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Author Topic: Lenses for climbing photography  (Read 2586 times)

Hannes

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Lenses for climbing photography
« on: May 13, 2013, 09:06:49 AM »
Not sure if anyone on the forums has any experience to share for shooting climbing but here goes. I'm looking for a new telelens and is wondering if there is a better option than a Canon 70-200 2.8 and a 1.4x TC.

Photographing climbers is a bit tricky because of the perspective. Shoot from underneath and you only get shots of various bums and soles of feet while if you shoot from above you usually get tops of heads or people looking like they are straining while on the toilet. The only way to really shoot properly is being at the same height as or slightly above your subject which then means you can only rarely choose how far from your subject you will be. Because walking with a pack full of climbing gear is heavy enough and then adding a couple of heavy lenses makes my knees hurt just thinking about it, so it can't weigh too much either. Since I live in Britain weather is well, inclement at times. During the last six trips I've been to Wales I've been hailed on five of those trips so weather sealing is a plus. I'm by no means a professional and do it only as a hobby though I have managed to get several hundred pounds worth of gear as a result of the photos I've taken. It is far from what I shoot most but it is the bit where I'm finding my equipment lacking a bit.

I'm currently using a 40D, a 400D, a 24-105, a sigma 70-200 f2.8 and a 58mm f2 MF lens. The 400D will be replaced with a 5DII as soon as I find one which looks clean and doesn't cost too much. The 400D and sigma were bought for selling again as they were really cheap and below market value. The 40D will be replaced somewhere down the line with something a bit more weather resistant.

I've been trying to come up with the ideal lens combo for photographing climbers and it is a bit tricky. I know from previous experience that equivalent of 200mm on FF isn't enough reach a lot of the time. A reasonable aperture is very handy as backgrounds, especially indoors, are very distracting if not blurred out properly. It is also usually pretty dark indoors but movement isn't fast most of the time so 1/125 is often enough to get sharp pictures if stabilised. For indoors I may well be able to bring two bodies but for outdoors it'll be too much to carry with me and two lenses will max probably.

So far for me I'm leaning towards a used canon 70-200 f2.8 MKI (MKII is more than I can justify spending, especially as I'll need a TC as well) with a MKII 1.4x TC. The option of having a 2.8 aperture is very appealing for lots of other photography apart from just climbing so is a pretty big plus. Other lenses I have thought about would obviously be the 100-400L but I'm not sure about the rather small max aperture and not so modern IS and not to mention the reputation of being a dust sucker. Push pull I don't mind as I've used those before in the film days. Sigmas 120-300 f2.8 is a bit big and the new version too expensive anyway. The sigma 100-300 f4 would have been ideal FL and aperture if only it'd had some form of stabilisation. The 70-300L is no doubt a very good focal length and lens but again the aperture isn't very exciting. The new sigma 70-200 f2.8 OS and the sigma 120-400 aren't really more appealing than their canon counterparts unfortunately. The Canon 300 f4 IS has crossed my mind several times as they go quite cheap, I'm just worried about the lack of zoom given my limitations in choosing a position as 300mm may well be too long. Had it worked to bring two bodies it would be a solid option. Tripod and flash will rarely be with me as I won't be able to use them so don't count on those.

Anybody have any insights to share or should I just go for the 70-200 I with a TC and be happy? Once the 5DII has been bought I doubt I will opt for the 40D much so won't have the crop advantage. Buying a compact feels a bit like a step backwards and I do have one which I usually bring as it fits in a pocket. Pictures coming out of it are a bit of a let down though. I'd rather buy a (cheap) used lens and sell it on rather than renting as I'm spending too much on this hobby as it is. I'm happy enough with the 24-105 so I'll keep that for the foreseeable future

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Lenses for climbing photography
« on: May 13, 2013, 09:06:49 AM »

neuroanatomist

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Re: Lenses for climbing photography
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2013, 09:11:13 AM »
I'd say 70-300L. The 5DII will give you ~1.5 stops higher ISO for the same noise, which will compensate for the f/5.6 long end. In terms of DoF, f/2.8 on APS-C is like f/4.5 on FF.
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miah

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Re: Lenses for climbing photography
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2013, 10:01:47 AM »
I agree with Neuro. I climb, own the 70-300L, and find they're a great combo. With this lens instead of the 70-200 you could also dispense with the 1.4X TC--a pain to be putting on and taking off when you're up high. It's well weather sealed, built like a tank, relatively small, and produces some of the sharpest pictures you'll ever get out of a zoom.
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jointdoc

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Re: Lenses for climbing photography
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2013, 10:08:06 AM »
One of my instructors did a lot of shooting of climbers.  I am enclosing a link to her website.  You can contact her and see what she used.

http://www.keengraphics.net/gallery/index.php?gallery=vertical
Canon 5D MkII; Canon T2i; EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II; EF 24-105 f/4 L; EF 40 f/2.8; EF-S 18-135; EF 50 f/1.8 II; Canon 2x Mk. III T.C.; EF 100 f/2.8 macro; EF 16-35 f/2.8L

rambarra

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Re: Lenses for climbing photography
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2013, 10:50:03 AM »
I have done a bit of roped work and shot some climbing videos myself.

Personally I am not a big fan of extremely long focals in climbing photography. As you pointed out best angles are obtained hanging at the side and slightly above the climber. If you are able to place your rope close enough to the climber a 24-105 or even a 16-35 are more suited for the work compared to a heavy 70-200, which is quite difficult to handle when you will be swinging around attached on a rope (especially when doing videos).

Of course if you are far from the climber and/or if you need to isolate the climber from background or make details of hands and such a super tele is best suited. 

watch gimenez work to see  what I am talkin about.

BD athlete Adam Ondra on first ascent of L'étrange Ivresse des Lenteurs (9a+), Ceüse, France
« Last Edit: May 13, 2013, 10:56:56 AM by rambarra »

tolusina

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Re: Lenses for climbing photography
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2013, 12:20:18 PM »
40 on 6

Hannes

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Re: Lenses for climbing photography
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2013, 04:48:51 PM »
Personally I am not a big fan of extremely long focals in climbing photography. As you pointed out best angles are obtained hanging at the side and slightly above the climber. If you are able to place your rope close enough to the climber a 24-105 or even a 16-35 are more suited for the work compared to a heavy 70-200, which is quite difficult to handle when you will be swinging around attached on a rope (especially when doing videos).

Of course if you are far from the climber and/or if you need to isolate the climber from background or make details of hands and such a super tele is best suited.

Indeed, some of the very best climbing photos I've ever seen were taken with a 24mm (Ed Webster and his pictures of the Neverest buttress route). The IS makes a massive difference when dangling I've noticed which is really when the 24-105 would shine. What I was looking for was mainly for when standing somewhere on the crag shooting people from the side if it is too much hassle to rig up a rope and jumars etc, remember this is a hobby and my I doubt my friends would happily hang around forever while I faff with a rope or two.

I'll give the 70-300L some serious thought, it isn't perfect but then few things rarely are. I may well end up getting a 70-200 f2.8 down the line but you certainly have a point with regards to the weight of it.

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Re: Lenses for climbing photography
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2013, 04:48:51 PM »