A Few Frames from last week in Yellowstone National Park

pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,670 moderator
edited February 6, 2018 in Wildlife

Kathy and I just returned from our third winter trip to Yellowstone, this time under the care of Juan Pons and Andy Williams riding in a snow coach on the un-plowed roads of Yellowstone. Yellowstone can be challenging and seem slow in action compared to the African plains, but it will deliver for the lucky, patient, photographers who hang in there and keep plugging away. Despite the blinding snow fields in sunlight, the light levels when the animals are active can be quite low, requiring ISO's more typically used for star shots.

This years we got to see a dozen wolves through normal telescopic lenses, as well as numerous coyotes, elk, bison, trumpeter swans, otters, bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope and one red fox

Here are a few frames representative of what we captured - my gallery is here - https://pathfinder.smugmug.com/Travel/Yellowstone-National-Park-w-Muench-WS-Jan-2018/

Coyotes are usually pretty easy to find, and the limited snowfall in the park in January really made them accessible

Canon 1DX MkII Canon 100-400 f5.6 1/800th ISO 320

Trumpeter swans are always a pleasure to watch cavorting in the snow

Canon 7D Mk II Tamron 150-600 G2 ISO 400 f10 1/1000th at 483mm

This red fox really just wanted to get a nice nap in the sunshine in the middle of the day - shot with a 400 mm lens on a FF body, so were weren't really offending its space at all.

Canon 1DX Mk II Canon 100-400 f8 1/800th ISO 200

A wolf pac killed a baby bison before sunrise the last day of our workshop, and spent the morning disassembling it and then sleeping it off. We saw 11-12 wolves in the tree line and I captured 10 of them in this image, pretty far from the road, but closer than one usually gets to see a wolf kill in Yellowstone. The wolves can be very elusive, but these were pretty indifferent to the presence of bus loads of photographers over the course of the day

Canon 7D Mk II Tamron 150-600 G2 600mm f7.1 1/2000th ISO 400

Here is some of the dis-assembly of the late bison

Canon 7D Mk II ISO 400 Tamron 150-600 G2 600mm f8 1/2000th

Comments and criticisms are heartily encouraged. My gallery does include images from about a day preceding and a day following the workshop. Great set of Muench pros - we all had a great time

Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin


  • denisegoldbergdenisegoldberg Administrators Posts: 14,076 moderator
    edited February 1, 2018

    @pathfinder said:
    This red fox really just wanted to get a nice nap in the sunshine in the middle of the day - shot with a 600 mm lens on a crop body, so were weren't really offending its space at all.

    I love this one, fabulous perspective!

  • kdogkdog Administrators Posts: 11,679 moderator

    Whoa -- I can't believe how close you got to those wolves! Chance of a lifetime. Great shots, Jim!

    That TAMRON SP 150-600mm seems to be working well for you. Did you micro-calibrate it?

  • pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,670 moderator
    edited February 1, 2018

    No, I just bought it a couple weeks before I left - but I had spent several evenings shooting short eared owls here at home in Indiana so I knew it was reasonable optically. It struggles some with AF in low light as you would suspect of an f6.3 optic, so it fared better on days with more light, but so what else is new. I paired it with my trusty 7D Mk II most of the time for the greater reach with the crop body, but I have used it on FF bodies as well. I may have to try it after micro-calibration yet, it did come with the Tamron base calibration device included at no charge.

    Yes, we were about 75 yards or so from the carcass and probably 125 yards from the pack at the tree line. Unfortunately the bison fell right next to a boiling pot which exhaled dense fog periodically that would drift between us and the kill turning the viewing completely white in fog. But still, we were very, very lucky indeed. And the wolves were gorgeous, black, grey and white colors. And to be able to frame images with multiple wolves sleeping and walking around was really cool. I have photographed wolves in winter in Yellowstone before, but never were they anywhere near this accommodating. And those were with 500mm primes and Wimberley heads and large tripods - none of which is very useful getting in and out of a snow coach

    An example of the Tamron 150-600 G2 lens is this closeup of the red fox when it looked up at us briefly before rolling over and going back to sleep

    Thanks for comments Denise, I wondered if i had pulled too far back from the subject, but you seem to like it as do i in the image above

    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • StumblebumStumblebum Registered Users Posts: 8,480 Major grins

    Great set Jim! Each one made me want to stand up and clap!

