What to Take on a Wildlife Photography Trip

When I was getting ready for a trip to take pictures of wildlife, I once made a list of all of the items that I needed to bring with me on a sheet of paper. The list included things like lenses, batteries, clothes, and other items.

I really wanted to have a helpful reference for the next trip; however, when the “next trip” arrived, I couldn’t find the document anywhere! As a result, I went with a method that was more up-to-date and composed a reference page on my computer. Considering that I am now in possession of such a list, why don’t I share it with you? When you embark on your next trip to shoot animals, you could find that this information comes in helpful.

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Of course, there is no one list that can be considered comprehensive and applicable to all wildlife photography trips. In the event that you intend to go photographing in Svalbard, for instance, you should add a firearm, an alarm for polar bears, and warmer gear to the list. You can probably get away without bringing the machete with you if your travel plans take you to the arid parts of either Africa or Australia.

My list leans somewhat in the direction of the rainforest because there is where I most frequently go to shoot animals, but there are many other areas in the world where you should also be prepared for rain and bugs. I will break this list into two distinct sections: photographic equipment and miscellaneous stuff. Let’s get to it.

Photography Equipment

Camera

One camera is sufficient, but having two is always a better idea. It’s impossible to predict when anything will go wrong. And even if anything does go wrong, it probably won’t happen when you’re at home shooting photographs of squirrels. Those are the least likely scenarios.

It is recommended that both cameras use the same mount and if at all feasible, use the same brand of battery. In the event that the primary camera stops functioning, the backup camera is compatible with all of your accessories.

There are certain camera manufacturers that provide models with characteristics that complement one another. For instance, one camera may provide a higher resolution but at the expense of a slower frame rate, whereas the other camera may offer a higher frame rate but with a lower resolution. Instead of thinking of them as “main” and “backup” cameras, you should consider how two different lenses might complement each of the cameras.

For instance, the Fujifilm X-H2 and X-H2S, as well as the Nikon Z7 II and Z6 II, are both examples of complementing camera pairs. Because not every camera has a patently apparent sibling, it is perfectly acceptable for you to select one camera as your primary backup.

The Nikon Z9, the Canon EOS R3, the Canon EOS R5, the Canon EOS R6 II, the Sony A1, the Sony A9 series, and the Sony A7R V are currently some of the best cameras available for taking photographs of wildlife. There are also a great deal of excellent crop-sensor alternatives available from Fujifilm and OM System (Olympus), not to mention a variety of digital single-lens reflex cameras that are now available for an excellent price on the old market. And this is just scratching the surface; there is very little room for error.

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Lenses

When it comes to lenses, less frequent replacement results in better quality, and I’m not just talking about the fact that your bag will be lighter. If you restrict the lenses you may use, you’ll always know which one to grab when you come across an interesting topic, so you won’t have to waste time deciding which lens to use.

Remember to bear in mind that airlines have size and weight restrictions on carry-on bags as well. During my most recent trip to and from Ecuador, I was required to weigh my carry-on luggage at the check-in counter. It said something like 19 kilos on the scale. That’s more than double the permitted amount of weight! Thankfully, the flight attendant remarked that it was “a bit heavy, but okay” (in Spanish: “un poco pesado, pero bien”). Having said that, I have heard other stories, and I don’t want to put too much in the way of chance. Which lenses do you plan to bring with you then?

Lenses having a wide field of view: When photographing wildlife, you might not have the need for a wide-angle lens very frequently, yet, I would never want to be without one. For travel, I find it most convenient to bring either a lightweight f/4 zoom or a lightweight f/1.8 prime lens, but never both at the same time. It is dependent on how dark your surroundings are going to be. I enjoy the versatility of zoom lenses, but an aperture of f/1.8 is necessary to gather a significant amount of light in dense forests.

Normal lenses: If I were to tell you how frequently I use normal lenses for wildlife photography, you’d be astonished. It’s possible that this is because I’ve recently discovered how much I like capturing pictures of the local fauna, such as lizards and snakes. Even if that doesn’t apply to you, you should still bring a standard lens with you on your vacation since it will come in handy for taking candid and documentary images. Personally, I use the Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 S lens (for more information, read our review), and I imagine that most other firms provide something very comparable.

