Jambo , which means hello in Swahili.
In February of 1998, I spent 17 days in Tanzania leading a Photo Safari for Unique Adventures. Wow, what a great adventure! I do not know how many of you have ever been to Africa, but I'd heartily recommend it to those who haven't yet had the chance.
I left Rochester, NY at 12 noon, and landed in Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania 28 hours later. The jet lag was very rough, but the excitement of being half way around the world was enough to keep me going. The very first thing that struck me was the density of the flying insects around the airport lights. In Rochester we have white outs from snowstorms, but the density of the flying insects equaled or exceeded a snowstorm around the night-lights on the tarmac. I knew from that moment the trip was going to be incredible. We got to our hotel around 11:30pm local time and we were welcomed by the hotel staff. Very warm people. We all quickly retired and got organized for our 7:30 AM departure on safari. The trip was one day in Lake Manyara, three days in the Ngorongoro Crater, one day at the Oldivai Gorge, eight days in the Serengeti, and one day at the Arusha National Park. Tanzania is a very beautiful and for the most part flat. It is a very poor country with very few paved roads and so the Safari industry is for now the leading economic force there. There are over 1000 safari drivers who survive by driving for these companies. Without a doubt, the drivers can make your trip. We were incredibly fortunate to have the drivers we did. The drive from the city to Manyara was our first experience with Tanzania's unpaved red clay roads. Very bouncy to say the least. It was imperative that you hang on at all times for fear of being launched into another seat, the roof, or your car mates. The Maasi Bomas(villages) in the country side with their cattle and goats, the smells, the dust clouds from the vehicles, and so much more. As we approached Lake Manyara, which is in the Rift Valley, the travel bogged down. Busses and trucks were stuck in the mud all over the place.
Everything you've seen on the Discovery channel really happens. I could write for pages as I did in a journal, but space will not permit,
so I will be brief. Africa is very different than anything I could imagine. The people are very proud and industrious with very few resources. The animals that I saw are increasing in numbers, which was gratifying to know as may, such as the leopard and rhino, have been poached nearly to extinction. In fact there are only 17 rhinos in Tanzania. While there, I saw lion, elephant, zebra, wildebeest, impala, gazelle, hippo, rhino, vulture, eagle, dik-dik, hyena, rabbit, fox, cheetah, baboons, monkey, crocodile and much more. I would speculate that I saw over one million animals in the14 day trip.
The Ngorongoro Crater, a dormant volcano, defies description. I was impressed by the light, the altitude, the temperatures and the animals. The Serengeti is the size of Connecticut and in eight days we probably saw five percent at most. For different reasons, it too defies description. Being where the first fossils of man were discovered was quite remarkable as well. Each stop was equally impressive. I fully appreciate the very special trip I was able to make. Tanzania will never be the western world, nor should it be forced to be. Africa is unique and such a trip as I made helped me understand many things about myself and the large differences between the western world and Africa. Because of the lack of pollution I saw more stars than I ever have. The electrical storms were spectacular. Should you have the chance to visit Africa, go for it. You'll never regret it.
In my preparation for Africa, I share some of the advice notes I gave to my safari travelers.
Let me briefly introduce myself to you in preparation for our trip together so that our time will be most exciting and productive when in Tanzania. My name is Michael Peres and I am the Chairman of the Biomedical Photographic Communications department located at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I am privileged to be your photo safari guide in February. This will be my first experience to Africa, however I bring a rich history of teaching photography at the University level. I have been busy reading anything I can get my hands on in anticipation of working with you. I hope that you have had a chance to carefully read over the material sent to you by Tiffany Di Blasi from UniqueAdventures. There are many issues of travel independent of photographic concerns that also will need your attention. The imagination is very powerful and as I write this piece, I am creating all kinds of mental images of what to expect while in Tanzania. The sounds, sights, and smells of this magical and unique place in our world today are coming to mind as a result of reading and watching videos from the library. Making photographs in Tanzania seems like an incredible opportunity and I am sure you are as excited as I am, so let me pass along my thoughts and recommendations of photo equipment, film and the like for our photo safari to East Africa.
This is a once in a life time photographic opportunity as I am sure you agree. As I prepare to pack the camera bag, I am estimating on shooting 8 -10 36 exposure rolls per day. At a minimum, I would suggest you bring 5 rolls per day. It will be very easy to shoot film while purchasing additional film at our various stops might be more difficult. In reviewing our itinerary provided from UniqueAdventures, we will be leaving in our vehicles to tour the Lake Manyara National Park on day three. Our travels will bring us in contact with hippos in water pools, baboon troops, elephants, monkeys and giraffes all in their natural ecosystem. With each day as rich in potential as this, you can begin to sense why shooting a lot of film will be easy. Based upon this I would suggest a minimum of 75 rolls for the trip, while I will be bringing approximately 150 rolls. I have been told that finding film in Tanzania will be expensive should we be lucky enough to locate any outside of Arusha during our stay.
