8 Things to Pack in Your Bag as a Wildlife Photographer
Over the years I’ve had plenty of occasions where I’ve been missing key bits of equipment in my camera bag. It’s caused all sorts of problems in the field for me, and often it’s the simplest things that I had not thought to bring alongside my camera. But with experience, I’ve now developed a list of really essential things I always make sure I have on my person when I’m out on a shoot.
But it’s not just the little accessories that I make sure I always carry. I now have a focal range which I ensure that I cover with my lenses, to allow me to adapt to any opportunity photographically. This article will look at a selection of things you can put in your camera bag.
#1 Wide-angle Lens
I never go anywhere without a wide-angle lens. My lens of choice is the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, but there are plenty of other suitable wide-angles on the market. There is much to be said about carrying a 50mm lens around – something that is nicknamed the ‘nifty fifty’ – as its field of view is typically the same as the human eye.
However, there’s one wide lens I would like to add to my bag: the Samyang 14mm f/2.8. Made for Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Sony, this is a great lens to have and favoured greatly amongst astrophotographers. It is ideal for capturing wide starscapes, and is also very affordable at under £300.
Having a wide-angle lens with you allows you to achieve both general landscapes, but also opportunistic wide-angle wildlife images.
#2 Telephoto Lens
Of course, I must take my telephoto lens with me too! I can’t go anywhere without it if I’m on a wildlife shoot. Instead of making recommendations here, I suggest you read up on Choosing Your First Telephoto Lens or How to Be a Wildlife Photographer on a Budget.
#3 Right-angle Viewfinder
This is particularly good for those shooting low level scenes, like macro photography with flowers. A right-angle viewfinder allows you to get down low and use the viewfinder, without having to crane your neck into awkward positions. Sometimes it’s impossible to look through the normal viewfinder if your camera is on the ground, so a right-angle viewfinder is absolutely essential.
For Nikon users, you’ll need to get your hands on the Nikon DR-6. For Canon users, you’ll be wanting the Canon Angle Finder C. It’ll bring you flexibility and allow you to be more creative with your work.
#4 External Battery Pack for Mobiles
With all those long waits in the hide, having a fully charged phone is good for entertainment, but also for safety. I doubt your hide has access to mains power, so an external battery pack is the next best thing. They’re lightweight and can fully charge your phone multiple times before being exhausted.
I recommend this battery pack from RAVPower. It has two USB sockets, so you can charge two phones at once. Very useful for the travelling photographer, too.
#5 External Card Reader
I’ve been getting so frustrated recently when importing photos from my camera onto my computer. The cable connection into my Nikon D4 is slow, and that makes transfers painful. On top of that, the cable easily pulls out of the D4 connection and restarts my import.
So, I’ve bought myself an external card reader from Lexar. It works on a USB 3.0 connection, meaning it transfers up to 500 MB per second of data. Goodbye slow transfer times. Note that this model won’t read XQD cards – for that you’ll need this dedicated card reader.
#6 Spare Memory Cards & Batteries
You should always make sure you take spare memory cards and batteries with you. Not just memory cards, but memory cards that have been cleared and have space for new photos! It’s always a risk deleting shots from a card in the field; sometimes I can’t remember if I’ve backed up a particular card that I haven’t looked at for a while. This means I either can’t use the card, or have to risk losing other images.
Read our article What You Need to Know When Choosing a Memory Card for more information about getting the right card for your camera and needs.
#7 Screwdriver and Hex Keys
One of the most useful things I have is a screwdriver and set of hex keys (a.k.a Allen keys). Lots of bits on tripods require hex keys to tighten them, and the attachment screws for your tripod plate will need some kind of screwdriver to properly tighten. These things often come loose, especially if you are using heavy equipment like a telephoto lens. Not being able to tighten things fully leaves them at risk of falling apart, off of things, or just introducing camera shake.
It’s worth having a Leatherman, or penknife, with you too – especially if you are being creative with your photos. Perhaps you’re setting up camera traps or other DIY projects; a multi-tool like this will come is extra handy.
#8 Pop-up Reflector
This is one for the macro photographers amongst us. Pop-up reflectors let you easily create fill light to kill off shadows and introduce much more pleasing lighting to your macro photography. They’re really cheap, lightweight and slip into your bag without issue.
There’s some advice on how to shoot macro photos, using reflectors too, in our tutorial An Introduction to Macro Photography.
What Do You Take with You?
We’re all here to learn from each other, so I’m interested to hear what you can’t live without in your camera bag. Post in the comments below and let us know what you are often thankful you’ve packed in your kit.