«With Thom Hogan and Tony Medici August 6 to 18, 2016 (plus optional extensions to August 21/22) Wilderness Travel • 1102 Ninth Street • Berkeley, ...»
With Thom Hogan and Tony Medici
August 6 to 18, 2016
(plus optional extensions to August 21/22)
Wilderness Travel • 1102 Ninth Street • Berkeley, CA 94710 • 800-368-2794
Photography in Botswana
Our destinations on this mostly tent-based photography workshop and safari are all wildlife-related.
We’re here to learn about and photograph the African animals, with lions and elephants being the
most abundant things everyone wants photos of, but also everything from monitor lizards to cheetah will be out there for us to find and shoot.
This trip is designed, guided and taught by photographer Thom Hogan and his teaching partner Anthony Medici. We start at a small lodge just outside Maun, where we’ll have presentations and some short one-on-one time with everyone making sure that they are handling their cameras and focus techniques correctly. During the first “day” (late afternoon, after dinner, next morning) our goal is to get you ready for the challenges that happen with wildlife photography. We’ll help you understand how to keep a stable platform, when and when not to use converters, how to select focus (and optimize it), how to best expose when the animals can be light or dark colored, and much more.
We’ll also get you thinking about how to capture the African environment in your photos; after all, if all you want is a close up photo of an exotic animal, you could just go to your local zoo.
While there are no prerequisites for this trip, we think that it will be of most interest to photographers who are already comfortable with their basic equipment and wish to get specialized education in wildlife photography. That said, we welcome students at all skill levels on either trip, and with a low 6:1 student to teacher ratio, everyone should get plenty of personal time with the instructors.
After completing our brief orientation and getting individual feedback on our techniques, we’ll head immediately into the Okavango Delta and begin our primary pursuit: multiple daily wildlife safari sessions in a variety of terrains and seeking a wide variety of animals. Most of our trip will feature accommodations in a very comfortable tent camp that we move with us as we sample the Botswana parks.
Because Botswana is so flat, so large, and for much of the year so hot, the river flowing into it never makes it to the sea. Instead, it pans out into a delta that eventually peters out into a desert. This unique environment is even more exciting because the delta’s “floods” are seasonal, so the land itself is changing constantly. This forces the animals to move within the area as the water levels change.
Botswana protected much of the land we’ll be traveling through with National Parks, so we’ll be entering an ecosystem that is relatively healthy, and, while not the site of the huge masses of animals you sometimes see in the Masai Mara or Serengeti, it is still home to very large groups of the African mammals you came to see and photograph, most notably elephants.
If you haven’t looked at Frans Lantings’ book, Okavango, it’s worthwhile to take a look at it to get an idea for what to expect. Frans captured the uniqueness of Botswana in a way that few have managed since, while traveling to many of the same places we will. Botswana may be one of the most scenic “flat” countries in the world, and the animal population is healthy, easily found, and very diverse. Likewise, you can look at the blogs from two of my previous workshops in Botswana, which
you’ll find on these two Web pages:
http://www.bythom.com/botswanaworkshop.htm • http://www.bythom.com/botswanaworkshop2.htm • (As you might note from the dates, Thom tends to revisit an area with a workshop only once every three or four years. So if you’re interested in coming to Botswana with Thom, don’t delay on reserving your spot for this trip.) Your primary goal on this tour should be to experience a wild and remote place, and to photograph wild animals of all kinds on an intensely personal level. A key secondary goal that will be emphasized in the short workshop portion that begins the trip is to improve your photographic ability when faced with challenging scenery and elusive animals. You’ll certainly come back from this trip with shots of exotic places and wild animals that you’ll want to show off to your friends and colleagues.
Spouses are quite welcome on this trip, however it should be noted that this trip is not a casual, relaxing vacation at five-star resorts with pools and room service. Spouses should expect to participate in multiple daily game drives that are focused on finding, observing, and photographing animals in their natural settings. A photography group like ours can and will detour from time to time, spending long periods of time at one location when conditions are right. The vehicles we use on safari can and do get quite dusty at times, and there will be days when the only way to get that dust off is with a quick trip to the shower in your tent (yes, your tent has a bucket-based shower). Still, the sensory rewards are high, and we try to make the living arrangements as comfortable and friendly as you’ll ever find in such a remote place.