What type of film to bring provokes some interesting considerations. The first consideration needs to be whether you want to end up with slides or prints after the trip and so you must consider how you will show your pictures later. It is easy to make prints from either; however going from slides to prints is more challenging than going from a color negatives to prints. Also color negative films will be much cheaper than color slide films to purchase initially. Additionally though, processing color negative film into prints upon your return will be more expensive than processing slides. I will be bringing both negative and slide film on the trip as I use both types often. The color negative film I really like for outdoors work is Kodak Pro 400MC. This is a very fine grain film that will enlarge very nicely to 11 x14 from the 35mm format I use. This is one of the new T grain emulsion films and the grain is very fine. For amateur films, an effective ISO would be 200. I really like the Kodak Gold Max 200. Having the film speed will prove useful to you in the many lighting situations we encounter. In the bright sun, you will have excellent choices for shutter speeds, while in low light situations; you will have the additional speed.The color response of these films will be very satisfactory and can usually be purchased in quantity lots from professional photography suppliers in your town. It is also wise to consider who will be involved with the photofinishing. The lab will prove as important as the film. If you are inclined to shoot slides, there are also many choices on the market. In that we will be shooting in a variety of lighting situations and brightness, shooting slides can be a bit more challenging than print film. As a consequence, I would recommend 100 and 400 speed films so that you are prepared for either adequate light or low light situations. I have the most familiarity with Ektachrome 100S. This is also a T grain film as was the 400MC negative film, so its sharpness and color response will be excellent. There are many other emulsions on the market and I am sure you have used others. Fuji sells a very nice line of color negative and transparency films. My recommendations are based upon personal experience with the above listed films. My recommendations should be considered useful for their perspective, but not absolutes. More importantly, consider the film's speed, grain pattern, color saturation and response, as well as many other subtle but important considerations. Any of your local suppliers(professional will gladly assist you in making good choices.( For technical issues, please refer to the end of this
and read, Film Considerations, a function of film and process.)
In conclusion, I would suggest more lower ISO film than the 400 but please consider both. I am sure that we will be shooting in low light situations without tripods, so having the added two stops of sensitivity will help
get those great shots. As far as B & W films, use your discretion. I will be bringing some B & W film for personal reasons. I already produce quite a bit of B & W work so it is natural for me. If you are not producing any B &W work, it is probably not the place to learn.
I recommend strongly that before you leave, you test whatever film you will be using. There is nothing worse than getting poor photos as a result of having had no experience with a new film. Returning home from the processing lab with poor results would be most disappointing for anyone. Making a simple test using your camera and film is a quick reference evaluating how everything will function while in Tanzania. As a suggestion for this test, load one roll of the film in the camera/lens that you will be using most often. Shoot in a variety of situations that are easily accessible and that have different types of light(brightness). In your scene, include several brightly colored objects(shirts, fruit, colored paper) as well as some neutral things such as white T shirts and something that is close to black. With these references in the frame, shoot in the shade as well as in the bright light. Here in Rochester, that can be hard to find, but nonetheless this process will give you the best indicator of what the film will look like after processing. This test will also demonstrate how that emulsion should be exposed to get the best exposure on the film. Complete the test by following the additional steps below. Film bracketing and ISO As a second objective of the color film testing, you will also need to learn how to bracket exposures and analyze the film's response using your light meter. Bracketing exposures means that the aperture on the lens or the shutter speed will be changed to achieve a change in exposure to the film. This change is often desirable for color saturation/response. For your tests I would suggest using a tripod if you own one, and then perform the following series of exposures on the same roll of film used for the color response test. Rate the film based on the manufacturers suggestions. For example, if you were using Ektachrome 100S, rate that film at 100. Take a meter reading using whatever methods you will work with, and make the proper exposure on the film. Then, make a series of additional exposures that range from -1/3, -2/3, -1, -1 1/3, -1 2/3, and -2 stops. This test can be performed most effectively in flat or shade type light. Next perform the same series of exposures, except rather than reducing exposure, increase the exposure time by the same factors. In this fashion, you will execute a series of exposures that are under, correct, and over. The film should be processed shortly after the test. Critically evaluate your processed film to determine which exposure was correct. Also evaluate how the colors were reproduced as well as the tones of the black and white regions.
