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07-21-2018, 08:55 PM   #1
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Shooting a Safari exclusively with a film SLR

Hi all,

Has anyone gone on a safari and shot film exclusively? I'd appreciate any tips you might have. I have way plenty of time to add any needed gear for that trip, but I thought I'd ask now and start looking for said gear. For reference, due to my photography style, I've never used long telephotos; I only have 35mm, 40mm, 50mm, and 85mm focal lengths. Would adding a 200mm prime suffice if not doing any bird photography? I dislike zooms, so I'd rather not go for that option.

Anyway, in this day and age of digital, is shooting a safari on film sheer madness?

Cheers,

Ed

07-21-2018, 09:14 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Assuming wild animals will be around, long to very long lenses may have to be considered depending on your threshold for adventure.

It may be madness, but that's not a negative is it . . .
07-21-2018, 11:50 PM - 4 Likes   #3
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I've done two film safaris in Kenya in the late 90s, so I'll weigh in a few things I learned.

1. it's not as challenging as you might think technically, light is generally bright and certainly in Kenya there was no need for me to reach for anything longer than 300mm, and even then I didn't need that often.
2. I wouldn't use superfast film stock again, my results with 800 + ISO were fine for standard prints, but far too grainy when reviewed now.
3. Check every piece of kit you plan to take well before departure. On one trip I took a rarely used lens which looked OK through a viewfinder, but the (auto) focus was slightly off when I got the results.
4. Breathe. it can get very exciting and there's a temptation to become some form of animal paparazzi! Unless you're shooting something super-rare, take your time, compose your shot, just as you would normally.
5. East Africa is very dusty, i imagine most of sub-Saharan Africa is outside of the rainy months. You WILL need to change film, hopefully often. Take care you don't let all that muck into your camera when doing so. Safari in general is quite hostile to kit, so make sure it's well packed. Clean your kit every evening when it's cooler and the dust isn't flying.
6. There were (for me) times when a lens in the 28-50mm length was fine, but these were few. Most of my shots were between 70-300mm so bias kit towards telephoto. I certainly wouldn't take 35,40 & 50mm lenses, pick one and stick to that. And you may want to reconsider your stance on zooms, the dust issue means changing lenses is not something you want to do frequently.
7. Put the camera down and enjoy it! I did this more on my second trip and my memories are more vivid and detailed than any print or negative.

I enclose a few quick and dirty scans, you can see the grain problem. These include the obligatory "two headed Zebra" shot, everyone who's been has one of these.

Above all, enjoy your trip! I hope to go back next year, all digital. The WR and frame-by-frame ISO make it an attractive prospect.
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07-22-2018, 05:15 AM   #4
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great advice and great pictures

07-22-2018, 09:39 AM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ediz7531 Quote
Anyway, in this day and age of digital, is shooting a safari on film sheer madness?
Nope I did it as well a couple years ago in Kruger Park SA. I used Provia 400x slide film and shot with my K2DMD & A70-210/4 for most of the shots from the truck. Having a camera with aperture priority is a big help and will save you some time in metering for those quick shots. A lot of the time you are just meters away from the animals or they are close and big, so I did not really miss much having only a lens that went to 210mm. Anything bigger that I had would have required a tripod, which is not going to work from a truck very well.

Here is a shot with the above film/camera/lens combo:


Phil.
07-22-2018, 01:43 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrMojo Quote
I've done two film safaris in Kenya in the late 90s, so I'll weigh in a few things I learned.

1. it's not as challenging as you might think technically, light is generally bright and certainly in Kenya there was no need for me to reach for anything longer than 300mm, and even then I didn't need that often.
2. I wouldn't use superfast film stock again, my results with 800 + ISO were fine for standard prints, but far too grainy when reviewed now.
3. Check every piece of kit you plan to take well before departure. On one trip I took a rarely used lens which looked OK through a viewfinder, but the (auto) focus was slightly off when I got the results.
4. Breathe. it can get very exciting and there's a temptation to become some form of animal paparazzi! Unless you're shooting something super-rare, take your time, compose your shot, just as you would normally.
5. East Africa is very dusty, i imagine most of sub-Saharan Africa is outside of the rainy months. You WILL need to change film, hopefully often. Take care you don't let all that muck into your camera when doing so. Safari in general is quite hostile to kit, so make sure it's well packed. Clean your kit every evening when it's cooler and the dust isn't flying.
6. There were (for me) times when a lens in the 28-50mm length was fine, but these were few. Most of my shots were between 70-300mm so bias kit towards telephoto. I certainly wouldn't take 35,40 & 50mm lenses, pick one and stick to that. And you may want to reconsider your stance on zooms, the dust issue means changing lenses is not something you want to do frequently.
7. Put the camera down and enjoy it! I did this more on my second trip and my memories are more vivid and detailed than any print or negative.

I enclose a few quick and dirty scans, you can see the grain problem. These include the obligatory "two headed Zebra" shot, everyone who's been has one of these.

Above all, enjoy your trip! I hope to go back next year, all digital. The WR and frame-by-frame ISO make it an attractive prospect.
Thanks for your thoughtful advice, and great pictures!

---------- Post added 07-22-18 at 01:50 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by gofour3 Quote
Nope I did it as well a couple years ago in Kruger Park SA. I used Provia 400x slide film and shot with my K2DMD & A70-210/4 for most of the shots from the truck. Having a camera with aperture priority is a big help and will save you some time in metering for those quick shots. A lot of the time you are just meters away from the animals or they are close and big, so I did not really miss much having only a lens that went to 210mm. Anything bigger that I had would have required a tripod, which is not going to work from a truck very well.