    3 is indeed precious!

    For #1 I think there is too much space but nothing happening.........if there is more space around it....I would consider adding to create wonderful sense of isolation or just some more space up top.......currently crop makes you want to look and find something in bottom and there is nothing there....

  • pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,670 moderator
    edited February 6, 2018

    My jumping coyote shot is one of "gesture", and not the greatest capture at that due to the low light of the morning. And this frame was one of the very first I grabbed on entering the high country from Gardiner on the road to Cooke City before the workshop began - shot at 1/800th f5.6 ISO 320 with a 1DX MK ii and the Canon 100-400 - I think the shutter speed was too slow and the ISO too low. I literally pulled my camera out of its case in the back seat to grab that shot.

    I like this shot of a different 'yote a couple days later shot with a Canon 7D Mk II and the Tamron zoom at 1/1000th f6.3 and ISO 800. I have several shots of this coyote and he had a big red raw scar across his shoulder blades like a wolf had bitten him badly, or something... Life is hard in the wild, but he looked pretty content on his morning hunt

    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • slpollettslpollett Registered Users Posts: 1,142 Major grins

    Great shots of the wolves & the fox. I do like your little fox quite a bit, but all those wolves in one frame is pretty special.

    I hope one day to be able to do this winter workshop. I don't like being cold though, so I will admit that for as much as I think I want to do this, I may ultimately allow the snow and cold to keep me away. :( Still, Yellowstone in Winter is definitely on my bucket list.

    Sherry P.

  • pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,670 moderator

    It can be chilly, but the coach is always a warm spot to retire to for reheating..... I recommend Winter in Yellowstone highly, whether by your own car ( if it is suitable for icy snow covered mountain roads with snow tires and 4WD ) or even better by snow coach in a photo workshop

    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • StumblebumStumblebum Registered Users Posts: 8,480 Major grins

    Tremendous Jim! I love the pristine snow......Congrats!

  • pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,670 moderator
    edited February 6, 2018

    Thanks Taz, then I did my job. Some of the snow later in the week was new, but there was a great deal of very old, dirty, heavily walked on by critters, snow fields that one had to be very careful with. The fox found the new snow in the sunny spot. The wolves were in an area with lots of animal foot traffic - mostly wolves paths though.

    Here's one of the snow and the local critters also

    Canon 1Dx Mk II Canon 100-400 V2 182mm f5.6 1/800th ISO 400

    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • StumblebumStumblebum Registered Users Posts: 8,480 Major grins
    edited February 6, 2018

    Killer shots....just one of the 2 would be a cool get....to get Elk and Snow geese in one shot...bravo!

    Can you say if you are happy with your Tamron? 150-600mm is it?

    I don't think I have guts to invest in Canon 500mm.....10K is too much.....so if Tamron is reliable option.....I might go for that one.

    It is on sale right now.....assuming I am looking at the right one........

    Is it good enough for Birds in flight? Meaning is auto focus fast enough? Thanks Jim!

  • pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,670 moderator
    edited February 7, 2018

    Wow, lots of questions, and many many answers. I am glad you liked a few of my shots. I got lucky sometimes. The geese flying by the elk in the snow in the river was a grab shot - you can't plan those really. I would have preferred to shoot at f8 or maybe even f11 at 1/1500th and let the ISO go where it needed but I was lucky the image still worked out.

    For long glass I would definitely start with the Canon 100-400 v2. It is a superb optic in a fairly compact package, and it focuses very quickly in decent light. It is not terribly expensive - you may already own one, I am not aware. However, when the light gets very low, ALL lenses AF is slower. That includes the Canon and the Tamron zooms.

