Yas Marina... The Race for the 2016 Championship
23 - 27 November 2016
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - ABU DHABI: Twenty races in 2016 and yet here we are at the last race of the season and the drivers title to be asigned. The Drama that is about to consume can be felt also this Thursday as the teams are in the box an the two Mercedes contendents unseen in the paddock... My memories of this motorsport go back in time to Suzuka 1990 to find the same pathos... it was the rivalery between the two McLaren pilots Ayrton Senna And Alain Prost at the first to last race of the season that year. A magic moment that defined my passion for formula one.
QUALIFYING SESSIONS @ YAS MARINA: With the Constructor championship assinged for the third year in a row to Mercedes, the Yas Marina, is the theater for the final clash between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton! Qualifying laps under the torrid sun ended with Lewis Hamilton in first place with 1'38"755, confirming the won Pole Positions title in the season, followed by Nico Rosberg, leader of the drivers championship board with just 12 points ahead Pole man and Daniel Ricciardo on Red Bull 0.8 secs from first. Followed by the two Scuderia Ferrai pilots Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel and the revelation of the year Max Verstappen on Red Bull.
"LET US RACE": With Hamilton in first positon on the grid and 55 laps to go, the math was in the mind of every fromula one fan. Rosberg had to either overtake the team mate or arrive second. The rest did not count. Ahdead of start both pilots were extreamly tens. The Race started and as the sunset was hitting the marina Hamilton left the rest behind until the pit stops were all almost done and Rorsberg had overtaken with certain precaution Verstappen then Hamilton started to slow down and Vettel homed in on Rosberg in the closing laps. Mercedes on the radio: “Lewis this is an instruction, we need 45.1 for the win.” But Hamilton replied: “I suggest you just let us race.” In one of the must rare occasions we heard Mercedes executive director (technical) Paddy Lowe: "Lewis, this is Paddy. We need you to pick up the pace to win this race." Hamilton replied: "I'm in the lead right now. I'm quite comfortable where I am." That was it, the drama was on, in the head of the leader of the race. Corner after corner we see them giving their best to be first sunday after sunday. We occasionally get to know what comes accros their minds while they are living their lifes at full speed. Hamilton words a few moments after were a glimpse in the most memorable race of 2016:“Right now I’m losing the world championship, whether I win or lose this race.” A few minutes after Hamilton won the Race and lost the Championship to his team mate Nico Rosberg. Vettel arrived third.
NICO ROSBERG retired 5 days after.
GEAR EXPERIENCE: A D4s and the D5 from Nikon where in my bag to attend the grand prix, toghether with a 24-70, a 70-200mm, a 80-400m and a 1.7x converter. The most used lens was the 70-200. Panning shots were a fun challenge. Ultrasharp pictures above 2000th of a sec. Light was almost never a problem wiht the circuit illuminated like day time.
SPECIAL THANKS: To Andrea and the Brembo racing team.
Waiting for the bay to ice... (MANITOBA - CANADA)
3 - 12 November 2016
CANADA - Last frontier: Flying north from Churchill for about 1 hour, from the window of the plane we could see that the bay had not frozen yet. There were only a few white paches over the brownish horizon next to the coast, however it was a good start... The plane had not even landed at Seal River lodge from Churchill Wild that at the beginning of the runway there was a young bear about 3 years old right next to Andy, sentior guide, and Mike, owner, waiting for us and another great white adventure. Just inside the freshley renewed and more spacious living room built last winter, Jeanne, ready with some tea and bisquits was waiting for us and the others to arrive. The veiw over the bay from the extra wide windows was just incredible while the tide was going out. It just felt like being back at home. It was great to be back. The five days with Mike, Andy, Derek and the staff simply flew as bears and a young timber wolf passed near by the lodge. Temperatures during the stay at Seal river were between -10 and plus 5 degrees Celtius, considerably worm despite the season... During our great walks along the cost line, over frozen lakes and the tundra young bears and Bob showed up, active but not super avtive given the warm weather... Afert visiting, I,II,III Bearpoint, on multiple occasions it was time to say good by to Bob.
Ian and I had a quick stop in Churchill before Flying South over the Wapusk National Park to the delta of the Nelson and the Heyes rivesr befor heading east along the coast to Nanuk lodge. A special place that sits between the edge of the coniferus forest and the shore of the Churchill bay. At Nanuk had also just landed Eglea and Soren, two good friends with we sheared the March adventure earlier that same year. Being there in March with over 2 meters of snow and in November wihtout any white patches of snow was a different experience; white bears were much easier to spot as they were all on the shore line waiting for the bay to froze and ready to go hunting for some seals. Clearly they were hungry but I never seen so many bears all toghethere. One afternoon on the runway there were 14 bears, as I counted them that same afternoon I cried remembering how hard it was to look for bears last march. That same evening a pack of wolfs showed up and hunted a moose inland a long a minor river, we only found the next morning the carcass because as we aproched the site the wolfs were far gone. Moving around Nanuk is much easier thanks to the rino and the 4x4 that allow to cover greater distances and walks with all the gear are relatively shorter... Before leaving the last evening I had the famous carrot cake, I wish I had taken some home.
