Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Outdoor Camera Bag Review

If you have been following this Blog for a while you might recall that quite a few months ago a few of the contributing photographers received a sponsorship from Singer Photographic which included a range of camera bags and backpacks.

The guys have been using these bags every day when doing game drives and bush walks so you can be sure that they have been thoroughly tested in the great outdoors!

Here are some of the photographers feedback on the different bags that they have been using.

David Guest - Lowepro Flipside 200

The bag has helped me tremendously in avoiding dust on my gear, the last bag I had was a complete embarrassment compared to Lower Pros.

I have done walks with it where sometimes I get a bit attached to the prominent thorns on trees by accident, this however leaves the bag still in one piece, it has good rigidity. Obviously it hasn't rained yet so can't give any feed back on their endurance in rain. All the compartments are a real bonus for anything and everything. I have used it for camera bits and pieces to documents, from stationery to samples from the bush.

The bag works well in this environment. No pics of it on me. You no us we're never in our own photos!

Riaan Kruger - Lowepro Flipside 200

The bag works wonderfully well when one does a walk and take just a few lenses and the body with you. Once you start taking filters and a lens cleaning brush there aren’t really little pockets or sleeves to store smaller accessories (there is one on the side for memory discs etc.) If one travels a lot the chargers and extra batteries need to be put in a separate bag as no storage for that. The charger is actually a minor problem as this does not go our when shooting but rather the smaller accessories.

The zipper is also on back side of the bag where the slings are going over your shoulder. When you on a vehicle and do a lot of driving and you have to take your camera out of the bag more often the camera hooks on to the slings.

The biggest plus about the bag is that it is compact when you are travelling and you only take your selected equipment with you. All of the above is from a very critical point of view and the overall bag is fantastic.

Grant Marcus - Lowepro Vertex AW 300

First I would like to thank singer photographic for the sponsorship by Lowe pro. As wild life photographer you always need a good bag or case to protect your gear against the elements. Singer photographic supplied me with a bag that does that and more. With all equipment there are pros and cons.

- The bag is big enough for any camera body with a big lens up to a 70-200 and additional lenses and bodies.
- The bag got enough space inside for all your accessories. Outdoor storage panels provides easy and quick access for my digital accessories like filters.
- Very important are the zips, they are wide and strong YKK zippers with a canvas strip covering the zip to keep the dust and moisture out, I like!! Normally it is the first thing that packs up of a camera backpack. This one looks and feels stronger than any of my other bags.
- Most of the bags you get are not padded enough for heavy equipment, but the 300 are very sturdy on the out and the inside and your camera is very well supported on the bottom, top and sides. That’s the first thing I look for when buying a bag because I am outdoor and in a 4x4 vehicle most of the day, that goes apart with a lot of bumping around.
- All the straps on the bag are very comfortable for when walking long distances with your equipment and they are very supportive to the lower back. Another bonus is that the harness is so lightweight and comfortable.
- The material used for the 200 are excellent and specially for outdoor use well that is what I think and I am sure most wild life photographers will agree!!
- The reason you would get a bag like this is to protect your equipment against the elements. especially in the summer , I do work when it is raining. This bag has its own all weather cover, well tugged away at the bottom of the bag, neatly zipped away. Very important….. it is easy accessible! - There are three areas on the bag where you can fasten your tripod with an adjustable glide lock.

I really don’t have anything negative to say about the bag. The only thing for me is the time it takes to get my camera out of the bag is an issue. I loose that vital first few seconds of the shot. This is where I think a hard case is better, especially for me on the vehicle.

I really can not fault the Vertex 200 I am honestly very happy. It is the best bag I have ever owned. This bag gets a 9/10 from me especially for protection and padding.

Gerry van der Walt - National Geographic Medium Photographic Backpack

Initially I was not quite sure how this bag would measure up against the various Lowepro bags we received from Singer Photographic in Johannesburg. National Geographic is obviously very well known for it's outdoor adventures and I was keen to see whether this bag would live up to these high standards.

To start with, this bags has the looks. It looks good on your back, next to you in the game drive vehicle or even a shopping mall. There are a lot of small, hidden compartments which makes it possible to carry everything from business cards to binoculars and even a 17inch laptop without it getting mixed up with your actual camera gear.