Botswana covers a large area and access is mostly via poorly maintained unpaved roads. Actually, some of the roads seem like nothing other than long mounds of sand placed between ubiquitous bushes. You need to be capable of handling as much as six hours a day of travel on winding, bumpy, dusty roads. Fortunately, there’s usually something just outside the window that will divert your attention. We have a maximum of three photographers (plus half the time one instructor) per vehicle on this trip, so everyone should have plenty of space for their equipment and to shoot in any direction when necessary.
Wilderness Travel of Berkeley, CA has worked closely with Thom on more than a dozen highly successful international photographic workshops. They will once again coordinate all of the necessary local logistics for this Safari including, but not limited to, provision of vehicles, mobile camps, meal service, guides and crews, as well as help each passenger with their pre-trip questions, reservations and payments. The limited spots on this workshop, however, will not be made available to Wilderness Travel’s general interest clientele, but are reserved exclusively for photographers from Thom Hogan’s mailing list and website.
Detailed Itinerary We strongly encourage you to arrive a day or two early in Africa to rest up from the long flight from the US and enjoy at least one extra relaxing afternoon and evening in Johannesburg, South Africa, or perhaps Maun, Botswana. This not only allows you to start the workshop and tour rested, but also gives you a buffer in case you have flight delays. Optional tours of other nearby exotic African destinations can be arranged for the period prior to the start of the trip, plus we have two special options that you can tack onto the end of the trip for more time in unique places with our photography instructors. In general, you’ll spend a great deal of time and money just getting to and from Africa, so it often pays to piggyback other destinations onto a trip like this.
Leave the US no later than the afternoon of August 5th as your flight needs to arrive by 7:00am in Johannesburg on August 6th. If your flight arrives in Johannesburg after 7:00am, you should plan to leave the US on August 4th and spend a night in Johannesburg.
Day 1 (Aug 6) At Tree Lodge, Maun Upon arrival in Maun just after lunch, we are met by one of our local guides and transferred to Tree Lodge, where our trip leaders will meet you. Tree Lodge is a game farm and lodge where we’ll hold our short skills workshop. We have our orientation and first skill meeting in the mid afternoon followed by a welcome dinner the first evening. There will also be short lectures and demonstrations by our Photographic Leader, Thom Hogan, and his teaching partner, Anthony Medici. This continues early the next morning. Overnight at Tree Lodge...D Day 2 (Aug 7) Drive to Moremi Camp By mid-morning we’ll have loaded up the vehicles and head off to the wilds, with our first destination the Moremi reserve. Moremi is an excellent bird-photography and wild-animal area, as there are abundant, permanent water pools in this area that have good vehicle access. No promises, but in past trips we’ve seen all the cats (lion, leopard, cheetah) in Moremi, as well as incredible abundance of other animals.
We’ll have a picnic lunch as we enter the park, then immediately start “safari mode” for the rest of the afternoon. By the time we reach camp around sunset, you’ll have enjoyed plenty of animal encounters and arrive to your tent, which is already set up and with an inviting warm shower ready for you. Overnight in our comfortable mobile tent camp...BLD Our Mobile Tent Camp offers relaxing solitude and an authentic bush atmosphere that no safari lodge or permanent tented camp can offer. The camp crew, complete with chef and waiters, goes ahead in a very large 4x4 supply truck and sets up the camp at each new site before our arrival, then takes camp down after we leave, always working towards minimal impact on the fragile environment. We sleep in high-roofed canvas tents (two to a tent), approximately 10 by 14 feet, furnished with beds, duvets, pillows, and a small bedside table. At each tent's rear door are a separate warm-water shower and toilet area, and at the front is a small veranda with two wooden chairs, a small table, and a washbasin.
