Photography for me is not looking, it's feeling. If you can't feel what you're looking at, then you're never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures. - Don McCullin
"It's not the equipment you use that takes the image, it's the person behind the camera" is indeed a well-used phrase, which of course is 100% true and indisputably the case. Always remember it's how you see and frame your image that makes the picture unique to you. However, having the right equipment for your chosen field, in my humble opinion, is hugely important to allow you to capture these special moments. Wildlife photography, in particular, is more specialised and having certain pieces of equipment will certainly make your life easier. This page is dedicated to the equipment I use and hopefully it will help steer you in the right direction. I have been in the wildlife photography world for over 30 years now and know what works and what does not, having made my own mistakes over the years. So I hope this page can advise you in some capacity and help you make informed choices for your future purchases.
Of course this comes to personal choice. I am not going to go down the route of what camera make is better than the other. I personally use Canon DSLRs, which I swear by and know exactly what I can get out of them and I am sure Nikon, and others, would rightly say the same. In many ways what Make you start out with is usually what you stick with and get familiar using. Canon V Nikon is a silly pointless argument; both are superb in their own right. For the foreseeable future I will be staying with DSLRs as I see an increasing number of people looking or switching to mirrorless systems. These have many benefits indeed, like the substantial weight difference and the silent shutter being just a couple to mention. In time I may add on a mirrorless system to use alongside my DSLR kit, but would be unlikely to go totally mirrorless.
Canon 1DX II
I use this almost exclusively for my wildlife work
- 16fps continuous shooting in Live View (14fps with AF and AE tracking)
- Robust magnesium-alloy water and dust resistance build quality.
- Excellent high ISO, I have no problems shooting at 6000 ISO if required. Easily pushed beyond that if you needed to.
- AF is fast and precise. My favourite focus point is the single point with small squire in middle, its extremely fast and accurate.
- 3.2inch screen is sharp and bright, reviewing images is easy and quick.
- Very user friendly, the quick view menu is fantastic for accessing most settings.
Canon 5D Mark IV
Used mostly for my landscape and close up work & wildlife second shooter
- 30.4MP full -frame sensor
- Excellent touchscreen capabilities.
- Light weight so ideal for taking up hills etc.
- Very user friendly and easy menus to navigate and like the 1DXs the quick view menu is massively useful.
- Live view is great for landscape photography and by moving the focus square around you can get brilliant more accurate exposure setting.
- Fantastic dynamic range and high ISO performance.
Canon EF 500mm f/4 L IS II USM
- My main lens – I use this for around 75% of my wildlife work.
- 500mm is a great magnification and at wide apertures like f/4 and f/5.6 you get fantastic diffusion and bokeh. I am now so accustomed to this lens and what it can do I can visualise what the image will look like even before looking through the viewfinder.
- Focusing is super quick and accurate and combined with the 1DX II it is an impressive combination.
- Four stops of image stabilisation makes hand holding a breeze. I regularly hand hold this lens when quickness is needed and in doing so have achieved many pictures I would not have had other wise.
- Lightweight for this size of lens without compromising on strength and quality.
- This lens is razor sharp even wide open at f/4. Mostly I shoot at f/5.6, this is my go to f/stop. Why? It gives me just that little more depth of field with out loosing any bokeh and I think it just gives an already very sharp image that little bit more edge.
- Close minimum focus at just 3.7M
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM
- Versatile and lightweight is the key to this lens. Having the zoom range is fantastic for varying your pictures from portrait type at 400mm end and pulling back to 100mm you can achieve great environmental options. Again hand-holding is easy due to its lightweight and four stops IS.
- This is an extremely sharp lens all the way through from 100-400 at any f/stop.
- Minimum focusing distance is crazy at 0.98m, so basically you can have the lens at 400mm and focus on subject less than a meter away. This can also be very useful for wild flowers and certain insects like dragonflies.
- If you want a lens that does a multitude of different things and is light and easy to carry this is the one. Also worth remembering if your camera is APS-C sensor (cropped) the range will be 160-640mm.
- Another tip is this lens is real value for money, second to none in fact. Not every one can afford or want a large prime lens, so if you want quality at a sensible price this is the lens to have.
Canon EF 70-300mm f4-5.6L IS USM
- Super lightweight and compact, this is a superb little go to carry around lens for general shooting, size wise it’s not much larger than some 24-70mm.
- Although small in size image quality has not been compromised, this is a very underrated lens and is very sharp.
- Like wise to the 100-400 if you use this lens on an APS-C sensor (cropped) you will have the equivalent to a 112-480mm lens. So if you are concerned about carrying heavy equipment this wee lens combined with something like a Canon 7D MKII would be ideal for you.
- Ideal for varying images from close ups to in habitat environmental types.
- Great for mid range and telephoto landscape shots when I want to focus in on a certain part of the scene.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8 L II USM
Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS USM
Gitzo GT4552TS Systematic series 4
(new updated version GT4553S)
- This model ticks every box for me. It is carbon fibre so it is light to carry around but still strong and stable. With 5 sections it closes down to just 48cm so it is great for carrying on a backpack or if you travel abroad fitting into a suitcase.
