Behind every great wildlife or nature photograph are hours and hours of preparation and a bit of luck waiting for all the right conditions to line up to capture that perfect moment.
However, it doesn’t matter how long you wait or how lucky you get if you don’t have the proper equipment. In this article, we’re going to look at the three most important pieces of wildlife/nature photographer’s survival gear.
1- The Camera
While at the end of the day it comes down to personal preference for this piece of survival gear, there are a few things you should keep in mind when selecting a camera.
• Sensor Size
You’ll be using the sensor size to determine how much light is used to create an image. Your quick reference guide for this is that a bigger sensor creates a better quality picture. However, be aware that a bigger sensor also means a bigger camera and a bigger lens. You’ll need to figure out what size is right for you.
Autofocus will be important for capturing that quick action shot in the wild. Good autofocus means you won’t be wasting time changing your camera settings for that perfect shot.
• Frames Per Second
Frames per second are important when you’re taking pictures of fast-moving animals. This feature literally determines how many frames your camera will be able to see every second. If you’re trying to catch a fast-moving scene or animal, you’ll need high frames per second to do it.
• ISO Range
ISO is one of three key factors that will determine how bright or how dark your image will be. The other two factors are shutter speed and aperture. You should only change the ISO after you’ve adjusted the shutter speed and aperture as much as you can. A high ISO makes a brighter photo, and a low ISO makes a darker photo.
• Size, Weight, Build Quality
Finally, you’ll need to figure out how much you’re willing to carry. If your camera has all the max features and settings, it can be quite large and heavy. Try to find a happy medium and make sure you choose a high quality brand! You definitely don’t want the camera to break while you’re out in the wilderness.
2- The Lens
Let’s face it, it isn’t practical, and it isn’t safe to get up close and personal with a lot of wildlife. You shouldn’t have to risk your life to get that shot of a lifetime – and in most cases the wildlife isn’t going to stick around to get that close anyway. To ensure that your photography survival gear isn’t literally meant for your survival, you’re going to want to get a good telephoto lens. The main things you’re going to want to look for are as follows:
• Angle of View
Also known as the field of view, you need to make sure your lens can capture as much as you need it to. If you want to capture huge sprawling landscapes, you need a wide angle of view.
As the name suggests, sharpness determines how clear your photos will turn up. You need to determine how sharp you want your final product to be. You might find a cheaper lens with a great angle of view and zoom,, but its sharpness may be poor.
• Zoom Lens or Prime Lens
You most likely won’t be using a prime lens for wildlife photography. With a prime lens, you aren’t able to zoom in or out so you’re stuck with you have. A zoom lens will allow you to adjust how close your subject is without moving a muscle. However, you do sacrifice quality using a zoom lens over a prime lens.
3- Binoculars (or a monocular)
With a solid camera and lens, you’re ready to go out and take some great photos! However, it’s not practical to use them to scope where you’ll be taking your next shot and for that, you’re going to want something lightweight and portable. The third piece of a wildlife/nature photographer’s survival gear is a good pair of binoculars or a monocular.
The binocular’s size will obviously determine the quality of what you’re looking at. Bigger is better when it comes to size vs. quality. However, you need to make sure they’ll fit in your pack and are lightweight.
Just like with the lens, you need to be able to have a good amount of zoom in order to see your subjects without getting too close. A lion can make a beautiful photo subject, but be careful you don’t become lunch.
• Binocular vs Monocular
Binoculars will provide you with a much clearer image and be closer to what your camera sees. However, a monocular will be smaller and more portable for you to carry. It’s up to you to decide what you prefer!
After your camera and lens, the tripod is the next most important thing for taking quality wildlife photos. The last piece of wildlife/nature photographer’s survival gear you’ll need before you can begin your journey is the Tripod. To really ensure you get a crisp, clear photo you are going to need to use a tripod to stabilize your camera.
For your tripod, you’ll need to consider the legs and the head. For the legs, your choices are related to the total height of the tripod, and the weight. Obviously, you’ll want something lightweight, but also affordable.
For the tripod head, you have 3 options:
- Pan-tilt Head – has 1 or 2 handles for horizontal and vertical movement only.
- Ball-Head – Only has 1 control that loosens or tightens the grip. Ball-heads are very flexible and allow very smooth operation while keeping your camera and lens secured.
- Gimbal Head – A specialized head for long and heavy 300mm Lenses. A gimbal head perfectly balances the camera and heavy lens for optimal fast-action photography.
Thanks for reading our article on wildlife photography survival gear. Be sure to read our other articles on most common camping mistakes to avoid and lightweight and useful hiking gear to make sure you’re fully prepared for any outdoor excursion.