Lenses for mountain photography

Started Oct 6, 2012 | Discussions
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Andu Junior Member • Posts: 32
Lenses for mountain photography

Hi all,

I´m going to hike Himalayas in November. I have currently Nikon d600 and 24-120 f4 which I am most likely going to use 90% of time. Our group have porters so I´m going to add another lens (not a very heavy one) for the setup but I think that´s the limit. Besides, i will have a small tripod with me.

I cannot decide whether to go wide end (Tamron 17-35 2.8-4.0/Nikon 20 2.8) or tele-end (Nikon 70-300). These lenses are within my budget and seem to have relatively good value.

Which end (wide or tele) would you go and why?

Nikon D600
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D300SandV1shooter Senior Member • Posts: 2,147
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

Despite the attractiveness of the idea of having a porter carrying one's lenses, I somehow doubt if that would work out well on a Himalayan trek. I would take a 20mm, and keep it accessible when needed by carrying it myself.

wasserball Veteran Member • Posts: 3,580
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

I am not sure that Tamron 17-35 2.8-4.0 will buy you that much when you are in a very expansive setting so my choice whould be the prime Nikon 20 f2.8.

I also don't think you will be doing that much on the tele end, so the 70-300mm is out.  It is also covered in part of the 24-120 f4.

 wasserball's gear list:wasserball's gear list
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR Nikon D3S Nikon D600 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 400mm f/2.8G ED VR II +4 more
sm1000 Forum Member • Posts: 59
Re: Lenses for mountain photography
1

Which end (wide or tele) would you go and why?

Hi,

I was recently hiking in Denali and I used my 24-70 and 70-200 almost exclusively. I used the 14-24 rarely. The 70-200  is what I used for most of my mountain shots. I found the wide angles made the individual great peaks (Everest in your case) to look small and unimpressive. The  longer focal lengths were also great for isolating individual mountain peaks.

Sean

jhinkey
jhinkey Senior Member • Posts: 2,780
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

Andu wrote:

Hi all,

I´m going to hike Himalayas in November. I have currently Nikon d600 and 24-120 f4 which I am most likely going to use 90% of time. Our group have porters so I´m going to add another lens (not a very heavy one) for the setup but I think that´s the limit. Besides, i will have a small tripod with me.

I cannot decide whether to go wide end (Tamron 17-35 2.8-4.0/Nikon 20 2.8) or tele-end (Nikon 70-300). These lenses are within my budget and seem to have relatively good value.

Which end (wide or tele) would you go and why?

If it were me, I'd take a 16/3.5 AI fisheye (or the 16/2.8AF-D if you can't find the MF AI version which is way way better), the 20/2.8D and something 200mm+ (like the small, light and excellent 200/4 AIS).

Also, a lot happens a dusk and dawn, so I'd bring some light fast glass, like the 50/1.8G

When I went trekking around Annapurna a decade or so ago I took:

20/2.8D

50/1.8D

24-50D

80-200/2.8D + TC14B

I used the 20/2.8 as much as the 80-200/2.8.

John

 jhinkey's gear list:jhinkey's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Nikon D800 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 +21 more
jhinkey
jhinkey Senior Member • Posts: 2,780
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

Also, if I had to do it again with my current D800, I'd take:

16/3.5 AI

17-35/2.8AFS

50/1.8G

70-200/2.8VRII + TC14E

and a decent CF tripod + ball head.  I'd also consider carrying a second FX body . . . . .

In Nepal I carried all of my camera gear and I'd do it again (especially when up high).

Have fun!

 jhinkey's gear list:jhinkey's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Nikon D800 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 +21 more
Sante Patate Veteran Member • Posts: 5,908
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

Whereabouts in the Himalaya?  My pictures from the Khumbu - Everest, roughly - mostly range from slightly wide or normal to moderate telephoto.  On the Annapurna side, on the other hand, my pictures range from extreme to moderate wide-angle.  It is just the way the mountains are arranged around the valleys - and the way I photograph, so YMMV.  IMO, 120 would be long enough, unless you are only going on a short trip somewhere like Poon Hill, when 200mm would be better.  It would definitely be nice to have wider than 24mm.  The Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 is tiny and light and if you don't mind manual focus (the mountains are at infinity, after all) the colour is nicer (IMO) on digital than the Nikon 20mm f/2.8.

