Gray Wolf Chasing a Coyote off a Bison Carcass
National Parks,  Photo Gear,  Wildlife

Photographing Wildlife at Yellowstone National Park with Olympus Micro Four Thirds Gear

I’ve been to Yellowstone National Park numerous times for wildlife photography, but I’ve always used my Canon gear to photograph the wildlife.

When flying to Yellowstone, bringing the larger Canon gear to photograph wildlife can be a challenge.  On a couple of occasions, I’ve shipped my Canon 500mm f/4 lens to Yellowstone which was expensive and quite a hassle.  Once the shipper made me unpack the box with the Canon 500mm lens and repack it in front of them in one of their boxes since it was such an expensive insured item.

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With Olympus Micro Four Thirds gear, I packed everything in a single Pelican 1535 case that fit in the overhead storage on all 4 of my flights.

Pelican 1535 Case Packed with Wildlife Photography Gear
Pelican 1535 Case Packed with Wildlife Photography Gear

Here is what I fit in the Pelican case:

Coyote on a Bison Carcass
Coyote on a Bison Carcass

Camera and Lens Combinations

Olympus OM-D E-M1X, 300mm f/4, 1.4 Teleconverter (840mm)

This was my primary set up for photographing wildlife at a distance.  This combination did quite well photographing the Wapiti wolf pack on a Bison carcass at around 100 yards away.  In fact, the effective 840mm focal length was almost too long to get the entire carcass and and animals feeding on it in the frame.  It also did well photographing the wolves at a longer distance including action shots of the wolves chasing a Coyote away from the carcass.

The OM-D E-M1X, 300mm f/4, and 1.4X teleconverter also did well for birds in flight photography including a Bald Eagle take off using ProCapture Low and Bird Detection Autofocus.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, 40-150mm f/2.8, 1.4 Teleconverter (112mm – 420mm)

This set up makes a great car camera and lens combination for photographing Bison, Pronghorn, and Mule Deer.  In fact, the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 without the 1.4x Teleconverter would be a better choice for photographing Bison closer to the road.

One accessory that I would recommend is the Black Rapid Double Camera Harness.  Since I did not use or need a tripod for these photographs, the double harness allowed me to have both cameras readily available while standing at the Bison Carcass and gave my arms a rest for a while when the action was slow.

So how did the Olympus OM-D cameras and gear perform for Yellowstone wildlife photography?

The images from both the Olympus OM-D E-M1X and the OM-D E-M1 Mark III were sharp with a lot of detail in the animals both in cloudy conditions and brighter partly cloudy conditions.

Continuous Autofocus worked great on action shots and birds in flight and Pro Capture Low with Bird Detection Autofocus was invaluable for photographing the Bald Eagles and Ravens taking off.  The 10 frames per second in continuous low mode was plenty fast to capture the action at the carcass.

I also used Continuous AF with the 5 focus points pattern to photograph both Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles in Flight.

Bald Eagle Take Off - ProCapture Low Mode
Bald Eagle Take Off – ProCapture Low Mode

Olympus Camera Settings

I primarily used 3 camera setting combinations.  I set each of these up on a Custom Dial Function so I can change settings quickly depending on the action.

Single Shot AF for Stationary Shots

I used Single Shot AF (S-AF) with a Single Focus point for stationary animals.  I shoot in short bursts using Continuous Low working and try keep the focus point on the animals face / eye.  I also increased the aperture to f/11 – f/13 depending on the light when there were multiple animals in the frame.

Continuous AF for Animals in Motion

For animals in motion and birds in flight I used Continuous AF (C-AF) with 5 Focus Points (shaped like a plus sign) with tracking turned off.  I shot in Continuous Low Mode at 10 frames per second.

Pro Capture Low with Bird Detection AF for Birds in Flight

For Bird take offs on and around the Bison carcass, I used Continuous AF (C-AF) with 5 Focus Points, Pro Capture Low and Bird Detection AF.

Overall, I was happy using my Olympus OM-Ds and Olympus M.Zuiko lenses for wildlife photography at Yellowstone National Park.  I was able to bring a good selection of gear including long focal length lenses with me on the plane and I was quite happy with the quality of the images.

Written by Martin Belan

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