GEAR EXPERIENCE: A D4s and the D5 from Nikon where in my backpack for this trip toghether with a 24-70mm, a 70-200mm, a 2-400m and the 600mm , this last one was again the most used lens as we aproched bears within 20 to 50 meters. Taking a pictures of a white bear is a challenge but do not forget to bring a tripod and a wimberly to save you some fatigue while waiting for the bears to move. White balance was not a great issue as the snow was not around yet.
SPECIAL THANKS: To Ian and Albert that one morning coragously scared back a young curious bear infront of the lodge gate while I was busy taking pictures right on the runway.
SPECIAL REMARKS: On December 6, the day the bay froze in 2016, Mike and Jeanne with Churchill wild staff won the:
BREWSTER TRAVEL CANADA ADVENTURE/OUTDOORS AWARD AT CANADIAN TOURISM AWARDS
Congratulations and thank you for making all this possible.
Chimps and Gorillas: the heart of Africa
24 June - 2 July 2016
UGANDA: With our imunization for the yellow fever done we landed on the north shore of the lake Victoria, Entebbe airport, were we cleared our East Africa Visa (100 USD) and had a night stay before flying to Kibale national park to meet the Chimpanzees in the Kingdom of Toro. The park is located in between harvested hills, forests, tee plantations and will be soon reachable by a new "dusty" road currently build by chinese. With an altitude that varies and can reach nearly 1600 mt above sea level has an extention of 795 square kilometers and is home to about 1500 Chimpanzees, the largest population in Uganda along with 13 other species of primates that live in the area. From what we could see vegetation varies from rain forest, to dry forest with nice and realtively easy paths to walk on in some areas.
Two days for a great experience with the Chimpanzees: After lunch, witht the excitment of the first day, as a "Muzungu", a waite man, wondering around without many expectations and all gear loaded, which included gathers against mud and red ants, and garden gloves) we met our guide and changed a tire at the gate before we enter the park from one of the southern roads for about 4 km before start walking... That day and the next we were allowed to meet only one family of chimps of about 124 individuals, out of the 7 groups in the park. Two other groups in the area are assigned to researchers and are turist off limits. After a relatively short walk we met on the ground, resting, two adult males, Totti and his buddy.Our one our permit had just started when shortly after the Chimps started to patrol the area, calling others and "banging" the bottom of the trees, in serach of food until they found a fig tree with mature fruits and started calling. A small group of about 15 individuals shortly after joined them for the sopper and our first brief but intense photo oportunity. During the quest for food it was nice to see their behaivour wich included also using branches to clear the path rotating them "to scare some other people", run towards turists, tuch them, and occasionally mark the territory all done on an easy walk for them and rushing walk for as between the bushes. That evening we left them eating on top of the trees...
The next day, with the "habituation chimp permit” We access the park at about 6:45 and the Chimps were still in their nests…fifty to sixty mt above our heads.. the sun was already up but the day was cloudy and not super warm, 24 degrees, so except for the runner up male “Totti” sleeping on a log on the floor there was not much of activity until mid day when eventually with the sun high and warmer temperatures they came down of the threes. The dominant male is quiet old so the runner up is patrolling the territory, rather than staying on the trees most of the time he is the one resting at ground level and moving from one side to the other of the home range. We could say that the Tourist protagonist is him. we walked nearly 13 km mostly on trails that day, up and down, the territory of the park we visit was dry forest and a bit of wet forest in the valleys for most of the day. I soon relized thath the best photographic opportunities are when they are on the ground next to a path or a nice log and I would also add that in the afternoon when the day is warm and they leave the top of the threes for some shade.
During the first day Totti used a branch from left to right to defend or scare us but on the day trek he probably got our sent and walked next to me comfortably close more than twice, then made his calls and used a tree as drum to call the other several times with a sound I wish I had recorded but will be in my memories for ever. At one point I was so tired that I took a powernap bracing my camera on the same log where Totti was sleeping, woke up and he was just looking... at me... Babies and subadults are super shy and nearly impossible to see on the ground. Around 4:30/5 in the afternoon we saw some chimps going to the top of the trees to nest and that was it for the day.
