FL Range for Whale Watching Trip

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by Replytoken, Jan 18, 2016.

  1. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    We are planning a trip to the Big Island this spring, and that means that we will be there during the tail end of whale watching season (pardon the pun). My wife wants to go on a whale watching trip out of Kona and that sounds good to me as the last whale watching trip we took 20+ years ago only netted us a glimpse of "composite woody debris".

    The proposed trip leaves early in the morning and lasts about three hours. Given the high probability of sun on the Kona coast, I do not suspect that light is going to be an issue. But, as I am not going to bring the proverbial photographic kitchen sink with me on the boat, I do suspect that whatever lens or two I do bring, I will somehow find them to be too long and/or not long enough. :hmmm:

    My top two choices for going long are to use my existing Nikon 70-200 VRII with my D300 (or my D610) as I suspect that photographing whales is not unlike other wildlife requiring fast acquisition and good tracking. Alternately, I could lighten my wallet for that Oly 40--150 that I have been coveting for the past year and pair it up with my E-M1.

    The latter arrangement is lighter, but as old as the D300 is, it still has a very competent AF system that has served me reasonably well over the years. And, the bigger question is will I want a longer lens, or a wider lens for this type of shooting environment. I suspect there might be times when some 24-70 FF eq. might be better suited to the task. Or, is the 70-200 on DX (300mm FF eq.) too short for the task at hand? Also, I do have the TC1.4ii that I could bring as a bit of insurance.

    I am willing to carry two bodies with a lens on each, but that is about it as I understand the boat is not that large. Anybody have any experience with whale watching trips and willing to share some advice?

    Thanks,

    --Ken
     
  2. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    I took a whale watching boat out of Gloucester, MA a few years ago. I mostly shot with a D7000 & Tamron 70-300 and that was just long enough most of the time. Longer would be better. I also had an EPL2 with the 40-150/3.5-5.6. Too short for the whales, but got a great shot of the ice house at the entrance of the harbor (seen in The Perfect Storm). Fast AF is required for getting a whale breaching. That's why I wouldn't recommend getting the 75-300 Olympus.
     
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  3. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran

    641
    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    siftu
    Believe it or not I don't think AF tracking is that big of a deal.. Once you get focus the whale doesn't move too much. I was in Maui last March and was the only person on the boat to get a breach maybe 50 yards off the boat, it wasn't even a whale watching boat. Why? Because I did it one handed and pivoted, prayed and held down the shutter with the em10 + 75mm. . The DSLR's guys couldn't swing around with their 70-200's+ in time to get it before it was gone. You never know where these whales are going to pop up, it's usually in the opposite direction than you are expecting. This was taken in high burst mode, I got 5 frames on it before it was under. The 75mm immediately locked onto it and every pic was in focus.

    16174275613_b1014a3651_h. Breach! by Siftu, on Flickr
     
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  4. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Sounds like my initial assumptions are not too far off the mark. I could bring the Nikon 300mm/f4 instead, but then I have zero focal length flexibility, and the TC1.4 only has a minimal impact on IQ. I would need to figure out how this fits with some other photo subjects that I want to tackle, but if I can make it work, I might do the D300/70-200/TC1.4 and then bring the E-M1 and 12-40. I lose system redundancy, and the Nikon set-up is not small, but that does give me the most appropriate tools for the tasks at hand. And, I have logged enough miles on the D300 to not feel like I am fighting with my gear.

    I suspect that if I felt more comfortable with the E-M1 for action then I might make a good run of it with the 40-150, but if that proved to be frustrating I know I would be kicking myself. I do love my E-M1 for travel, but it is not the camera that I would normally pick for action. I had flirted with the idea of buying or renting a Panasonic FZ1000 for the focal length despite my not wanting to shoot with that small of a sensor, but my understanding is that the IQ drops off after hitting the 300mm eq.

    Thanks,

    --Ken
     
  5. yendikeno

    yendikeno Mu-43 Regular

    129
    Sep 5, 2015
    My whale watching experience was in Alaska, but I think still applies. I would take the longest lens you have. Unless it is done differently in Hawaii, our ship (Nat Geo Sea Bird) wasn't allowed to get too close to the whales. I had my 70-200 on a D300, and although adequate, often wished I had brought a teleconverter as well.
     
