Archive for elephants

Tanzania – wonderful wildlife safaris

Posted in Acratech, Africa, African Safari, Benro, better my photography, Birding, Birds, BlackRapid, Canon, Cheetahs, Columbia sportswear, elephants, Filters, how to photography, Hyenas, Induro, Jeff Cable, Kaenon, Lake Manyara, learn photography, Lenses, Lexar Digital Film, Light, lions, Marketing, Ndutu, Ngorongoro Crater, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, Serengeti, Sigma, Tamron, Tanzania, Tarangire National Park, Tarangire NP, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, warthog, water buffalo, waterbucks, wide-angle, wide-angle lens, zebra with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2017 by mmphototours
_E7A0993 Elephant under the Acacia B&W web ready

Elephant rendered in B&W – Canon 5D Mark III, f/11, 1/320, ISO 200, 35mm

_O5A1869 Lioness on a tree1 web ready.jpg

Lioness resting on a fallen tree – Canon 7D Mark II, f/4.5, 1/1000, ISO 2000, 74mm handheld in very low light right before sundown with thick cloud cover

Every year M&M ventures to Tanzania in January and sometimes in August to witness two of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth.  In January I call it the reverse migration when wildlife returns to Tanzania from Kenya.  This is the calving season for many of the hoofed animals – zebra, wildebeest, gazelle, impala, and more.  It makes for great predator action.  In August we venture over again for the better known Great Migration and river crossing you have all heard about and seen images from many different sources.  This is when the migration leaves Tanzania for Kenya and the better grass across the border.  This post is meant to share just a few comments about Tanzania and several images from recent M&M trips.

Most of trips to Tanzania are all-inclusive – RT economy air from certain US gateway cities, all meals, all lodging, all ground transport, all park fees, world-class driver/guides, and more.  We usually fly through Amsterdam and then into Kilimanjaro International Airport just outside Arusha, Tanzania.

During most trips we visit the following areas – Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and then spend as much time as possible in the Ndutu area, & Serengeti National Park.  Each area gives us a different view of the wildlife and the migration.  They also afford their own benefits and scenes for the wildlife photography we all desire.

We head to Tarangire for a few reasons – resident wildlife and the elephants.  The park has solid numbers of resident wildlife anytime of year.  This gives us a quick warm-up for what we’ll experience on the rest of the trip.  The Ngorongoro Crater needs no words.  With one of the world’s most dense resident wildlife populations it is hard not to see amazing wildlife or capture great images.  The crater offers one of the best wildlife experiences in all of Africa and certainly one of the top in Tanzania.  Ndutu is a region known for awesome wildlife year round.  The resident cats (lions, leopards, cheetah, and more) are some of my favorites here but there are also elephant, herds of zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, and more.  One of the pluses of a several day stay in Ndutu is the that off-road safari is allowed so you can track and get even closer to wildlife than in other areas.  Of course, we and our driver/guides maintain a respectable distance and give the wildlife the space they need to keep them comfortable.  The Serengeti is arguably the best National Park in all of Africa.  It offers excellent wildlife viewing year round and the space and numbers of animals in the park make every safari authentic and every safari participant yearning for more.

People often wonder what our lodging is like on safari.  Here I am going to give you links to the places we usually stay (our first picks) so you can decide for yourself.  We try to combine authentic safari experiences with several comfortable lodges/camps so our guests are comfortable, safe, and enjoy their time in Tanzania.  Of course, the food is always delicious…

We first stay at Rivertrees upon arrival – Rivertrees is set in a pleasant semi-rural location around 20km to the east of Arusha and is therefore convenient for Kilimanjaro International Airport.  It sits in beautiful informal gardens filled with large shady trees and is centered on a lovely old farmhouse.  https://www.expertafrica.com/tanzania/arusha/rivertrees-country-inn

Our next stop is one of two camps in Tarangire National Park.  Tarangire Safari Lodge – Tarangire is situated in an impressive hilltop position deep inside the reserve, with extensive views from camp of wildlife along the river. It is a simple facility, but with very nice well-intentioned owners.  Tarangire offers good quality dry season wildlife, notably superb elephant viewing Jun-Dec.  Additional activities include vehicle safari and balloon safari, plus some modest walking safari and night vehicle safari.  https://www.expertafrica.com/tanzania/tarangire-national-park/tarangire-safari-lodge  Or, we’ll use Tarangire Ndovu Camp depending on group makeup and numbers.  Ndovu is a medium specification mobile tented facility in a quiet location in the northeast of the reserve. It is a comfortable camp, with just six guest tents. Activities include daytime vehicle safari, with possible options for walking safari and night vehicle safari. Wildlife viewing is usually at its best during the dry season, Jun-Dec, particularly strong for elephants.  http://www.nasikiacamps.com/tarangire-ndovu-camp.html

