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Old January 1st, 2010, 11:29 AM   #1
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Gearing up for Alaska. Need advice!

So I'm planning a trip to Alaska this summer and I need to figure out what I'm going to bring. I definitely don't wanna miss any shots because I don't have the proper equipment, but I also don't want to lug ALL my lenses with me.

Trip details (so far):
I'll be going for about a week to a week and a half in early July. Weather will be mid-40s to about 70 degrees F...being colder during the day and warmer at night (confused me too at first). Sunlight lasts about 19.5 hours during that time of year. Denali is definitely on the list, and Chugach National Forest is about 80% on the list. I probably won't be doing any backcountry style camping (too hardcore for me at this time), so it'll be "car-camping" style but I'll probably stay out there 2-3 days at a time and would prefer not to have to go back to the car all the time as it can be as far away as having to take some sort of shuttle. I'll be taking day trips, hiking away from the campsite and thus will have to lug all my camera gear with me.

Lenses (so far):
11-16mm f/2.8 (wide angle)
- I'm thinking this is perfect for landscape shots, although I've read that some people say it's not necessary since the landscape is usually so far away that a zoom will suffice
105mm f/2.8 (macro)
- For those cool little things you run into
70-200mm f/2.8 (tele)
- For bears

Flash: should I even bring it? It's one of those "you might as well" but I really wanna cut down on the stuff I have to lug and keep track of. With 19.5 hours of sunlight, I think I'll be spending the other 4.5 KTFO, so I'm not sure if I'll even need this.

Filters:
Definitely going to bring circular polarizers for all my lenses and UV haze filters. I'm not sure if I'll be needing ND filters or not.

Essentials:
A little lens brush/blower and microfiber cloth in case something gets on my lenses or in my camera. I'll probably pick up any extra batteries I can before I go. If I have a battery grip by then, I'd consider leaving it at home for weight reduction. I'll also be bringing my tripod (CF Manfrotto - 4lbs)


For those of you who have been camping with your camera gear (to Alaska or not), I'd love to get some input on what I should bring and what I can do without.


Thanks!
Jeff
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Last edited by VietNinjaJ30A1; January 1st, 2010 at 12:18 PM..
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Old January 1st, 2010, 01:57 PM   #2
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Fishing Gear, and be prepared to ship some back.
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Old January 1st, 2010, 02:30 PM   #3
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i would limit yourself to 3 lenses 1 wide 1 telephoto and one lens with a wide range. leave the flash you will be asleep before the sun goes down and back up. i would say a big plastic ziplock bag to line your camera case on the out side is a must. i dont know how big yout tripod is but you might want to consider a unipod. the other thing you could do to keep your filters clean is to get really cheap protecive lenses that you put of both sides of the filter and one over your lenses that way if you do drop a lens or dirt is present it wont get on that expensive lens.

and post pictures!!!!
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Old January 1st, 2010, 04:40 PM   #4
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What type of shots do you want to get? Scenic and landscape type stuff I assume? Also which body do you have? A D80, right?
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Old January 2nd, 2010, 05:22 AM   #5
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Since I have time to sit at the computer right now, here's what I'd do.

Rent a 16-85VR and call it a day.

Seriously.


See a bear? Grab this guy from your pocket for $65, which is a whoooole lot lighter than a 70-200/2.8. 200mm is pretty short for wildlife too. If the bear is closer than a 200mm FL lens then you're not going to be worrying about getting a good photo of it, so you won't need the 70-199mm range. You'd probably want a 300 for that. There's a bunch of old 300mm MF lenses on KEH for next to nothing too.

Get a small power inverter for your car and you can charge your EN-EL3e's from that. Or the grip and bring a whole bunch of AA's. Make sure any lens you bring is weather sealed with "ass gasketing" which the 16-85 is, and you won't need to worry about cleaning supplies other than maybe a rocket blower and yeah a microfiber cloth plus cleaning spray. The lack of weather sealing on my 18-55VR is the only thing I don't like about it, and why it gets left at home a lot.

On last year's Taiwan trip I brought my 14/35/100 trio and between the three I didn't miss a thing, and they were all small and light enough to fit in a small non-photography oriented waist pack so they didn't stick out or drag me down either. No worries about missing a shot while leaving something behind when everything you've got is small and light enough to bring with you. I also brought but never used my 18-55vr and 50/1.4. Those will probably be getting left home this year.
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Old January 5th, 2010, 10:06 AM   #6
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Thanks guys! Kiet, I'll work on the fish...I definitely want to do some fishing, but I dunno how smelly it'll get shipping it back haha.

Steve, I have a D300 now (woohoo weather sealed!). The 70-200mm is a full-frame lens right? I'm worried about missing shots with MF. For example, if something is moving/running I would switch to the D300's continuous focus mode and have at it. If the 70-200mm is a full frame lens, I'd get the same crop factor on that as the 200mm MF. The only thing then would be the size/weight of the lens vs the MF lens.

