We’re off to the Timbavati – This is what’s in my camera bag!

Gerry van der Walt All Authors Leave a Comment

Tomorrow the Wild Eye team, and all our better halves, heads out to the Timbavati Private Game Reserve.


It has been a long and very exciting year for us all and this trip acts as a special kind of a time for us all to reflect on everything that has happened, spend some quality time and chat about all the things that have not yet come to pass.  We are planning to spend some quiet time sharing thoughts and ideas.  Hopes and dreams.  


Umm. Yeah…


All of that as well as get out in the field to do some wildlife photography and more than likely have a drink or two.  


Or three? Wink


So, as I started packing all the important things for the trip I thought I would share with you guys what camera equipment I will be taking along on this trip and why.




The following kit kinda forms the core of what I would normally take on a photographic trip but I will always make changes depending on the destination we are heading to.  You see, a lot of photographers make the mistake of not considering the destination but it is a vital part of the photographic expedition process.  


In general the gear you take to East Africa will be different to the gear you will use in South Africa.  The topography, denseness of the vegetation, distance to subjects and other such factors all need to be considered to make sure you get the most out of your photographic experience.  


A lot of photographers will however not be in a position to choose equipment and will have to do with what they have but the thought process will still add value to your photographic preparations and how you are going to use the equipment you do have.  Or you can rent if it’s a big trip?


So, with that said and considering that I don’t have any weight restrictions on this trip, here is a breakdown of what I am taking with me to the Timbavati.


Nikon D3s


Nikon D3s Camera Body

Why am I taking it?

When shooting Nikon this is my weapon of choice.  It’s all about speed and sensivity.  The low light ability of this camera is legendary and when we find those Timbavati leopards at dusk I don’t want to worry about bumping up that ISO.  A fast FPS rate and great tracking makes this a fantastic camera for wildlife photography. 



Nikon D700



Nikon D700 with MB-D10 Battery Grip and Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8


Why am I taking it?

When travelling in Southern Africa, where the animals tends to be a lot closer to the vehicles, I feel that I don’t need the extra focal length that I can get from a DX camera like the D7000 or D300s so the D700 works very well as my backup body.  More often than not I have a wide angle fixed to this camera but I might chop and change depending on the sighting and environment.  


I also always have a MB-D10 battery grip fitted to the D700, and D300s when I am using it, as it sits better in my hands, I can shoot portraits without contorting myself and it ups the maximum frame rate from 5 FPS to around 8 FPS.  



Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8


Why am I taking it?

I am no landscape specialist but this is my wide angle of choice.  It is a beautiful lens, easy to use and just looks cool!  One of the things that I love playing with is evening sky images and star trails and this is the only lens I use when pointing my camera to the African skies.



Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR II



Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR II


Why am I taking it?

This is without a doubt my favorite focal length for wildlife photography.  It allows me to zoom in nice and tight on close subjects and for those that are further away I have the freedom to play around with different composition and that all at an aperture of f/4.  It is fast to focus, tracks well and I am very happy hand holding this one for long periods of time


If I were going to East Africa I might be tempted to stick a 1.4x converter on as well, which I did often in the Masai Mara earlier this year, but I am quite happy to use is as is for this trip.  I am very excited to try out the Canon version of this lens when it is released as it comes with not only a built in 1.4x converter but a helluva expectation to live up to.



Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II


Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II


Why am I taking it?

No matter where I go or what I shoot I always take this one along.  It is incredibly fast, versatile and, in my opinion, a lens that every wildlife photographer,  should have at the top of their list.



Hahnel Cable Remote Shutter Release



Hahnel Remote Cable Shutter Release


Why am I taking it?

This is accessory is always in my bag as it is small enough to not be an issue when it comes to weight or space.  When shooting the evening skies or other low light situations like images around the lodge or landscapes at dusk or dawn this does make a difference.  It is also a necessity when shooting start trails as you need the lock function to keep the shutter open in bulb mode.  There are some very fancy, high tech wireless versions available but for the amount of time I use it I just cannot validate the cost just yet.  Maybe soon.