Solar-charged, battery-powered lights provide illumination inside at night. The entire tent is covered by an extended rainfly to provide protection from sun and rain. Laundry service is available at most locations (except for women’s undergarments, due to cultural reasons). Our camp is fully catered, with three-course meals, including wine and soft drinks, freshly prepared daily by our camp chef. We have plenty of AC power available to us, as each vehicle is supported with multiple inverters and a power strip; we also typically bring a generator with us on these trips, though we prefer to minimize its use for environmental reasons. Thom often brings a small solar panel setup with him for his own personal battery charging needs, and leaves it set up while he’s out shooting during the day.
Note: Our first two nights in Moremi we should have open dark skies in camp after sunset. This will allow us to explore shooting star trails or the Milky Way in the evening just after dinner. Generally this is one of the few uses we’d make of a wide angle lens on this trip.
Day 3 and 4 (August 8 and 9) Moremi Camp We spend two more full days exploring the Moremi and Xakanaxa area. With four vehicles, we tend to spread out at the beginning of each drive, maximizing our chances of finding where the most interesting animal activity is. We leave camp each morning just before sunrise and after a light breakfast, and then spend most of the morning on a safari drive, typically with a mid-morning “tea break.” We arrive back at camp for lunch, and then have an hour or two around camp before we head back out after an afternoon tea break at 3pm. We then stay out until the park closes (6:30pm). By the time we get back to camp it is usually getting dark. Overnight in our comfortable mobile tent camp...BLD Day 5 (Aug 10) Boat Trip to Camp Okavango After a short final game drive in Moremi, we’ll load onto two boats for a trip into and up the Okavango Delta itself.
Our destination is an area around Nxaragha Island, in particular a permanent tent camp with a main lodge: Camp Okavango. Instead of using Land Cruisers to explore, today we start using boats and walks to find some of the more unique species of the area. You never quite know what you’ll find in the weaving river channels, but crocodiles, monitor lizards, and lots of bird species are a given.
Sometimes we find elephants and hippos in the channel, and it’s quite possible you might see something more exotic than that. Along the way, we’ll stop at a heron rookery, too.
After we get to Camp O (as the locals call it) we will likely get into makorros (canoe) and take a quiet ride through the reeds, which gives you yet another view of the delta. Overnight at Camp Okavango, a permanent luxury tent camp with a main lodge...BLD Day 6 (Aug 11) Camp Okavango Once at Camp O, we’re in the middle of the many channels and lagoons that comprise the actual delta area, which provide us a chance to see a different mix of animals and a very unique African environment. We’ll have another full day of exploration by boat and foot in and around the area. Yes, on foot. We’ll take the group to one of the nearby islands and take a walk to explore the area from the ground. Overnight at Camp Okavango...BLD Day 7 (Aug 12) Fly to Savute After breakfast we’ll hop on private charter planes and fly from Camp O’s airstrip over the delta to Savute, part of the Chobe National park. While the flight is not long (less than an hour), we’ll be relatively low to the ground, enough so that we sometimes see lines of elephants or other herds in the delta. The flight will also give you more perspective on just how flat Botswana is, and how the delta just meanders through that environment. You’ll also get to see the change from the wetter portion of the delta to a much driver, more Serengeti-type open portion of the parks.
We’ll be met at the air strip by our Land Cruisers and drivers and immediately embark on a short safari drive as we work our way back to camp. We’ll lunch at camp, which will have magically reappeared in Savute, and then resume our usual mobile camp schedule (e.g. afternoon safari drive after 3pm). Overnight in our comfortable mobile tent camp...BLD Days 8-9 (Aug 13-14) Savuti We continue our exploration of this part of the Delta with multiple daily excursions in our Land Cruisers. In the past few years, the Savuti channel once again filled with water, which forced the animals to adapt to a new environment for the first time in decades. But in 2015 the channel dried out towards the end of winter. The moving water has made the area a prime target for great wildlife shooting, as territories are being carved out and fought over constantly.