. My co-travellers originally wanted to do the cage experience, but we settled just for chumming due to the weather and cost. Never saw the shark's teeth, but dorsal fins a lot. They are BIG. If the water is red, you'll see shark action. Overall though, not a spectacular outing.

Definitely hike Table Mountain up, take the tram down. Lots to see and do in that spectacular country.

But travel safe and smart, especially in Jo-burg.

07-10-2013, 07:02 AM   #9
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Wow timing - it just so happens I'am off to Hermanus tomorrow for the next few days for some whale watching and I'am looking fwd to using the F*300 as last yrs session with the 170-500 was no good (on monopod). And I'll spend a whole day following them (via the cliff path) to catch a few good ones. Last yr I managed to be in the jeep between sightings with every single jump or breaching missed - ouch!
It may be the distance and the difficulty of focussing but I was not happy with the results - maybe the DOF was too narrow (f10), or simply the lens - oh well LBA set in and with the F* I'll try again.
I have never used a tripod and with lots of light affording high speed it may be superfluous? Hermanus is the best part of the bay and I can't believe you'll see much out Kelders or Gansbay way. A boat trip (quite professional large catamarans with upper deck) is $50 per trip. Also remember its the rainy season and can be rather chilly some days but it can also be 24deg and perfect.
As to the game parks I found 450mm to be a perfect tele length for most game that stay their distance but if a lion crosses your path you may only need 100mm. And eagles, hawks, owls etc need up to 500mm+.
Well here's a shot of the bay with a bit of action and enjoy the trip. You're welcome if you need any more local info etc.
George
Attached Images
 
07-10-2013, 11:00 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Aristophanes Quote
Been there. Done that.

The whale watching in Hermanus an be hit or miss. The young loll around with their Mom's, sometimes near the short cliff, sometimes just far enough away you can only see their spray, sometimes a breach. For photography you'll need patience. I'd look for other photogs and take your cue from them. The longest glass you have will help, and that's the same for all wildlife shooting in SA. What Chuckie says about 2 bodies/lenses is good advice. Hermanus is a toursity place, but a good scene. Wind can be chill, though.

You can buy a tripod in SA, but take the camera gear in your carry-on.

I saw the Great Whites in Mossel Bay by boat. My co-travellers originally wanted to do the cage experience, but we settled just for chumming due to the weather and cost. Never saw the shark's teeth, but dorsal fins a lot. They are BIG. If the water is red, you'll see shark action. Overall though, not a spectacular outing.

Definitely hike Table Mountain up, take the tram down. Lots to see and do in that spectacular country.

But travel safe and smart, especially in Jo-burg.
Thanks for the valueble input and the heads-up!
Jo`burg is probably not gonna be an issue since this will be a hit&run. I don`t think we see much of Jo`burg. The thing that worries me the most is driving left.

QuoteOriginally posted by georgecape Quote
Wow timing - it just so happens I'am off to Hermanus tomorrow for the next few days for some whale watching and I'am looking fwd to using the F*300 as last yrs session with the 170-500 was no good (on monopod). And I'll spend a whole day following them (via the cliff path) to catch a few good ones. Last yr I managed to be in the jeep between sightings with every single jump or breaching missed - ouch!
It may be the distance and the difficulty of focussing but I was not happy with the results - maybe the DOF was too narrow (f10), or simply the lens - oh well LBA set in and with the F* I'll try again.
I have never used a tripod and with lots of light affording high speed it may be superfluous? Hermanus is the best part of the bay and I can't believe you'll see much out Kelders or Gansbay way. A boat trip (quite professional large catamarans with upper deck) is $50 per trip. Also remember its the rainy season and can be rather chilly some days but it can also be 24deg and perfect.
As to the game parks I found 450mm to be a perfect tele length for most game that stay their distance but if a lion crosses your path you may only need 100mm. And eagles, hawks, owls etc need up to 500mm+.
Well here's a shot of the bay with a bit of action and enjoy the trip. You're welcome if you need any more local info etc.
George
Very nice and thank you too, George.
$50,- a trip isn`t much, those trips are probably half a day? Do you recommend any companies in Hermanus?
As I`m still working on the details (and a balance with the wife`s interests, lol), I`ll might take you up on your offer for more local info later on.

Good luck and please do post some of your shots when you get back, I`m anxious to see your results
That shot you posted is a very good appetiser, nice work!
07-10-2013, 10:45 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by TenZ.NL Quote
Many thanks, Chuckie.

Sorry, I forgot to mention this in my list. My trusted travelcompanion is a Dakine Sequence: which has accompanied me on many trips. It a big and versatile backpack but on flights I pack only bodies, lenses and laptop.
Never had a problem with it as handluggage because tripods, chargers etc will be in the checked luggage. The bag even has it`s own raincover and 2 waterproof pockets on the waistbelt.

And you are right, I was also thinking of the 100-300 on the K5 for the action and the 16-50 on the K20 for scenery and closeups.
BTW: I read somewhere that beanbags are of little use on SA safari`s, is this true?


