Sunday, April 23, 2017

African Wildlife, part 2

Every day on safari brought new sightings. Impala were the most numerous of the large animals and among the most beautiful. We saw other antelopes as well: kudu, tsessebe, waterbuck, bushbuck, red lechwe, eland, puku, Sharpe's grysbok, and klipsringer.

Impala, Okavango National Park
Kudu, Okavango National Park
Zebra were also a common sight, sometimes in the company of wildebeest. Apparently they are better able to spot predators using the multiple talents of different species.

Zebra, Okavango National Park
Wildebeest, Okavango National Park
Cape Buffalo, Okavango National Park
Vervet Monkeys, Chobe National Park

Thursday, April 20, 2017

African Wildlife, part 1

On our safari tour, we were fortunate to see many animals. The national parks we visited, Chobe and Okavango in Botswana and Hwange in Zimbabwe, are well-endowed with wildlife and not much traveled by least, in comparison to some U.S. national parks. The animals are protected and so (to varying degrees) are not too shy of people or their vehicles, making close approaches possible. Our guides were uniformly skilled and knowledgeable, increasing our chances of finding our "prey" in the bush.

And find them we did. It's a thrill to see them in their own environment. Each species has a character of its own, a combination of appearance, movement, social groupings, sounds and preferred habitat.

African Leopard with Impala Prey, Okavango National Park
African Elephant, Chobe National Park
Lion Pride with Two Juveniles, Chobe National Park
Hippos, Egrets and Hippo Corpse, Chobe National Park
Southern Giraffe, Okavango National Park

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

South Africa Landscapes

Everyone who's been to Africa told us to go. We spent three weeks in southern Africa during March and April 2017, mostly on a "safari" tour in Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, with several days by ourselves seeing the sights in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa.

It was an amazingly successful trip. The wildlife is the big draw on these tours. We saw lots of it, including four of the "big five": Elephants, lions, cape buffalo, and leopards (number five, rhinoceros, have been wiped out in the areas we visited.) Others included giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, hippos, impala, kudu, baboons and all sorts of birds. The weather was nearly perfect, and our guides and accommodations were splendid. So, to everyone who encouraged us to go: Thanks! I'll get to wildlife photos in a future post.

The landscapes were also wonderful. Our safaris were in national parks, so they are largely undeveloped. Our vehicles traveled on dirt roads (or off-road) and those roads were often the only visible evidence of people. Even where we weren't in parks we saw amazing terrain. This first photo is a view of False Bay from Cape Peninsula, near the southernmost tip of Africa. I hadn't realized how much topography we would see on our drive south from Cape Town.

False Bay from Cape Peninsula
At the south end of the Cape Peninsula is Cape Point, which towers above the Atlantic and Indian oceans. From there you have a wonderful view of Dias Beach and the Cape of Good Hope.

Dias Beach and Cape of Good Hope

Cape Town lies at the foot of Table Mountain National Park, in one of the most beautiful city locations anywhere. A cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain opens incredible vistas.

View from Table Mountain

Driving southwest from the city center along the coastal Victoria Road affords views of the Twelve Apostles peaks, which are part of the same sandstone range as Table Mountain. You also see some of the priciest beach real estate in Africa.

Twelve Apostles

Sunday, April 16, 2017

OT: Downsizing, con't.

Our trip to southern Africa is behind us (and if you've never been there, and have the slightest inclination, go). As discussed in the previous post, I bought a used Lumix GX7 with a 20mm kit lens and a new Lumix 45-150mm zoom to shrink my traveling gear. Here's how it went.

We spent eleven days on safari in three countries (Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and several more days sightseeing in Cape Town and Johannesburg. On this trip "safari" meant several hours each day in four-wheel-drive vehicles on dirt roads, looking for and viewing wildlife. Had we been on foot, the lighter camera gear would have been essential. But the tours wisely do not allow tourists to wander on foot: wildlife is wild, and can be dangerous. But still, I enjoyed having the lightweight pack, and strolling around the cities it was much appreciated.

I've gone through the images and for the most part I'm happy with them. They do look "different" than images from my Nikon D750, but it's not easy to describe. Part of the difference is likely due to vibration control. On one hand, the Lumix stabilization seems less effective than the Nikon's; on the other hand, the Lumix spent a lot of time in bouncing vehicles. On the third hand, most of my images were taken when the vehicle was stopped. And somehow the color rendering looks different, at least until post-processing has been applied.

The autofocus on the Lumix didn't always do the job. Part of the problem, I know, is trying to shoot animals lurking in bush or high grass: it's hard for the autofocus to know what the subject is. And I'm at fault for not learning how to use the different autofocus modes correctly. The manual focus mode is easy to engage and provides a magnified view of the center of the image. It was useful for careful work but annoying when I couldn't figure out how to turn off the magnifier.

As I feared, battery life was nothing like my Nikon. You need only heft the Lumix battery to know that its capacity is smaller. Two batteries were essential, and I often turned off the back-of-camera display to conserve power. I usually preferred the viewfinder anyway. Faster battery charging would be nice, too--why should such a dinky battery take three hours to charge?

Gripes aside, I think I'll keep the Lumix. I'd like to have a wide-angle lens (one traveler I chatted with likes her Olympus wide-ish zoom). Meanwhile I should retrieve the Nikon from the closet so I don't forget how to use it, AND keep using the Lumix so I DO learn it. Wish I weren't such a lazy photographer.