25 Pro Gear Choices

All of us have a special piece of equipment that we never leave home without. Here, OP’s pro contributors share their key tools for getting great shots in the field.
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Nature photography is part art and part science. There’s the spiritual side of being out in the wilderness where you can find a beautiful scene. Once you’ve found it, you need to access your analytical side to get the camera set properly. To make all of that possible, every pro has a select group of tools on which they have come to rely. In talking to some of OP’s contributors, we got their take on what they consider the indispensable items in their bag.

Apple iPad
This is a tool that, while still in its infancy, has already proven its value. The most obvious aspects of it are showcasing your photography and writing, but it’s also great for forecasting weather or editing images. Pushing the envelope and venturing into new futures is a big part of finding the next best tool. —Moose Peterson

Really Right Stuff Ballheads
I adopted ballheads early on, and RRS ballheads are the best I’ve ever used, with no sticking and a quick-release lever that has never failed. They come in three sizes, from a small BH-25 that I use on a mini-Gitzo travel tripod to a substantial medium-sized BH-40 to a heavy-duty BH-55 for use with heavier camera equipment and long lenses. A quality tripod and quality ballhead are a must for serious photography. —George Lepp

Nikon R1C1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System
For insect, macro and wildflower photography, I use the Nikon R1C1 system. With its wireless capability, there are no more dangling cords to manage. And with all the filters, stands, adapter rings, diffusers and other supplied accessories, you have everything needed for just about every close-up situation. —Jim Clark

LensPen SensorKlear Loupe Kit
Keeping a sensor spotless isn’t an easy job, and this combo will go a long way to accomplish the task. The viewer/magnifier that fits over the lens mount opening has a built-in light to reveal all the little specks of stuff that seem to be attracted to the sensor. The articulated LensPen picks up the specks so you can capture clean images from the outset, saving a lot of postprocessing cloning to remove spots later on. —George Lepp

Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L IS USM
Of all the lenses in my quiver, this one never gets left behind. It’s high resolution, lightweight and the range of focal lengths provide me with everything I usually need for most of my photography projects. As opposed to using a number of fixed-focal-length lenses between 24mm and 105mm, using the zoom also reduces the risk of introducing dust into the camera since you won’t need to change lenses. The ability to crop an image precisely in-camera is also a great added benefit of a zoom lens. When attached to my EOS 5D Mark II in my chest pack, I’m ready for almost anything. —James Kay


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Lightning Trigger
I always carry this little jewel with me, just in case I have the opportunity to get lightning shots during the day. It sits on the hot-shoe and plugs into the electronic cable release receptacle. It senses a lightning strike and fires the camera quickly enough to allow the strike to be recorded. Use this tool with lots of common sense around thunderstorms. —George Lepp

Singh-Ray 2-Stop Hard-Step Galen Rowell Grad ND Filter
With Adobe’s introduction of Lightroom a few years ago, Singh-Ray created a graduated neutral-density filter tool within the Develop module of their software. This tool allows any user to add this effect after capture, and even though I use Adobe’s tool on a regular basis, I still find that using a 2-stop filter in the field adds to the overall drama of the effect. In addition, I prefer to spend more time in the field photographing, so not having to add additional postprocessing techniques is always a plus. —Art Wolfe

Nikon D3S
This camera has incredible low-noise performance and has changed the way I shoot. I find myself shooting in low-light situations I never would have been able to just a few years ago. This camera is expanding what I can do as a nature photographer. —Tom Bol

B+W Circular Polarizer
The polarizer is an indispensable tool for the nature photographer. It deepens colors, boosts contrast and removes reflections from leaves and water surfaces. It works best when your subject is 90º from the light source, but I’ll often use it on cloudy or rainy days in a forest to saturate colors and remove reflections from leaves. —Art Wolfe

Nikon PC-E NIKKOR 24mm ƒ/3.5D ED
Probably the most unusual piece of gear I use is the PC-E 24mm, which is just a gorgeous lens for landscape work. It’s wickedly sharp, and the ability to render straight lines as straight are just a couple of its great attributes. The other aspect I find particularly enjoyable is that it’s a manual-focus lens. I like that romance of the “old” days of manual focus when photographing landscapes. —Moose Peterson

