Wildlife photography presents unique challenges. Extreme patience is often needed, so you’ll want protection from the elements for you and your gear, as you may be waiting for long periods. Most wildlife is also wary of human presence, making it necessary for us to conceal ourselves and to photograph from long distances, requiring big lenses that need extra protection and support. We asked pro wildlife photographers to share some of their favorite gear for wildlife photography to make the experience more enjoyable and successful. Here are some key items to consider.
Footwear that provides waterproof protection and support for long hikes and mucky conditions is essential gear for tracking wildlife. LOWA’s Tibet GTX boots, available in both men’s and women’s styles, are an excellent option with their sturdy, durable construction and breathable, waterproof GORE-TEX lining. X-pattern lacing above the ankle makes them easy to put on and take off. The men’s version is available in both medium and wide widths. List price: $395. Contact: LOWA, lowaboots.com.
Balanced Camera & Lens Support
While a sturdy ballhead can manage a super-tele lens, a gimbal head like the Eagle Series E-6H from Fotopro provides superior support with a balanced center of gravity and allows for smooth movements as you track your subject. The head is available separately or included with the Eagle Series EGL-94 (four-section, 63-inch max. height) and EGL-65 (five-section, 55-inch max. height) carbon fiber tripods. List prices: $1,399 (EGL-94 tripod and E-6H head); $1,099 (EGL-65 tripod and E-6H head); $449 (E-6H head only). Contact: Fotopro, fotoprousa.com.
Many wildlife photographers wear camouflage clothing or even military-style ghillie suits. If you want to conceal your camera and lens as well, LensCoat offers a variety of camo covers for your camera and lenses like the RainCoat 2 Pro, which provides protection for your camera and lens from wet conditions without obstructing access to your camera and lens controls. It comes with an included hood extension sleeve for super-telephoto lenses. List price: $124. Contact: LensCoat, lenscoat.com.
Long-Lens Camera Bag
Super-tele lenses are typically heavy and very expensive. Protect yours with a bag specifically designed for the purpose. The Lowepro Lens Trekker 600 AW III allows you to carry a 600mm prime lens with your camera attached or an 800mm lens detached from the camera. The customizable padded interior includes a lens collar to support and secure your lens. To shield your system from wet conditions, the bag also includes a built-in All Weather (AW) cover. List price: $329. Contact: Lowepro, lowepro.com.
Spotting wildlife through your telephoto lens can be difficult due to the lens’ narrow field of view. An 8×42 binocular like the ZEISS 8×42 Conquest HD is an ideal balance between magnification and light gathering for wildlife spotting. A top-of-the-range binocular can cost upwards of $2,000, making this high-quality option a good value at half of that price. It can focus as close as 6.58 feet, is waterproof to 13 feet, and tested to withstand shock and extreme temperatures. Estimated street price: $999. Contact: ZEISS, zeiss.com.
One way to photograph animals that typically avoid humans is to employ a camera trap near animal trails and water sources. Hähnel’s Captur Module – Pro is a versatile solution for wildlife photography that can be used as a wireless remote shutter release from up to 100 meters, has built-in light, sound and motion sensors, and also includes the Module – IR that can be mounted to a tree, for example, creating an invisible beam that, when crossed, will trigger your camera’s shutter. Estimated street price: $99. Contact: Hähnel (RTS, Inc.), rtsphoto.com.
Vehicle Lens Mount
Your car can serve as a convenient, mobile blind for wildlife photography and can be even more effective with the right camera support. The Kirk Window MountWM-2 clamps inside your window to provide a stable platform from which to photograph in the comfort of your vehicle. The solid aluminum design can support super-tele lenses—just add your own tripod head. Retractable front legs allow it to also be used as a low-height support on flat surfaces. List price: $249. Contact: Kirk Enterprises, kirkphoto.com.
Headlamp & Night Light Accessory
Wildlife photography often means being in the field to scout your location before dawn. A headlamp like the Petzl ACTIK CORE provides hands-free illumination for enhanced safety and visibility. It’s powered by a battery that’s rechargeable via USB but is also removable if you need to use AAA batteries as a backup when away from charging sources. It offers selectable multi-beam output for wide-area illumination or distant spotlighting, as well as a red light option to preserve night vision.
The ACTIK CORE is also compatible with the Petzl NOCTILIGHT, an accessory that serves as a protective case and also diffuses the headlamp output for use as a small camp lantern. List prices: $69 (ACTIK CORE); $19 (NOCTILIGHT). Contact: Petzl, petzl.com.