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

samyang 14mmI 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

camera gear kitThis 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

wildlife photography camera gearWith 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

card readerI’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.

reflector

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.

Will Nicholls is the founder of Nature TTL and a professional wildlife photographer and film-maker from England. Having been photographing since the age of 12, Will’s images have won a string of awards, including the title of “Young British Wildlife Photographer of the Year” in 2009 from the British Wildlife Photography Awards. Will is also the author of the book On the Trail of Red Squirrels.

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  • William Speaks

    If you are photographing at night or during windy conditions, consider carrying bongo ties and small rolls of gaffer and duct tape. For any item with a cord or cable, such as a USB or shutter remote, I also carry a spare. I also attach reflective and brightly colored tape to small items such as hex keys and cables to make them easier to find in low light. This can be a real money saver!

    Also since there are many apps for cameras, I use an older inactive version of my current phone loaded with photography and navigation related apps. If the phone becomes unusable, I can fall back to my primary phone which is loaded with the same apps. I also put both phones into airplane mode to reduce battery use and use a battery pack similar to the one above to keep the phone charged while doing night and cold weather photography. Also remember the inactive phone can still be used for emergency services calls.

    • Michael – outsidefourwalls.com

      I really like the tip for a bit of reflective tape! The other three items I always carry are a bit more practical – some folded toilet paper, some mossie spray and some sun cream! I live in Melbourne and the mossies are horrendous at the moment; I stupidly forgot my suncream the other day and ended up with burnt earlobes! Not a good look 🙂 I have a Kaiser Baas powerbank and it is enough to charge a Canon battery with a USB charger from flat to full as well as an iPhone so it has been a life saver.

    • Some really good tips, William. Particularly the gaffer tape – I always have this on expeditions and can’t live without it. If you’re saving on space, re-wrapping gaffer tape around a pen is a good way to reduce its size too. Thanks for sharing!

  • Mac

    Some of the newer DSLR’s have a tilt screen, so they could be used in place of the right-angle viewfinder attachment.

    • Yes, although this requires Live View which brings its own problems. With the mirror forced to stay up, some things are slower etc. and uses more battery!

      • Mac

        Good point. Thanks for the additional information.

  • Chris Simmons

    My camera bodies and lenses are not water tight so I always carry a shower cap, if the camera is on a tripod you can just slip it over the camera body and lens in many cases rather than constantly taking the camera of a tripod during showers and it takes no space.

    The second item is a large wheelie bin refuse sack, they make a great temporary groundsheet, rain cover or shelter at a push and again pack down to pretty much nothing.

  • -A white umbrella to diffuse my subject (macro) by daylight and protecting my gear when it rains.
    -A dishcloth to dry my gear.
    -proper cleaning tools.
    -Headlight for after sunsets and nocturnal photography.
    -Something to remove ticks with.
    -bug repelent
    -sun protection
    -a car or het to protect your head against the sun