What camera/lens setup for photographing grizzlies/puffins/bald eagles in Alaska?

CraniumDesigns

TPF Noob!
Joined
Dec 1, 2008
Messages
477
Reaction score
2
Location
San Francisco Bay, CA
Website
www.stevendavisphoto.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
I just put a deposit down for a Grizzly Bear Photo Workshop in August 2014. I have a Canon 7D, Canon 100-400mm f/4-5.6, 10-22mm, and 24-105mm L.

To get really high quality shots, what lens do I need and do I need better a better body than my 7D? I like it for the high FPS and the 1.6x crop zoom. Do I need to rent a 500, 600, 800??? Thanks?
 

radiorickm

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
Jan 3, 2011
Messages
186
Reaction score
81
Location
South West New Mexico
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
I would AVIOD...I repeat....AVIOD using the 10-22mm for the Grizzlies. LOL

The thing you probably need to find out, but really can't, is how far away from the bears you'll be shooting. IF it's worth it to you, of course rent, buy, beg borrow or st..... well rent some "L" glass.

Image quality on the 7D will probably only be topped by going full frame. So, again what is the purpose of the photos, and it that difference worth it to you.

My FWIW advice, shoot what you have and what you're used to.
 

sm4him

In memoriam
Supporting Member
Joined
Oct 4, 2011
Messages
10,726
Reaction score
5,468
Location
The Beautiful Hills of East Tennessee
Website
sm4him.500px.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Well, the first thing I was gonna say is that to get "really high quality shots" with a different lens, you'll need to actually have the skills to go along with it. But then I looked at some of your stuff...you're certainly good to go in the skills arena. :D

I don't know anything about Canons, so I don't know how the 7D compares to anything else. I do know that if I were going to Alaska, I wouldn't be renting a better Nikon body; I'd be taking my D7000 and the best, longest glass I could afford.

Since you already have the 100-400, I think I'd skip the 500 and look at either a 600 or 800. Again, I can't answer which one would be best for YOU, but for me, it would likely hinge on a trade-off between reach, quality and portability. If I felt like I could get away with handholding the 600, I'd probably go with it over the 800, because I hate *having* to use a tripod. Sometimes, you're in a place where it's easy enough to use a tripod for wildlife but often I find it just impedes me from getting THE shot.
 

table1349

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Sep 9, 2006
Messages
0
Reaction score
2,772
The 7D is fine. You want a miimum of 800mm and good outdoor skills unless you want to just be another item on the menu.
 

iolair

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
Oct 4, 2009
Messages
508
Reaction score
62
Location
Exeter, England
Website
www.flickr.com
I'd invest in a sturdy monopod rather than a tripod. Much quicker to manoeuvre to get your shot than a tripod is, plus you can use it to trip your fellow workshoppers when running away, so the bear gets them rather than you (or, in desperation, to get Mr. Grizzly to keep his distance. Maybe).

It might be worth trying to leverage your existing equipment with a 1.4 teleconverter?
 

tirediron

Watch the Birdy!
Staff member
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 8, 2005
Messages
45,748
Reaction score
14,801
Location
Victoria, BC
Website
www.johnsphotography.ca
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
I would go for a 400mm f2.8 and 1.4 & 1.7/2.0x TCs. That will give you longish FAST glass, and when you want to get closer you're still at worst, only at 800mm f5.6, PLUS it's going to be the lightest load for the most power. I don't speak Canon, but if the Canon 100-400 is anything like the Nikon 80-400, I'd leave it at home. As for support, a good monpod AND a heavy tripod with gimbal head would be ideal.
 

Overread

has a hat around here somewhere
Staff member
Supporting Member
Joined
May 1, 2008
Messages
25,276
Reaction score
4,802
Location
UK - England
Website
overread.wordpress.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Phone up and ask the people are the grizzly bear shoot what they'd recommend/have seen used. If its a photo shoot specifically chances are they'll be able to give you a good idea of the focal lengths people like to and generally use for their shooting events - since the bears are both bigger animals, but also the distance you can get to them will vary a lot depending on the area, the bears, the guide and the general setup.

As for focal lengths the 100-400mm is a good compact and light lens for giving you a good range of working focal lengths if anything comes closer; the rest of the time chances are you'll be at the 400mm end. If you want to rent BIG glass then I'd suggest considering: (note for all these the MI is GOOD the MII is better than good - but its not a night and day difference so don't feel bad if you're using slightly older rented version)

300mm f2.8 IS L - plus 1.4TC (420mm) and a 2*TC (600mm). The lightest of the BIG lenses and a very solid performer. Able to get good quality 600mm shots without being arm breaking. It's heavy but not like anything near as heavy as the others.

400mm f2.8 IS L - that 2.8 at 400mm makes this one of the heavier options - of course you can add a 1.4 and 2*TC and get up to 800mm; but it is HEAVY

500mm f4 IS L - often a good compromise between reach and weight, whilst its f4, the lens is lighter than the 400mm f2.8 and the 600mm f5.6 and yet offers a good range - again teleconverters can be used. (you have to tape the pins if you want the 2*TC to work on anything but a 1D or 5DMIII in normal shooting modes - liveview will still AF, but its slower and significantly less accurate for wildlife in general).

600mm f5.6 -heavy big gives you a good solid long working range to start with.


Sadly (or gladly) all these options are BIG and HEAVY. They offer quality results and will certainly perform well in the field. Renting cuts down on a lot of the costs, but it won't cut down on the weight. If you've a local camera club see if any of the members are using the lenses and ask if you can have a hold of them just to get a real world example (since you don't sound like you're in a position to buy I'd not advise asking at shops, only the biggest will have these lenses actually IN stock in the shop in general and its a lot of work for 0 reward for them if you're just browsing).
 

