Choosing the right Camera – Travel & Wildlife

Doing a bit of travel blogging and promoting tourism quickly taught me to go prepared. I always stand amazed at how quickly an opportunity arises, albeit rather unexpected. Perhaps, the old adage rings true: ALWAYS EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

There is a place called Dyer Island more or less two thirds of the way between Cape Town and the southernmost tip of Africa, Agulhas, where Indian and Atlantic oceans do meet. Dyer Island is where Jacques Cousteau used to spend much time, researching sharks, from his vessel Nautilus. I happened to have spent a fair share of my fifty-odd years in that neck of the woods and personally know some of the shark ticklers. I also know two of the first ever shark spotters. On April 9, 2017, the unthinkable happened in the least expected of places – St James, Cape Town. Twice on that Sunday afternoon did we see a shark breach the surface between 600-800m offshore. Don’t ask me for photo’s as I only had a little compact with me, not capable of capturing such action instantly at that range.

Some time ago, I had stalked fallow deer and came quite close to them, same as gnu (wildebeest.) As I visited a dusty region, I did not want to switch lenses at all, lest there would be dust ingress. A DSLR camera isn’t designed to transport the land you are treading upon. Fitted with a Canon EF 18-55mm lens, I was hopelessly under equipped for my task. Video of the fallow deer reminds of twelve mice jumping a fence.

If you are a frequent traveler in Africa or similar environments, best advice is to invest in a decent camera which is sealed, by design and manufacture, against weather and the environment. Extensive research brought me to a great solution in the form of Canon’s EOS 80D combined with a Canon 28-300mm L EF IS lens, offering weather and environment sealing, same as the camera. It allows for close-up shots as well as reaching far enough to capture most of the wildlife. Of course, a teleconverter aka lens doubler can be added, with a Polaroid filter to complete the package. This setup will afford the photographer a perfect solution for at least 95% of the time, with much of the remainder an agreeable compromise. Using a decent tripod is strongly recommended for super zoom shots and cinematography.

Said 80D also is an excellent video camera, at entry professional level for the cinematographer. Being weather sealed and of greater performance, it beats its nearest competition by a fair margin. It can also shoot up to around 960 still images on one battery charge, Its only downside is its use of an APS-C sensor, not a full frame. Then again, it has NFC & WiFi, making it ideal as it can also be controlled via a smartphone or tablet.

There is a much cheaper solution, as this bundle can easily set you back around R60k. A Canon Powershot SX60 will cost around R6k and offer super zoom of 18-1265mm, offering fantastic wide angle capability while that faraway little springbok can be turned into eyebiltong with ease, yet there is a catch! Also weather sealed and therefore won’t melt if a few raindrops comes in contact with it.

You get what you pay for – compact cameras sport small sensor chips, same as smartphones. Trouble starts the moment that you venture beyond Instagram and want to print, especially for publishing purposes. You will soon find that no camera can even come close to the quality a good DSLR offers.

My lay advice would be to buy the camera body that suits your needs the best, but invest in the best glass that you can buy. Canon’s L-series lenses are known to be especially crisp and effective even in low light conditions. They have an alternative to the 28-300mm, the 100-400mm which has a wider scope at zoom but then you will need to live with a more restricted short end.

Non-branded lenses may be okay but they lose some functionality in live mode.

Finally, I own a Canon Powershot A810 compact, basically a toy, yet it packs a lot of punch. It is utterly reliable and almost unbelievably tough, in that it had fallen twice now and was soaked by the frisky waves of the Atlantic ocean. I bought it used at R450 (about USD35) and fitted my own Sandisk 16GB SD card. It even takes reasonable video at FHD resolution.

Happy clicking!

Pack No Ego

He has soft blue eye and he is just over five feet tall, cannot

weigh more than fifty kilo’s. And he is threatening me and everybody

else. His lawyer apparently must be a direct descendant of Ivan the

Impaler. He mentions a lady’s name, repeatedly. Sue! And he must be a

gray little accountant as he keeps adding up the millions that Ivan the

Impaler and Sue will bring him from our empty pockets. I guess he is

also a concert director, by the way he waves his finger before my eyes.

Maybe he isn’t aware that, in my country, acts of intimidation are equal

to assault, both being criminal. His luggage must be heavy as he had

brought one helluva ego with him. At least twenty times the size of his

rather flimsy physique. Knowing Ivan the Impaler and Sue makes him

strong. Very strong.

“Eeen my kahntree, veee vill Sue zee for menny meelions, zee?” Zim

dollars, I hope!

Oh, the typical air of superiority of his tribe shines through. A

conundrum. Be friendly towards tourists, we also need their Euro’s. But

should we always be content to bear with the abuse we get from them,

even on the streets of our Mother City?

Our train is a few hours behind schedule. Guests flock together in the

Lounge Car and the Club Car. They play card games, have entertaining

conversations, enjoy a few drinks. This in the Club Car smoke a few

cigarettes with their whiskey. One lady guests encounters me in the

passage, her eyes glowing with delight. “This is the #GoodValueTrain”,

she says enthusiastically, “we can travel so much longer for the same

money.” So many others don’t even complain. They are mature enough to

know that airliners, ships, buses and cars get delayed, expecting it to

be no different with trains. A family member is an airline pilot: he had

to land his jet in Johannesburg the other day; passengers were on their

way to Durban. A little nasty detail in weather patterns caused a

deviation. Landing a few hundred miles off-target saved lives.

