It is about the Camera! – Dispatch from Africa with the Canon EOS 1DX and Canon 200-400 Zoom
For me it's never been about the camera, really. I've gone from 4 x 5 to medium-format, then on to 35mm film, and finally digital. Each camera system has had advantages and challenges. But it all comes back to image – finding the light, making a great composition, then waiting for the moment.
However, the truth is today with modern digital cameras, it is about the camera!
My recent experience in Africa with Canon's flagship Canon EOS 1DX paired with the new 200-400 telephoto zoom has changed the way I shoot. The camera body is from B&H photo and the lens was rented from LensProToGo.com. I put the equipment through some rigorous situations and found the lens to be tack sharp and the camera focuses quickly and accurately, easily the best camera-lens combination I've ever used in my 30 year career.
The leopard was spotted at 7:05 am, only about 15 minutes out from Savuti Camp in Botswana, along a channel located between the Chobe River and the Okavango Desert. Frame #1 was the safety shot, a bullseye composition as she came down off a termite mound.
Over the course of the next 4 hours, I would shoot 1285 frames as we followed her as she hunted impala. She became know to everyone in our group as "Cindy Crawford" because she was a Super Model, climbing two trees, three termite mounds, and walked past the perfect reflecting pool. At one point we even waited for over 2 hours until she came down from resting in a tree. Only photographers are this patient...
With affordable 32 GB flash cards and 2TB hard drives, the number of images is only limited by your imagination. I'm always ready for action, so I set the camera in Apertue Priority, AI Servo focus, and high burst mode, which is 10 frames per second. Anticipating the moment, I shoot in short bursts to give myself the choice of the best frame.
The new Canon 200-400 telephoto zoom allows for far more freedom and improved compositions. Being able to zoom in with a flick of a switch to 560 mm using the built-in 1.4x teleconverter has changed everything. No longer do you have to disconnect the lens from the camera in the field to attach the teleconverter, saving valuable time in critical moments and also helps minimize sensor dust. Then, when the animals approach, you can flip back to 1x and zoom out to 200mm.
Having a disciplined workflow is important for staying organized while on the go. Back in camp, I download images immediately into two external hard drives, one which is the backup vault, the other my working catalog. I do a quick edit deleting obvious mistakes and near-frames. In fact, I delete a relatively high percentage of the images in the working catalog using Photo Mechanic, before importing into a Lightroom for processing.
The truth be told, in today's digital world, it really is about the camera. With high-end DSLRs, I no longer worry about image quality or noise at high ISOs and think nothing about cranking it to 1600 or beyond to get the shot. And with high frame-rate shooting, I'm confident that I'll capture the action. Sure, shooting over a thousand images over 4 hours means I've got some editing to do, but I'm much happier deleting images knowing I've nailed the shot.