I don't have a grip right now, but if I did I feel like I'd leave it at home to save space/weight and just run with 2-3 batteries for the camera. Power inverter is gonna be a must. I'm thinking 1 battery per day out in the woods...and then we'd move to a different campsite/park so I could charge the batteries in the car.

How useful do you think a macro lens would be? I don't really know what to expect in Alaska as far as wanting/needing a macro...so I'm still iffy on that one.
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Old January 6th, 2010, 10:38 AM   #7
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I think you'll find 200mm well short for any "safe distance" wildlife shots. Might want to head to the zoo for some practice. 70-300VR, 80-400VR, or an AF 300/4 with or without 1.4tc would all be better options than a 70-200 I think, specifically for wildlife. Back in the fall of 2008 when I was shooting foliage with my then new 70-200 I happened to spot a deer in the neighborhood and tried to get some shots of it. I did, but my reaction was also "wow 200mm isn't a whole lot for this!" For closer shots I probably wasn't even 10 yards away and I was at 200mm already. Now imagine it's a bear and there's nothing to keep it away from you.

Definitely bring the 11-16, but I think you'll still want something for the mid-range if the 105 is your next longest lens. If you're out hiking somewhere and you eye a good ultra-wide shot and then in the next step you eye a good mid-range or tele shot, are you going to want to switch lenses all the time? Not me. Slap a close-up filter on something like the 16-85 and now you've got a macro lens too.

If you're brave and have enough discipline I think you could do the whole trip on 3 fully charged EN-EL3e's. I've done this before. Paris 2006 over an extended Thanksgiving weekend on two fully charged EN-EL3e batteries with my old D80. I knew it'd be a very photographically intensive trip with lots of stuff to see and take pictures of, but didn't feel like digging out my power converter or looking for my plug adapters. I figured with the D80's good battery life I ought to be able to make it on 2 batteries and I did. The second one quit on the plane on the way home while reviewing photos. I don't think you're going to be photographing every single foot of ground that you cover out there in the wild, but around every corner in Paris was something interesting to shoot. Have some shot and LCD review discipline and you ought to be able to make a single battery last a few days, but as you're settled down for the night reviewing shots of the day would probably be too tempting. Costco has a "beverage can" power inverter for $30.
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Old January 6th, 2010, 01:21 PM   #8
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You'll need that ND filter for the landscape shots of the white mountains the the nice blue skies. You might also want to get a graduated ND filter as well.

Are you going to bring a laptop? Otherwise, you'll need a lot of mem cards. I have an Epson P-3000 that I used for my 10 day Disney Med cruise from 2007. It worked great..especially since I didn't bring a laptop.

Rent a nice big lens and be done with it
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Old January 6th, 2010, 01:35 PM   #9
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So since the 70-200mm is actually a 105-300mm on my D300's crop sensor, will that be long enough?

I have an 18-135mm which I could take an use as my "walk-around" lens. I'm kind of hoping to have a 24-70mm f/2.8 by the time I go on this trip, so I may take that one instead. Although that 24-70mm will end up being a 36-105mm on my camera.

Sounds like I just need to limit myself to 3 lenses, stock up on batteries to be safe, and load up on memory cards. I think I'm going to aim for a bunch of 4GB cards rather than a few large capacity cards in case a card fails.

I don't be bringing a laptop, so all reviewing that I do will be on camera...and I could probably stop myself if battery life becomes an issue.
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Old January 6th, 2010, 02:37 PM   #10
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200mm actual focal length being "too short" (aka 300mm equivalent) was on a DX Nikon. You'll want at least a 300mm lens (450mm equivalent) for bears and wildlife, otherwise you're so close you'll be looking for a place to hide, if not before that. Shooting a lion at the DC zoo from across a big moat with the lion up on the top of his little hill, even 300mm I had to crop quite a bit. But out in the wild with no protection, you wouldn't have wanted to get any closer because it could charge you and be on top of you in a matter of seconds. There's a reason pro wildlife shooters use ridiculous 300/400/500/600mm super telephoto lenses with teleconverters. Go right to Nikon USA dot com and there's an image they have up there of some bears, shot from across a small body of water. The lens listed is the five-figure 600mm f/4 VR, LOL.

The 18-135 is a great lens, and a much better choice for this trip than a 24-70/2.8 beast IMHO, unless you're going to be doing a lot of people/portraiture shots also. You did mention "we" above, so I assume you'll be with a group? I sorta regret selling my 18-135 now, but don't want another one because I definitely want something that's weather sealed with lens mount gasketing, which the 18-135 (and 18-105VR) don't have.

