Love at first (and last) light

That time I fell in love between two river beds….

The first reaction I get from most of the people I told my December holidays were spent visiting the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park (KTP for further reference) was “Where’s that?”.  My response for ease of reference was “Near Upington, on the border of Botswana and Namibia – that pointy sticking out bit.”  Still most would only recognise it slightly better.  The most common response I got as a follow up was “It’s hot there!” For good reason though.  Most South Africans my age are most likely to recognise Upington, from the daily weather reports our parents forced us to watch growing up, as one of the hottest places in the country almost through all the seasons.  Durban would be setting record highs at 36 degrees Celsius and Upington would be “Hold my beer” at 45 degrees. Upington, Lephalale and Skukuza would always be closer to the sun than the rest of South Africa.  So maybe visiting at the height of summer was madness.  But it was madness I had set in motion 3 years before and has to see through.

Continue reading…
Advertisements

So do you shoot Canon or Sony?

This is a story about how I got into a fight the other day.  Not a real fight in a grungy bar or someplace like that.  Or anything that involved fisticuffs or any real physical violence. An online fight on Instagram.  Well maybe an exchange of words really, not to say that things don’t get out of hand on social media pages sometimes.  I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a post with a Sony camera body and I think 3 different Canon lens mounted.  And one of the first comments on the post was to the effect of why, if Sony cameras are so good, do 90% of the posts show them with Canon lenses.

Now the question could obviously be interpreted as a genuine query on why this general observation would be so.  Or, and this was the more likely intention, it was a backhanded swipe at Sony using one of the common reasons people use not to buy the camera bodies – Canon and Nikon glass is considerably better.  If you haven’t noticed this already, camera nerds can be very very brand loyal.  To the point that they will pick fights with users of other brands in what can only be described as almost religious zeal. One of the first questions a camera nerd will ask is what brand are you shooting on.  Then they will tell you about what brand they are on and how it is better than your own.  Even I was guilty of that and some would argue this post talks to the same.

To an extent, with my limited use of my Sony camera and lens and the limited time Sony has been in country, I will concede that Canon and Nikon have the best range of lenses but Sony is indeed catching up.  Sony mirrorless mount lenses were limited in the past but the range is constantly being added to.  However, I have to admit that the good to great lenses come at quite astounding prices.  Sony recently announced a $12000 400mmF2.8 lens for wildlife photographers which is going to break the bank of many Sony users as soon as it lands.  If you look at the ratings on DXO mark for some of the GMaster lenses you will see that they actually are much better than their Canon and Nikon counterparts on the high megapixel count camera bodies.  My Sony 100-400mm Gmaster ranks a few points higher than the Canon 100-400mm MkII lens and almost as high as the 200-400mm Canon lens.  But the cost of the Sony is about 30% more than the Canon and what I have also been finding of late is that the availability is also an issue here on the Southern tip of Africa.

So for the compromise of the loss of a little (sometimes hardly noticeable) quality and saving a lot of money, a lot of Canon lenses get used in combination with the Sony bodies.  It just makes sense to use the best body you can get your hands on with the best lens you can get your hands on.  And Canon lenses in particular work really well with the Metabones adapters, losing very little autofocus speed and the quality of the lenses are for the most part close to what you would get with the native Sony lenses for stills (with the caveat that it may not be as great when shooting video).  Nikon lenses on the other hand don’t, or rather don’t have an adapter currently that performs the same as the Metabones does. So this is part of the reason that there are so many Canon lenses being used on the Sony bodies, and maybe not so many Nikon lenses.

The other part I have mentioned before.  For the R32 000 I paid for my Sony Alpha A7III, I would not be able to even get a Canon camera body that currently comes even halfway close.  The 6D MKII is full frame but slower on the frame rate and low light performance is worse than the 6D MKI so worse than the Sony and almost no comparison on the autofocus.  The 5DMKIV has a higher megapixel count but is closer to R60 000 all in and also is slower on the frame and autofocus is also perhaps not as well suited for action and fast moving objects.  So a lot of other Canon users are moving across to Sony and have a lot of glass that they bring with them.  Why not the same with Nikon?  Because Nikon has for a large part, kept up with the Sony bodies’ performance in the last few years and actually are better camera body makers than Sony so the need to change is not as great.  And without the added bonuses of being able to migrate expensive lenses across, I think fewer Nikon users may be tempted by the Sony camera bodies.  There are actually a number of stories of Canon users who got tired of waiting and switched to Nikon as well.

You are probably thinking that’s all well and good but Canon will probably catch up with their own Mirrorless Full Frame camera body soon.  And indeed, that’s exactly what some of the rumours are saying.  Canon and Nikon have both recently announced their intentions to build a new mirrorless full frame camera aimed at directly competing with Sony.  And I believe that they may well do it, except they are about 5 years behind already so it has to be a massive leap forward in terms of technology but would also require a massive mind shift on the part of the predominantly DSLR manufacturers.  And that is they will have to aim to cannabalise some of their own DSLR sales to slot the mirrorless full frames into the current line up.  Canon has been particularly bad at this though, deliberately down speccing cameras so that they do not compete with each other in recent years (perhaps the reason why the 6D MKII was a bit of a damp squib).  So I believe they know what needs to be done but whether they will do it is still debatable.