You do need a very wide and preferably fast lens for interiors.  Monasteries are cramped and very dark inside, and although you are allowed to use flash it doesn't work well.

Do take the tripod - only stitched panoramas will reproduce what you see.  Also check the moon phases during your trip: the full moon over an 8000m peak is not a sight to miss.

tektrader Senior Member • Posts: 1,511
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

just make sure you take a polarizing filter with you. I have had quite a few great photo's spoiled by mist in the distance and didnt have polarizer on hand.

 tektrader's gear list:tektrader's gear list
Nikon D800 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR Nikon 200-500mm F5.6E ED VR +9 more
Pouncer Junior Member • Posts: 44
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

I'd take the 70-300 for landscape detail/isolation type shots.  I'd be tempted to figure out a way to take the 20, too, but between the those two lenses I'd take the telephoto zoom first.

Garrett

punman Regular Member • Posts: 236
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

I live an hour from the Rockies. On long day hikes I take a 10-24 mm and a 55-200 mmm for my DX. I use both about equally.

I don't bother with the 25-54 missing in the middle. I do have a kit lens that covers that but I keep it in the car and find I can do without it on the day hikes.

I shoot many landscapes though. If you don't your needs could be different.

DavidPonting Regular Member • Posts: 268
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

I do a lot of mountaineering, and punman does pretty much what I do, modulo using a 28-200 for the tele, since it covers most of the middle section (I actually find it to have better IQ than the 55-200, as well, maybe due to only using the middle)!

w.r.t. tripod, you might find a large and heavy one more of a hindrance than a help, depending on how active you are! I take a gorillapod tangled round my rucksack, and a walking pole converted to a monopod by gluing a QR holder on top! (better than a dedicated monopod since better to walk with). Yes, yes, yes to CPLs, and also chuck a grad ND system in (step-up everything to 77mm for ease, as well.

For the OPs FX, you almost certainly want something wide - maybe an old 18-35 UWA? and long - maybe pair that with a 28-200/28-300. I've considered buying the D600, and even with that I would take my DX into the mountains - there is no way to get as wide as the 10-24 on FX without carrying something far too big and heavy for what I do.

Maybe, and don't laugh at me for suggesting this, get the 10-24 (apparently it works on FX at longer than 18mm, sans filters, anyway), then use the 10MP DX cropped mode both to get the ultrawide (15 equiv- 24 equiv, then you can use the 24-120), and also force the DX crop on your 24-120 - and hey presto, 180mm FoV! 10MP is enough 99% of the time.

Andu OP Junior Member • Posts: 32
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

Thanks a lot for all the replies!

I´m heading towards the Everest region, more accurately Mera Peak (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mera_Peak). It will be a three week trek and I know that the equipment may start to feel heavy but as I said we have porters there that will carry our bigger packs so I´m able to lighten my carriage if  the weight of my daypack  starts to feel too much. Furthermore, I recently bought Black rapid RS-7 strap and feel that it helps a lot when carrying the cam longer periods...

I have a circular polarizer and actually a gorillapod (not a real tripod).  Besides, I have nex 5 as a back up cam if D600 feels too heavy on the summit day or already earlier.

At the moment I´m leaning towards 70-300 VR as an addition to the 24-120 since there are a lot of amazing peaks nearby... adding 20 2.8 would be tempting though...

hewhosculpts Contributing Member • Posts: 828
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

Hey, you've got to be able to get that definitive  Abominable Snowman shot, don't you???