    The Canon 500 f4 IS L II is not $10k, it is $8,999 at B&H right now. The Sigma 500 f4 DG OS HSM is $5,999. Neither is inexpensive, but the real cost is in size and weight. It is VERY challenging to carry one of these and their corresponding tripod and Wimberly style heads very far in the snow. I saw several BBC or Nat Geo shooters last week in Yellowstone with complete vans of gear who were going to be parked sitting out in the snow for hours at a time waiting for something to happen. I am too old to even want too try to do that.

    The Tamron 150-600 G2 ( Model A022 ) in Canon or Nikon mount is currently selling for $1399 at B&H with a $100 rebate and the purchase includes Tamron's Tap In console as well. This is the package I purchased, although I have not used the Tap In console. The lens is relatively small ( 10.25 inches un-extended ) , light ( 4.4 pounds ) and easy to hand hold.

    I find it sharp and quite able to shoot birds in flight - my first attempts at BIFs with it, were my images of the short eared owls. https://dgrin.com/discussion/263075/a-few-frames-of-short-eared-owls#latest

    One needs to handle the lens carefully, after all, on a crop body you are talking about 1.6x600mm -> 960mmm equivalent lens - this is not a focal length most folks can hand hold reliably. Good long lens technique is needed with this lens - it WILL perform better on a tripod with a suitable head, than it will hand held. Facts are facts. I think many of the complaints about long zooms may sometimes involve poor long lens technique than poor lens function.

    So, is the Tamron 150-600 G2 as good as the Canon 100-400 v2?? No, I don't think so, but it is quite good optically if used properly, and can I get images that I could not get with a FF camera and a Canon 100-400. The reach on a crop body of the Tamron 150-600 is quite helpful, and the package is small and light enough to want to bring it along. It is very hard to travel by air these days with real large white lenses.

    A couple caveats - Tamron chose to put the 4 electrical switches for VC mode, VC on/off, AF/MF, and Focus limiter right near the base of the mount, with switches that are quite easily switched between positions. This means that you are almost certain to alter these unintendedly while shooting if you are not very careful. I read this in a review, and found it to be quite accurate. This may be less of an issue in warm weather, but with gloves on, be careful.

    I cover all four of my switches with gaffer tape. Other wise will find you are in VC 1 when you want to be in VC2 or you have altered your planned zone of focus unexpectedly. This can be quite annoying at first. Tape them!!

    It will be a very good lens for air shows. I have used Tamron zooms for this many times. They tend to perform well in brighter light. AF is slower in dim light, especially with a maximum aperture of f6.3 but that is true of all lenses, even Canon. I see it a lot when shooting wildlife after the sun has set. I have always suspected that the iris diaphragms are not as robust as a Canon L super teles, but I drove my Tamron 150-600 G2 very hard at high frame rates chasing owls and wildlife in Yellowstone and it never let me down.

    One other brief comment about Tamron. I recently sent in my older 150-600 because I thought it was not quite as sharp as it had been, and Tamron Service was less than three days. I was quite impressed by the speed of their service, and that they serviced a 3 years old lens without question for a total charge of $4.00 - yes four dollars. The Tamron warranty is 6 years, and they seem to be standing by it. It is nice to know that you will have reliable, fast warranty service for Tamron lenses too.

    I have enclosed this image - shot with a 1DX Mk II and the Tamron 150-600 lens at 600mm handheld ISO 5000 f6.3 1/800th - a un-edited file directly from the RAW files in LR - to allow you to see how the lens performs. Note the ISO - 5000 - it was dark, my shutter speed was tooo slow 1/800th but I don't think the image is poor quality given the circumstances

    This is the same file after editing and cropping in LR only

    Here is a frame from a 1DX and the Tamron 150-600 G2 - { you have to be careful with the exif data in this gallery https://pathfinder.smugmug.com/Animals/Birds/i-7nmNhWthttps://pathfinder.smugmug.com/Animals/Birds/i-7nmNhWt -because smugmug reports them inaccurately at times - it seems to confuse the Tamron lens and the Canon 100-400 for some weird reason even though the metadata in my LR is correct . I have confirmed this with smugmug help via email too. I am not imagining it. ) I think this is a pretty nice image with the Tamron lens, shot in a bit better light with a 1Dx

    One other thing I like about the Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens, is that the stock OEM lens foot comes in an Arca Swiss style design, so that the lens will readily mount right into the standard Arca-Swiss clamp on your tripod head. HooRah!!