Big Mike

I am Big, I am Mike
Staff member
Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 16, 2003
Messages
33,900
Reaction score
1,863
Location
Edmonton
Website
www.mikehodson.ca
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
I don't have any first hand experience, but I think I've seen that with these bear workshops...you can actually get pretty close. I'd think that 400mm may be plenty of reach (some of the time)...but when dealing with wildlife, more reach is usually a good thing. But yes, it wouldn't hurt to ask them directly.

If you are wanting to buy/rent (or buy used and sell later), I like the option put forth by John, of a 400mm F2.8. and a teleconverter.

And since we are spending your money, the typical 'best' thing to use with a telephoto lens, is a good tripod with a gimbal head. But failing that, I'd a least bring a good tripod and a good monopod, then use whichever is most appropriate for the situation.
 
OP
CraniumDesigns

CraniumDesigns

TPF Noob!
Joined
Dec 1, 2008
Messages
477
Reaction score
2
Location
San Francisco Bay, CA
Website
www.stevendavisphoto.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Thanks so much guys. Yeah the 10-22 is mainly my landscape lens. Definitely not for photographing animals ;)

I'm definitely interested in the 400mm f/2.8 to get 4x faster shots and get a 1.4x TC. That would take me to an effective 896mm on a crop, so that should be good I hope. I'm friends with the guide, so I'll find out what he thinks. I'll probably just rent from BorrowLenses.

I have an Induro CF Tripod and BHD2 Ballhead, but I don't think it could support a big lens like that, so may have to buy a gimble head to make it work. May also get a monopod.
 

Overread

has a hat around here somewhere
Staff member
Supporting Member
Joined
May 1, 2008
Messages
25,276
Reaction score
4,802
Location
UK - England
Website
overread.wordpress.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
You can rent the gimbal heads often as well as the lens from the same shop; just ask when renting the lens - the heads are not cheap either and since its a one time affair its likely not worth the investment to get a new head just for the event.
 
OP
CraniumDesigns

CraniumDesigns

TPF Noob!
Joined
Dec 1, 2008
Messages
477
Reaction score
2
Location
San Francisco Bay, CA
Website
www.stevendavisphoto.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
You can rent the gimbal heads often as well as the lens from the same shop; just ask when renting the lens - the heads are not cheap either and since its a one time affair its likely not worth the investment to get a new head just for the event.

thanks. yeah, if i dont own a huge lens, no point in owning the head to hold it.
 

hirejn

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
Mar 13, 2013
Messages
636
Reaction score
96
Location
Wisconsin
Website
www.joelnisleitphotography.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
You mean what techniques do you need? First, you need to understand the biology of the animals you intend to photograph. Getting physically close is essential. Understanding biology helps you do this and capture interesting gestures. Second, you need good long lens technique, which means knowing how to steady it. With huge lenses, gimbals and heavy tripods are essential, as is calm and focused shooting. You also need to understand exposure, color, light and composition and how to put those elements together to craft a storytelling image.

Lenses are just tools. You point them at stuff and they gather, focus and magnify light. They don't have any idea what you're shooting or why. They don't know how to tell stories with light. They don't create amazing wildlife images. Photographers create amazing wildlife images.

If you assume you can get reasonably close physically, 400 is OK. If not, 800 is necessary. If you have an expensive 800 mm lens and you take an image with poor light and composition, guess what kind of image that fancy lens and camera produce? That's right, an image with uninteresting light and composition, so all that money goes to waste. No equipment is a substitute for skill.

But if you do rent big glass, understand what that means. Those big lenses need special filters. They also require rugged tripods and ideally expensive gimbals that help keep them steady and fluid when on the tripod. Have a good way of transporting them on the plane if you fly because you don't want them in checked luggage. Also be aware of how the fixed lenses work. If you rent, give yourself a couple of days to try them out and get used to the distances you'll need and the looks they'll give you. If an animal comes closer, or you get closer than you expect, suddenly that 800 is useless and you might need a 100 to 400. It's best to carry a variety when you don't know what you'll encounter.
 
OP
CraniumDesigns

CraniumDesigns

TPF Noob!
Joined
Dec 1, 2008
Messages
477
Reaction score
2
Location
San Francisco Bay, CA
Website
www.stevendavisphoto.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
You mean what techniques do you need? First, you need to understand the biology of the animals you intend to photograph. Getting physically close is essential. Understanding biology helps you do this and capture interesting gestures. Second, you need good long lens technique, which means knowing how to steady it. With huge lenses, gimbals and heavy tripods are essential, as is calm and focused shooting. You also need to understand exposure, color, light and composition and how to put those elements together to craft a storytelling image.

Lenses are just tools. You point them at stuff and they gather, focus and magnify light. They don't have any idea what you're shooting or why. They don't know how to tell stories with light. They don't create amazing wildlife images. Photographers create amazing wildlife images.

i know all that. you can look at my photography and see that i'm not a newb and that i understand composition and exposure. i will be on a workshop, so they will be helping us understand the animals' behavior.

your other points were valid though. when u say 800, so u mean 800mm lens or "effective" 800mm? if i get a 400mm lens with a 1.4 TC on a crop body I get an effective 896mm range.

what kind of filters do you need for wildlife? i would only use a CPOL if anything, but that also slows down shutter speed, so i may not use any filters at all.

i will be renting a nice gimbal head. my tripod is very good already so i should be ok with that. i also have my 100-400 should the animal get closer, but a bear that close i might not wanna photograph. haha.
 

Most reactions

New Topics

Top