This mountain goat mother and her calf graze in the green meadows at Logan Pass, Glacier National Park.
I recently read an article in Outdoor Photographer magazine that was written by a nature photographer explaining the equipment that he uses to capture his incredible wildlife shots. The article mentioned multiple lenses that cost upwards of $5,000 and even as high as $15,000 in order to get the range required for great wildlife photographs from a long distance away.
To me, the thought of spending this kind of money on a lens in my current financial state is nothing but a dream in a long list of dreams waiting to come true (That’s right, I didn’t win last nights Mega Millions jackpot drawing). But, is it really necessary to spend that kind of money on such a piece of equipment in order to capture great wildlife photographs? If you work for National Geographic, maybe. But if you’re an avid enthusiast like myself or you’re just looking to bring home memories from a great trip then, heck no.
This big-horn sheep ram watches from atop a rock outcropping, looking down upon those who hiked to Grinnell Glacier, Glacier National Park.
I firmly believe, that unless you’re heading out to spend months in the vast Russian tundra attempting to photograph a rarely seen and nearly extinct arctic wolf, it is possible to capture great photographs of wildlife with a very affordable lens. Take my last trip to Glacier National Park for example. All of the photographs that you see in this post where shot last August in GNP and were taken using a Canon 70-200 f/4L IS telephoto lens…available to purchase for $1,349 currently or available for rent for $76 per every 4 days.
A black bear cub uses a tree for balance as she reaches to eat some leaves in Glacier National Park
Since I live in Connecticut and don’t get the opportunity to shoot wildlife every day, I chose the rental option for the duration of my trip and was able to save tons of money. But there are both pros and cons to not having a much longer telephoto lens with you when you plan on shooting wildlife.
- Cost savings for the avid enthusiast.
- Lens weight savings for the wilderness backpacker/hiker.
- Overall maneuverability so that photo’s can be shot hand-held and angles changed as your subject walks or runs around.
- Potential for disturbing wildlife by getting too close.
- Potential for putting yourself in a dangerous situation (i.e. too close to bears) in order to “get the shot.”
A bull moose wades in the water near the Grinnell Glacier trailhead, Glacier National Park
Now for the disclaimer:
This post is not meant to start an argument about the possibility of wildlife in our National Parks becoming “too used” to human contact that they no longer run away when human presence gets too close. In fact, nearly every one of the photographs depicted in this post required a hike of up to 12 miles into the mountain wilderness (with few other people) and waking up very early in the morning in order to search for these animals in their natural environment.
This post is meant to show that it is possible to take great photographs of wildlife without saving your money for years in order to acquire a lens that costs upwards of $7,000. Instead, an affordable telephoto lens, good timing, a bit of patience, knowing where to look, and even a bit of luck, is all you need to capture these shots.
Please feel free to leave your comments below, and share links to any wildlife photographs that you’ve captured using an affordable lens. I look forward to hearing from you!