Wimberley Head
Smooth motion and rock-solid stability all at the same time with the big glass attached, the Wimberley delivers. I use this head with the controls never locked down tight; they’re left just loose enough to provide enough tension for stability and complete freedom of movement. When it comes to working a moving subject, the Wimberley rocks! —Moose Peterson

Petzl Tikka Headlight
Since I travel in the dark before or after shoots, having a dependable light is important. This LED headlamp is small, lightweight and lasts for hours on a single set of batteries. The main benefit is that I can keep my hands free to operate the camera controls. —Tom Bol


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Ikelite Underwater Camera Housing And Strobes
The relatively inexpensive Ikelite heavy-duty housing for the Canon EOS 5D Mark II lets me expand my shooting horizons to include underwater scenes and subjects. The unit allows for operation of all camera controls, and travels easily. To get good colors underwater, I add Ikelite Substrobe underwater electronic flash units, which recycle quickly and retain my camera’s E-TTL exposure control. —Jon Cornforth

Canon TC-80N3 Intervalometer
This little piece of equipment is essentially a standard cable release on steroids. An intervalometer possesses the function of a standard shutter release, which allows me to keep my hands off of the camera and vibration to a minimum during an exposure, but that’s only the beginning of its functionality. I get to control the number of exposures I take of a given sequence, and I can control the time apart of those exposures from seconds to days. The TC-80N3 lets me shoot time-lapse sequences, star trails and exposures longer than 30 seconds. It truly allows the creative process to come alive. —Art Wolfe

Epson P-7000 Multimedia Digital Viewer
When on a photo shoot or leading a workshop, the Epson P-7000 with its 160 GB hard drive serves as my reliable backup. With a 4-inch LCD that displays over 16.7 million colors, I can scroll through my photographs and show potential clients a gallery of my images. —Jim Clark

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm ƒ/4G ED VR
As a wildlife photographer, the 600mm VR defines my style of photography. Quite often, to narrow the angle of view a little more while providing more isolating power, I add the 1.7x to the 600mm. This combo permits me to surgically extract my subject and include enough of its world to tell the story. —Moose Peterson

Kirk L-Bracket
My Kirk L-Bracket allows me to quickly switch between horizontal and vertical shooting without having to readjust the tripod head or my shooting position, especially handy when using shorter macro or tilt-shift lenses. The 3.6-ounce aluminum unit maintains access to the battery pack and I/O ports, and doesn’t require removing the camera strap. —Jon Cornforth

Canon EOS 5D Mark II
I always carry my 5D Mark II. I use it to capture action and landscape shots, and to create large stitched files. It’s dependable, small and lightweight enough to carry in a small chest pack so it’s easily accessible. The full-frame sensor lets me use my wide-angle lenses as wide-angle lenses. Of course, the camera also has HD video shooting capability, which I’ve been experimenting with. It’s the perfect all-around nature DSLR for me. —James Kay

FotoSharp Raincover
This cover is simple, compact and keeps my equipment dry. I can carry it in my back pocket, and it’s ready to deploy if the rain should come. I also like to have it for early-morning shooting. I can kneel on the cover when there’s heavy dew on the ground. —Tom Bol

Gitzo GT3541XLS Carbon-Fiber Tripod
This tripod doesn’t have a center column, which lets me get in much lower and closer to a lot of subjects. In addition, the XLS has an extra-long leg system, allowing me to get higher than my standing height to achieve a different perspective. The other important aspect of utilizing a tripod is stability. I can fine-tune my composition to eliminate even the slightest of distracting elements from my frame. —Art Wolfe


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Microfiber Lens Cloth
Always to be found in my pocket is a small microfiber cloth that I use to clean my eyeglasses and my camera lenses. It does a great job in cleaning the front surface of my iPhone and iPad. Fingerprints and dust particles are quickly removed with a bit of wiping and polishing. Be careful not to polish the front element of a lens if grit is present. Blow that off first with a blower or compressed air. The cloth can be washed for years of use. The one I carry is 18% gray, just in case I need it for difficult exposures or manual color balance. They’re available in camera stores and online. —George Lepp

