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Thread: Alaskan Cruise and Outings - help w lens choices

  1. #1
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    Alaskan Cruise and Outings - help w lens choices

    I'm leaving soon for a 7 day cruise and some outings in Alaska and have a pretty good idea what I want to take, but would welcome some input. For context, I usually carry a ridiculous amount of kit and have only ever regretted leaving things at home. However, I need to carry all this onto a few planes in a Lowepro Trekker 400 and a Lightware z600. I want to cover wildlife, landscapes, night photography, architectural type shots of the boat and buildings in towns. Planned items and rationale:

    1. 1Dx and 5DMKIII w battery grip - I think I will want two bodies for flexibility when photographing bears - one w longer tele, one w shorter, plus the 5DMKIII will be better for landscapes, while the 1Dx might be best at night on the boat and in case it rains - good for BIF action too.
    2. Definitely coming = 600 II, 300 2.8 II, 70-200 2.8 II, 24 TS II, 16-35 II, 1.4X and 2X III teles, 25 mm extension tube. While the 24 TS may overlap in focal length w the 16-35, I know I will want the perspective control on the boat and the IQ for some landscapes (when I am not rushed). On the other hand, the 16-35 gives me a reasonable quality IQ and ease of use for walking around. I debated the 300 II, since the 70-200 + 1.4X is decent quality IQ, but I love this lens and plan to have it on the 1Dx for handheld bear shots while the 5DMKIII and 600 are on a RRS gimbal above a Gitzo tripod.
    3. Not coming (I think) = 100 2.8 Macro, 135 2.0, 200 f2, 85 1.2. Of these, I am most torn over not taking the 85 b/c I would use it for portraits and night shots on the boat.

    Thoughts? Leave the 300, take the 85? Make do with one body - which one? Hire a porter?

  2. #2
    Senior Member clemmb's Avatar
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    Vern,
    I am jealous of your kit . Last year I went on an Alaskan cruise. We left out of Seattle for 7 days. In my Lowepro Fastpak I took my 5D w/grip, 1DmkIIn, 24-105, 17-40, 70-300 & 50f1.4. When we sailed Glacier bay I would love to have longer than 300. The whales were breaching but a bit far away for my 300. It was raining that day so the 1D was good. Most of the 7 days were dry. I used my 1D w/ 17-40 for the zip line. A really good neck strap is a must on that. I got some great shots on the ship using my 50. In one of the lounges I got a great shot of my father in law with available light at f1.4. I agree with jrw, portraites with your 16-35 to get the environment in worked great. On the ship we all dressed up for the Captains dinner. I was able get our portraits with a beautiful sunset behind us over the water. On a trail I got a shot of a bear catching a salmon.
    IMG_0415 by clemmb60, on Flickr
    What an opportunity. The light was low enough, low shutter speed, it was a bit blurred but actually gave a nice effect. Shot with my 70-300@70. Here are a few from that trip. A couple of them are from Washington. I am sure yours will be better with the kit you have.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/markcle...7631491451482/
    Mark

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    Since you´re going on a cruise I assume you have a cabin. Bring it all and adjust to whatever situation/opportunity that comes your way. The rest you can leave in your cabin. I know I would have had exactly the same issues as you and ended up with breaking my back getting it all onboard the boat.

    I have pretty much the same setup as you, apart from the 300. I have solved that with the 70-200 and the 2x or 1.4x extender (not the same IQ though). I have just bought the 600/4 IS II. I have used the 400/2.8 IS II up until now, but since both the 5DIII and 1DX can AF at f8, I went for the extra reach. It´s coming tomorrow

    I fully understand your thoughts about the 85. In my view that lens produces some of the most stunning 3D pop-out portraits, with the most beautiful bokeh you can get from any lens at any price. Very shallow DOF at 1.2 though, so it can be frustrating now and then, to have portraits with sharp nose tip and blurry eyes.

    Lens I would carry that you left out is the 24-70/2.8 II and the 100 2.8 Macro. The 24-70 is my walk-around lens. It produces stunning results. I like the macro lens a lot and in Alaska you should find lots of good use for it. I would definitely bring both bodies. They are both great bodies, but they have slightly different qualities and you definitely need a back up. I normally skip the extra grip for the 5DIII tough. When using the 600 you will most likely want to have one of the other lenses on the other body.

    Enjoy your trip!
    Eldar

  4. #4
    why the battery grip on the 5D MKIII? IMHO the batteries are quite good and with a spare or two I never had any problems making it through a day even when shooting thousands of frames and reviewing them.

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    Administrator Sean Setters's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by memostothefuture View Post
    why the battery grip on the 5D MKIII? IMHO the batteries are quite good and with a spare or two I never had any problems making it through a day even when shooting thousands of frames and reviewing them.
    I don't know about Vern, but as for me...

