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07-19-2019, 11:43 AM - 1 Like   #1
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National Parks Photo Excursion

I have a planned 2 week road trip in September to Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, and Great Sand Dunes National Parks. I will be tent camping, meaning no electricity, in these beautiful places. Besides personal, hiking, and camping gear, here is the photographic related equipment I have and will be taking.

Pentax K50 w/wired trigger and AA battery adapter
Pentax K70 w/wired trigger
6-L1i09 Batteries and 4 chargers, 2 are 12v capable
Pentax DA 18-55mm AL II (non WR)
Pentax A 28mm f:2.8
Pentax D FA 28-105mm
Pentax DA 55-300mm PLM
Pentax DA* 300mm
Pentax DA 1.4x Tele-converter
Oben CF tripod and a salvaged monopod leg from and older tripod
UV protection filters and, CPLs, 3 stop NDs, with step up rings to cover all lenses
Laptop w/2 portable hard drives and 4-32gb,4-16gb SD Cards
2-cell phones w/Photopills, hiking and navigation apps w/preloaded maps for offline
400W power inverter
BEAR SPRAY

My plan is while driving thru the parks, to have the K50 w/18-55mm attached, and the K70 w/55-300mm attached sitting on the seat ready to go instantly. If Iím parked and wild life hunting I will have, the tripod, the 55-300 on the K50 and the DA* 300mm with Tele-converter on the K70. In the geyser basins and for general walking around Iíll use the K70 w/28-105mm, carrying in my pack the 18-55 or perhaps mounted to the K50.

I know many of you have a lot of experience in these national parks. Does this plan sound reasonable to you, or should I be looking at something different? Is there something I should have but donít? I am concerned if 18mm is wide enough. Although for sweeping landscapes I prefer to use the A-28mm or to take multiple overlapping shots and stitch into panoramas. I donít really like the 18-55mm that well. However, zoomed out to 20-22mm it becomes much better. One possibility I might be able to do is to rent a DA 15mm. Iím just not sure what to do on this. I will sincerely appreciate any advice, suggestions, revisions, tips or anything else anyone wishes to offer. As the saying goes, Iím flying blind here.

07-19-2019, 12:16 PM   #2
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I have only been once to Yellowstone. Best trip of my life, you will love it.

One suggestion spend an evening with the wolf-watchers in either the Lamar or Hayden valleys. Ask a park warden where the popular spot is. Don't even think you will get a picture of a wolf because you wont, but the watchers themselves make great subjects.
07-19-2019, 12:41 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Iíd personally ditch the 18-55 for a better wide. Pentaxís 12-24 would be high on my list as a general purpose wide lens if my Sigma 10-20 and Pentax 20-40 limited disappeared tomorrow. Iíd also consider a used DA16-45 as a general do it all wide. Itís hard to use the full width of the 10mm...
07-19-2019, 12:55 PM   #4
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The 16-45 (if you can get hold of one) would be a step up from the kit 18-55, and the extra couple of millimetres at the wide end makes a difference.

07-19-2019, 01:34 PM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by skierd Quote
I’d personally ditch the 18-55 for a better wide.
My thoughts as well. The last time I was in Yellowstone, I was shooting 35mm film and my 28mm was practically glued to the camera. A few years ago, I was in Grand Teton, Canyonlands, and Arches NP with most of the keepers coming from my Sigma 17-70/2.8-4.0 (C), a vintage Tamron 70-150/3.5, and a Zenitar 16/2.8 fisheye.

Sooooo...If you can swing a DA 12-24 or Sigma 17-70 before the trip, it might be a good idea. Assuming a DA 12-24 your bag might look like this:
  • DA 12-24
  • D FA 28-105
  • DA 50-300
  • DA* 300
  • DA 1.4x TC
Yes, leave the A 28/2.8 at home. My prediction is that most of your shots from the above kit would be done with the 12-24 and 28-105, with the 50-300 and the converter languishing in the bag and the DA* 300 being used for wildlife almost exclusively.

As for your battery strategy, I would lean heavily on the slower Pentax charger when possible. Quick chargers are hard on batteries and the ability to get a replacement DLI-109 on the road is almost nil.


