A small but capable high quality kit. Traveling to Alberta with the Sony A7II by Joe Monat

A small but capable high quality kit. Traveling to Alberta with the Sony A7II

by Joe Monat – See his Instagram  HERE

Hi everyone,

My name is Joe Monat and I am a Minneapolis-based photographer. I shoot both street and landscape photography with a focus on evoking a feeling of realness to my photos.  This article, however, touches on a recent landscape photography trip.

Banff

Recently I took a trip to Alberta, Canada with the intention of capturing the raw beauty of the nature up north. The trip started with a quick drive from Calgary to Banff.  Once there, I was immediately overwhelmed by the crowds and knew that I wanted more of an escape and to feel closer to the nature and wildlife up there.  That meant early mornings, late nights, not a lot of sleep, and deviating from the planned spots I had chosen based on research. The great thing about National Parks is that every inch of them is beautiful.  So, my family and I got in the car and just drove, coming across sun-kissed golden fields and glacial lake overlooks.

These sunset and sunrise drives gave off a sense of freedom and I believe that this really helped me capture more emotional photos from the trip (from my subjective perspective at least).  This does not mean that the highly traveled spots weren’t hit as well.  5am wake-up calls and late nights at Lake Moraine and Lake Louise allowed for me to fully enjoy the magnificence of the spots.  Rising early also had the perks of morning fog, glass-like water, and epic skies.

Jasper

A drive along the Icefields parkway to Jasper was the next part of the trip.  If you ever go to Alberta, I highly suggest blocking off some time to make this drive.  It is a 2 hour drive full of incredible views, wildlife, and hikes.  Retreating glaciers and drying glacial lakes can be found along the highway, which are magnificent but it was very humbling knowing that we more than likely had something to do with their rapid retreat.

Jasper was unlike Banff in the sense that it was a retreat everywhere we went.  There weren’t crowds of people there so it was very easy to relax, compose, and feel the photos. Being in northern Canada with nothing around you but the Earth is a liberating and releasing feeling.  When taking photos I try to evoke the emotion that I am feeling at the time and permanently capture it in my photo.  For the whole trip I focused on capturing the serenity of the preserved land.


For gear I wanted a lightweight and simple set-up and so I brought my trusty Sony a7II and three lenses (contax zeiss 28mm f2.8 + 50mm f1.4, and an old beat up 1st generation nikkor 105mm f2.5). I really appreciate how my Sony a7ii is small and gets out of my way when shooting.  The menu system can be confusing but the custom buttons and exposure dial allow you to really never enter the menu system.  It also rattled around and hit a good amount of logs while hiking and it never made any difference. The thing is built very well. My favorite perk of the a7 series cameras is the ability to mount legacy lenses, for creative and financial purposes. The contax 28mm f2.8 remains glued to my camera and is my go-to landscape and street lens as I love how it renders colors so naturally with a little pinch of something special.  Nearly every photo from the trip was taken with it. The 50mm f1.4 is just a great lens overall, but it didn’t get used for any landscape work on the trip.  It is a great portrait lens though and is very sharp stopped down.  Lastly, the 105mm f2.5 is a legendary lens that will always deliver. They can be had for very cheap and it is the sharpest lens I have every owned along with having very smooth bokeh. The copy I have is dented all, can’t take filters, and has trouble stopping down past f4. But, I admire these limitations as it forces me to be more creative with my exposure and focal point.  A great example is this photo (my favorite of the trip).  I shot it wide open because it was jammed and it turned out quite nice I think.

Thank you all for taking the time to look and read my article, if you like my work you can find more at joemonat.com or on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/joe.monat/.

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25 thoughts on “A small but capable high quality kit. Traveling to Alberta with the Sony A7II by Joe Monat

    1. Hi Ignatius,
      Thank you very much! My 28mm is the contax yashica mount 28mm f2.8 distagon. I have never used the m-mount biogon but have heard and read from others that the biogon lenses do not perform very well on the a7 cameras. If you are looking for a nice 28mm lens, I cannot recommend the contax zeiss 28mm f2.8. It is ,however, a little pricey at $250 for a legacy 28mm. Some other legacy SLR 28mm lenses that will perform well that are more affordable are the canon fd 28mm f2.8 and Nikon nikkor 28mm f2.8. If you are looking for a more compact lens then m-mount lenses are better for this. The voigtlander 28mm f2 ultron and m-rokkor 28mm f2.8 perform well on the sony a7 series cameras but they do have some color fringing. Hope this helps!

        1. Hi Joe,

          Thank you so much for the prompt reply. Definitely, am leaning towards the contax zeiss 28mm. Really enjoyed your set of landscape photos!

          Ignatius

  1. I am intrigued and impressed by your use of legacy lenses on a modern mirrorless body. I like sharp fast modern glass, and I’m sure that’s exactly the way manufacturers want us to think! I’m particularly impressed that you made such a trip with a Nikkor that is as broken and compromised as you make it sound; you do know your equipment.

    Thank you for your images.

    1. Legacy lenses have their limits, a lot of them are soft wide open and have poor flare resistance, but they also can create wonderful images with great sharpness. That 105 Nikkor has a lot of faults but it still works very well. Modern lenses are awesome (I used a loxia 50 for months and loved it). They don’t have nearly as many weaknesses which is really nice. Both options can create great photos, it just depends on what the photographer prefers in my opinion at least.

  2. I really don’t like to shoot landscapes with a wide angle lens, look at these magnificent mountains in the background how they became compressed and shrunk.

    1. I find a 90mm very satisfying when doing landscape work. I reserve my 24mm for day-to-day shots of subjects closer than infinity. Everyone has their own style, though.

      1. I agree that everyone has their own way that they invision their photos and this makes a difference on the focal length. I happen to see my landscapes and nearly everything in 28mm and enjoy how it doesn’t have that nasty distortion that ultrawides do. When I want to pull in a frame I reach for a 50 or 105. But everyone has their own style, which makes photography so enjoyable and subjective.

  3. I live just outside of Calgary – in a town called Okotoks. Life gets so busy, that I never head out there – until my family came to visit. I did the exact same thing you did, and it was amazing. Thanks for posting the photos you took. I think they are great, and I can see why the last one is your favourite – the rugged Canadian greenery, wildlife (momma moose?), mountain fed river with that pristine blue, more trees, the amazing blue grey shades of smaller mountains with true granite looking rockies in the distance.

    Photography Gold!

    Thanks so much!

    1. Jasse,
      You are quite lucky you live in such a beautiful place and thank you for your kind words. That is exactly why I love the last photo, I believe it sums up all the beautiful aspects of the land up there. I hope to make a trip up there in the Winter as I’m sure it’s unbelievable.

      Joe

  4. I am all for cheap lenses. 😉 And I’m also in favour of cheap lenses which are good but out of fashion simply because they aren’t ‘fast enough’. Cool – I’m happy for people to blow their money on f/1.4 lenses while I sweep in an take the f/2’s and f/2.8’s. 😉

    These shots are very nice – they are gentle and natural, unlike the hyper-saturated landscapes with the clarity filter turned up to 10. One can only take so much sugar before it spoils the dessert.

    I would say that the rewards of this sort of trip are not just the photos, but the experience itself. A few years ago I told a friend of mine that we should go on a photo trip across the state. We still haven’t done that…

    1. Cheap lenses let you spend more on trips! Big fan of saving money where possible as well. And thank you very much. I try not to edit my images very much and actually reduce clarity and saturation and go -7 on dehaze to create a softer look so thank you for noticing that. And in regards to your trip, just don’t think about it and go. It could spontaneously be a wonderful experience along with some amazing images along the way.

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