A grad ND might come in handy, but I just tested Nikon's ADR set to the higher settings the other night on my D90 and it does such a good job that I might not even bother with grad NDs anymore for scenic stuff, but I have to test some more. I don't think you'd need a regular ND. With ISO 100 (Lo.1) and a 1/8000s max SS you should be fine with just about anything you want to shoot. If you shoot JPEG, a couple of super cheap 2/4GB cards ought to be plenty. I have no idea how much space RAW shooters need for big trips.
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Old January 6th, 2010, 05:43 PM   #11
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well i can fit about 800 12-bit RAW images on a 16gb...so a couple hundred on a 4gb give-or-take. that's fine...i don't mind switching cards, just don't wanna get in a jam with having 3 huge cards and having one of them crap out on me.

i forgot that you're shooting with DX bodies as well. ok so 200mm even on a DX body isn't gonna cut it. is there a TC that'll work with the D300 AND a 200mm lens?

now that i think of it...i'll probably just take my 18-135mm and leave my 11-16mm at home. most people i've read about say that wide angles aren't necessary in AK since the scenery is so far away from you anyway. but who knows...if i end up with room in my bag i'll probably take it along. so ideally i want a 300mm and a TC on that would be great too, i'll grab my 18-135, and possibly my 11-16mm.

i will be there with at least 2 other people...portraits i haven't really thought about.
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Old January 6th, 2010, 05:55 PM   #12
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Here's a smaller deer at 200mm on my D40, full image. I wasn't more than about 10 yards away. A bear is bigger obviously, but as you can see 200mm just doesn't get you too far for wildlife.

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Old January 6th, 2010, 06:49 PM   #13
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A lion at the zoo at 300mm

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Edit: finally decided to edit that one. Slight saturation crank, pretty heavy (for JPEG) levels adjustments, and unsharp mask (150%/0.3px/0). And now I don't like all the added saturation. LOL, oh well, another night I'll play with it some more.


Ah, like it much better cropped!

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Old January 6th, 2010, 07:45 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VietNinjaJ30A1 View Post
i forgot that you're shooting with DX bodies as well. ok so 200mm even on a DX body isn't gonna cut it. is there a TC that'll work with the D300 AND a 200mm lens?
For a 70-200, you need Nikon's AF-S teleconverters, or the Kenko Pro ones I hear work too. Problem is Nikon's AF-S 1.4x tele-converter is as much as a 70-300VR.

Quote:
Originally Posted by VietNinjaJ30A1 View Post
now that i think of it...i'll probably just take my 18-135mm and leave my 11-16mm at home. most people i've read about say that wide angles aren't necessary in AK since the scenery is so far away from you anyway. but who knows...if i end up with room in my bag i'll probably take it along. so ideally i want a 300mm and a TC on that would be great too, i'll grab my 18-135, and possibly my 11-16mm.
An ultra-wide can still be plenty useful, for perspective exaggeration. Find something of interest, park the lens right on top of it at close focus to exaggerate perspective and then have fun choosing a background for it, like this. I use my AF 14mm f/2.8D as an 'ultra-wide macro' lens. That flower was practically touching the front element of the lens.

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The 11-16 doesn't do that as well though, because it doesn't focus closely enough. It's more of a 'get it all in' type of ultra-wide lens. You can still exaggerate perspective with it, but not to the extremes I like to go. I shoot my 14mm almost like a fisheye lens, minus the fish. I think it'd be worth bringing.
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Old January 6th, 2010, 09:45 PM   #15
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I see what you're saying about the 200mm now. I guess I don't necessarily need to get the bear to fill the frame...but I definitely want to get close enough to tell that it's a bear...and not some other random animal standing in the distance.
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Old January 7th, 2010, 06:55 AM   #16
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I think it'll come down to how badly you want to get wildlife shots and how much you're willing to spend on it, if anything. A bear that you spot out in the wild could easily be much further away than this lion was. If it's not a high priority then just run what ya brung, even if it's a 200mm. If it's a higher priority, definitely look into a 300 or 400mm class lens whether you rent/buy/borrow or whatever.

I can't see it from work (blocked) but get on my SmugMug, go to the Adventures section, and then check out the Alaskan Cruise shots. Those are my parents' photos. Somewhere in there there's some seal shots from their cruise ship, and some other stuff too. All my dad had was his D60 and 18-135 lens, so that'll give you an idea of what type of shots you might be able to get with that one. Lots of photos from on and off the ship. They went on a bunch of excursions including helicopter and puddle jumpers. A 200-300mm lens defintiely would have come in handy for some of the shots. I was going to loan my dad my 70-300VR lens for the trip, but man is he rough on and careless with equipment. I didn't want to risk it.
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Old January 8th, 2010, 07:25 AM   #17
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In case you're interested (and have access), multiple people are letting Nikon 80-400VR lenses go on the Nikon Cafe FS forum for around $900. That's a steal since the lens is still selling for $1600+ new. I have no idea what they're going for on eBay. At that rate you could buy it, practice and get good with it for a few months before your trip, and then potentially sell it for a profit when you're done with it, with the only cost being having to tie up $900 for a few months.
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Old January 8th, 2010, 08:33 PM   #18
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Hmm...I don't know if I can swing that before they all get bought, but I did see that lens available for rent online so I'll consider that one over the 70-200mm for the additional range. Plus I'll have the 1.5x crop factor working in my favor on top of the 400mm max.

What's the address to your SmugMug gallery?
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