Short trip to the big five / Botswana part 2

Botswana Moreni Game Resort

From the Hwange national park in Zimbabwe, we flew via Victoria Waterfalls to Kasane in Botswana. We were lucky as our pilot made an extra round over the Victoria Waterfalls, which is a very impressive view, even though the water level is not very high in November. From Kasane, we flew to the Moreni Game Resort. Where we could visit the Wilderness Safaris camp Mombo the second camp on this trip. The welcome in the room was with lovely arranged coffee beans very warm.

Welcome in Mombo with a nice image on the bed made with coffee beans

First game drive in Botswana

As in Zimbabwe, we haven’t much time to enjoy the room as we started immediately to a game drive. The Okavango Delta is even more impressive than the Hwange national park in Zimbabwe. Not only due to the animal variety but also scenic. As we have been there shortly before the rainy season, we were lucky to see also nice cloud formations. In the image below we even had the hope that we are getting a thunderstorm and I hoped I would be able to shoot some flashes with the Live Composite mode. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Botswana landscape with rain clouds

Despite the scenic, we concentrate on the wildlife. After a short time, we met a lion family which killed a zebra shortly before. Unfortunately, we missed the hunt, but anyway it was interesting to observe the family hierarchies and the behaviour of the animals.

male lion with cups enjoying a zebra meal
Lion zebra lunch

The family also had offspring who nibbled at the zebra rather clumsily and tried to secure a piece. We spent an hour here and the time flew by. Can’t imagine anything more exciting than observing nature. Some of my friends asked if it was disgusting, but being in the wild and seeing animals in their natural habitat is more than normal. On the contrary, it was exciting to watch.

small lion cup, try to eat zebra the first time

Birds in Botswana

After we had seen enough we went on a search to find more wildlife. As said, we were in Botswana at the beginning of the rainy season and therefore there was almost no water in the Okavango Delta. The few remains of water were very popular not only with water dwellers but of course also with their predators, the kingfishers. One of my favourite animals in Africa. So far I only know the European kingfisher. In Africa, however, I learned to love the kingfisher genus as such and in the places where the fish are trapped in a puddle, it was of course very easy to find this species of animal and could observe its behaviour very well.

kingfisher sitting at the water
Pied Kingfisher

The bird biodiversity in the Okavango delta is phenomenal and a perfect area to use one of my favourite Olympus OM-D functions. Pro Capture is very helpful to capture the exact moment when birds take off. One of the most beautiful birds species is in my eyes, beside the kingfishers, the bee-eaters.

starting bee eater
bee-eater take off
starting bee eater

Short trip to the big five / Zimbabwe part 1

Zimbabwe Hwange national park

When you like to take images a safari to Africa is an interesting challenge, even though you are not specialised in wildlife photography. When you are additionally invited by Wilderness Safaris is this an opportunity, which you should not let slip away. Therefore I flew in autumn 2017 to Africa for a short trip to the big five and visit Zimbabwe and Botswana. The trip went from Hamburg via Frankfurt and Johannesburg to the Victoria waterfalls. Arrived there we were welcomed by Wilderness Safaris.

Airplane to fly into the bush Cessna C208
propeller machine for 12 passengers

From the Viktoria waterfalls, we flew with a small propeller machine Cessna C208 from Wilderness Air into the bush. Compared to the huge jets you get a more direct flying experience. But not only the flying experience compare to the huge jets is different but also the available space. This means, that the total weight of your luggage should not exceed 8 kg. In case you have photo equipment with you this is a challenge. Fortunately, the Micro Four Thirds cameras from Olympus are small and light. Directly after arrival, we started to a so-called game drive. This means driving with an offroad car to explore landscape and wildlife.

Sunset with African trees
sunset in Africa

Hwange national park

Our first destination was Linkwasha in the Hwange national park Zimbabwe. Besides breathtaking wildlife, this location has also breathtaking landscapes. Shortly after touch down, if I remember correctly it was less than 10 minutes, we saw the first elephants. Proceed to a so-called pan to observe several elephants herds while drinking. An unforgettable experience, especially as the light was different to what we are used to in Europe.

Elephant herd in Zimbabwe
Elephant herd on the way to a water hole

When you are in camp, the daily routine is full of game drives. As the animals are not very active in the noon sun, you start the day before sunrise, to observe the animal activities in the early cool morning hours. During noon you make a siesta and two hours before sunset you start again with a game drive. Besides the game drive, I enjoyed most being away from the busy world, as neither telephone nor mail or other modern communication possibilities is available in the bush.

Almbach Gorge the natural territory for the E-M1 Mark III and the 8-25mm lens?

Bild der Kugelmühle der Almbachtalklamm

In my article “My experience with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4.0 PRO” I showed you already the 8-25mm lens and how flexible you can utilise it. In my holidays I have been in the Alps and visited the Almbachklamm nearby Berchtesgaden. I planned to use the E-M1 Mark III only with one lens. As the Almbach Gorge (Almbackklamm) is very narrow I decided to go with the 8-25mm F4 lens.

Almbach Gorge the natural territory for the E-M1 Mark III and the 8-25mm lens?

The Almbach Gorge

The Gorge is not far away from Berchtesgaden and close to the B305 in the direction of Salzburg. It belongs to the little village Marktschellenberg. At the entrance is the last working pebble mill, which is still producing marble balls with water power (title image). The gorge is 3km long and ends with the Theresienklause, a dam which was utilised to transport wood through it. The way back is again through the gorge or via the Etterberg and the church of pilgrimage “Maria Heimsuchung”. We left the gorge at half of the way and went directly to the Ettenberg. In case you would like to know more about the route you will find it here.