Steve
07-19-2019, 01:39 PM   #6
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Two more things...

-- Paper maps of anyplace you anticipate hiking. Cell coverage should not be assumed.

-- A three-stop ND may not be enough and the ability to leverage multi-exposure or interval composite may be more difficult then one might think in the field (voice of experience on both counts).

-- Bear bells in addition to spray.


Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 07-19-2019 at 02:10 PM.
07-19-2019, 01:48 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by skierd Quote
I’d personally ditch the 18-55 for a better wide. Pentax’s 12-24 would be high on my list as a general purpose wide lens if my Sigma 10-20 and Pentax 20-40 limited disappeared tomorrow. I’d also consider a used DA16-45 as a general do it all wide. It’s hard to use the full width of the 10mm...
Yep, I tend to recommend the 12-24. A 15 would be handy, but the versatility, extra range and IQ makes the 12-24 my first recommendation. Definitely something wider than 18.

Grand Prismatic Spring @ 15mm.

Last edited by SpecialK; 07-19-2019 at 08:31 PM.
07-19-2019, 02:49 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by DWS1 Quote
...Pentax DA 18-55mm AL II (non WR)
Pentax A 28mm f:2.8
Pentax D FA 28-105mm
...One possibility I might be able to do is to rent a DA 15mm...
To reduce the number of lenses you're carrying around, maybe swap all 4 of those for a rented 16-85. You'll get nearly as wide as the DA 15, nearly as long as the 28-105. It has good image quality and offers weather resistance. (the 18-135 is a contender, but 2mm on the wide end makes a big difference IMO)

Add a bulb blower and lens cleaner to your gear list in case of sensor dust. Keep it in your car so it doesn't add to hiking weight, but you can at least clean the sensor at the end of the day if you notice dust spots.

Paper maps, already mentioned by someone else, as a backup in case of smartphone issues.

Laptops and camera gear are popular targets for thieves. Lock unused gear in your car trunk, never on a seat where it's visible. Do so before driving to a trailhead rather than at the trailhead parking lot (you don't want someone to see where you put the laptop just before you walk away from it).

07-19-2019, 03:50 PM   #9
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Too much gear.
Just finished a 2 week road trip of the American west- I packed:
K5, with a spare battery (first lasted a week and a half, FYI) & charger.
Sigma 24mm-70mm f2.8
Sigma 300mm f4
Sigma 50mm f1.4
Lomography's 62mm lens (didn't see much use).

Each lens with it's own polarizing lens cover.
2 memory cards (64gb).

I'd take a single camera body, the tripod, and at most 4 lens.
Everything else on your list, leave it at home.
Attached Images
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07-19-2019, 04:58 PM - 7 Likes   #10
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There are a suprising number of places in both Yellowstone and Grand Tetons where you can get by without anything wider than 28mm. Last time I was there in 2012 the lens that got the most use was my FA 24-90 on the K-5. Places like Schwabacher Landing, Oxbow Bend, Mormon Row, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Old Faithful, don't necessarily require lenses wider than 28mm. But if you go to places like Jenny or String Lake (or hike up into the Grand Tetons themselves), or up close to Yellowstone Falls, you will need something wider. The aforementioned DA 15 or, better yet, DA 12-24 are fine choices among the wider offerings.

Here's the Grand Tetons from Oxbow Bend with the FA 24-90, shot at 53mm:



QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Bear bells in addition to spray.
The only problem with bear bells is some bears regard them as dinner bells and think dinner's coming.
07-19-2019, 05:04 PM   #11
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Your planned list looks pretty good. I do think 18 might not be wide enough, but I don't like to stitch photos either. Beyond just covering the desired focal lengths, I would pay a lot of consideration to the IQ of the existing and candidate lenses as the perfect focal length is not so perfect if the IQ falls short of what is desired. You can judge your existing lenses of course and consider the reviews / ratings on this forum when judging candidate lenses. The only item I would add is a pair of filter wrenches. I've had trouble with filters getting stuck on lenses, especially CPLs, while on a road trip and this can be very frustrating. The wrenches are inexpensive and very compact so they're easy to take. I never go on a trip without them now.
07-19-2019, 05:50 PM   #12
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I agree with many of the posters: 18mm is just not wide enough but the extra 2mm makes a big difference. In fact, as a landscape photographer 16mm is my favorite focal length (on crop cameras)
I have found the 16-85mm a great travel lens, but if finances mean you are unable to hire that, purchase a 16-45mm. Value for money, this was an amazing lens. (I still regret selling it)
The 55-300mm is also a great travel lens too.
Tetons are on my list too, but living down under means alot of saving and planning.
Have a great trip!
07-19-2019, 07:43 PM - 1 Like   #13
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In Yellowstone 28mm on FF (I use the 28-105) would work well. For APS-C I would want 16mm so the 16-85 makes sense. If your budget doesn't allow the 16-85 you can do just fine with the 18-55. I often create panoramas with longer length lenses so no real need for more than 16mm. I would use a 28mm and make a pano rather than use a 12mm. A panorama also gives you many more megapickles to work with when you get home.

For wildlife I would want to have the TC on the best long lens you have as they are not usually close enough for just 300mm. Maybe put the TC on the DA* 300 for the longer distance shots and the 55-300 for the intermediate shots. I often used a TC on my 600mm to get a better image.

Most of all have a great trip and don't forget to enjoy the parks without a camera in front of your face all the time. Just my ĘĘ.
07-19-2019, 07:54 PM - 1 Like   #14
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I have been to all four locations. I agree it might be nice to have something wider than 18 mm, but if you are comfortable stitching photos, there are some great opportunities at Sand Dunes and RMNP. I like doing panoramas with my DA 21 mm taking vertical shots to make a taller pano shot. The DA 16-85 is s great general purpose landscape lens.

For wildlife, elk and bison donít tend to move real fast, so you have time to set up your camera. (Hardest part is usually finding a parking spot.). The monopod is a must-have for the wildlife shots so you can move to get a good angle and support your telephoto lens.

For Tetons and Yellowstone, I agree the wide-angle might be less important.

Keep in mind that you might see snow in either Yellowstone or RMNP in September. Keep you batteries warm if it gets cold.

Have a great trip! I was in RMNP in June just after Trail Ridge Road opened. Sand Dunes is amazing to visit.
07-19-2019, 11:55 PM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
There are a suprising number of places in both Yellowstone and Grand Tetons where you can get by without anything wider than 28mm. Last time I was there in 2012 the lens that got the most use was my FA 24-90 on the K-5. Places like Schwabacher Landing, Oxbow Bend, Mormon Row, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Old Faithful, don't necessarily require lenses wider than 28mm.


The only problem with bear bells is some bears regard them as dinner bells and think dinner's coming.
Agree 100%. Iíve not yet been to these parks, but Alaska has similar terrain. The landscape is just too big and too far away to try to get it all in one shot with an ultra-wide. Multiple shot stitching yields far better results in my experience; itís helpful for good results to set exposure manually or lock it and set the camera to manual focus.

As far as bears, the Park service was recently on a local radio program on NPR talking about the best ways to protect yourself from bears in the backcountry. After studying years of recorded incidents, what they found:

1 - donít go alone. There were almost no recorded bear attacks against groups of 3 or more, and many of the attacks on groups involved hunters field dressing an animal. Two is enough of a group to cut down the odds significantly as well.

2 - donít scare bears. Make a reasonable amount of noise as your walk. A conversation should be enough, or bells and other ďhumanĒ sounding things to let bears know your coming. Try to avoid walking in to tall grass, brush, and dense thickets where visibility is limited as thatís where bears will likely be sleeping or resting. *Most* bears want to be left alone...

3 - If a bear doesnít want to be left alone, thatís when you need bear spray and/or a firearm. Keep in mind your target is roughly the size of a dinner plate, and is going to be running at you not in a straight line but bouncing around with teeth and claws at 40mph...

The park service up here says to try to keep at least 100 yards between you and bears, which is plenty close enough for me if Iím not in a vehicle.

If you follow 1 and 2, youíll probably never have to deal with 3. As a photographer it would be nice to have a second person to act as a spotter. Two sets of eyes sees more animals, and can watch your back while youíre shooting too.
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