I strongly recommend at least 2 visits for a full experience...Chimps when active are much more challenging to photograph with low light conditions… their cruising speed can be fast and you might just keep seening their back, it’s a true compromise between ISO, shutter speed … and depth of field.
The day after we flew from Kasese to Kisoro airfield to cross the Rwuanda - Uganda border on foot and reach the Virunga mountains at about 2000 mt above sea level.
RWANDA: Arriving at Gorilla Mountain view was a total trauma with a rat crossing the hall and the discovery that it was overbooked for 3 out of the 5 nights that we were supposed to stay, a hopeless manager was nothing but sorry and totally usless, as the rooms asigned to us were under reconstruction. We then visit two more lodges in the area befeore Thousand hills, the local tour operator proposed Virunga Volcanoes, at about one our from the park entrance, but same altitude and with a beautifull view over theVirunga volcanoes and two lakes were sunrise and sunset are just fabulose.
Travelling with my parents whom start to be "silverbacks", was a reason of concern into each an every treck that we did. However I am glad we did this amazing walks toghether into the rain forest on tracks, off tracks, up and down hills, volcanoes and into bamboo forest before seen the gorillas. Stinging plants, red ants are "part of the show" and a breif painfull memory once you reach your goal. The calm, the natural gestures of the Gorillas is incredible, the curiosity of the babies and the playfullens of the sub adults is somthing that tuched us deeply. Each and every encounter with the Gorillas was different and special. The 2 hours treck with Francois to look for Sabynyo group and their silverback Guhonda lead us into Congo but it was unique experience as the Gorills recognized hima and interacted with their old friend and Ambassador.
KIGALI is in clear contrast with the life out of town and in the rural areas, the differnet income per capita is visible and with its own existence eplains part of what happend back in 1994. A visit to the civil war/genocide memorial is a sad moment of truth that should be taken to rememeber and to walk into a brighter future.
GEAR EXPERIENCE: A D4s and the D5 from Nikon where in my backpack for this trip toghether with a 24-70mm, a 70-200mm, a 2-400m and the 600mm , this last one was unnecesary almost all the trip and probably could have been left at home. Taking a picture of a black subject most of the time in the shade with white patches on them when the sun filtered from the trees was all but easy. Patience and lots of try and error on the way made the 24-70 and the 70-200mm lenses the most used ones thanks to their brightness and becasue no monopods and tripods are allowed on sightings. A bit of EV compensation suggested by Ian over the phone :) with a fix ISO, polarizer and more patience did the rest.
SPECIAL THANKS: To Francois whom dedicated his life to the conervation of Gorillas and keeps guiding turist like us to increse the concervaiton awarness of Gorillas. To the treckers, the guides and the porters that helped us and will help you at each and every need. We thank them for the passion they put into their job, the conserveation spirit of the area and the respect they have for the Gorillas. To my parents and Nicoletta for have shared this experience toghether. To Ian for arranging the trip and Mwanzi that we met the last evening in Kigali, he is a man with great culture and a good sense of spirit. He and Thousand hills solved the accomodation issues with outstanding professionality. Thank you!
USEFUL LINKS:http://www.kibaleforestnationalpark.com/ http://www.volcanoesnationalparkrwanda.com/
Nikon D5 test at Racconigi Lipu White Stork Oasis
10 April 2016
The long awaited D5 finally arrived the first week of April and the eager to test it was so much that we decided to drive to the Racconigi White Stork Oasis about 45 minutes north of Turin.
RACCONIGI WHITE STORK LIPU OASIS was funded in 1985 for the conservation of Ducks, White Storks and other birds at extinsion risk. In 1995 a wetland area was added so that today you can find 2 sections, one mostly a wet area to the left from the entrance with several observation cabins and one the right that can be devided in 3 areas, a smaller wet observation area with 2 more observation cabins, a couple of educational ponds and a third and last section that contains the nursery and a few cages for the protection and reabilitation of birds that suffered injuries. The visit can be easily done in two hours unless of particular sightings. Week ends are particularly crowded as faimlies take the children for a visit. The spring temperature and a slightly chilly wind allowed a confortable permanence in the observation cabins.
GEAR EXPERIENCE: For a pure sake of comparison we took the D4s and the D5. The new Nikon features such as the AF with a 1.4x multiplier on F4 lenses were simply great. The camera despite the 150+ focusing points, lacks the microfocusing feature that the Canon top of the range have, non the less the 3D and the 9 focusing point clearly improved with the birds moving and branches on the way. On a continuous shooting mode the extra frame is very much welcome as it is also the continuous view while shooting. The D4s had a black fraction betewwen one shot and the other that the new camera does not :) . The extra Fn button on the body vs D4 gives further flexibility in personal settings that today was not necessary, but will become handy on safari. The 20mb pictures are a great plus from the previous 16mb of the D4s and allows also great hands free pictures without the micromovement that might happen with the D800 36mb. Looking forward to test the camera on lowlight and high ISO.
