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Which lens for snowmobile tour of yellowstone?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Mitchell, Nov 4, 2018.

  1. I will be skiing in Montana in January but hoping to sneak away at least one day for a snowmobile tour in Yellowstone. I'm curious what lens people would suggest for this type of trip. I will be carrying the lens in my backpack and have both a D500 and D800E at my disposal. I presume most of our wildlife sightings will be bison, but I'm just not sure what focal length I will need.

    I have no interest in hauling my 300mm, f2.8 just for this one day outing. I have an old 300mm, f4 AFS and my 70-200mm, f2.8. Don't own an 80-400mm, but would consider renting or picking one up. Seems like a 200-500mm would just be too big to bring but could also buy and rent if advised.

  2. Last time I was in there in the Winter which was last year I took a D810 for landscapes and a D500 for wildlife. True Bison are abundant and easy to shoot with less than 200mm. For most everything else wildlife-wise you'll need some length. The snowmobile tours follow the park roads and make plenty of noise so I wouldn't expect many close encounters. I would go 200-500 and even bring a TC if you have one on the D500.
  3. D500 + TC14E-III + 300/4E PF VR is what I used for my Yellowstone trip. I posted about it here before.

    If you want the links, let me know and I can repost to my blog entry.

    You'll always want more reach, but size to reach, it is hard to beat 300/4PF...although maybe rent the 500PF. that was not available during the time of my trip .
  4. SteveK


    Mar 16, 2005
    We routinely use snowmobiles in winter. Personally I don't like to pressure any large animals as it is difficult for them in the cold season. I would suggest a short zoom, to wide angle for scenics, and photos of other people on snowmachines.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  5. I was just down there, it wasn’t winter but we did run into very heavy snow, with horrible driving conditions. My 70-200 on a FF body got a lot of use, next was the 24-70. Like Steve said, please don’t pressure the animals. If you’re skiing near Bozeman, the North entrance should be open and the area around Mamouth Hot Springs often has some big elk hanging around. Be very cautious if you’re driving, take it slow.
  6. D500 and 80-400
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Great comments and information. I would never stress these animals in the winter. I would hope our guide will instruct our group to keep our distance.

    Andrew hit on the phrase "size to reach". That's the question. I'm leaning towards Randy's suggestion since the zoom would give me a bit of flexibility. Perhaps I will take along my D800E with a 24-70mm mounted.
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. That's what I would do (D800E with 24-70)--because I would mostly be interested in landscapes during a trip like that...and you don't need much reach to photograph bison there.

  9. Were you there in the summer? I think the wildlife viewing is significantly different in the winter months. The large animals (bison, etc...) tend to congregate near the warmer waters and are supposedly easier to view at closer distances.
  10. Mitchell Louie and I were in Yellowstone 2 years ago in January. While we did not shoot from a snowmobile we shot a lot from the car between Gardner and the Lamar Valley. We had full frame bodies and the D500 along with our 600 f4's and 80-400's. My guess is over 85% of the shooting was with the 80-400. This turned out to be a good lens for most of the wildlife while we were driving and could not get out with the bigger lens. We saw Rams, elk, bison, deer, fox, moose, pronghorns, eagles, and more. I think if I was going again the 200-500 would replace the 80-400.
  11. If you're snowmobiling, you'll be restricted to oversnow road travel which means you can't go off-trail and you also can't go into the Lamar Valley (that remains plowed through the winter for vehicles going from Gardiner to Cooke City). In winter, the Hayden Valley isn't open via car or snowmobile. Typically, you'd want the longest lens you own for those valleys but an 80-400 works much better for the snowmobile routes that are open. I've snowmobiled the route down from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful and you're carefully weaving past the bison on the road, and the elk go to the Nat'l Elk refuge north of Jackson so you probably won't see much of them in Yellowstone!

  12. Thanks, Sean. I was hoping you would see this thread and chime in.
  13. I was there August/September. the 300mm with TC-14 and D500 crop were probably enough. That's why I also recommended looking into renting the 500PF.
  14. Sure, Mitch - glad to help. Are you skiing at Bridger or headed down to Moonlight/Big Sky?
  15. Big Sky.
  16. Have fun - if you should run into any equipment issues and need a hand, I'm in Bozeman.

    • Like Like x 1
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