- Systematic range have no centre columns so they are fantastic for distributing the weight of large telephoto lenses thus you get a very sturdier secure platform for your lens.
- Tripod legs can widen out to three different points so on uneven ground you can adjust one leg or all three to suit the terrain. For low-level work spread all three legs out and you can almost work at ground level.
- Feet can be swapped about with various options available to suit type of ground or surface you on.
- A top quality tripod is a must and something that is particularly overlooked when you are starting out. Buying cheap wobbly tripods is false economy and only thing they will do is frustrate you. Buy as good a tripod as you can, if it’s a Gitzo they are more of an investment so to speak and will last you years. My oldest one is over 10 years old and it is still in full use for my landscape work.
Gitzo Gimbal Fluid Head
Please note gimbal heads only work with tripod mounted lenses.
- I use this for my telephoto lens wildlife photography
- For large telephoto lens that you attach to tripod this Gitzo Gimbal head is fantastic and gives you a nice fluid smooth movement.
- This Gitzo head is lightweight but still easily supports large telephotos like 500mm & 600mm.
- It really is a pleasure to use this head and it makes handling large lenses a breeze rather than a chore.
For my landscape work and fantastic all rounder
- This is a superb all round head and will cover all your needs from wildlife large telephotos to landscape wide-angle photography and macro work.
- Horizon levelling is superb and quick and easy. Use the larger silver ball to level using the built in level, it literally takes seconds. No excuses for squint horizons with this head.
- Very lightweight so helps keep kit weight to minimum, which is huge advantage when up and down hills.
- Arca Swiss type mounting plate, which is wildly used throughout nature and landscape photography.
Gitzo Adventury 45L
- This is by far the best backpack I have used for fitting large lenses into. I can fit my 500mm f4 with pro body attached comfortably and still have just under half the same room again for a second body and other additional
- The G-Cushion insert is extremely well padded with lots of adjustable variations you can modify to suit your own kit.
- Outside material is water repellent and zips are weather coated and watertight. Also comes with fold out rain protector if it gets really wet.
- There is an abundance of multi-link straps and webbing on the outside of the bag to attach accessories to.
- On the top of backpack there is an expandable roll top that is great for storing day items like a jacket or food for example.
- Also has 2 internal pockets for a laptop and another for a tablet.
- The internal insert can be removed turning the bag into an everyday type backpack.
- Shoulder straps and waist belt are very comfortable and fully adjustable to suit your body shape.
- Great to see a backpack specifically designed for wildlife and landscape photographers and it shows. If you are in either of these fields this or the smaller 30L should be top of your list.
Gitzo Adventury 30L
- A smaller version than above and I use this backpack for my landscape photography.
- Holds just the right amount of cameras and lenses for any landscape outing.
- Can hold the 500mm f4 lens without body attached and still room for it along side lens if you wanted to carry just these items.
- Apart from size all the other reasons listed above apply to this bag.
Soft Neutral Density Grads (used to balance exposure within a scene often between the brighter sky and the darker land area.)
Lee slimline 100mm Landscape Polariser.
This filter as well as removing glare and increasing contrast between blue sky and white clouds adds a slightly warmer feel to the image.
Kase Wolverine 100mm ND Filter (6 Stop)
- Reduces the light reaching the camera sensor by 6 stops which is great for achieving silky soft effect on water or movements in clouds. Also worth using on windy days to show the movement on trees and grasses with in scene.
- Very tough and almost unbreakable design.
- Unlike a lot of big stopper NDs the Kase has minimal if any colour cast.
- No filter is ideal in rain but the Kase is the best I have used. They are deemed water repellent and indeed any rain drops bead and fall of the filter easily and when you do have to wipe there is no smearing.
Suitable outdoor clothing is possible not the first thing you would think of kit wise but it is hugely important and often over looked by some. Firstly when you are out for long days in all sorts of weather, being warm dry and comfortable is essential. Secondly the type of material you clothing is made from, many types are yes waterproof but the material is noisy and rustly. With certain more shy species like otters for example strange noises at the wrong time can disturb them enough to move on. This does not apply to every species but is well worth remembering if you are looking at different options. Over the years I have used several clothing brands and for the past 4 years I have been using mainly Harkila and it is head and shoulders above anything used previously. Listed below are a few reasons why.
- I use a wide range of Harkila clothing from various jackets and trousers to fleeces and shirts. Their range is very comprehensive and covers from winter to summer and everything in between.
- The Goretex winter clothing is extremely durable and tough and withstands the worst of weather. Some ranges come with a 5 year gurantee.
- Very quiet almost silent which I love.
- Comes in nice subtle colours like greens and browns.
- It is not cheap but you get what you pay for and I have found what I have very long lasting and excellent quality.
- Ardmore is a fantastic mail order company I use for most of my Harkila orders. They stock a wide range.
Get the best out of your gear!
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