Even as a child, I clearly remember a great yearning to discover the world. I pictured myself in a khaki shirt. With a safari helmet on my head, a ‘reference book’ (although nothing of the kind existed) in my hand and a pair of binoculars round my neck, looking every bit like a world explorer. But life moved on and, except for some wildlife spotting with my grandfather, binoculars had no place in my life. This changed in the torrid heat of southern Africa.
Namibia, 37 degrees in the shade. In my hand, I hold my camera, fitted with a 600 mm objective lens. I cast my gaze over the sparse landscape of the Etosha National Park, constantly searching for animals. You might think they would be easy to spot. But not today. The heat is creating a haze over the landscape. The great distances on this flat plain don’t help either. That formation way off in the distance could be wildlife, but it could just as easily be a pile of stones or a cluster of trees – what I like to refer to as “bio herds”.
Back in Switzerland, I knew it was time to research the issue of binoculars. Steffi is generally skeptical when it comes to packing even more equipment in her backpack. But she found binoculars extremely useful in Africa too, and when looking for sloths in Costa Rica or a rare owl on the Galapagos. Out in the middle of nowhere in Chile, we decided to start researching our new purchase. We needed the lightest possible and most compact binoculars as they would be our constant companions on distant travels. And this is how we came across SWAROVSKI OPTIK binoculars. They had all the features we were looking for: brilliant optical quality, great design, relatively light weight and generally very good workmanship.
We use them CL Curio in the most traditional way, for spotting, an extremely important part of wildlife photography. We are also constantly surprised at the details the binoculars reveal in more distant landscapes. The fantastic image quality makes this a real pleasure. We’ve even used them to look out for the American President’s Air Force One on a visit to Europe and discovered birds of paradise in the jungle, which we would never have seen otherwise.
So it’s just as well that SWAROVSKI OPTIK has something really special in its portfolio for us photographers: a VPA phone adapter. On our travels, we have often watched guides taking photos through binoculars with a smartphone, using them almost like a telephoto lens. Not for a moment did we think we’d do the same one day. But, here we go, it just shows how quickly things can change. And it’s great fun. We’ve heard stories of people who have used this combination on safaris and been really pleased with the results.
Since we have had the CL Pocket and the CL Curio , they have been our constant outdoor companions – whether on longer expeditions or simply a day trip. Their compact size makes them easy to slip into a backpack even for a day hike. In this digital age, it can sometimes feel as if there’s no need for analogue products such as binoculars. But once you’ve tried them, there’s no going back. Binoculars take you straight to the heart of the action and provide amazing assistance, as we found recently on a trip to Africa, when attempting to differentiate “bio herds” from wildlife.
We can’t wait to use the CL Curio this summer to watch orcas in the Gibraltar Strait for our current project. Being able to spot animals even at long distances makes a huge difference to our work. If anyone is wondering whether Steffi or I wear a khaki shirt and safari helmet on our travels, let me tell you: we do actually wear the shirt at times. But we have no safari helmets or reference book with us, just our new binoculars.
Stephanie Bernhard and Stefan Tschumi are travel photographers from Switzerland. They travel all over the world, recording encounters, emotions, and exceptional moments in photos. Stephanie and Stefan share a passion for foreign cultures and beautiful images, and want to experience our planet’s amazing animal and plant kingdoms up close.
Together they have published the book “Reisefotografie – The grosse Fotoschule” [Travel Photography – The Great Photography School], present talks and run the travel and photography blog Journey Glimpse and the learning platform Creators Path.
More about Stefan Tschumi: www.stefantschumi.photography.
Stephanie and Stefan recently joined the SWAROVSKI OPTIK Nature Explorer Team.