Seriously though, aren't there any wildlife photo opportunities on a trek?

 hewhosculpts's gear list:hewhosculpts's gear list
Nikon D800 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR
MoreorLess Veteran Member • Posts: 4,029
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

Andu wrote:

Hi all,

I´m going to hike Himalayas in November. I have currently Nikon d600 and 24-120 f4 which I am most likely going to use 90% of time. Our group have porters so I´m going to add another lens (not a very heavy one) for the setup but I think that´s the limit. Besides, i will have a small tripod with me.

I cannot decide whether to go wide end (Tamron 17-35 2.8-4.0/Nikon 20 2.8) or tele-end (Nikon 70-300). These lenses are within my budget and seem to have relatively good value.

Which end (wide or tele) would you go and why?

I think your correct to choose the 24-120 as your main lens, I tend to find thats my main range shooting in the mountains compaired to an UWA zoom for "normal" landscapes in the UK.

I'd say the choice really comes down to weight and which pics your interesting in...

Telezoom - Heavier option, potentially good for closeups of Everest and Makalu towards the top of the trek and maybe wildlife shots lower down.

20mm 2.8 - Lighter, good for a grand pano higher up, more foreground and enclosed valley shots lower down and maybe temple interiors on trek and in Kathamandu.

Whois Contributing Member • Posts: 588
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

24-120mm should be good enough for most shots. Having the 70-300mm will be useful for some shots too but I definitely would not bother carrying it above base camp. Mera peak is cold in November so make sure that you are covered for batteries. There aren't too many places where you can charge them on the route.

Rock Wallaby Regular Member • Posts: 254
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

I climbed Mera Peak last year. Unless you are supremely fit and keen you should travel as light as possible. I carried a Panasonic LX5 from base camp to the top. The D300 & 16-85mm lens were left with the porters. The porters do have weight restrictions (unlike 20 years ago). Getting up at 3AM and trudging up the mountain whilst roped together dampens the enthusiasm for heavy camera gear. On the mountain the light is very, very bright - you don't need high ISO to take great photos and recent quality compacts do a great job. BTW - I lost both contact lenses that morning due to extreme cold - luckily my eyes aren't that bad (and I had spares).

I'd go back with a Panasonic LX7 and a pile of spare batteries & maybe a spare compact camera - which is probably not what you want to hear.

´╗┐

martinch Veteran Member • Posts: 3,054
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

I seem to remember Galen Rowell mostly using something in the 24-200mm range for his mountain photography.  Dunno if that's any help or not (probably not...)

-- hide signature --

My gallery of so-so nature photos: http://martinch.zenfolio.com/

john Clinch Veteran Member • Posts: 3,064
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

I'm mainly posting t say have fun it sounds like a brilliant trip. I have done a Trek through the area many years ago and loved it. I think the 24 120 really does cover most of what you need.

For shots of mountains i don't think that wide would work that well as Peaks are often quite distant. So the longer zoom is tempting. The other option is a fast 50mm or 35mm. I think some of the post photo opps are in tea houses and lodges. They are very dark and a smaller lens might reduce the paparazzi in a shed feeling

i also think that  summit day weight might be an issue even with the NEX 5, depending on the lens. So maybe a compact would be the best buy or say the 19mm Sigma for the NEX. Again there will be social type situations where a compact will feel more in keeping. It might also yield better results passed to a stranger to take photos of you

But mainly have fun and post some photos

John E Fox
John E Fox Regular Member • Posts: 245
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

A walking stick that doubles as a monopod would be my best bet.

The 24mm end is reasonably wide, you can stitch a couple of shots together to get

an even wider panorama.

 John E Fox's gear list:John E Fox's gear list
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR Nikon D600 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm F4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Sigma 150mm F2.8 EX DG Macro HSM +2 more
Astrophotographer 10 Senior Member • Posts: 7,744
Re: Lenses for mountain photography

Wow, what incredible advice. You won't get any better advice than that!

Makes me want to go there too.

Greg,

 Astrophotographer 10's gear list:Astrophotographer 10's gear list
Sony Alpha 7R II Fujifilm X-T2 Sony FE 55mm F1.8 Fujifilm XF 50-140mm F2.8 Fujifilm 16-55mm F2.8R LM WR +7 more
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