Even though it is a relatively tight fit, I was able to fit the following equipment in the bag:

  • Nikon D300 with Sigma 50 to 500mm lens
  • Sigma 28 to 200mm lens
  • Macro Filter Set
  • Nikon SB600 Flash
  • Sony T100 Digital Camera

There really was not anything major I could find wrong with this bag. If I had to be picky I would say that it takes a few seconds to get the zip open and your camera out but our circumstances are unusual. For anybody who is looking to get something like this to travel or hike with it would be perfect.

When you walk the bags sits extremely comfortably on your back. I also quite liked the way the bag gets more and more attitude as you use it. The zippers last well and even the small pockets that closes with Velcro has lasted perfectly even after being used every day in very hot and dusty environments.

As the rainy season approaches I will have to relook my options as this bag is not waterproof and when it rains in Africa you know about it! Apart from that I could highly recommend it to anybody looking to get a good looking, rugged and functional camera backpack. Even when I move my camera gear to a Storm Hard Case for the rainy season I will keep this bag for my own personal non-camera use.

This bag lives up to National Geographic's spirit of adventure. Great look. Great functionality. Great product!

We are all going to continue using these products and will give periodic feedback. If you have been looking at any of these products and still need more info before purchasing please do not hesitate to contact me. I will be happy to supply you with any hands on info but know that you can use any of these products with confidence!

A great big thanks goes out to the guys at Singer Photographic for supplying these bags!

Will be back soon with more wildlife & nature images as well as an update on all the 'upgrades' done to the various Photo-Africa sites.

As always I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time.


Monday, September 29, 2008

What You Don't Want to See When Walking

In between uploading new images I have been trying to work through some of the ones I have not checked yet and quite liked this little 'sequence'.

This is one of the Batia brothers, the two oldest lions in Madikwe. They were close to our lodge a week or so ago and after drive Grant and I went to get some images. It was overcast which gave us a nice diffused light to work with.

These boys are almost 16 years old and are getting kinda grumpy. As we approached this guys went into stalking mode but decided to get up to go and lay down behind a bush. All the time he kept a very close watch on us.

Here are the images I got as we came close in the vehicle. No, we were not on foot on this occasion just thought it would make a nice title!! :)

As we came closer he lifted his head to have a good look.

As we came closer he went into 'hunting' mode and dropped down.

Not wanting any part of this he moved behind some bushes, all the while keeping a close watch on us.

As we stopped the vehicle he got up once and gave a warning call. Pretty impressive for an old boy but unusual as we were well outside of his personal zone.

Zooming in on the other brother (no scar on left cheek) you can see how old he really is. They are absolute legends in Madikwe and their faces speak of years of experience.

Got some great images during the small time we spent with them!

Will be back soon with more.

As always I look forward to hearing from you!

Until next time.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Uploads Continue!

Have you ever heard a song for the first time yet it almost sounded familiar? I heard a track off the new Daniel Powter album yesterday and it felt like it was something I heard a very long time ago. A song that should have some kind of memory attached to it but feels brand new at the same time.

I think that some images can make you feel like that as well. While I have been doing all the uploads of the various photographer's images to the Photo-Africa Stock Library I saw a couple of images that made me feel like that.

You look at the image and it feels strangely familiar yet brand new at the same time. I reckon it might be a good thing when an image makes you feel like that as you feel connected to it somehow yet you are excited about it as it is brand new. Make sense? Anyway, moving on.

I have been uploading images the whole weekend and it seems like the end is finally in sight. I completed all of Riaan and Gavin's images and by the end of tomorrow I will hopefully have all of my work loaded onto the stock site as well. I knew there were a lot of them but damn!!

I am still planning to do a Weekly High Five in the next couple of days but in the meantime here are a few quick images that I uploaded today. I took all of these during the last two weeks before returning to Johannesburg. The idea was to do a Photo Safari post with these images but with the number of photos available I will still be able to do another one later this week as well.

So to keep things rolling, here are a few of my latest images.

This is one sad looking lion. This young male and his sister was hunting at Tlou Dam and this face pretty much tells the resulting story. They just missed the wildebeest. Frustration - no meal on this specific occasion.