    1) The battery grip balances out the camera. It fits in my hands better.
    2) The vertical shutter/control buttons make shooting in portrait orientation much easier.
    3) Instead of having to keep up with an extra battery in my pocket, why not already have it in-camera?

    Those are reasons why I've had battery grips on every single DSLR I've owned. Once you get used to shooting with one, it's difficult to go without it.

  6. #6
    Senior Member neuroanatomist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Setters View Post
    1) The battery grip balances out the camera. It fits in my hands better.
    2) The vertical shutter/control buttons make shooting in portrait orientation much easier.
    3) Instead of having to keep up with an extra battery in my pocket, why not already have it in-camera?

    Those are reasons why I've had battery grips on every single DSLR I've owned. Once you get used to shooting with one, it's difficult to go without it.
    +1

    To be honest, the integrated grip was a major factor in my decision to get the 1D X.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the feedback everyone.

    The 85 is on my 'wish I could list' b/c it always brings out creative ideas and I can imagine great limited DOF portraits in interior locations on the ship. I also like it a lot for capturing architectural details w the same limited DOF. I shot w the 85 1.2 FD version for years on an F1 body, so I'm not bad w getting some good shots out of it. I shoot it at 1.2-2.0, so the 70-200 doesn't quite substitute (though it is a good compromise idea). At night I love the OOF effect with lights in the background. I think I'm going to try to squeeze it in. I will also use the 16-35 for interior portrait/environmental shots - good idea.

    I left out the 24-70II b/c I don't have it yet. I have debated it, but I sold the version I b/c it was so rarely on my camera. Maybe the IQ improvement would re-inspire my interest in this set of focal lengths, but for some reason I often want either a wider angle or a more narrow one. I'm sure it would be great if I had to pick only one lens for an outing.

    The 100 mm macro would be nice to take, but I'm hoping the extension tube w the 70-200 will be satisfactory. However, it is a light lens to throw in the bag and it performs its special purpose very well.

    You are right about the batteries these days as not the reason for the grip. My hands are a little bigger than average and being accustomed to the F1 w motor, 1Dx etc, I'm just never comfortable with the regular size bodies. Not to mention the extra shutter is very handy.

    Great shot Clemmb - I think that was the perfect shutter speed - just sharp enough and the motion makes it. I'll have to try this myself (he says hoping for good opportunities!). I'll check out your shots, but as you know, kit is just an enabler.

    I'll post a few pics back to this thread in a few weeks to see if the weight was worth it.

  8. #8
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    I'm not the kind of guy who can slow down for creative shooting on an Alaska cruise. There's so much to see and shoot...

    When my wife and I went in '10, we had 1D3/7D/7D/40D, and took 10-22, 16-35, 24-105, 70-200/2.8IS, and 500/4, plus 100 Macro IS. I don't think the 16-35 got much use in the end.

    When my wife and I went in '12, we had 1Dx/1D3/7D/7D and 14/2.8, 16-35, 24-70, 70-200/4IS, and 400/4DO plus 1.4x TC. Our 40D/10-22 got clamped to the balcony wall with a timer remote and helped us make time-lapse videos. I chose to put the 1Dx on the 400DO for best AF and frame rate, so it got the 1.4x, and it was quite the shooting machine. 1D3 got the 14/2.8 by virtue of lowest remaining crop factor, so the 24-70 and the 70-200 landed on the 2x 7D. I don't think the 16-35 got touched. When we were together, I'd carry the 400 and 24-70, she'd carry the 70-200 and 14. Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/alibear...7631201294590/, time-lapse videos at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL47E5215D4BA0EA1C.

    I constantly dream about what I'll take next time...

  9. #9
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    Thanks again for all the advice. A brief trip report in return:
    Most used lens = 70-200 II, perfect for landscape from the ship. A few examples:
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    Second = 600 f4 II w and w/o 1.4X III (I used the 2X III as well but was never really satisfied with those.) Some favorites:
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    to be continued....
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    Last edited by Vern; 07-01-2013 at 06:00 PM. Reason: upload mistake

  10. #10
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    The other lenses I used a great deal were the 16-35 II and the 85 1.2 II. While I used the 300 2.8 II and the 24 TS II, I could have done OK w/o them. I was generally too busy and/or with a group to use the 24 - which takes proper concentration and time (for me anyway) and the 300 only occasionally contributed to landscape shots. For wildlife even the 600 + 1.4 was often too short. Having both bodies was a great benefit as I could have the 70-200 II on one and the other mounted on the 600 and a tripod w gimbal. The Lowepro and Lightware worked fine - though a full Lowepro was a chore to carry (47 lbs). The only real disappointment was not seeing any bears in Hoohnah - too early for the salmon run - next time......

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