Wildlife Lens for Yosemeti, Sequoi and Kings Canyon NP

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I am heading to Fresno and then taking a car to Yosemeti, Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP. I am interested in knowing if anyone has advice for wildlife photography. I am not going for that purpose but since I have a car, I don't mind bringing a long lens, if it could be useful. Many of our relatively modest hikes will start from the car so I will not be carrying a long lens all day anyway. I have brought lenses on vacations tours before that never get used so I try to avoid that if I can.

My basic questions relate to
1. Are wildlife encounters even common in Yosemeti and these other parks?
2. If so, are the distances large (like Yellowstone) or are they typically closer and random where a 300mm lens may not be the best?
3. My options would be to take the 35-100/2.8, the 200 / 2.8 with TC, or the 300/f4 with T/C.

Of course I want to minimize my travel load and don't want to transport a lens unnecessarily so that brings up my question.

Thanks for any experience.
 

PeteS

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1. Yes when I was there I saw lots of wild life. Probably not as much as in Yellowstone, but still a lot. The scenery was amazing though!
2. Closer on average, but still plenty of longish distances in my experience. I could have used a long lens a lot if I had one, but not enough that I would have wanted to carry one sine I was on a long bicycle tour (1000+ miles for the trip thru Yosemite and 4000+ for Yellowstone which was coast to coast). I probably would have taken a long lens if I were in a car, but it might have stayed in the car a lot of the time when I got out to hike.

Given that I was on a long distance bicycle tour for both trips there was no car on either. In some cases I didn't get bear pictures because the distance was too close to stop. When a bear is munching grass on the shoulder on one side of the road and I was riding up the other I just kept riding. I maybe could have got a shot from further up the road but prospects didn't look good.
 
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1. Yes when I was there I saw lots of wild life. Probably not as much as in Yellowstone, but still a lot. The scenery was amazing though!
2. Closer on average, but still plenty of longish distances in my experience. I could have used a long lens a lot if I had one, but not enough that I would have wanted to carry one sine I was on a long bicycle tour (1000+ miles for the trip thru Yosemite and 4000+ for Yellowstone which was coast to coast). I probably would have taken a long lens if I were in a car, but it might have stayed in the car a lot of the time when I got out to hike.

Given that I was on a long distance bicycle tour for both trips there was no car on either. In some cases I didn't get bear pictures because the distance was too close to stop. When a bear is munching grass on the shoulder on one side of the road and I was riding up the other I just kept riding. I maybe could have got a shot from further up the road but prospects didn't look good.
Thanks for the experience.

My guess is that my most likely bear sightings will be while driving and they might be close. I usually have the standard zoom on the camera so this would be good. I was wondering about the long distance sightings and you mention that there are opportunities for that too. Good to know that a long lens might be useful. I am leaning towards the 200 - 200x1.4 since it is lighter and easier to carry vs the 300 / 300/1.4. The 200mm is more likely to come along on a hike.
 
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PeteS

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Thanks for the experience.

My guess is that my most likely bear sightings will be while driving and they might be close. I usually have the standard zoom on the camera so this would be good. I was wondering about the long distance sightings and you mention that there are opportunities for that too. I am leaning towards the 200 - 200x1.4 since it is lighter and easier to carry vs the 300 / 300/1.4. The 200mm is more likely to come along on a hike.
FWIW, Yosemite has some of the most stunning scenery I have seen. The valley is beautiful, it is worth doing a good bit of hiking while there. We usually don't take much time off when on bike tours, but we spent an unprecedented for us week in the Yosemite Valley. I also did some backpacking from there on another trip. I hiked into the John Muir Wilderness. That was another amazingly beautiful trip other than dealing with the forest fire smoke that year.

I loved Sequoia as well.
 