Close up of a Praying Mantis. I would still love to do more macro work and with summer approaching there will be a lot of insects around to have a closer look at.

This image was taken at the waterhole at the lodge. I new I liked it when I clicked the shutter. I still like it but cannot exactly put my finger on why. Any ideas?

This young Spotted Hyena crossed the road in front of our vehicle. As I looked through the viewfinder I saw that the white and it looked like it was in a studio with a white background. I like it.

Plain and simple. Taken at midday, this silhouette of an African Hoopoo worked out quite well.

This was also at midday and the light was not the best. Actually it was pretty bad but I still like the result. The trunk makes an interesting line from top to bottom.

I was hoping for a full-on silhouette but the faded orange color worked quite well in the end.

And this is what happens when you get sidetracked in Photoshop! Not something I do a lot of, but every now and then the creative juices flow and images like this 'happen'! :)

Time to upload the next batch of images! I have about 4 more posts I need to get up onto the Blog before Adele and I head back to Tuningi on Wednesday so have to get cracking!

When you have a moment visit the Photo-Africa Stock Library to browse through the more than 300 new African Wildlife and Nature images that has been uploaded during the last two days! Some amazing 'moments'!

As always I look forward to hearing from you!

Until next time.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Uploads, Images and Questions

I have been uploading images to the Photo-Africa Stock Library for almost the entire day and have not even reached halfway! I am currently uploading a lot of Riaan's images and once done I will upload new images from Gavin and then myself as well.

It is great to have so many unique images to add to Photo-Africa. I have had a helluva time looking through all the images as they get uploaded and have been amazed at the diversity of images and stories being added. You would think that there are only so many ways in which to photograph a lion but I am glad to say that my belief in the variety on Photo-Africa has been justified.

I have decided to do the Weekly High Five as soon as I have uploaded all the images, which will probably be towards Sunday, but in the meantime I will keep on posting some of the 'highlight images' on the Blog.

The idea behind this was triggered when I looked at a few of the images and wondered "How in the world did that happen?" You never know what you are going to get when you head out on safari and the images on Photo-Africa has proved to be the same. You never know...

With that in mind, here are a few of the images I enjoyed or made me 'ask a question' while uploading today.

Whose tail is he carrying? Perhaps wildebeest?

You gotta love the way these dogs form a circle.

I was with Gavin when he spotted this interesting lighting on the zebra in Madikwe.

How did this lioness loose her eye?

Forget how this lion got up there. How is he getting out??

What happened when the approaching buffalo herd got closer?

One of the Sereti males from Madikwe. Still my bet as one of the dominating forces in the future.

The three Sereti brothers. What were they all smelling?

Love this shot. Looks like a classic.

Great leopard silhouette. Think Riaan got this one while still working in the Sabi Sands.

Interesting 'action' capture. Perfect timing.

This was taken at Tlou Dam in Madikwe but not sure who they were. Perhaps the Etali youngsters? Great action capture that shows perfectly how playful these little guys can be.

Not just a great buffalo image, but what is he thinking?

You gotta wonder what happened next.

Great image. I personally love the way the lines and light highlight the tails.

One of the cutest images I have seen in a while. Very tiny little cheetah cub peeking out from behind the tree.

Interesting capture. The water and color creates a great abstract.

Almost like they have been summoned.

Great lines with the big guys walking down the road.

Just the one paying attention. Great shot.

Any thoughts on this one?? :)

The same lion as in the above image as seen in our rear view mirror. Poor guy was looking for shade!

I reckon that apart from composition and technical quality, if a wildlife image can make you ask a question it has that something extra that puts it above the rest. Why? How? What?

Will be back soon with more images as they get uploaded. To view all the newest images that have been added to the Photo-Africa Stock Library you can click here.

As always I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Back Online with Lots of New Images!

Finally. It feels like it has been months since I last posted anything on the blog.

Adele and I are back in Johannesburg. It is still always a strange reality to come to the city when you are on leave. We have the privilege of working in the most amazing natural surroundings and to find yourself in the hustle and bustle of the city where everybody is rushed and worried about the next meeting makes you feel like you are watching a movie in fast forward.

The last few days have been extremely hectic and I am almost over the flu. Luckily just in time as we only have one week in Johannesburg in which we have to finalise all the details for our wedding on 1 November and also complete a helluva 'to do list'.

