What Lens for the Mountains?

Home Forums Photo Critique What Lens for the Mountains?

This topic contains 11 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  James Staddon 3 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #13753

    Rachel L
    Participant

    I have a photo for critiquing and a question so I’m not sure if I’m posting in the right spot?! I just returned from the Rocky Mountains and this was the first time going since I took up photography(when there, I came to the realization I have a LOT to learn about nature photography! 😮 ) I found a zoom lens would have been REALLY helpful but had a hard enough time carrying my canon+ 35mm lens on the long-distance hikes due to the weight. Which Zoom lens would y’all suggest for the rough hiking terrain?

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    #13767

    Dan Cope
    Participant

    By the looks of your photo, you did good with the 35mm! I’m not very familiar with Canon lenses, but for my Nikon, I have a 12-24mm zoom that I really like for landscape photography. Only being able to go to 24mm definitely has it’s limitations so I usually carry other lenses with me, but I think if I was hiking in the mountains and only wanted to carry one lens, that would be the one.

    #13788

    SarahLeePhoto
    Participant

    Fantastic photo Rachel! I personally like having a zoom lens for nature photography, and the Canon f/2.8 28-70mm has been fairly versatile for what I’ve done in the past. However, it is quite heavy so it may not be great for a hike. 🙂

    #13789

    Rachel L
    Participant

    @dan-cope Thank you!! I never would have thought of using a zoom of 12-24mm but I could see where it would be a good lens to carry!

    @sarahleephoto Thank you, Sarah! God gets all praise for any “fantasticness” in the photo. It’s His beautiful creation! 🙂 Yes, I was thinking the 70-200 too as I always rent it for weddings or events but knew the weight would be completely impractical…..

    #13793

    Dan Cope
    Participant

    The wide angle is great for landscapes because it allows you to include close foreground elements. I don’t know what camera you have, but mine is a crop sensor (DX in Nikon lingo) with a 1.5X crop factor. So theoretically, the 12mm for me should be equivalent to 18mm with a full frame. @jamesstaddon and I did a little test not long ago where we set up a shot with a tripod. I took a picture with my crop sensor camera at 12mm, and then removed it from the tripod. James put his full frame camera on the tripod and took the exact same shot at 18mm. The full frame got just a slight bit more in the frame at 18mm than what I got at 12mm. Also, interestingly, the lens distortion was pretty much exactly the same between the two. So, anyhow, my point is that my recommendation of the 12-24mm zoom is based on a crop sensor. If you’re shooting with a full frame camera, you probably don’t need that wide of an angle.

    #13822

    Rachel L
    Participant

    @dan-cope I’m shooting with a full frame so the info you gave is very good to keep in mind! Thank you. 🙂

    #15066

    Blake
    Participant

    if you have the money get the nikon 14-24 F2.8G

    #15067

    Dan Cope
    Participant

    Ah yes I would love to have the 14-24 F2.8… as well as an FX camera to go with it! Unfortunately I do NOT have the money! As for Rachel, I believe she is shooting with a Canon, so a similar lens to the Nikon you recommend would be the Canon EF 16-35 F2.8L. I’m sure that such a lens on a full frame camera would make a great combination for landscape photography and would no doubt be a good choice if you only wanted to take one lens hiking in the mountains. However, I see that for $500 less Canon offers a 16-35 F4. In my opinion F4 is more than adequate for most landscape settings, so while F2.8 is great, it may not be worth the extra money if you’re primarily using the lens for landscape scenery. Also, the F4 lens weighs just slightly less, although maybe not enough to notice any real difference while hiking in the mountains.

    #15068

    Rachel L
    Participant

    @blake @dan-cope Thanks! I’m finding it really enlightening that y’all are suggesting lenses with such a minimal zoom…. Since I don’t do much nature/landscape photography, this is really helpful to hear!

    #15160

    James Staddon
    Keymaster

    First time posting on this topic, here. Great comments so far!

    And excellent photo too. God’s creativity and variety in the landscape never ceases to amaze me.

    If you’re concerned about weight, going mirrorless will let you take practically any focal length range you wish. They are just so compact and lightweight. But assuming you are not using a mirrorless camera . . .

    If you can, bring both extremes. Primes are lightweight. Two lenses are best, but something like the popular 18-200mm could work depending on the level of professionalism you’re shooting for. Super wide apertures are seldom used in landscape photography, so I never bring the bulk of a f/2.8.

    What works well for me is a 17-40mm f/4 and 70-200mm f/4 setup. They are both zoom lenses so are quite hefty for long hikes or backcountry camping, but I’m never at a loss for focal length. The f/4 version of the 70-200 is incredibly less hefty than it’s f/2.8 counterpart.

    If I could only bring one of those lenses, I’d bring the 17-40mm because I love the wide-angle style. However, the 70-200mm generally gets used more because of the distance at which things tend to be when you’re hiking in the mountains, especially when you’re above timberline. I’ve attached an example of why the extra zoom usually comes in handy shooting mountains. Yeah, I’m shooting from basically the same spot using 24mm and 200mm. I like the 200mm shot much better.

    Where exactly did you visit?? Recommend any particular places? How long exactly were your “long-distance” hikes? Looks like it was a ton of fun!

    Attachments:
    #15166

    Rachel L
    Participant

    @jamesstaddon Really helpful advice. Thank you! The example photos are great too. Shows the difference between focal lengths nicely.

    I visited Estes Park, Colorado! It is beautiful mid-September as the aspens are changing color which offers many lovely photo opportunities. A “Long-distance” hike for me is a 14 mile mountain hike… which perhaps isn’t “long-distance” for most?! If you ever make it to or near Estes Park, I’d definitely recommend you hike up to Lawn Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park! It’s an all-day hike and at times a bit rigorous but the mountain top lake and view at the top are well worth the effort. The trail follows the alluvial fan and the views are extremely gorgeous! A few of my siblings and I have taken this hike 3 times and I enjoyed it more and more each time I took it!

    #15196

    James Staddon
    Keymaster

    Wow, that’s quite the hike! Yeah, it would be an all day trek. Perhaps a good overnight hike too, with sufficient time and equipment. Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve added it to a personal “uninvited locations” map that I keep for my own reference, and perhaps one of these days it’ll show up on the official Landscape Locations Map!

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