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Old July 8th, 2011, 12:14 PM   #16
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Re: African Congo Trip

Thanks, Les, for your sage advice. I will definitely go slow in acquiring sound equipment. Lots more research and learning ahead for me.

As for practice, I'll be in the Dominican Republic for ten days at the beginning of August, and that's where I'll start learning to use the camera (sans sound equipment) in trek conditions. I wholeheartedly agree about the children. Even in the DR, they flock to the camera. I didn't pose the kids in this shot. I wanted to catch them shooting hoops, but they just assumed the position when they saw my DSLR. (A reflector might have helped with a couple of the faces.)

Three different themes will govern our shooting in Chad. My friend's mother, who was the village matriarch, died two years ago, and it is time for him to lead the villagers in releasing her soul to the spirits. People will come from neighboring villages; cattle and goats will be slaughtered and roasted; there will be music and dancing; and the village elders will perform the rituals. Theme two will involve the ongoing school building project, which my friend is financing. Theme three is the most conceptually fuzzy at the moment. My friend just published a memoir of his transition from a Kindiri villager through Jesuit schooling in N"Djamena to university in France to successful American businessman. We want to capture some visuals that reflect what he has written. This will require a lot of extempraneous input from him. And we'll probably end up with three "documentaries" rather than one.

And I haven't even started to think about learning video editing. People advise that it's essential to know a fair amount before I start shooting, and that makes a lot of sense to me. Anyway, as they say, "one thing at a time."

Forgot to add that I have 78mm B&W circular polarizer and UV filters from my D200. I hope to find a step-down adapter to be able to use them on the TM900. Haven't started looking yet.
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Last edited by George Taylor; July 8th, 2011 at 12:28 PM. Reason: Additional comment
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Old February 9th, 2012, 04:42 PM   #17
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Re: African Congo Trip

I have returned from my eight-week trip to Chad, and I wanted to post some of my initial thoughts and reports. (I have already posted this at the Panasonic TM900K thread, but thought they would be useful here.) And, as mentioned below, I will follow up with some shots and further details. (The reference to Carol is to some of her comments on the TM900K thread.)

Well, as with Carol, I'm happy to report I'm back from my eight weeks in Africa (Chad). In due course, I'll write about my experiences in the Home Away From Home thread. But i want to report that I had tremendous success with the TM900 (at least I think so; I hope the more professional amongst you might critique after I can post some visual results).

Here's a rundown of the equipment I used and some of my first impressions:
- TM900 w/one each extra 130 and 260 batteries and sundry 120V/240V and 12V chargers
- Raynox .66 wide angle adapter (I am sooooooo glad I invested in this!)
- 72mm B&W polarizer from my D200 that fit the Raynox
- Azden SGM2X mic w/Stormblack windsocks, 2ft and 30ft. Audiotek cables, and CAVision fiberglass collapsible boom pole
- JuicedLink CX211 2 XLR audio adapter
- CamCaddie with accessories (priceless for kids and other low-level shots)
- 12 32GB class 6 and class 10 SDHC cards (Patriot, Lexar, and Transcend)
- 126 LED light
- HP DM1z Netbook loaded w/Panny software and USB DVD writer w/25 blank DVDs
- Manfrotto /Bogen 394 tripod w/Integrated Video/Photo head
- Kata 3N1-22 Sling Backpack w/tripod holder accessory

My friends who have seen the raw footage played from the camcorder directly to my 60” Samsung HDTV are awestruck by the clarity, brightness, and crispness of the images. I shot everything in 1080/60P, almost all of it using IA with AIS on, except when using the tripod. Like Carol, I found it too cumbersome and error-prone to try making manual adjustments on the fly.

And I’m not sure if they would have improved my images. Most of my shooting was in a village during the daytime, and the IA worked fine. I don’t see over-exposure in those shots, although, I will definitely welcome some more expert opinion in due course. I also found the exposure adjusted very quickly when I moved into different light situations.

Aside from the indelible memories of the beauty and kindness of the people of the village, the things that stick most in my mind are the shots I missed – either because my camcorder was not at hand or because of mistakes made in the heat of the moment. Examples – boy driving two oxen pulling a sled at a gallop across a setting sun (I was peeing when I realized what I was missing), twelve kids of varying heights passing by with a long, woven rattan fence hoisted over their heads looking for all the world like a human caterpillar (camcorder was in my room 100 yards away), and many more. For a while, I agonized over those missed shots; now that I’ve seen what I did get, I’m more philosophical about losing them. You can’t win ‘em all!

I used the tripod only twice, but it was worth the effort. We interviewed the three village teachers about the trials and tribulations of teaching six grades in an open air environment. Also, I took a five-minute shot of the setting sun – at or near the equator, it goes down very fast and actually disappears in the haze before it hits the horizon. I read the discussions on this thread about focusing directly into the sun, but at that low level, the intensity did not harm the image nor, I hope, the sensors.

The professionals among you will cringe when I report that I didn’t back up my cards to my netb0ook, as was my plan. It wasn’t for want of trying. The first upload did not work, and I got “recovering data” and other scary messages during the attempt. So I decided to wait and not tempt fate in the field where I had no good advice to follow. I came back with 10 full 32 GB cards and no backup. However, my netbook was a great source of entertainment for the villagers because I had loaded a bunch of African jazz and pop music as well as videos, and someone produced a couple of DVDs taken at the village a few years previously.

I will report more later on my success (or lack thereof) with the external mic and other gear. Also, I’ll upload some images –even if they are only still shots – as soon as I figure out how to do it.

My profound thanks to everyone on this thread who directly or indirectly provided invaluable advice in the months before my trip.

Finally, to Carol – I certainly understand what you must have felt and probably are still feeling emotionally about Africa and especially the people. This was my return to Africa after a 40 year absence, and it confirmed to me that I hadn’t just suffered some sort of immature emotional reaction when I left the first time those many years ago. I always knew I had to go back, and I’m confident you will return also. I don’t know who wrote it – I read it a long time ago, and I like to think it was Hemingway – but someone said no one can leave Africa without having been profoundly affected by it.

Aside from all that, Africa is a photographer’s dreamscape.
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Old November 11th, 2012, 08:32 AM   #18
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Re: African Congo Trip

First thing I would do is go to a camping store, and get wet bags and store all your equipment inside these bags. You can get clear bags, so you can see whats inside. Take your gear with you and make sure the bags fit. You can get good bags for less than $20. This is a lot cheaper than the $900 repair bill from Canon.
Been There Done That. Also I put dehumidifiers inside the bags, wet will kill you. Well not you but your cameras and stuff.

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