    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • StumblebumStumblebum Registered Users Posts: 8,480 Major grins

    Jim thanks so much for taking time to share that info. I am sure all who read will benefit. I love both of the last two images! If I get them with TAmron, I would be quiet happy!

    Thanks for all the tips and advice. I can certainly afford this lens.

    I am hoping I can sell my original canon 100-400mm. It has never disappointed me, but it has been used rough and no one wants to cough up any money for it.

    I am always left wondering about reach......so 600x1.6 with my Mark-II may give me shot at some critters that I only dream of getting to.


  • pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,670 moderator
    edited February 7, 2018

    You're quite welcome, Taz.

    My approach in Yellowstone was to use a FF body with the Canon 100-400 v2 - That combination is really hard to beat for a quality image, IF I could reach the subject to fill my frame as I needed it to for the image. IF not, then I would haul out my 7D Mk II and the Tamron 150-600. It definitely has more reach, and enough that I think the files are better than just cropping from a FF image. Again the amount of light matters, as FF images fair better in very dim light than 7D MK II images, but my 7D Mk II seems pretty fair at ISO 3200 or thereabouts with a little help later from noise reduction software if needed.

    One could swap lenses on the full frame body in a nice, clean dry climate in the field of course, but I don't swap lenses in snow fields personally - YMMV. Indeed, I strongly recommend not opening bodies in cold snow fields for those who didn't recognize my humor.

    Shop for a V2 of the Canon 100-400 also, or look for a used 300 or 400 prime. My wife has used the Canon 300 f4 L prime for years and loves it, and it is razor sharp and light and easier for her to handle. She uses it with a TC frequently - it is a prime after all.

    I hesitate to mention that I have an EOS 300 f2.8 IS L that I am planning on selling shortly - I think I also have a 2X TC I might part with with if encouraged.

    You can get an estimate of how much more reach you get at 600mm over your 400mm lens but using a 1.4TC - A 400mm lens + 1.4 TC is equal to a 560mm lens ( which is very nearly like looking through a 600mm lens - the size differences between 560 and 600 aren't great )

    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Super Moderators Posts: 23,157 moderator

    Pretty amazing demonstration of lens quality and shooting skills. Liking both of the red fox images lots, for different reasons, but all of the images are high-caliber. Well done, sir.

    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,670 moderator

    Thanks for the kind praise, Ziggy. I have shot in Yellowstone three times now, over the last several years, and I still find it challenging - the cold, all the clothing, and I almost never photograph with gloves on, except in Yellowstone where it was almost imperative. Makes for interesting working conditions. I wish we had had brighter light at times too, and that seems strange when shooting in snow fields as well.

    I loved shooting the buffalo walking towards us in the morning before the snow was marred and the sun was up, but I didn't really grasp just how dark it was until I got home and realized my auto ISO had pegged 16,000 at 1/400th at f8 at 400mm. Still I like the shot just the same even if I did move it into monochrome partially because of the image noise.

    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • puzzledpaulpuzzledpaul Registered Users Posts: 1,621 Major grins
    edited February 9, 2018

    Bison shot would get my vote of the pics here, Jim ... but I'd consider losing the wedge of sky top left, and for me ... I don't think the frame edging (or whatever it is?) does the pic any favours.... but nice job.
    This is an excellent example imo of ignoring the technical of a photo ... and just appreciating it for what it is ... after all said and done ... who amongst us visits an art gallery, admires the result of an artist's work ... but then finds fault with their brush technique?