So far so good.

I have started a lot of the smaller updates and changes to the various Photo-Africa sites and will hopefully be uploading all of these around Monday next week. Will keep you posted on the Blog. One of the things on my list is to upload a huge number of images from the various photographers in Madikwe. As you have probably gathered, we live in the most amazing environment, but the Internet is still a touchy subject.

A number of the guys have given me CD's filled with new images that I will be uploading over the next few days. As I upload each photographer's images I will post a blog with a few of the images that I enjoyed.

I will still post the High Five on Friday but this gives me an excuse to post more great African Wildlife and Nature images on the Blog as well! I noticed that Craig Muller also uploaded a whole bunch of new images that looked very interesting. Pop by the Photo-Africa Stock Library to check them out or visit the Blog again later this week for the High Five.

Today I uploaded more than fifty of Neal Fischer's images. Neal has some interesting close ups of the smaller things in Africa, but here are a few images I liked while I was uploading them.

Very well done abstract. Not exactly sure how he got the background so black out in the field but very well done.

This White Rhino is seriously into marking his territory. They rub their feet in their dung and urine and then walk away while leaving a scent trail all along the borders of their territory. Nice capture.

The Lilac Breasted Roller must be one of the most photographed birds in Africa. This image was slightly different and shows this little guy with a very different facial expression.

A Pied Crow in flight. These guys have been very helpful in showing us a few kills the last few weeks. The scavenge and congregate in huge numbers around any major kills by predators such as lions and leopards.

Giraffe with a very curious look on his face. Always a great attraction on safari.

Exposure is strange in this one, but I love the way the lioness is looking at the male. Their is a story in their somewhere.

Interesting capture that, by the amount of teeth missing, looks like one of the Batia brothers.

Very nice capture. Leopards are still one of the more difficult to find species in Madikwe but the sightings have definitely been picking up over the last few months. The last week in particular was fantastic for leoaprds in the wetsern parts of Madikwe. Hopefully this will lead to more leopard images finding their way to this site.

This image was captured in the middle of the Madikwe Game Reserve. This old chapel can be found Vleishfontein which is where the current Parks Board offices are situated. Great use of sepia tones to compliment the old feel of the image. (Should look at getting more history on this?)

Those are just a few of Neal's images I uploaded today. You can view more than fifty of his new images by visiting the Newest Images on the Photo-Africa Stock Library.

Other than all the changes and uploads my book has been coming along very nicely. I am pretty much done but am struggling to find quotes on lions, rhino and a few other species. If you have any nice websites or quotes on Africa and it's animals I would greatly appreciate it if you could email me!

A quick shoutout to Zaheer Adam, a regular visitor to Madikwe, who dropped me an email after visiting the Blog. Thanks for the mail - greatly appreciated! There is so much news with regards to all the Madikwe lions you mention and I will do my best to do a Blog with some of the latest updates. Let me know when you visit Madikwe again.

I will be back again tomorrow with more new images form the other Photo-Africa photographers.

As always I look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Short Break

I did not think it would be possible but I have been able to do sixteen Weekly High Five posts without missing a single week. Pretty impressed with myself!

Things have gotten quite hectic the last few days, along with a nice bout of the flu, and I am very much looking forward to heading to Johannesburg next week Wednesday for a couple of days. Adele and I will be finalizing a number of things as it will be the last time we get to any form of civilisation before our wedding on 1 November up in Namibia.

I also have a huge list of exciting updates, along with over 300 new images, that I want to try and get uploaded to all three Photo-Africa sites. New links, new photographer pages, new partnerships and of course a lot of new, authentic African wildlife images.

I have decided to take a few days off from the Blog while I start working on a number of these updates and rebuilding some of the pages on the Photo-Africa Home Page and Photo-Africa Stock Library.

I will be back on the Blog around Thursday next week and then on Friday I will do a special edition Weekly High Five which will feature around 15 of the new images that will have been uploaded by then.

Thanks for all the support thus far and I hope you will visit next week when all the new additions and updates gets uploaded. In the meantime you can still visit the Photo-Africa Stock Library for many new wildlife images.

As always I look forward to hearing from you!

