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05-14-2014, 01:01 PM   #1
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Seattle - lens for whale watching

I am going to Seattle at the end of the month. I have a Pentax K20D. Would like to know the best lens to use while on a Whale Watching tour. Hope you can all give me some great advice!

05-14-2014, 01:02 PM - 1 Like   #2
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I'd take a 55-300mm or something along those lines. Having plenty of reach is key!

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05-14-2014, 01:23 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Like Adam says, 55-300 might be good. If you go out on one of those boat tours it is possible that you may get very close (50 feet or less) and a shorter lens would be better, but you also may wind up several hundred yards away, and a longer focal length could come in handy.

Good luck, and post your results here too!
05-14-2014, 01:51 PM   #4
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You'll want as much focal length as you can manage and you'll want a zoom, so lots of choices are available (see the lens data base). A probably minor point in its favor is that the 50-200WR is weather resistant.

05-14-2014, 02:20 PM   #5
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2nd a WR lens. You can get splashed. If you have the new WR version of the 55-300, I'd go with that.
05-14-2014, 02:46 PM   #6
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I can't speak to the west coast, but on a trip from Boston, a 70-200 was too long. Whales came right up to the boat On a boat on the ST. Lawrence river, a 400 was too short.
05-14-2014, 05:22 PM   #7
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This is where two bodies comes in handy. Sometimes the whales are too close, other times they are too far. If I had ones lens to go, it would be a 60-250 or the WR 55-300. If I had the luxury of two bodies, I would add a 16-50 or 18-135... or maybe a 20-40.
05-14-2014, 05:47 PM   #8
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M aye check on trip advisor about the tour you are taking. People will do reviews and tell you how close the whales get

05-14-2014, 05:55 PM   #9
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I agree that mostly you want reach. I used my Tamron 18-250 (an easy choice because it was the only lens I had!). The versatility was very handy, but the reach wasn't ideal.

Now I would use my Pentax DA 55-300. More reach, and a little better IQ at the long end. I would use that rather than my Sigma 170-500, for several reasons. First, the 170-500 works best with a tripod or monopod, neither of which is usually really practical on a crowded boat. Second, the wider range may be handy if the boat gets close to a whale. (Sometimes they come up to check out the boat.)

Other tips:
1. Fast shutter speed (e.g. 1/350th or faster at 300mm), because both the boat and the whale are moving.
2. Use moving object mode or continuous focus.
3. Aperture of f6.7 or narrower gives you a better chance of getting the whale in focus, and usually better IQ.
4. Shoot RAW if possible.
5. Take a spare battery.
6. Take microfibre cloths to wipe the lens if necessary.

Good luck.
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05-14-2014, 05:57 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
M aye check on trip advisor about the tour you are taking. People will do reviews and tell you how close the whales get
Sometimes so close you can almost touch them.


QuoteOriginally posted by Des Quote
I agree that mostly you want reach. I used my Tamron 18-250 (an easy choice because it was the only lens I had!). The versatility was very handy, but the reach wasn't ideal.

Now I would use my Pentax DA 55-300. More reach, and a little better IQ at the long end. I would use that rather than my Sigma 170-500, for several reasons. First, the 170-500 works best with a tripod or monopod, neither of which is usually really practical on a crowded boat. Second, the wider range may be handy if the boat gets close to a whale. (Sometimes they come up to check out the boat.)

Other tips:
1. Fast shutter speed (e.g. 1/350th or faster at 300mm), because both the boat and the whale are moving.
2. Use moving object mode or continuous focus.
3. Aperture of f6.7 or narrower gives you a better chance of getting the whale in focus, and usually better IQ.
4. Shoot RAW if possible.
5. Take a spare battery.
6. Take microfibre cloths to wipe the lens if necessary.

Good luck.
Great advice.

Very nice shots! Where did you take them?
05-14-2014, 06:25 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Racer X 69 Quote
Very nice shots! Where did you take them?
Westernport Bay, Victoria, Australia. From memory the whale was maybe 60-80 metres (yards) from the boat.

I've been whale-watching on-shore and on a number of boat trips in Australia. The best time and place to go is a breeding site where the calves are frolicking (including breaching). That is really spectacular. But it is still well worth going when the whales are migrating or resting. My most memorable experience was in North Queensland, when a humpback came and circled around and under the boat for about an hour. To see that great eye checking out the passengers was remarkable.

It can be very frustrating though. You might not see anything, or only a glimpse, or a spray. Often you are scanning the port side and someone on the starboard side says, "Wow, did you see that!"

I know this is a photography site, but one other tip is put your camera down for some of the time and just experience it. Without getting too New Age, there is something magic about whales that rarely fails to move even the most hard-nosed person.
05-15-2014, 05:13 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Des Quote
Westernport Bay, Victoria, Australia. From memory the whale was maybe 60-80 metres (yards) from the boat.

I've been whale-watching on-shore and on a number of boat trips in Australia. The best time and place to go is a breeding site where the calves are frolicking (including breaching). That is really spectacular. But it is still well worth going when the whales are migrating or resting. My most memorable experience was in North Queensland, when a humpback came and circled around and under the boat for about an hour. To see that great eye checking out the passengers was remarkable.

It can be very frustrating though. You might not see anything, or only a glimpse, or a spray. Often you are scanning the port side and someone on the starboard side says, "Wow, did you see that!"

I know this is a photography site, but one other tip is put your camera down for some of the time and just experience it. Without getting too New Age, there is something magic about whales that rarely fails to move even the most hard-nosed person.
Great stuff.

I've been living in the Puget Sound region for over 45 years now. Even though I have never been on a "whale watching tour", I have been out on the water hundreds of times and been able to enjoy the wonders of nature that the waters hold.

The Orcas get lots of attention here, and are part of the Native folklore. There are also Gray and Humpback whales.

The thing that always amazes me is how interested they are in us. When they come right up to the boat and just hang there, looking at you, it gives one a feeling like no other. To have such a large creature look at you so intensely, somehow you make a "connection".

And then they swim away.
05-15-2014, 06:19 PM   #13
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Another vote for the 55-300. That worked best for me on a whale trip off Cape Cod.
I don't know if the K20D has it, but I used TAv on my K-30. Set to f8 and 1/250 and let the ISO float. Depending on the day and light, you might need to modify that a bit.
05-15-2014, 09:48 PM - 1 Like   #14
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Nothing to do with lenses....but I shot this from my loungeroom last year......the Southern Right Whales come here to calf over winter......they were due to head south again (from Australia) when I looked out the window (windy/wet day) and saw them jumping. I love winter on the coast here mostly because of them. Enjoy your trip!

05-15-2014, 11:06 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by noelpolar Quote
Nothing to do with lenses....but I shot this from my loungeroom last year......the Southern Right Whales come here to calf over winter......they were due to head south again (from Australia) when I looked out the window (windy/wet day) and saw them jumping. I love winter on the coast here mostly because of them. Enjoy your trip!

Whales 23 Sept 2013 - YouTube
Great stuff.

This is a handy reminder of another point. It may be worth switching the camera to video mode if your camera has one. (I think the K20D does?)
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