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  6. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Nice shot! And yes, timing and luck do play a big hand at things. :hail: I am surprised that your 75 locked on so quickly. It is a wicked sharp lens, but I always feel that it is slow to acquire focus, even on my E-M1. Perhaps because I use it a lot in less than ideal lighting conditions, but it would not be my first choice for fast action despite being an f/1.8 lens.

    Thanks,

    --Ken
     
  7. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran

    641
    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    siftu
    I would agree with what you say with the 75mm's AF but it did what it did. If the DSLR guys were able to get it in their sites in time they would have had better pics.
     
  8. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Well, that is two votes for more FL. :hmmm: I believe they try to keep similar restrictions, but you never do know how close you could be when a whale comes up. And I know that while it is nice to have two bodies for choice, you can only effectively shoot with one at a time, so choose wisely.

    Thanks,

    --Ken
     
  9. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    And to that I say congratulations on your good work!

    --Ken
     
  10. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran

    641
    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    siftu
    In Hawaii they shut off the engine on the boat if it's within a certain range (200 yards at a guess). The whales don't care and can come up really close. Google a Maui Mugging
     
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  11. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Never heard the expression before. The videos were great to see. I suspect that I should somehow make room for the E-M1 w/12-40 for close shots or video clips along with the D300. Wish I could grow a second pair of eyes! :eek-31:

    --Ken
     
  12. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran

    641
    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    siftu
    Yeah don't go there expecting that but it does happen quite often.
     
  13. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Rob
    Don't forget the Olympus 50-200 SWD, 2.8-3.5 as an option. Focus isn't bad and with the EC-14 and EC-20 gives you an excellent reach out 280,4.9 and 400,7. It will AF with both TCs and in the bright light of an ocean should be fairly snappy.

    That would get you back to an all Olympus kit. It's not the AF equivalent of the best modern bodies like 7dmk2, etc...of course, bu should hang in with the older stuff.
     
  14. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    Holy crap, Siftu, that shot is spectacular. I find it hard to imagine that any camera could have captured a much better image than that, though clearly the person behind the camera is what matters here...
     
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  15. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran

    641
    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    siftu
    Thanks @Turbofrog@Turbofrog but really it involved quite a bit of luck!. I had everything set manually besides AF and I ended up over exposing by about 1 stop. What I didn't think about was all that white wash and underside of the whale. The shot did have all the info in it but it wasnt a simple PP.
     
  16. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Very true. My wife even commented that we should be so lucky to see a whale that close.

    --Ken
     
  17. davidzvi

    davidzvi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 12, 2012
    Outside Boston MA
    David
    If light is not an issue, you could pick up a 70-300 to use on the D300. The only whale watching trip I've done I had DX body (not sure which it was) and the old AF-D 80-400.
     
  18. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Yes, it is an option, but I am not sure that would be where I would spend my photo money, especially as I can see a lot of use out of the 40-150 if I purchased it. If I can put together a small enough kit with the D300, I would be OK with a spilt system. Fortunately I am not having to lug any gear for any great length of time. I am used to shooting the 70-200 with a large monopod, but I am not sure I will be able to bring it with me. I would love to know how long the 40-150 will be $200 off, as I want to make a decision by that date in case I do want to purchase it.

    --Ken
     
  19. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    I have one that I am planning to sell to a friend as soon as he comes up with the funds. I am a bit mixed on the lens. I have some tack sharp BIF images from it, but I also find the 70-200 to be better in many ways, and 300mm is not exactly that lens' stong suit. But, it is a good option that I had not considered.

    --Ken
     
  20. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    Walter
    I have never been on a whale watching trip in Hawaii (not for lack of opportunities) but have seen quite a few whales while at sea. You might find the 40-150 to be a good range. Having a weather resistant kit may also be important. The whales can get close and depending on sea and wind conditions, you never know when you might get splashed. And, if you're out on a smallish boat, you probably don't have a place to hide if you want to change lenses, so you don't want to do that. If the whale gets close, having a 2nd body or another camera with a wider view would also be good. I'd probably bring along my TG-4 for those kind of shots.

    Having a kit with some heft, like the 40-150 Pro or 50-200 SWD, may be beneficial because it would help to even out the movement of the boat. Shooting at a high shutter speed would also be important. Regardless, trying to frame and focus a shot on a whale breaching while dealing with a moving boat is no easy task. Good luck!

    BTW, don't forget your seasickness remedy. Looking through a long lens while on a moving boat is likely to exacerbate mal de mer. :)
     
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