Until next week.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Brutal or Amazing. You Decide...

NOTE - I have done a follow up post on this story. To read the update click here! (May 2009)

You never know what's going to happen.

That is the mindset we normally have when we head out on drive or on a walk. That is what keeps it exciting. It's what makes you want to learn more. See more.

The wonders of nature keeps you captivated at the best of times but once in a while you see something that makes you realise that there are no scripts in nature. Things happen that surprise you. Shock you.

I had a moment like this two days ago.

These moments make you realise that no matter how many books you read or how many times you see the same event play out, we can never truly understand what goes through an animals mind as they live out each day in a struggle for survival in the African bush.

On Thursday afternoon we headed down to the southern part of Madikwe to try and pick up on lion tracks that some of the guys had early that morning. We drove around the area for a while but did not find any tracks. As we moved on, a few minutes later we found a dead Red Hartebeest in a dried up pan.

The female antelope has not been opened up yet and upon further investigation we found a female lioness on the opposite wall of the pan. She was still out of breath and must have just finished killing the Hartebeest. Lions kill by strangulation and takes quite a physical toll on them - hence the heavy breathing.

As the lioness got up and moved towards her prey we settled in to watch the scene unfold. Lions are normally quite methodical in how the open and start feeding on a carcass but what followed blew our minds.

As she reached the carcass she started opening the antelope from the stomach area. Nothing unusual so far.

The first goal is normally to open the belly area and pull out the stomach.

So far everything was going pretty much 'by the book'. Adele joined me on the drive and was watching the scene unfolding through the binoculars. My guests were also watching the scene through their video camera and binoculars.

As she continued, the lioness got hold of what we thought was the stomach ans started pulling it out. As she stood up to get a little more leverage Adele said "That is not the stomach!"

The Red Hartebeest that got killed was heavily pregnant!

Now I have seen a lion kill where the prey was pregnant but normally they would just carry on feeding as if nothing was wrong.

This is where the scenes that followed had us all dumbstruck.

Once out of the mother the lioness very gently placed the foetus on the floor and spent quite a bit of time smelling and investigating the unborn Hartebeest.

Her body language was strange for a lioness in her situation and it seemed that she was clearly perturbed by what has just happened and kept on looking around as if to look for help.

After a while she kept on feeding and started removing the stomach contents, all the while seeming to make a concerted effort to stay away from the foetus.

After a while, and not feeding at all, she returned her attention to the foetus and very gently picked it up by the nose.

She stood, with the foetus in her mouth, for quite some time looking around in all directions as if checking for something. After a few minutes she started walking off towards a thicket very close to her kill.

She stopped again and very gently put the foetus on the floor. All the time looking around and looking quite tense and nervous. She then proceeded to nudge the foetus with her nose, gently rolled it over and picked it up on the back of the neck as if it was one of her own cubs.

She continued looking around and slowly moved towards the thicket.

She carefully walked towards the thicket where she proceeded to place the foetus very carefully at the bottom of the thicket. She nudged it a few times with her nose still looking around all the time as if she was expecting either help or danger.

After another few minutes she slowly returned to the carcass where she did not continue feeding but in stead looked around again and then slowly laid down where she fell asleep.

This was definitely one of the most extraordinary moments of lion behavior I have ever witnessed. What was she thinking? Why did she react the way she did?

We always have to be careful of projecting our own emotions onto the animals we are watching but this situation made this extremely difficult. Did her 'mother instincts' kick in? Was there still a heartbeat that she could feel? Was she trying to protect the unborn Hartebeest?

It is questions like this that always make you realize we do not know everything. These questions makes you realise once again the special privilege we have of being able to witness the things we do. You can read as many books or watch as many videos as you want but you never know what will happen when you are out in the field.

This sighting was something that caught us all off guard and will stay with me for quite some time. I do not know if I will ever understand exactly what happened but in a cruel, beautiful way we witnessed a piece of African magic.

It is moments like this that you truly feel how special nature is. There are no laws or rules in nature that is set in stone. Nature will carry on in it's own way whether we are there to play witness or not.

Let's hope we can have the privilege to share this magic for many years to come.

As always I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time.


PS: I have added a post which links to the video footage that my guests got of this event. Click here. G.