    Re other subjects covered above.
    Gloves in cold weather. Whilst it's highly unlikely I've been out shooting in temps / conditions similar to those you've experienced, I have messed around with all manner of items, since I've always got a particular parameter to consider - close proximity to water.

    In the past I've used liner gloves - covered by fingertip less gloves - then both covered with disposable (but heavy duty) nitriles to keep others waterproof.
    After one particularly cold (for us) winter a few years ago - and having some difficulty in getting hands warm enough to pack kit on the bike for the ride home (5 miles) I bought a pair of electrically heated liner gloves :)
    These, obviously covered by disposables ... are quite toasty ... and make a difference.

    100/400 v2 ... I bought one about a yr ago ... and am also happy with it ... yes I lose a bit of reach compared with the 500 f4, ... and re aperture difference (in the pic) ... to fill the frame with the smaller lens to the same extent as the 500 - in the same / equivalent environment - puts the subject closer to me and the bg further behind subject, re dof considerations. Yes, there's more of the bg present, which can cause issues - but that's what the crop tool is for ...

    Re reach ...sometimes it's also useful imo to consider the 'pixels on target' aspect as well as the linear size differences ... eg working on a datum of a 100 mm lens ... assuming all else stays constant.

    100mm ... 1pixel
    200 ... 4 pixels
    300 ... 9 pixels
    400 ... 16
    500 ... 25
    600 ... 36



    btw, I've also covered switches with stuff to stop accidental operation ... both tape as previously mentioned ... but sometimes large rubber bands, made from inner tubes of the appropriate size / diameter. No chance of leaving any residue with the latter ... and possibly easier to uncover / recover switches too?

  • pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,670 moderator
    edited February 9, 2018

    HI Paul - Thank you for your comments.

    I agree with the wedge of sky on the top left - I wrestled whether to crop just a bit further, and instead opted to burn that area darker. Maybe I should just crop it off the top as you suggest. I really wish we had a bit more light that morning.

    You're right. Cold weather gloves are always a nuisance, but sometimes a necessity. I usually do use a liner of some sort - silk or polyester - under a heavier glove of some sort, sometimes fingerless. I do think wearing vinyl gloves under the glove liners as a vapor barrier can be real helpful also.

    My wife uses large heavy heated mittens with tips that can be folded back to expose fingers for shutter actuation etc. I just cannot get into them myself. My failing. I also agree that if you are photographing near running water - like rivers and waterfalls - the local humidity can definitely make for colder fingers as well.

    Long glass for wildlife is always a long series of choices - focal length, aperture size, lens weight, zoom versus prime, COST, need for tripod and Wimberly style head. I always want longer than I have with me, it seems, but not enough to want to carry it always either. I always want larger apertures, but even when I own them, I find I don't always want to carry them and the associated tripods and other necessities. I saw some Nat Geo shooters in Yellowstone and they sat down with 600mm f4 glass with 2x extenders on heavy tripods - I envy them the view, but not the weight or the immobility. Those are not tools you pick up and wander about with. And I like to wander and see from different vantage points.

    So yes, I too favor the Canon 100-400 V2 due to its unique combination of sharpness, image contrast, versatility, size, weight, and relatively low cost. Hard to beat. I do find I am using my Tamron 150-600 G2 a fair bit as well, and for the same reasons, but especially for the reach in a lightweight hand holdable, inexpensive package. I may try the Canon 100-400 with a 1.4 TC and see how that fares - some folks seem to like it actually.

    I actually used the rubber neoprene strap covering of my Lens Coat over the switches of my Tamron zoom - it is almost like the wide rubber band you described. It seemed to help keep my glove from moving the switches inadvertently to the wrong position. I may have said I used gaffer tape but that was just a metaphor.

    I am not against cropping, but it does always introduce a certain cost to image quality. Especially if you start with very high ISOs to begin with.

    Good chatting with you again Paul. How about showing the readers some of your latest work?

    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
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