Because You Didn't Have Enough Yet
Like always when you have done something for the first time you have a number of things that you'd do differently if you were to do it all over again. With a distance of two weeks since my return from the trip, I have some thoughts about the trip:
It really matters what
outfit you go with. Our tour was run by
Thomson Safaris, and as the
shopping experience with Graham shows, these people have a pretty good name in
the business. We had a first hand experience how it can be when you are
squished into a truck, and how little you'll see. Definitely make sure that
you're not more than 2-3 people per car, and that it's a stretch vehicle like
Pick the right season.
This is something very subjective, and has nothing to do with what the
outfitter has any control over. Some people like it dry and sunny, others like
it green and wet. I am in the latter camp:
enjoy two weeks in Scotland's drizzle, or
three weeks in Scandinavia. Others may
like it free of bugs, nice and dry. Whatever rocks your boat - just do your
research and don't whine afterwards when it turns out dusty. If you make
planning decisions and choose a season that's less good for you only so that
it doesn't conflict with your job, think about if you like your job really
that much, or if you'll even still have it when you're scheduled to go. No
bitterness or anything.
The accommodations were in
my opinion great. This comes from a perspective of someone who likes to camp,
who can go for 2-3 weeks without a shower and not complaining much. Still, the
so-called tents that Thomson set up were more like a hotel suite than your REI
tent pitched in Yellowstone. It all depends on your expectations. If you need
a hair dryer every morning and a fine Espresso every afternoon then this may
not be for you. I know people who would hate the millipede in their "tent",
but for me this worked great.
Same applies to the food.
The fact that I skipped some meals had to do with my hatred of cheese and with
the fact that some foods simply disagree with me; I didn't want to take my
chances with foods that would be tricky even at home where I have the choice
of bathroom. You won't be ordering a la carte every day, but once again,
remember we were camping! Did I mention the soups were awesome, every day?
Speaking of food: when you
just lost some weight before heading on vacation, and especially if you're
expecting to lose some more weight there, for Pete's sake bring a belt.
When you go on a trip and
know that you will be taking photography seriously, not to mention that it
will be the main purpose of the trip, make sure you know the ins and outs of
your equipment. Two of the three cameras that I took with me were borrowed
(1D2N and 5D). I have used the 1D2N quite extensively before my departure -
several thousand shots went through it, and I had no surprises / problems with
it. The 5D just came along for the ride, only to turn out to be the 2nd most
used camera (leaving the 1D2N a distant 3rd). I don't want to push blame
squarely on the camera, even though the sensor banding has nothing to do with
experience; and the metering is fundamentally different from the 1Ds2, which
resulted in hundreds of irrecoverably overexposed images. Had I
used it extensively before the trip I would have probably known that and would
have addressed it in some fashion.
Similarly, if you are
shooting in an unfamiliar environment, take the time in the evening to review
your images. We were so tired that I never got to do that; as a result I found
out on my flight back home that I've been doing the same bad thing over and
over again, and ruined a large set of images as a result. This can happen even
when you are shooting with gear that you know, simply because you are shooting
completely different things in a different environment.
If "they" give you a
packing list, pack half of what it says. If divisible by three, pack a third.
Stephen did it the right way, and I almost did - but when I was looking at my
big, empty bag full of everything that I thought I'll need I thought: "well,
maybe there's a reason why they want you to take 2x as many shirts" etc.
Don't. The airplane can handle it, and so does the camp staff. But when you
are looking for the one thing that you know you packed in double quantity,
chances are you won't find it because it's lost in the pile of stuff you
brought with you.
Bring lots of ziploc bags
and "normal" thin plastic bags (like trash bags). It's great to keep things
apart, and I don't just mean smelly socks away from your toothbrush.
Don't rely on other people
bringing stuff. The scene repeated itself every evening in the camera tent: do
you have a free outlet? If you will occupy four outlets for your four
chargers, bring a power strip with at least four ports; preferably more, as
then you can be the hero who provides extra outlets. Since you kept your bag
free of useless garbage, you now have the space for a power strip. If you need
X amount of flash memory, bring at least twice as much. If you want to
download your memory cards to some other form of storage, make sure you
actually have the storage with you. Don't rely on someone else's laptop, card
reader, charger, or memory card. Chances are they forgot / lost / fried theirs
just as you did. And don't forget the proper power plug adapter: do your
homework and find out what shape of plug is common at your destination.
There's nothing more fun than bringing a Euro plug adaptor to a country that
uses English plugs.
Don't discuss politics or
religion with your travel group buddies. Chances are you can have a lot of fun
when you stay off these topics, but things can get quickly sour otherwise. Not
a good thing since you'll be in pretty close quarters for quite some time. But
of course you knew that, just didn't act on it.