The gorge, the natural territory for the E-M1 Mark III and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4 PRO lens

As mentioned earlier the E-M1 Mark III and the 8-25mm lens is the perfect combination for such a trip. The gorge is at least up to the half very narrow and a wide-angle lens is needed. In addition, there are a lot of motifs, which are a bit farer away. Means that the zoom area of the lens will be completely used. Right at the beginning, there is a small ravine. You can reach via a little bridge and therefore a nice easy motif.

Almbach Gorge waterfall
8mm F11, 1,6 sec
Almbach Gorge waterfall
22mm F11, 1,6 sec

The images already show how useful the zoom range of the lens is. It shows how it can be utilised to create your image. Also the E-M1 Mark III is the fitting camera for such a hike. With the built-in LiveND filter you can make long time exposures. A physical ND filter is not needed. Thanks to the image stabilization you can realize these images without a tripod. You. can leave it at home and save weight.

Almbach Gorge waterfall
25mm, F13, 2 sec

Many claims that zoom lenses are only used in their extreme focal lengths. In this case 8mm or 25mm. However, this hike showed something else. I also used the focal lengths between the extremes, depending on how the composition of the picture required it. The picture of the church, for example, was made with 18mm. The picture of the watercourse was taken with 14mm.

Conclusion

As already indicated in the headline, the decision to take the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4 PRO with me on the hike was, in retrospect, exactly the right one. The lens covered exactly what was needed with the focal length range. But the E-M1 Mark III was also able to show its strengths to the full. In particular, the image stabilization in combination with the built-in LiveND filters was very helpful in realizing images that would normally only have been possible with a tripod and physical filters. So I only had one camera with one lens with me. I could leave the tripod and ND filter at home. This saved a lot of weight, which would otherwise have burdened me on the hike.

More information also at “My experience with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4.0 PRO”

Utilise Tough TG-6 as GPS Tracker

Only a view system camera, like the Olympus E-M1X for example, do have a built-in GPS. Those cameras can either write the position directly into the EXIF data or record your route. In case you don’t have a system camera with built-in GPS there are several possibilities to record GPS data and write them into EXIF or record your route.
The easiest is for sure the smartphone together with the appropriate App, like OI.track from Olympus. The disadvantage is that a smartphone doesn’t survive the whole day in case you have GPS activated. As I anyhow own a TG-6, which has also a built-in GPS, as a second camera, I’m using it as a GPS tracker.

Advantages

In opposite to the smartphone, the TG-6 can be used over several days without recharging in case you only use GPS recording. Also, you could be sure, that your smartphone is used for other things. As with the smartphone, you can send GPS data to your camera and save them as EXIF data into your image.

Preparations

First, you should connect your TG to your smartphone. As soon as you have done it the time in the TG-6 will be synchronised with the time of your smartphone. When you do the same with your OM-D the time of all three devices are synchronised. This is especially important in case you would like to save the GPS data into your image EXIF data. Base on time the camera decides which GPS data is written to the fitting image.
Also, I recommend installing A-GPS data into your TG-6, then the TG-6 can find the GPS signal when you switch it on. How to do this I described in my article “….”

How to

The TG-6 (by the way the same switch is available on TG Tracker as well) has a switch to activate GPS constantly, even if the camera is switched off. In case you are using older TG cameras, you can activate GPS constantly on the menu. Once you have activated your GPS you only have to have the camera with you.

Screenshot of OI.track
Select those tracks, which you would like to use, and wipe to the left.
Screenshot of OI.track
Select more.
Screenshot of OI.track
Select “share” to send track per mail or to your computer.

As soon as you finished you can download with WiFi the GPS recording with OI.share to your smartphone. OI.share is available for free on Apple App Store or Google Play. From the App, you can send them via mail or store it on your computer (in case you are using Apple devices the easiest way is AirDrop). Or you send it to your OM-D camera to save the position data in the EXIF data of each image.

Use GPS data

GPS data can be saved in different formats. The data of TG-& are .log files, which are not usable for all programs. Therefore in some cases, you have to convert them. For example, in case you would like to save it on Google maps. You can do that on the free website GPS Visualizer.

Screenshot of GPS Visualisier

Select “Convert to GPX” and upload your TG file to the website to convert it. In case you have recorded several files, you have the possibility to select all of them. Those files will be converted into one file. Here one example on Google maps.

Google map showing the recording of my vacation in the baltic states

Speed up GPS signal recognition

In opposite to cellphones, cameras have to rely on the GPS signal for localization. The connection to satellites can take longer and therefore it could happen that the location information is not available when you take the image. That’s why the E-M1X supports the so Called assisted GPS (A-GPS). A-GPS saves the rough satellite position of the region in the camera. This helps the camera to find the satellite position and can locate the camera easier and faster.

Download A-GPS data

Olympus offers software for your home PC/Mac which is called “Olympus A-GPS Utility”, but I prefer to use it on my mobile OI.track as this allows me to download and transfer the A-GPS data at any time. OI.track is available on the Play Store or App Store, depending on whether you are using Android or iOS mobile phones. You can download and install the A-GPS data as flows.

How to improve GPS signal speed

Screenshot OI.track to find settings

1 Start OI.track and open settings by clicking the gear wheel in the upper right corner.

Screenshot to download A-GPS data to speed up GPS signal

2 In the settings you find the button “Update GPS Assets Data”.

Screenshot of OI.track for downloading A-GPS data

3 A dialog opens to start the download…

Screenshot to transfer A-GPS data to a camera

4 As soon as the data. is downloaded, start WiFi on your camera. When your camera is recognized by OI.track the software asks you whether you would like to use the newly downloaded A-GPS data. Please accept by pressing “Transfer”.

Screenshot OI.Track

5 As soon as the A-GPS data is uploaded to the camera you have to restart your camera once. Afterward, you are ready to use them…