Here is a shot with the above film/camera/lens combo:


Phil.
Thanks, Phil. Very nice shot btw.

I'd be taking two bodies: ME and a LX, with a landscape lens attached to one, and a telephoto to the other. I'd originally thought I'd get a 200mm M or K, but I'll definitely look into the 70-210mm.

Ed
07-22-2018, 03:53 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ediz7531 Quote
I'd originally thought I'd get a 200mm M or K, but I'll definitely look into the 70-210mm.
I'm not a big fan of zooms either, but when shooting quickly from the jeep/truck it did come in handy.

Phil.
07-23-2018, 10:20 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by gofour3 Quote
I'm not a big fan of zooms either, but when shooting quickly from the jeep/truck it did come in handy.

Phil.
Indeed - a Vivitar Series-1 70/210mm may well be all someone needs for such a trip with one wide angle to supplement with.

QuoteOriginally posted by Ediz7531 Quote

I'd be taking two bodies: ME and a LX, with a landscape lens attached to one, and a telephoto to the other. I'd originally thought I'd get a 200mm M or K, but I'll definitely look into the 70-210mm.
That Vivitar above is the only manual zoom I still own. It's fantastic and depending which version, either 2.8 or 2.8-3.5 throughout the entire range. Quite cheap as well.

07-23-2018, 10:47 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrMojo Quote
. . .
5. East Africa is very dusty, i imagine most of sub-Saharan Africa is outside of the rainy months. You WILL need to change film, hopefully often. Take care you don't let all that muck into your camera when doing so. Safari in general is quite hostile to kit, so make sure it's well packed. Clean your kit every evening when it's cooler and the dust isn't flying.
you might want to investigate getting something like this:

https://www.amazon.com/HIKA-Photography-Changing-Darkroom-Developing/dp/B015MI2HWS


it would allow you to switch out rolls of film in the field if necessary

and might help with the dust issue if you change lenses in the field ??

of course you would be working " blind "
07-29-2018, 07:45 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrMojo Quote
I've done two film safaris in Kenya in the late 90s, so I'll weigh in a few things I learned.

1. it's not as challenging as you might think technically, light is generally bright and certainly in Kenya there was no need for me to reach for anything longer than 300mm, and even then I didn't need that often.
2. I wouldn't use superfast film stock again, my results with 800 + ISO were fine for standard prints, but far too grainy when reviewed now.
3. Check every piece of kit you plan to take well before departure. On one trip I took a rarely used lens which looked OK through a viewfinder, but the (auto) focus was slightly off when I got the results.
4. Breathe. it can get very exciting and there's a temptation to become some form of animal paparazzi! Unless you're shooting something super-rare, take your time, compose your shot, just as you would normally.
5. East Africa is very dusty, i imagine most of sub-Saharan Africa is outside of the rainy months. You WILL need to change film, hopefully often. Take care you don't let all that muck into your camera when doing so. Safari in general is quite hostile to kit, so make sure it's well packed. Clean your kit every evening when it's cooler and the dust isn't flying.
6. There were (for me) times when a lens in the 28-50mm length was fine, but these were few. Most of my shots were between 70-300mm so bias kit towards telephoto. I certainly wouldn't take 35,40 & 50mm lenses, pick one and stick to that. And you may want to reconsider your stance on zooms, the dust issue means changing lenses is not something you want to do frequently.
7. Put the camera down and enjoy it! I did this more on my second trip and my memories are more vivid and detailed than any print or negative.

I enclose a few quick and dirty scans, you can see the grain problem. These include the obligatory "two headed Zebra" shot, everyone who's been has one of these.

Above all, enjoy your trip! I hope to go back next year, all digital. The WR and frame-by-frame ISO make it an attractive prospect.
Amazing photos.
07-29-2018, 08:02 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Aslyfox Quote
you might want to investigate getting something like this:

amazon.com : HIKA Black Photography Cameras Film Changing Darkroom Bag Dark Room Developing Tank : Camera & Photo?tag=pentaxforums-20&


it would allow you to switch out rolls of film in the field if necessary

and might help with the dust issue if you change lenses in the field ??

of course you would be working " blind "
This seems pretty ingenious, but I'm afraid I may not be skilled enough to change films blind
07-29-2018, 08:32 PM   #12
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Rather than the 200mm I really like the results from my F*300 4.5, it has that little bit better reach and super quality and has autofocus or manual at the click of the ring on the lens. Good luck
07-29-2018, 08:49 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ediz7531 Quote
This seems pretty ingenious, but I'm afraid I may not be skilled enough to change films blind
it isn't really that hard, as I recall but it has been years since I had to do it.
07-29-2018, 08:54 PM   #14
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I shot tons of pics with the K3-II a couple years ago at Kenyan safaris. It was a lot of fun - however we got sick towards the end of the tour after inhaling all that dust (causing allergies and breathing issues as well)
07-29-2018, 08:59 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ediz7531 Quote

Anyway, in this day and age of digital, is shooting a safari on film sheer madness?


I think Nick Brandt still shoot film and he do safari shooting with Pentax 67.
you can read some of his interview here
Exclusive: an interview with Nick Brandt ? Ming Thein | Photographer

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