Our next stop is the Ngorongoro Crater.  Here we always try to use Lemala Ngorongoro Camp.  Lemala is a high quality mobile tented camp set on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.  It includes a comfortable and nicely appointed mess and nine pleasant guest tents, with reliable owners and a reputation for a really good atmosphere amongst the camp staff.  The lodge is on the better northern side for weather and for early access into the crater.  Vehicle safari into the Ngorongoro Crater itself is the main activity, with walking and cultural activities also being possible.  https://www.expertafrica.com/tanzania/ngorongoro-crater/lemala-ngorongoro

We always try to book Lake Masek Tented Camp in Ndutu.  Lake Masek is a medium specification permanent tented lodge set in the important Ndutu area and is open year round, with the main migration often being in the area Nov/Apr.  The lodge offers a relatively high level of conventional comforts, especially compared with the mobile tented camps which are so numerous in this area during the migration season.  https://www.expertafrica.com/tanzania/serengeti-migration-area/lake-masek-tented-camp  Another option we have on hold often is Kubu Kubu Tented Camp.  Kubu Kubu is Situated on a gentle hillside with broad views of the Central Serengeti area and is a medium specification permanent tented camp.  It is centered on a large circular structure which contains the lounge and dining areas, leading out to a large swimming pool.  Guest accommodation is in a total of 25 spacious tents on raised platforms and with great views, which are suitable for up to five people, making this place a big favorite for families and camera clubs.  Activities are centered on vehicle safari, with the area offering very solid wildlife viewing year round, notably with incredible predator sightings.  The migration usually passes through May-Jun and Nov-Dec.  http://www.africatravelresource.com/kubu-kubu-tented-camp/

Depending on the time of year and camp availability we’ll use one of two of three camps in The Serengeti.  We always like to give folks the experience of a true “roughing it” camp so we use Ronjo Camp.  Ronjo is a medium specification mobile tented camp set in a relatively quiet location in Central Serengeti.  It offers an authentic safari experience, with animals often passing through camp. The camp has a pleasant canvas mess and around sixteen reasonably comfortable guest tents.  It is a closed access camp, which means it does not accept vehicles from other operators, which can lead to a much more intimate atmosphere.  http://www.africatravelresource.com/ronjo-camp/  After a couple of nights at Ronjo we’ll move our guests to one of two more upscale camps – Dunia Camp or Kaskaz Camp.  Dunia is a high specification mobile tented camp is in a relatively quiet location in Central Serengeti.  It offers an authentic safari experience, with animals often passing through camp.  The camp has a lovely canvas mess and around eight guest tents. It is elegantly presented and genially hosted.  Activities are centered on vehicle safari, with the area offering very solid wildlife viewing year round with incredible predator sightings, especially Jul-Oct.  The migration usually passes through May-Jun and Nov-Dec. https://www.expertafrica.com/tanzania/serengeti-migration-area/dunia-camp  Kaskaz is a small and relatively upmarket mobile tented camp with eight guest tents .  Kaskaz offers style and grace in the northern Serengeti – we use this camp for the August Great Migration safari.  http://www.nasikiacamps.com/Kaskaz-Mara-Camp.html

We cap every trip off with a stay at Gibbs Farm (when available and we book far enough in advance.  This place is an oasis after a safari and bring a level of comfort and peace that unrivaled in Tanzania.  Gibbs Farm has been voted Best Safari Hotel in Africa in the past.  Gibb’s Farm imparts a sense of well-being, tranquility and history—deeply rooted in African culture and community—in a warm, rustic luxury environment.  A peaceful sanctuary to rejuvenate the senses while on safari in Tanzania, the farm features cozy, well-appointed cottages, breath-taking scenery and wildlife and unique cultural activities that allow you to fully experience the rhythms and beauty of the farm, community and nature.  http://www.gibbsfarm.com/

Hope you have enjoyed our little piece on our Tanzania adventures.  We’d love to host you on one of our Tanzanian safaris sometime soon.  We have tours coming up in August 2017 that has 2 spots available, one in January 2018 that still has multiple spots open, one in August 2018 that has multiple spots open, and back-to-back luxury trips scheduled for January & February 2019 with guest pro Jeff Cable.