Manfrotto 190XB


Manfrotto 190XB Tripod


Why am I taking it?

Considering the amount of landscape and low light shooting I normally do this tripod is small enough to take along easily and sturdy enough to deal with either of my camera bodies and the 14-24mm wide angle.  I am most definitely not planning on sticking the 200-400mm on here as that would be a very expensive disaster waiting to happen.  When I know I am going to be using heavy lens tripod combinations I will take a larger tripod with a Manfrotto gimbal head.  For this trip this is more than I need.  


That being said, and this trick has worked very nicely in the past, I can always use some gaffer tape to strap the legs together and it becomes a handy monopod substitute.  It is small and light enough to work and from experience I know I can use it with the 200-400mm should the need arise.  Hey, a little bit of stability has never hurt anyone.



Gura Gear 30L Kiboko Bag



Gura Gear 30L Kiboko Bag


Why am I taking it?

Since getting this bag from Andy Biggs more than a year ago I cannot imagined using any other bag.  To start off with it weights hardly anything and can fit everything you would ever want to take on a photographic trip.  Recently, on a trip to Kenya, I had two 600mm lenses and a whole bunch of accessories in this bag and it was a breeze to travel with.  As you can see, the bag had done it’s share of travelling and if has been through dust, mud, snow and rain.  


Ok, not snow yet but I am sure it will do fine.  I will test it in December next year when we head to Patagonia and let you know.


The zips are strong, the design is exactly like I would have designed it myself and overall it is without a doubt the best camera bag I know of.  Looking forward to getting my hands on the two new Gura Gear products soon.  if you are looking for a Christmas gift for yourself, head over to the Gura Gear website and order one now!  They are spectacular.


Nikon 600mm f/4 VR


Nikon 600mm f/4 VR


Why am I taking it?

This was not originally on the packing list but on the last minute I was told about some nesting falcons on route which, rumour has it, might start bringing their new youngsters down from the nest round about know.  I know it’s a long shot but since I am driving up and packing space is not an issue I thought I would stick it in the back of the car.  Just in case.


So there you go.


Sounds like a lot?  Not at all.  It is a pretty basic setup and it all fits very nicely into my Kiboko bag.



Gura Gear 30L Kiboko Bag

On the one side of the bag, which opens in a butterfly type fashion I have the Nikon D3s and 200-400mm combo.  In the accessory flap just above it i have a lot of ‘stuff’ ranging from the remote control and memory cards to a laser pointer and sunscreen.



Gura Gear 30L Kiboko Bag


On the other side of the bag I have the Nikon D700 with 14-24mm combo as well as the 70-200mm.  In the zips just above it I have some lens cleaning cloths and in the accessory flap above it, same as the previous image, I have the camera chargers, memory card reader and other bits and pieces.


Strap the tripod to the side of the bag and you have a handy little wildlife photography setup!



Gura Gear 30L Kiboko Bag


Other than all of this I will be taking my 13 inch Macbook Pro to download my images after every game drive and, time allowing, to work though and at the every least check through and mark the images I want to process when I get back.  Saves a lot of time and if you don’t do it you never catch up!


Oh yeah, one other thing I forgot to mention, but that you would have seen in the images, is that all our lenses have LensCoat covers fitted.  I highly recommend this as it keeps the lenses protected, it looks cool and apart from that their service is truly amazing.


Man, I am looking forward to getting out in the field again.  The nice thing about this weekend is that Andrew, Jono and myself can shoot for ourselves.  It is such an important thing to do, as a photographer, to take time and look for and create your own images and I believe a lot of us don’t do it often enough.  


Hopefully I will be able to share some exciting new images next week which, if we’re lucky, includes the new white lion cub that was recently born at Timbavati.  Holding thumbs for that one.


And then, once I have shared images and stories from our Timbavati photo weekend,  Andrew and I will be heading to the Chobe National Park next weekend.  But that, as they say, is a story for another day!  


If there is cellular signal in the Timbavati we’ll probably be posting a few tweets during the weekend so keep an eye out for that.  If not, I’ll see ya on the flip side!


Until next time.


Gerry van der Walt


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