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For those types of travels I would consider the Olympus 40-150 Pro and O75-300II / P100-300II. Reason is the 40-150 will give you variety and f2.8 and the 300mm zoom will keep it lightweight and easy to work with. I feel you would use the 40-150/2.8 for 90% of your shots, just leave it on until you see that four legged animal across the way and switch to 300mm. I would opt for the 300mm zoom that matches your camera brand. Have fun
 

ac12

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REACH.
Olympus 75-300 or 100-400, or Panasonic 100-400 would be my choice.
Many wildlife is smaller and farther than most people think. To get an idea of this, take a pic of a dog at 100 feet. Then imagine that dog was a fox.
And you really do NOT want to get close to something like a bear or mountain lion.
 

PeteS

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Yeah thinking about it I might take something like a 75-300 and a 12-45 leave everything else home if I wanted to keep it light. You could throw in a tele-converter if you wanted a bit more range. This setup would be something that you can hike with and not be to overloaded and would be a pretty versatile setup in my opinion. Just me though.
 
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Yeah thinking about it I might take something like a 75-300 and a 12-45 leave everything else home if I wanted to keep it light. You could throw in a tele-converter if you wanted a bit more range. This setup would be something that you can hike with and not be to overloaded and would be a pretty versatile setup in my opinion. Just me though.

Agree this sounds good. I am packing soon, however, and only have the P35-100, 40-150R, 200, or 300 at the longer end to select from for this trip. I am tempted to take the plastic fantastic 40-150R out for a spin again. It just sits in a drawer, worth more to me than its selling price but typically unloved and unused.
 

LV426

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I personally never seen much wildlife in Yosemite. Been there 3 times for multi day visits all at different seasons, seen a bear across a field, a raccoon on the trail and a Coyote in the valley. But the amount of perfect lighting situations are low which is why I suggest the 40-150/2.8, plus it has nice close up for the flora and occasional insect
 

PeteS

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I personally never seen much wildlife in Yosemite. Been there 3 times for multi day visits all at different seasons, seen a bear across a field, a raccoon on the trail and a Coyote in the valley. But the amount of perfect lighting situations are low which is why I suggest the 40-150/2.8, plus it has nice close up for the flora and occasional insect
I saw quite a few bears, a few marmots, a nice variety of birds, squirrels, rabbits, and mule deer that I can recall off the top of my head. I am sure there were others that I am forgetting. But yea, less wildlife than Yellowstone.
 
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Just finishing up visits to the National Parks. We saw two bears in Sequoia National Park along one of the meadows. A few people passed by and the bears ended up crossing the meadow which put them in some sun light. The 200mm lens was about enough and with the teleconverter (which I did not pull out) it might have been better for a few of the shots. A full frame shooter who happened to be there with a 600mm told me his lens was a little long for this sighting.

Clearings and distances in the park were generally not too large and the 300mm (prime) would likely be too tight. The 100-400 seems like a great lens when the distances can vary by so much. Having a 50-200 and a teleconverter would also be a great option for these parks.

We came across a bear in Yosemeti who seemed to just walk right by and ignore us. The 35-100 would have been best for this closer encounter.
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PeteS

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A full frame shooter who happened to be there with a 600mm told me his lens was a little long for this sighting.
A little long can be nice sometimes. Just take that as a chance to shoot less than the whole bear. You don't always get a a chance to get full frame head shots without a lot of cropping without carrying crazy long lenses.
Just finishing up visits to the National Parks. We saw two bears in Sequoia National Park along one of the meadows. A few people passed by and the bears ended up crossing the meadow which put them in some sun light. The 200mm lens was about enough and with the teleconverter (which I did not pull out) it might have been better for a few of the shots. A full frame shooter who happened to be there with a 600mm told me his lens was a little long for this sighting.

Clearings and distances in the park were generally not too large and the 300mm (prime) would likely be too tight. The 100-400 seems like a great lens when the distances can vary by so much. Having a 50-200 and a teleconverter would also be a great option for these parks.

We came across a bear in Yosemeti who seemed to just walk right by and ignore us. The 35-100 would have been best for this closer encounter.
I also found that the bears in Sequoia pretty much ignored us. They didn't seem to care that we were there.
 
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A little long can be nice sometimes. Just take that as a chance to shoot less than the whole bear. You don't always get a a chance to get full frame head shots without a lot of cropping without carrying crazy long lenses.