Lee 4x4 ND Filters
I love working with long exposures to record the motion of clouds, water and other elements over time. Neutral-density filters help me achieve exposures ranging from several seconds to several minutes. Lee ND filters come in various strengths, and because they fit within the Lee filter holder system, they can be easily used with other filters such as polarizers and graduated ND filters. —Ian Plant

Novoflex Lens Mount Adapter
I have a few favorite lenses that I want to be able to use regardless of the DSLR I’m taking into the field. The Novoflex EOS lens adapter lets me use a variety of favorite lenses on my Canon DSLR. —Ian Plant

Acratech Ultimate Ballhead
This lightweight ballhead is a shining example of that unique place where elegant design meets function. Weighing in at less than one pound, this rock-solid head is an indispensable item when I’m carrying a backpack full of equipment in the backcountry or even when I’m shooting from the side of the road where weight isn’t an issue. Since I was introduced to it by a fellow pro a few years back, my other ballheads have been collecting dust in the closet. —James Kay

Carl Zeiss 35mm ƒ/2 ZE
I love the sharpness of this lens, as well as the colors and the bokeh. And the focusing ring has a large rotation angle, making manual focusing during video recording smoother and more precise. The ZE version has a mount for my Canon EOS cameras; the lens is also available in mounts for other cameras and can be used on still others via adapters. —Jon Cornforth

Better Beamer
This Fresnel system attaches to the front of a flash, projecting and concentrating the light to gain three stops when using lenses beyond 300mm. It folds up flat to fit in my camera bag and is ready at a moment’s notice for fill light or as the main light source, using the camera’s TTL exposure capabilities. The Better Beamer is especially useful in wildlife photography to light shadowy areas in the face of distant mammals or to achieve the fast shutter speeds necessary to capture flying birds in low-light conditions. It’s available through a number of sources, such as Arthur Morris (www.birdsasart.com) and NatureScapes (www.naturescapes.net/store). —George Lepp

Resources
Acratech
www.acratech.net

Apple
(800) MY-APPLE
www.apple.com

B+W (Schneider Optics)
(800) 228-1254
www.schneideroptics.com

Canon
(800) OK-CANON
www.usa.canon.com

Carl Zeiss
www.zeiss.com/photo

Epson
(800) GO-EPSON
www.epson.com

Lightning Trigger
www.lightningtrigger.com

FotoSharp Raincover
(800) 361-8341
www.fotosharp.com

Gitzo
(201) 818-9500
www.gitzo.us

Ikelite
www.ikelite.com

Kirk Enterprises
(800) 626-5074
www.kirkphoto.com

Lee Filters
(800) 576-5055
www.leefilters.com

LensPen
(877) 608-0868
www.lenspen.com

Nikon
(800) NIKON-US
www.nikonusa.com

Novoflex (HP Marketing Corp.)
(800) 735-4373
www.hpmarketingcorp.com

Petzl
www.petzl.com

Really Right Stuff
(888) 777-5557
www.reallyrightstuff.com

Singh-Ray
(800) 486-5501
www.singh-ray.com

Wimberley
(888) 665-2746
www.tripodhead.com

3 Comments

    I use a Gitzo Gt3541XLS tripod and RRS BH-55 head. While not the lightest for a DX camera and moderate lens I have been fortunate to be able to borrow long lenses on trips. The heavier tripod/head was worth carrying as lender was satisfied of the stability of the combination
    for their expensive lens.

    I admire folks with the ability to get all of the right equiptment. I aam a 100%disabled Korean Vet. I have been using a Minoltfilm camera for over 30 years. I just swapped to digital in 2009. At 77 yrs. young and very little cash i am oblidged to make do with limited equiptment. But, I am happy for you folks just getting started with the cash to get what is listed in this artcle. Good luck in your photo endevours and enjoy life. It is very short and goes by like feet on a slippery sidewalk.

    Bob, Its the person behind the viewfinder that makes the magic, and with all your years of experience, I bet you run circles around most photographers with this gear. Keep shooting, its all about the art of expression. Jah Bless

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