As a beginner bird photographer, I have still to refine the packing and carrying of the equipment. Suffice to say I could have left many items in the camp chalet as being totally unnecessary while on the road. Identification of birds can be done over a cold beer at sunset; there’s no need to drag a 3kg reference book along your bag so that you can search fruitlessly for the right sort of lark while everyone else is enjoying watching it in the tree. This was the first time I was using the Nikon D500 with Nikkor 200-500mm lens, weighing in at around 4kg. With the added length of the lens hood, I needed a fair amount of clearance space around me and this was not easy in the close confines of the Quantum. Even more so with two only slightly smaller cameras vying for the best shot! At least I was in good company. The rule is: no sticking the lens out through the window – this frightens the birds away, although we came across many 4x4s parked at waterholes with vast gantry contraptions attached to the outside of the door to support almost astronomical telescopes. The occupant would sit there for hours, immobile but without the hassle of having to hold the camera at the ready, waiting for the perfect award-winning shot. I snapped away randomly, hoping for an acceptable result!
It was much easier to photograph the wildlife than the birds, which tended to be flighty and far away, but the large lens didn’t enable me to take a photo of the lion lying at the side of the road, and so I had to have a second, smaller camera at the ready, my much-loved Nikon P900 – about the most fun you can have with a camera. You only become aware of the machine gun sound of multiple-frame shooting when sitting under a tree where a bird is perched and everyone in the vehicle is barely whispering for fear of disturbing it. (It is even worse in the echoing confines of a bird hide.)
(To be continued)