After reviewing a few more of my wildlife shots and realizing that I like them better when cropped in. And, thinking about your comment, I have changed my mind on the lens needs. Initially thinking the 200mm was enough, I now wish I had taken the 300mm and the tele-converter.

I have plane tickets to Yellowstone in the Fall. I will hopefully see some more wildlife (probably not as close) and will definitely be taking the 300 + 1.4x.
 
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A little long can be nice sometimes. Just take that as a chance to shoot less than the whole bear. You don't always get a a chance to get full frame head shots without a lot of cropping without carrying crazy long lenses.

I also found that the bears in Sequoia pretty much ignored us. They didn't seem to care that we were there.

After reviewing a few more of my wildlife shots and realizing that I like them better when cropped in. And, thinking about your comment, I have changed my mind on the lens needs. Initially thinking the 200mm was enough, I now wish I had taken the 300mm and the tele-converter.

I have plane tickets to Yellowstone in the Fall. I will hopefully see some more wildlife (probably not as close) and will definitely be taking the 300 + 1.4x.
Over the years I have looked at 1000's of photographers portfolios and something I have noticed is you can usually tell the difference between a zoom and a prime shooter. Zoom shooters tend have almost all full body images because they just adjust the zoom as the subject gets closer/farther away. A prime shooter tends to a good mix of environmental, full body, and closeup images because they take what they can get.

Me personally I like shooting with two primes, each on it's own camera. I love my combo of the 150/2 and 300/4 side by side. Get close enough to shoot full body with the 150/2 and use the 300/4 for those tight closeup images.

Sometimes I only have the 300/4 with me but am able to accomplish both.

50647238972_180d7ddefa_o.jpg
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Boreal Owl 004 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

He let me get really close to capture this frame filling portrait.

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Boreal Owl 007 by Phocal Art, on Flickr
 

PeteS

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Over the years I have looked at 1000's of photographers portfolios and something I have noticed is you can usually tell the difference between a zoom and a prime shooter. Zoom shooters tend have almost all full body images because they just adjust the zoom as the subject gets closer/farther away. A prime shooter tends to a good mix of environmental, full body, and closeup images because they take what they can get.
Interesting. You'd think that someone with a zoom would take advantage and shoot a variety of croppings in camera if the zoom had the range. My guess is that some do and some don't. It would certainly be a way to get the quickest mix of environmental, full body, and closeup images before the opportunity passed. Granted much of the time only two of the three might be possible with the zoom and the situation at hand.

I think you are correct that there is some tendency to think of the zoom as a tool to easily always fill the frame rather than a tool to allow a wide variety of croppings. Which way we use it is up to us. Your observation is something that zoom users should take as a cautionary tale. I know that I will use it as a reminder to not just mindlessly zoom in to fill the frame.

Developing the habit of taking at three very different croppings at different zoom levels is probably a good idea with zoom wildlife photography. It is something I plan to strive to do. We will see how successful I am at it. One problem is that in some settings it doesn't work out because I often want to hide much of the environmental portion (think backyard bird feeder shots), so I may get out of the habit there. Maybe the best thing is to take the shots anyway.
 
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PeteS

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Me personally I like shooting with two primes, each on it's own camera. I love my combo of the 150/2 and 300/4 side by side. Get close enough to shoot full body with the 150/2 and use the 300/4 for those tight closeup images.

Sometimes I only have the 300/4 with me but am able to accomplish both.

View attachment 892461 Boreal Owl 004 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

He let me get really close to capture this frame filling portrait.

View attachment 892462 Boreal Owl 007 by Phocal Art, on Flickr
Two camera bodies and two prime lenses are obviously a great way to go. Back in my film days for general work that was my go to setup (I wasn't in to long lens work back then). Those are great owl shots btw.
 
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The two primes option would be nice but I am a one body shooter for now. If I were by myself and had more time, that would be a great option.

PS, I think the owl picture may actaully be a self portrait if you look into his eyes. These are great shots.
 
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