Cameras and other accessories
Bring whatever cameras and lenses you own. I am absolutely planning on bringing a second camera body.
All cameras will work just fine but should be tested before the trip. If you have purchased a new camera, please run film through the camera to get a sense of its operation. If you have manuals for your cameras and have questions about any of their features, please bring them along. I would be happy to answer any technical questions you might have. Having several camera bodies will save you time also while on the day trips. Each camera could be equipped with different focal length lenses or different films. If you have a motor drive for your camera, please make sure everything is working as well. Batteries because we are going to be along way from any local suppliers, you should load fresh batteries in all your equipment before you leave. I would also recommend replacement batteries for all systems. For this type of trip, I will probably bring a double set of back-up batteries. It is hard to always know when "weird things will go wrong" Murphy's law is an expression that I often cite when preparing for a shoot like this. It goes like this, "If it can go wrong, it will ". So be prepared for anything.
Lenses & Teleconverters
Although there is the natural tendency to presume that only telephoto lenses will be used, I would suggest you bring all your lenses. I own a 28mm, 50mm, 105, 180mm and 180-300mm Zoom and I am planning on bringing all them. Hopefully between now and February I will be able to locate a high quality 2x converter so that I will be able to access an even wider range of focal lengths. While in the field, we will be able to get very close to many species of animals. Prides of lions will allow vehicles to drive actually quite close, and so a 100mm will actually prove very effective in these situations, while other animals will be quite nervous when approached. Longer lenses in these situations will prove effective. Also, I will not ask our drivers to get too close to animals that are stalking for food. We do not want to put stress on animals while in a hunt, as I am sure you would agree. Please do not interpret this to say that you won't be photographing exciting things, but rather we will not get in the way of the life of our subjects. On each excursion, many different things will take place, none of which are choreographed, so let's hope for a bit of luck in getting incredible shots while not harassing our subjects.
In most cases, we will not have opportunities to use tripods in the field. Traveling in the vehicles will
prevent the use of tripods and we cannot leave the vehicle except in camp. Consequently, unless opportunities present themselves in camp, I would not recommend a large tripod. If you have a small portable type, this will be more than adequate. A beanbag however is essential as a means for stabilizing your camera. This bag, which we will fill on our first morning there, should be made of durable material as it will take a REAL BEATING during this trip. It will be dropped in the dirt, snagged on edges of the cars and experience everything in between,. So please get durable fabric for this. Be sure that it is large enough to get the job done well. From a variety of sources, a good dimension seems to be 12 inches(300mm) long, 9 inches (225mm) wide and approximately 4-5(100-125mm) inches thick in the middle when filled. If you are making your own, leave an opening that can be closed by using a zipper or Velcro tabs or by sewing with a needle and thread there. This method of stabilizing your camera is so effective, that you will be able to shoot at quite long exposure times.
Once again it impossible to predict all that will happen during our stay. It is for this reason that I will also be bring a small but powerful flash(GN100 or so) to use when situations present themselves that require supplemental light. As with all battery driven equipment, please plan accordingly. Based on the whether flashes will be used on full power or a host of other factors, the battery drain will vary. If your flash requires using a synch cord, please test it's operation as well. I ALWAYS bring back up synch cords. If you have minimal experience with flash, I would be happy to talk to you about how to execute fill flash as well as other interesting techniques that can make a difference in outdoor photography.
Because of the environment we will be in for two weeks, extra precautions should be considered so as not to put too
much strain on your equipment. There will be few paved roads, and so dust and dirt will be a constant problem. I would suggest several lens brushes(lipstick or similar) be brought along to keep all glass surfaces clean. You should plan on incorporating some type of schedule to insure your equipment is always ready and cleaned. Also, I would suggest that lenses and accessory items be stored in "Zip-Lock" type plastic bags. In this fashion, your equipment's exposure to dust can be minimized when not in use. Also, lens tissue and cleaner is an absolute. I will be bringing many of these products and if you are interested, I can talk about how to care for and clean lenses.