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Sigma 150-600 C lens test in Tanzania

Posted in 1, Africa, African Safari, Benro, better my photography, Birding, Birds, BlackRapid, Canon, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, elephants, how to photography, Induro, Kaenon, Lake Manyara, learn photography, Lenses, Lexar Digital Film, lions, Marketing, Ngorongoro Crater, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, Serengeti, Sigma, Tanzania, Tarangire NP, Travel, Travel Photography, warthog, waterbucks, zebra with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2016 by mmphototours
_E7A8391 Elephant walk web ready.jpg

Young elephant crossing the river in Tarangire National Park

In June of 2016 Mike G had the chance to make a visit to Tanzania with family and friends where he spent several days testing the Sigma 150-600 C lens in three different Tanzanian National Parks – Tarangire, Ngorongoro, & Lake Manyara.

Bottom line – Mike G, who has used the Tamron 150-600 VC lens and Canon L series big glass on African safaris in the past, was very pleased with the lens and feels it is every bit the lens the Tamron is with possibly better stabilization and color reproduction and offers a better bang for your buck than the much more expensive Canon or Nikon options.

All of the following images were taken with a Canon 5D Mark III and the Sigma 150-600 C lens.

_E7A8312 Waterbuck family web ready

Waterbuck family checking surroundings

Elephant crossing the river in Tarangire NP

_E7A8396 Elephant vignette web ready

Elephant crossing the river Tarangire National Park

 

The first thing most people are going to notice with this lens is the price tag – much less than the Canon 100-400 II, Nikon 80-400 VR, Canon 200-400 w/ 1.4x, or any of the prime BIG glass lenses either Canon or Nikon offer.  And, you are gonna save size vs a few of the other options while not adding much bulk vs some of the slightly smaller options – Canon 100-400 II or even Nikon 80-400 VR.

High quality glass is vital to the optical quality of any image.  The quality Mike G observed in this test shows that the 150-600 C is an excellent lens with high quality workmanship coming out of the Sigma Aizuwakamatsu (where Mike actually lived for several months while a young man) factory in Japan.  The FLD & SLD glass elements help the lens achieve a high degree of clearer, sharper, greater clarity and excellent contrast across the focal range.  While not weather-sealed like its Big Brother the S version the lens should withstand most light weather situations but you’ll want some form of heavy weather protection should you venture out in heavy rain/snow.

Mike G finds the lens be very sharp at all focal lengths up till about 550mm – especially when stopped down to f/8.  Above 550mm stopping down to f/11 helps keep the center of images sharp and clean.

_E7A8184 Lilac Breasted Roller web ready

Lilac-Breasted Roller checking surroundings

The next thing you are going to notice is a wonderful range (150-600mm) which will allow you to fix this lens on your favorite camera body and shoot all day without changing lenses – which can be extremely convenient and save a lot of sensor cleaning while out on safari – or even shooting birds in the backyard or wildlife in Yellowstone National park.  With a minimum focusing distance of 110.2″ critters will have to be pretty close – 9.2′ or just a tad over 3 yards away to not focus.  If you are that close to any wildlife you had better be near small wildlife that cannot hurt you or in vehicle that can help protect you.  For sporting events – depending on the event – it can be the lens that reaches out and touches the action.

Some of you may ask – what about the min/max aperture range of the lens – f/5-6.3 – f/22 and capturing images in low light?  Not a concern if you are shooting with a relatively new body that handles noise/high ISO situations well.  Feel free to bump that ISO up to keep your shutter speed up if needed.  Plus, the Sigma Optical Stabilization, which includes an accelerometer for better panning results, is going to get gain you anywhere from 2 – 3 stops when handholding with good, solid technique.  So, go ahead and shoot away.

_E7A9186 Wildebeest rut B&W web ready

Wildebeest males battle during rut

_E7A8970 Lion gaze web ready

Male lion surveying Ngorongoro Crater surroundings

How about the auto focus performance you may ask?  Mike G found it to be very accurate, fast, and quiet.  The Sigma Hyper Sonic Motor is reliable and Mike G found it be a bit faster than the Tamron 150-600.  The lens does also come with a focus limiter switch which can be handy when subjects are more than 33+ feet away.

_E7A9288 Warthogs in wild flowers web ready

Warthog family lounging in the short grasses of Ngorongoro Crater

_E7A8377 Young elephant water-crossing web ready.jpg

Young elephants crossing the river in Tarangire National Park

Do we (Mike G) recommend this lens?  Yes.  This lens offers great image quality at an excellent price point.  The outstanding performance seen coupled with the savings makes this lens a viable option for even the most serious wildlife photographers.

_E7A8661 The horns web ready.jpg

Lounging gazelle

_E7A7889 Zebra face web ready.jpg

Zebra