Finally, be prepared to update your lightroom to 6.5 version on the Cloud version of it and Photoshop as the last and final update of the Camara Raw for Photoshop does not support the NEF files from the D5 without a longer process that to honest is a pain when you have to work on more than 1 pciture.
SPECIAL THANKS: To Nital and Massimo from Photo19 (Brescia) for the super fast delivery and the experience sharing.
Winter @ Nanuk Lodge (Manitoba - Canada)
29 February - 12 March 2016
The quest for the Polar Beras "Mums and Cubs" started with a supersticious move, a flight a day earlier, to Winnipeg that ended up beeing crucial to "Gear Up" for the below freezing temperatures along the coast of the Hudson Bay. The Canada Goose Jacket, pants and the Buffin -100°C boots were hard to find as spring was approaching but were certainly essential as the welcoming temperature the day after on the Hudson Bay was -35°C.
THE EXPLORATION TRIP, a first for Churchill Wild in the area at this time of the year was a special opportunity to discover the area and experience tuff photoraphy conditions. Typicall days saw first light at 5:15 am with people already "scoping" out of the greatly insulated windows for action along the coast. Breakfast at 8:00 with delicious bacon "The motor of Canada" pancakes and syrup and shortly after fully geared up so that not even a singl centimeter of skin was exposed, we head out on wooden Kumatics and motorskis to live the adventure and look for wildlife tracks and moving animals. Pick nic lunch and great dinners at 7:00 pm renergized the cold souls day after day some times minutes before the northern lights show.
The enthusiasm of the first day at -40°C and the third day at -55°C with wind and srnow from the bay on super bumpy kumatics and motorskies did not fade out for a single moment over the twelve days. However we soon realized that task ahead of us was incredibly hard. We were there to look for Polar Bears along the cost, into frozen swamps over iced rivers with 6 mt banks from the Machichi River till the further point East, Cape Creek, and beyond; 80 to a 100km inland. The lack of footprints and marks let us figure that probaly the climate change (let me remind you the 20 degrees in New York at Christmas time) lead the Polar Bears into the dens too late last year and we were too early this year into the area that non the less captured our famelic attention and desire to find animals... we spotted Wolverine, Moose, Foxes, Grey Owle, Wiskey Jacks and White Winged Crossbill until Wolfs cristallized our focus.
A wolf pack of more than 10 individuals siting on a Kumatic cruising at more than 60 km per hour was the apetizer to a dance between a pair of wolfs and us at sunset and sun rise. A few days into our expedition at the lodge a couple of wolfs started to come in at sunset form th rocky pack ice of the Hudson bay to the snowy shore in front of the lodge keeping their confort zone at about 400m from the windows until sunrise. The very last day, the wolfs decided to move in for the most spectacular close ecounter I have ever assisted with the species. They scanned the area and play for about half an hour before heading back to the ice.
GEAR EXPERIENCE: Condensation between in and out was an issue, once out to avoid condensation inside lenses and camaras had to stay closed in bags for about 4 hours to avoid moisture once in. In the group there were Canon's and Nikon's. Both groups experienced difficulties 20 degrees under. Personally it must be said that the prime line of both brands fully tropicalized didn't left anybody down; D4s worked perfectly althougth the body was hard to hold at certain temperatures and breath moisture froze on the back screen most of the time. I personally can't say the same thing for my D800 that at -20°C and below experiences a delay in the selection of the autofocus red square area and at -30°C a jamming of the bayonet that does not lock in the lens with the release of the opening button. Gitzo Systematic GH5381SQR tripod head was a disaster, the different materials contract differently and the grease inside the head freezes unabling to use it after 20 minutes you are outside, clearly the worst performer! Not recomended for wildlife photography in the cold! One big advise, what ever you take out there it has to be prepared to resist to cold, moisture and vibrations.
SPECIAL THANKS: To My DAD for sharing this experince with me. To the Staff and Mike for making us feel at home while outside there were non survival conditions. To our friend Ian Johnson for organizing the trip and the helpfull photography hints. MENTION OF HONOR goes to Andy, Albert and Josh that scouted the cost under the most sevier conditions from sunrise till sunset takeing a crazy mexican that once in a while dove directly from the motoski into the snow with great stile ;)
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