I think, for what its worth, Canon should perhaps try an alternate tack.  They know how to make lenses and how to make a lot of different lenses.  If I were Canon I would approach the guys at Sony and offer to make their lenses for them, with the correct mount to fit the Sony systems.  Like Tamron and Sigma currently do with their lenses.  Keep making the DSLRs because there are pros who will never switch off Canon so the market may be shrinking but could be there for a while.  And avoid the distraction of trying to out-compete Sony on the full frame mirrorless front and perhaps carve a new niche as lens suppliers.  But then again time could well prove me wrong and they could make a good show of it.  Maybe by this time next year we will know, I just got a case of the proverbial ants in the pants and could not wait that long to see if they came close. And as much as I love my Canon lenses, if I can shoot with them on the Sony body then why not?  So do I shoot Canon or Sony?  Both actually.  And DJI to boot.

Clear skies make for cold nights and a little bit of madness…

Winter came early in South Africa this year.  Or maybe the warmer winter last time around made us forget that it does actually get cold here in the southern tip of the continent. For 9 months of the year perhaps, we are a very out door oriented nation.  Actually no its 12 months of the year.  But for 9 months of the year the weather allows it and for 3 months of the year its questionable to say the least.  So when we decided to go camping in Clarens, in the foot hills of the Maloti mountains at the end of May we didn’t actually give a second thought to the weather and what being outside exposed to the elements would actually entail.  A boys weekend camping in the Golden Gate National Park and rafting down the Ash River sounded boss when we thought of it in January.  In the middle of summer.  When it was still warm and we could feel our fingers.

For me the decision was doubly easy.  The Golden Gate National Park is on the list of Sanparks operated national parks that I am busy ticking off in my 3 year challenge to visit all of them.  So it would be park number 10 of 21 and I would be half way through the challenge, half way through the time I have allowed myself.  A no brainer really.  I had been to the park previously so knew that more than anything it was about the landscapes that I would see as the animals are pretty scarce.  And not doing it alone would be a bonus for a change.  And the landscapes didn’t disappoint!

 

The foothills of the northern Maloti mountains, the same mountain range that extends into Lesotho, are quite stunning, with different shades of yellow and red and pink standing out.  The BrandWag (I think this translates to fireman) Buttress is probably the most striking and stands as a sentinel at the entrance to the Glen Reenen Rest Camp that we camped at.  The clear winter air gave my photos a beautiful crisp look in the late afternoon sun.  But it also meant the temperature remained crisp most of the day as well and once the sun set that crispness turned into coldness very quickly.

Ok maybe I exaggerate a little bit.  It was cold in the last week of May when we visited the national park.  But two weeks earlier the first major cold front of winter swept through the interior of South Africa and actually dropped snow in the mountains of the park.  Snow in the first week in May was probably early but luckily when we got there it was dry.  So it was cold yes, but it could have been much worse I think.  The first night (Friday night) was a bit of a shock to the system though.  We got there after dark and the weather seemed pleasant enough as we pitched the tent and set about making camp.  However as the night went on it became increasingly colder and colder.  The time passed though with great conversation around the campfire until it was time to tuck into the sleeping bag with an extra blanket.

IMG_3404 - Copy
My trusty red tent

The second night was better though, even though the temperature got low enough for frost to settle on the outside of the tent.  A large part of it was because the day was filled with adrenaline, white water rafting on the Ash River.  It is ironic that sometimes questioning your own mortality makes you feel the most alive. This is most probably the reason so many people jump off bridges and out of planes.  Only jumping off bridges and out of planes is drier and probably warmer.  The rafting started off dry enough, with a paddle on the out on the still water of the dam at the outlet of the Ash River.  But once we were over the dam wall it began to get interesting.  We were soaked by the first rapid. Then we had a little time to dry off just enough to feel warm again before being soaked by the next set of rapids.  By the time we got to half way we had all questioned our mortality as well as our sanity a few times I’m sure.

But eventually we got to a section of calmer river where the guide said people would normally swim in the summer.  When the water was warmer. And it wasn’t two days before the winter closed season began. We were soaked already though.  So how much colder could it be right?  I found out that it could have been near death colder.  I back flipped (or flopped actually) into the dark water of the Ash River and almost immediately regretted it.  My body almost immediately tensed up and I sank below the water in slow motion.  Like in the movies when anyone falls into the water, the world went semi-mute and the dappled light filtered through.  I felt I should not have been sinking so much, especially with a life jacket on.  I should have been floating.  But I kept falling backwards, shouting inside my own head.  Then suddenly I was up at the surface again, half shocked at what I had done and more than half frozen.  But fully alive and kicking! Like I said, somehow questioning your mortality makes you feel more alive sometimes!

Overall a great adventure, camping in freezing cold, rafting down through 7 rapids with a great bunch of guys, braaing, campfires and great conversation.  And a few terrific shots to boot! Number 10 of my Sanparks Challenge done, 11 more to go!

 

 

When nature calls!

I have always had the very bad habit of constantly procrastinating.  Mostly because I seem to have a very poor attention span.  Its not that I don’t want to do what I am supposed to do, but more that there’s always something new and exciting that needs to be explored or investigated, a new distraction that is waiting to happen.  John Legend sings about a favourite distraction; I think my favourite thing to be is distracted.  So growing up and growing old I have thought up many many plans, but have a tendency not to see them through.

A couple years ago however I began to adopt the Nike approach though.  Whenever I come up with a new idea I mull it over in my head for a little while and then eventually tell myself its time to just do it.  This blog is, in fact, a prime example of that because, as I have previously stated, I was meaning to do it for a while and eventually had to tell myself, Pranesh, enough, just get it started.  It works mostly, because I’m not one for meticulous planning either (add that to my growing list of vices).  I should be, as a process engineer.  But am I have just never been well enough organised to get myself organised. Continue reading “When nature calls!”