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Camera Equipment Used for Nature & Wildlife Photography

William Wiley Wildlife Photography

Digital Cameras

  • Canon 5D Mark II

  • Canon 1D Mark II

Canon Lenses

  • 20mm f2.8

  • 28mm f1.8

  • 85mm f1.8

  • 24-70mm f2.8 L

  • 70-200mm f2.8 IS L zoom

  • 600mm f4 IS L

  • 1.4 Teleconverter

Tripod

  • Hakuba HG-504MX Carbon Fiber Tripod

  • Really Right Stuff B-55 Ballhead

  • Really Right Stuff L-Plates, lens plates

  • Wimberly WH101 Super Telephoto Head

Flash

  • Canon 580EX, 550EX

  • Canon Flash Transmitter

Bags/Packs

  • Lowepro AW Commercial

  • Lowepro D400 AW

  • Tamrac Extreme Super Photo Backpack

Vest

  • Domke Convertible Jacket/Vest

Binoculars

  • Swarovski 7 x 42

Comments:

     The natural tendency for most photographers is to continually want more equipment, more ďtoys.Ē Contrary to how my list may appear, it represents more than three decades of serious photography, as well as a transition from film to digital photography. It also represents different types of photography. Besides nature and wildlife, which have always been my first love, I've spent many years photographing weddings, pets, senior pictures, sports, and architecture. To a large extent, the profits from people pictures and commercial photography have financed my nature and wildlife pursuits. Serious photography is expensive, and the digital revolution has made it even more so.

     The real trick is to buy only what you really need, and at least in theory, only what will directly affect the bottom line. If it wonít help you make money to either pay the rent or at least support your hobby, then donít buy it.

     Two other considerations are important: Unnecessary equipment is more to deal with, more things between you and the subject. Great shots are often missed because the photographer wasted time or was distracted by changing lenses, turning dials or adding attachments when, ideally, the photographerís eyes should never leave the subject.

     The other consideration concerning unnecessary equipment is simply that itís a lot of work to carry and transport. My photography usually requires hiking rather than sitting in a blind. At a certain point, extra gear truly becomes a burden, preventing or jeopardizing contact with the subject. If I'm shooting wildlife or birds, I usually carry my camera with my 600 mm lens mounted on a tripod on my shoulder. I also carry a small camera bag over my shoulder with one or two lenses, extra batteries and compact flash cards. If the weather isn't too warm, I may also wear my multi-pocketed vest, which is handy to carry small items close at hand. When an eagle soars by or two bull elk charge each other for dominance over the herd, I find it easy to misplace lens caps and other things, so the pockets are lifesavers.

    It might seem logical to have another lens in between my 70-200 zoom and the 600, but it would simply be too much to deal with. Doing the kind of photography that I do requires a 600, not typically a 400, which might seem to fill the gap described. However, I can get along just fine 90% of the time with the lenses I already have and avoid over-complicating the process. Besides, itís already hard work carrying the camera and 600 on a tripod in the woods or along a stream while watching for animals or scenery.

     One final point about equipment: If you know that photography is really something that you will continue doing for years, then itís far advantageous to buy quality equipment early on. Many a photographer, myself included, has bought a basic tripod starting out, then a better one after a year or two, then one that you think will be the ultimate solution, only to spend a significant sum of money down the road for a professional quality tripod and head. In retrospect, most photographers would probably agree that if they'd bought a good tripod and head starting out, they would have had better equipment to start with and might even have spent less in the end. It seems like a fortune to spend $500 to $1000 for something other than a camera body or lens, but itís better than having a closet with 3-5 tripods a decade later that are no longer used at all.

     That said, my recommendation is always to start with the basic equipment that you know youíll use and be satisfied with. Quality lenses, tripods, and similar equipment can be used for a long time, whereas digital camera bodies continually change. Often, itís only months after you purchase a digital body before an upgraded version comes out. In my opinion, buying several high quality lenses, a good tripod and other key equipment is far more important than opting for the most expensive digital camera. Digital camera bodies depreciate very quickly, whereas quality lenses maintain their value for years to come.

     The real focus should always be on your subject rather then getting absorbed on equipment needs. Do the research about the subject and then explore the world for the images you want. Thatís when the real excitement begins.

Bill Wiley - "Every image is an adventure to be experienced."

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