Thanks, I will!
That is if the clouds don`t spoil the view
I've been whale watching from Plettenberg Bay which is quite a way further up the coast from Hermanus. Everyone else is quite right, Hermanus is a tourist trap, although there are some very good wine farms just up the road! There are two companies in Plett that go out in boats and if you are lucky you get quite close. The last time they stopped engines and coasted and a whale actually came in close to look at us and bumped the boat. They cost about R500 (last time I was there) and even with inflation it's a decent price for about 1.5 to 2 hours getting close to whales.

On game drives, you will probably be in a converted Landrover or truck with 4 to 8 rows of stacked seats (sort of like a cinema). You will most likely not have anywhere to put a bean bag so don't bother taking one. The 100-300 is also faster than the 150-500 which will help with hand-holding (practise practise practise). The 100-300 also doesn't change length so you will get less dust inside. You wont be looking through the viewfinder the whole time anyway so you can rest your arms. I have spent days at airshows with the 70-200 f2.8 and I quickly learnt the easiest and least tiring way to hand-hold and still get decent shots. Also, be prepared to do some manual focusing as the AF never quite gets is right on animals in long grass, or on the zebra you want out of a whole herd.
07-10-2013, 11:22 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Chuckie Quote
I've been whale watching from Plettenberg Bay which is quite a way further up the coast from Hermanus. Everyone else is quite right, Hermanus is a tourist trap, although there are some very good wine farms just up the road! There are two companies in Plett that go out in boats and if you are lucky you get quite close. The last time they stopped engines and coasted and a whale actually came in close to look at us and bumped the boat. They cost about R500 (last time I was there) and even with inflation it's a decent price for about 1.5 to 2 hours getting close to whales.

On game drives, you will probably be in a converted Landrover or truck with 4 to 8 rows of stacked seats (sort of like a cinema). You will most likely not have anywhere to put a bean bag so don't bother taking one. The 100-300 is also faster than the 150-500 which will help with hand-holding (practise practise practise). The 100-300 also doesn't change length so you will get less dust inside. You wont be looking through the viewfinder the whole time anyway so you can rest your arms. I have spent days at airshows with the 70-200 f2.8 and I quickly learnt the easiest and least tiring way to hand-hold and still get decent shots. Also, be prepared to do some manual focusing as the AF never quite gets is right on animals in long grass, or on the zebra you want out of a whole herd.
Many thanks again, Chuckie.
Plettenberg baai sounds great but that`s will be a 5 hour drive, that is too much for one day. So Hermanus it will be, maybe I can drop the wife off by one of those winefarms so she doesn`t get bored with me shooting all day

Good point on the MF. Yes, the 100-300 is the F4 version and we are very good friends for years, allthough I`ve negleted it lately in favour of the 150-500 with its OS and longer reach. The 150-500 is actually F6.3 but very soft, so one has to stop down to F8 to get decent sharpness. But it does have the advantage of quickshift over the 100-300. I really wish I could combine those 2 in one lens
07-11-2013, 02:23 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by TenZ.NL Quote
Thanks, Wim. It certainly does.
A collegue of the wife told us to avoid Hermanus because it is too touristic, Walker Bay and Die Kelder are next to Hermanus and much more quiet. We`ll do some further research but I guess we will gonna take the boat trip too, just because we are there anyway
Generally we do also tend to shun these kinds of tourist towns, but we were told Hermanus was *the* best place to see the whales so... . In town there was a fair amount of tourist activity indeed, though less than we had expected. We did stay a few km west of town in Sandbaai, where we could see the whales jumping from our B&B bedroom!!

During the day the restaurants in town were pretty full and driving into the village there were quite a few tourist buses blocking traffic, but when going for dinner in the evening it was much quieter. Also once a few 100m outside the village, walking on the cliff path we encountered remarkably few other tourists. It seems most groups limit their activities to boat rides from town and the view from the parking lot along the central Marine Drive.

QuoteOriginally posted by TenZ.NL Quote
Great shots and I`ve checked out your galleries, very nice work.
Tx!!

Wim
07-11-2013, 05:07 AM   #14
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Okay, this is what I got:

K-5 and K20d (both w grips and spare batteries)
Sigma 100-300 F4 (sigma 1.4 TC perhaps?)
Sigma 150-500
DA* 16-50
DA15 ltd
77mm ND500 and 49mm ND110
77mm and 49mm polarisers
Tripod, monopod and cable release
4x 16GB cards (2 UHS-1 for the K5, maybe get 1 or 2 more?)
Laptop, cleaning stuff, powerconverter and chargers
Dakine Sequence daypack

And this is what I need:
CPL`s for both sigma`s

Well, that`s not too bad, allthough there is a hole between 50mm and 150mm. That can be solved by borrowing a DA18-135 from a friend, should I or not?
07-11-2013, 06:34 AM   #15
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I'm packing a powerboard (4 socket) as well so that I can charge up multiple batteries + phone + laptop etc at the same time. Might be worth considering.
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