RSR (Rail safety Regulator) imposed several speed restrictions after

recent floods. Railroads were completely under water in some places. We

all know that the restrictions are not always necessary, but rather safe

than sorry, eh? I can agree to that! Don’t you gamble with MY life,

because I don’t. The train crawls across Africa at a third of its usual

speed. We see more game, more detail and also new things, because we now

travel in daylight through places we usually experience at night. We

see two eagles, in different places. Two steenbok, two ribbok, a few

kudu, eland, herds of springbok, ostriches. So many that I lose count.

The staff work more than an extra day’s shift, preparing two more meals

for 76 guests. Only once did one lose her usual smile, I think she

needed a hug. Someone threatened the already overworked lady with Ivan

the Impaler and Sue. The Bonnie & Clyde duo makes for scary thoughts.

Our elegant waitress regains her composure, fits a new smile and

soldiers on. I find a lot of heat in the kitchen. They are peeling

fresh veggies, while cooking up a storm. An extra lunch for 76 plus

staff, must be a hundred mouths to feed. Then another unscheduled dinner.

The little man with the huge ego has intimidated enough guests for one

day. He finally reaches the Train Manager, just by chance. He never

thought of going to the right person, the very friendly, efficient Train

Manager in the first place! No, he had to threaten almost every guest

on the train with his duo of quasi-medieval torturers. Terror! Imagine

being swathed to death by a Law Book and then bankrupted posthumously.

Train Manager, staff, drivers up front – none are to blame for any

delays, yet they have to take the flak coming from a little

Messerschmidt train fighter. Ever so diplomatically, faster road

transport is arranged, the EGO gets off-loaded (if it will fit into a

1-seater van….) and we continue our journey, munching away at the most

tender braised beef with a brown sauce, savoury rice and a choc-mint

creme brulee.

Their is peace in the palace as we enjoy the beautiful pastel coloured

mountains, as the sun is setting in the west, where we are heading. We

all just enjoy the increased travel time and the pleasure that comes

with it.

Maybe just one bloke was too small to peek outside and see the beauty. Or did his ego obstruct his pleasurable view?


Cape Town on a Shoestring

Not all locals or visitors are affluent enough to afford luxury tours, yet you can see the very best even on a  shoestring budget. My wife and I usually do this every three months or so, here is my latest review.

Please do visit but also share, as so many miss out on this when they visit South Africa.

My blog review of the #Southernline



Practical Travel Tips – ShosholozaMeyl

Here are a few really practical tips for travel on South Africa’s tourist class Shosholoza Meyl trains. We are seasoned travelers and share our experiences with you.
Prasa operates two long distance trains:

  • Premier Classe, a luxurious travel experience
  • ShosholozaMeyl, a tourist class train

These travel on rails owned by another company, power comes from yet another. Sometimes, there are delays caused by power failures or speed restrictions. Also, freight services are given preference and this is not the fault of Prasa who operate passenger trains only.  It is no different from aircraft delayed for hours because of operational variables. Please be considerate, take this into account.  Also see the media statement from the Minister of Transport.

An Italian friend, Giulia Raciti, is a seasoned traveler and tour guide who hasn’t seen home for seven years. She has experienced public transport – buses, aeroplanes, ships and trains – in numerous countries. She views a train delay of three hours as international average. 

Go with the flow. Don’t pack the go. Sit back, relax, you will get there. 

Read more here




ShosholozaMeyl in Nieuwekloof Pass

#GoodFoodTrain 4 #RailLove

As requested in the Facebook Trans-Karoo Group, here is a list of some of my first wobbly steps in rail travel blogging. During 2017, this will be revisited and improved and I will also take better pictures next time.

This friendly couple consented to having their picture taken

Hors D’oeuvre on Premier Classe

Nieuwekloof Pass between Gouda and Tulbach, Western Cape, South Africa

The famous Three Sisters just north of Beaufort West

For more, please link to these pages:

Excellent service from Prasa


A Premier Classe Journey

Premier Classe Makes Business Sense

Romance on Rails

German Invasion of Simon’s Town! (via Metrorail)

Rail Travel South Africa Photo Albums

#DSLR Learning to Shoot

So I borrowed the Canon 700D from my friend again. Here are a few photos taken as follows:

  • Flowers photographed with nifty fifty lens at close-up setting or Tv 1/10 ISO 100
  • All other shots with 75-300 kit lens, Tv 1/160 ISO 100

The ship in the photo is the Gulden Leeuw from Kampen, Nederland.  This Dutch vessel was built in 1937 and arrived in CapeTown a few days ago. I was lucky seeing it enter the harbour and coming alongside to her mooring right in front of the beautiful Table Bay Hotel.

Gulden Leeuw with the Cape Wheel in the backdrop

The golden lion mascot

Oscar the Seal in front of Table Bay Hotel

VW Beetle still in high demand locally. Ancient stuff!

Eurocopter coming in to land

Sugarbush protea. Notice the bees.

White rose with a darling pose


ShosholozaMeyl train – South Africa. Canon 700D 18-55mm on automatic settings.

PremierClasse Train also 700D on auto, 18-55mm lens

Comments are welcome, constructive criticism on each and every photo is invited, provided your level of proficiency warrants that. 

General comments are also welcome, of course! I love showing you around my world.

Oh, this is me at work. Photo taken with a US$45 Android phone.