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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2009-11-09

In The Bag: Challenges of Packing for a Safari in East Africa
By Gavin Werbeloff

Photo by Gavin Werbeloff

Photo by Gavin Werbeloff

Think Tank Photo Airport Int'l Roller
A two week long safari in East Africa presents unique challenges when it comes to gear selection and packing. On one hand, no other setting on earth screams out for long lenses quite like a safari. On the other, the bush planes that are needed to get to remote locations where the game are, have very strict weight limits. Add to that, weather conditions that are not particularly hospitable to electronics and photo gear, and things get interesting.

African bush planes have limits of 34-pounds of checked baggage per person and a single long lens and associated protective bag/case can take up as much as 60% of this. Luckily, most camps have laundry facilities, which allows you to pare down the amount of clothing you pack, and allocate more weight to equipment. Improvisation is still necessary sometimes though.

For my trip, I used a small carry-on sized duffel bag for my clothing and monopod, which was checked. For everything else, I used a Think Tank Photo Airport International roller and a North Face On Sight backpack. While many choose to use beanbags to support long lenses on safari, I chose to take a monopod instead. Unless you know exactly what vehicles you will be shooting from, a monopod is a good backup to have. If your feet are on a solid base, your camera will be too. A monopod also allows you to get the camera higher than you otherwise would be able to, which helps get around many issues with heat distortion coming off the savannah.

I've been a big fan of the North Face Surge backpack for a long time as a general laptop backpack, and the new On Sight brings some added features to the table. Chief among these are water resistant neoprene padding and a waterproof zipper system on the laptop compartment, as well having two zippers on the laptop compartment, which allows it to be locked. In addition, I brought along a couple very small Pelican Cases for cell phone, passport, iPod and portable hard drive. Sometimes it was necessary to remove as much weight from the roller as possible in order to get in under weight limits. For this reason, I brought some LensCoat neoprene camera pouches, to protect the camera bodies when they were moved into the backpack.

Card ingests were done daily. Using Photo Mechanic, cards were simultaneously downloaded to both the laptop and a shock-mounted external drive, and cards were wiped, only as space was needed. Selects were then copied to a Delkin 32Gb SSD. That left at least 2 copies of each image, and 3 copies of selects.

It was a great trip that produced some incredible images, and using this gear selection and methodology, all my gear and images came back in excellent condition.

Photo by Gavin Werbeloff

Photo by Gavin Werbeloff
My gear list:
Think Tank Airport International Roller:
Nikon D300
Nikon D200
Nikon 17-55 f/2.8
Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 AF-S
Nikon 200-400 f/4
Nikon 50mm f/1.8
Chargers and Filters
Enercell 150W Power Inverter with USB port and spare cigarette plug.
Kensington International Multiplug
AA rechargeable batteries with Charger
Old Oakley Sunglass bags as spare wipes.
North Face On Sight Backpack
15-Inch Apple MacBook Pro with charger, airline power plug and Apple international plugs
Think Tank Photo Pixel Pocket Rockets
Pelican 1020 case with Passport, Blackberry and iPod Touch
Pelican 1050 with LaCie Rugged FW800 HD, Lexar FW800 UDMA Card Reader and cables.
Garmin eTrex Legend H
Shure SE310 Headphones
USB Cables and Chargers.
Leatherman Multitool
Mini Maglite
Lens Wipes


(Gavin Werbeloff is based in Los Angeles, CA. You can see his work at his SportsShooter.com member page: http://www.sportsshooter.com/gavinw)

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Look first; See first; Think first: so many things to do at once! keep shooting ::..