For many years I had wanted to visit Sri Lanka – the alluring prospect of a mixture of birds and mammals (Elephants, Leopard & Sloth Bear) make this small island nation off the southeast coast of India a potentially ideal destination for a wildlife photographer and so during February off to Sri Lanka we went.
As non-lovers of very long flights we decided not to fly direct to Sri Lanka from the UK but to take the more relaxing (and suprisingly somewhat cheaper) option of flying via the middle east more specifically via Dubai on Emirates where we would break the outbound journey for a few days.
Just over 2 years ago one of the major motivations for me to move my photography to m43 was the far smaller size and lighter weight of the kit in particular the lenses and for trips like this that is really important. Like many airlines Emirates have a weight limit on cabin baggage of just 7kg – for a wildlife photographer this is a real challenge particularly if you want to have an all-round kit for more typical travel photography and of course do not want to put your kit in the hands of the baggage handlers !
For the Sri Lanka part of the trip, which would be largely wildlife based, the photography opportunities would either be vehicle/safari based for a combination of mammals and birds or walking based largely for birds.
For bird photography, as always, there is no substitute for focal length, rarely can you get too close to birds particularly small passerines. So with this in mind I would be taking my Olympus 300mm f/4 (600mm FF equiv) and the 1.4x and 2x convertors, I would use this lens on the body I have that it is best matched with to give the best possible image stabilisation namely the Olympus OM-D EM1 mkII.
For vehicle/safari mammal focussed photography I know from experience that the need can be somewhat different. It goes without saying thaht mammals tend to be somewhat larger than birds and it also sometimes that case that you end up much closer to them whilst on safari than you might expect. Given this for this type of photography there is no better option than a telephoto zoom lens, typically in the 100-400mm (FF equiv) range. To fullfill this need I decided to take my Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 (80-300mm FF equiv) zoom lens.
An important consideration of vehicle based safari photography is that it tends to be quite dusty and bumpy this coupled with the need to quickly switch from a very long focal length to a much shorter focal length or vice versa (mammals in particular have a habit of popping up just when you least expect it) means that switching lenses is not a sensible strategy, rather it is much better to have a second body with an alternate lens already mounted. With this in mind I will use the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 on my Lumix G9, nb: there is no image stabilisation penalty with this Oly/Lumix combination since the 4-150mm f/2.8 is not an image stabilised lens.
In terms of more general travel photography I plan to use my PanaLeica 12-60mm f/2.8-4 and where a wider view is required, for example in Dubai, my PanaLeica 8-18mm f/2.8-4.
So my core kit with 2 bodies and focal lengths from 8mm to 600mm (18mm to 1,200mm FF equiv) looked like this:
Olympus OM-D EM1 mkII – 586g
Panasonic Lumix G9 – 666g
Olympus 300mm f/4 – 1,525g
Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 – 1,040g
PanaLeica 12-60mm f/2.8-4 – 381g
PanaLeica 8-18mm f/2.8-4 – 407g
Olympus MC14 1.4x converter – 151g
Olympus MC20 2.0x converter – 196g
Spare batteries Olympus x2 – 162g
Spare battery Lumix x1 – 77g
Battery Charger Olympus – 57g
Battery Charger Lumix – 56g
Peak Design Strap – 117g
Black Rapid Strap – 121g
Pec Pads Lens Cloths – 29g
Lens Cleaning Fluid – 74g
Rocket Blower – 81g
1TB solid state hard drive and card reader – 104g
Giving a total weight of 5,830g
All of this I carry in a lightweight Manfrotto Pro Light Red Bee 110 backpack which itself weighs 1,060g (this is a very lightweight backpack).
Thus giving a total of 6,890g just below the 7,000g carry-on limit.
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