Traveling with Photography Equipment & Film
There is nothing glamorous about traveling, but rather the destination is the goal. Consequently traveling can be disruptive and good planning needs to be done to minimize the ups and downs. I will recommend that you bring all your camera equipment on board as your carry on piece. Being the most fragile and also of the greatest value, keeping the equipment with you at all times makes sense to me. If you have hard cases and send your equipment along with the luggage, do not under any circumstances, pack(even in lead bags) film in your luggage. The x-ray machines that will image your luggage are far more powerful than the cumulative doses of radiation your hand checked items will receive during the entire trip. Having your film x-rayed by the powerful equipment used for luggage could result in pre-exposed film and deliver less than ideal photos. Dealing with airport security will also be a reality. At airports around the world, people must honor requests for inspection. Make this experience as simple as possible for yourself. I recently taught a photography through the microscope workshop in Stockholm and had no problems as long as I respected the job that needed to be done by the customs agents/security. Here are some simple suggestions. - Have all films already unpacked and out of the cardboard boxes - Pack all film cassettes in one common zip lock bag and save the plastic containers for on site re-use later. It has been cited that some airport customs inspectors will inspect each roll of film. When we arrive on site, you can consider reloading the films into the plastic cassettes if you wish. Fuji often packs its film in clear plastic containers. These are ideal for travel and will not require the above procedure. If you can secure these type of containers from your local processing labs, this will save you possible hassles and dirt problems later. - You should save the plastic containers and repack film on site, should you wish to minimize exposure to dirt. - Do not load your cameras until through with all inspection stations - Pack everything in one bag if possible. Having two carry-ons is becoming more restricted by some carriers - Be prepared to have your camera bag x-rayed while requesting film to be given a hand inspection. Your camera will experience no problems while the film will be quite sensitive to cumulative x-ray exposure. As I mentioned, I have traveled abroad and I have not experienced any problems, nor have any of my friends and colleagues. If a hand inspection is denied, do not become upset as your film will be x-rayed. The radiographic exposure will be quite low and should not cause the film to experience problems. The goal of your travel should be to minimize the number of times your film will need to be x-rayed at the various airports. A number of technical articles on the subject do exist if you really want to do further research. I would speculate that if the film were x rayed at each airport, you might be hard pressed to observe any visible changes in your results, however caution should be taken. Remember, you will need to
repeat this process on your return home as well.
A few other thoughts
The most important thing to realize is that each of us will bring a certain amount of natural excitement to this trip and it will be contagious. As we work through getting acclimated to the incredible scenes before us and specifically while in the vehicles, please move slowly as your movements will rock the vehicles. The slight vibration in moving from the back of the vehicle to another vantage point could negatively impact other's results. Also, please do not ask your driver to leave a site until everyone has completed his or her work. A strategy that other tours use is a method for rotating in the vehicles. In this fashion, everyone gets access to the various roof hatch views. For your safety, plan on holding onto something when moving to new sites. The plains and other areas are actually quite bumpy and will rock the vehicles without notice. You will also be required to stay in the vehicles at all times while on safari. Great photographs will abound while on safari so one caution I would advise would be to be patient. Making incredible photographs will require some good luck, some good skills, but more importantly planning and patience. Consequently early on during our trip, we will determine what to take advantage of while on safari. We will forge important relationships with each other as well as with the very important tour guide from UniqueAdventures. One of your greatest assets while on this trip will be your patience to get what you want as photos, and not just snapshots of what is out there in front of your lens. Learning to work slowly, waiting and watching will be vital to your success. A certain familiarity with the area before you arrive will also greatly benefit your work. Get to know as much about Tanzania as you can. Read about the behavior as well as habits of the East African wildlife so you make photographs that are, to say the least, awesome. Journals. At many times in my life, I have kept journals while making pictures. Photography is but one language and so through the additional use of words, you might further your results. The journal can be both technical as well as personal and I usually find the outcome of this process to be very positive. As it relates to this experience, please consider this suggestion as another way to keep the photographs and experiences of this incredible trip alive.
Bring slides or prints for evening discussions/critiques There are locations in which we will have a chance to look at work and talk about what makes a picture successful. In some cases, we might have access to a slide projector, but this may be problematic because of the obvious reasons. As a suggestion, you might bring small prints for discussions. Please bring no more than 20 pieces. If you are more of risk taker, bring a few slides as well. Maybe we'll get lucky as a projector has been requested. The slides will look quite a bit better/different than prints as slide films have twice the dye content as do print films. Consequently, slides will always have more saturation than prints. These evening discussions are designed to improve your composition as well as knowledge about what constitutes effective photographs. some thoughts on defining
- utilize Light with character backlight, unusual color of, storms avoid shooting at high noon or in very contrasty light
- include Dramatic subjects and location - use Strong Composition and Framing
- Photographs that evoke emotion
- effective Use of Color
- effective Use of Patterns
- effective Use of foreground/background treatment
- effective Use of Appropriate Aperture & Shutter Speeds evening discussion groups
If you have questions, please feel free to
call me directly at RIT at 585-475-2775, or at home at 585-473-4413 or by e-mail at MRPPPH@RIT.EDU.
I look forward to the opportunity of meeting and working with you.Sincerely