Telephoto lenses: If you have one photo bag – which is what I recommend – it is quite unlikely that you will be able to fit two huge telephoto lenses inside of it. This is especially important to keep in mind when working with full-frame camera systems. On the other hand, you could always bring along a more compact telephoto lens for the more intermediate focal lengths, such as the Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, the Nikon F 300mm f/4 PF, or the Canon RF 70-200mm f/4.

After that, you can choose any lens with a focal length between 400 and 800 millimeters to serve as your primary telephoto lens. Since Jason has previously penned an excellent tutorial on how to pick out suitable lenses for wildlife photography, I won’t go into too much depth here. To put it simply, there is an inevitable trade-off that must be made between focal length, maximum aperture, and price that cannot be avoided. Comparatively speaking, a high-end option like as a 400mm f/2.8 will be significantly more costly and cumbersome than a 500mm f/5.6. There are additional options available from third-party firms, such as Sigma and Tamron, that you might consider if money is an issue.

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When it comes to macro lenses, you essentially have two different alternatives. Macro lenses with greater focal lengths, often around 100 millimeters, as well as wide-angle macro lenses, typically around 15 millimeters. The first kind is by far the most common, and it gives you the ability to shoot traditional macro shots with hazy backgrounds. Personally, I was carrying about a Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM lens in my bag up until very recently. On my most recent adventure, I decided to use the Nikon Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S in place of my previous lens.

Wide-angle macro lenses, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly popular. Some examples of these lenses are the Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 (for full-frame) and the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 9mm f/1.7 ASPH (for Micro 4/3). Even though they demand you to go very near to the subject of your photograph, these lenses display a far greater amount of the surrounding environment and background.

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Teleconverters

By attaching a teleconverter to your telephoto lens, you may increase the focal length of your lens by a factor of between 1.4 and 2.0 times. Even though it might sound appealing, doing so will result in a smaller lens aperture and a decrease in the image quality captured by the camera. When you increase the magnification of your teleconverter, you will notice that these problems become more evident. In general, newer models of teleconverters are superior to their predecessors in terms of quality.

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First Aid Kit

In every nation, there is not a drugstore on every street corner. If there is any medicine that you use on a regular basis, ensure that you have brought it with you three times. Inform the folks who are traveling with you that you have severe allergies, and bring an adrenaline pen along with you just in case you need it. Nevertheless, if you bring the following necessities with you on your travels, you should be able to handle the majority of the most prevalent health problems associated with travel:

  • Medication that lowers fevers, such as aspirin
  • Painkillers
  • Medications for treating diarrhea
  • Antihistamines
  • A variety of bandages and plasters
  • Disinfection
  • Precautions must be taken against malaria (if necessary)
  • Tongs and shears are also included.
  • Wear a face mask if you are going to be around water treatment chemicals, a water filter, or Steripen (but only if you are going to be in an area where these items are used).
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Things You Can’t Leave Without

Having a camera that can change lenses is, of course, the most crucial component. On the other hand, in this section, I will list things that are less essential to photography but nonetheless so vital that you risk being stranded at home or at the airport if you do not have them.

  • Along with a copy of the passport. In addition, before you depart, you should snap a picture of your passport and send it to your personal email address.
  • Printed versions of the flight tickets. It is possible that there may be circumstances in which it would be beneficial to have evidence that “this flight is mine.”
  • Cash. Think about how much you really need. There are many locations that do not take credit cards; thus, you should have sufficient cash in notes of varying denominations.
  • Charger card or credit card. Bring either your ordinary credit card or, even better, a card from Revolut, Wise, or another similar service. You’ll be able to make payments with these cards anywhere in the globe at a more favorable exchange rate, and you’ll also be able to maintain a more manageable (and hence safer) amount of cash on the cards themselves.
  • Travel insurance card. Check to determine if your insurance provider covers all that might possibly be covered. In certain nations, you will be traveling to elevations that may exceed the parameters set by your insurance provider. Take a look at this.
  • A valid driver’s license. Always useful as a secondary means of identification.
  • Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis Issued by an International Organization. When traveling to some countries, you can be required to get vaccinated against diseases like yellow fever or covid. Before you travel, make sure you have a look at the guidelines and suggestions for entering your location.
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