Alaska native John Hyde recommends the best photo gear to get you closer to
John Hyde lives where lots of wild things are -- namely Alaska -- and they have become the subject of many of the photographs he takes on expeditions into the wilderness. Wolves, bears, eagles, and whales cavort or strike stately poses in the images he captures. Hyde usually takes both a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II and an EOS-1D Mark III when he goes out for a shoot. As he explains, it's good to have more than one camera body with a lens attached to reduce the necessity of changing lenses in the field. While he shoots with a broad range of lenses, including wide-angle optics that work well for scenic shots, he often uses long telephoto lenses to get close (optically, that is) to the animals and birds he photographs. Among his favorites are the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM, EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM, and EF 600mm f/4 L IS USM.
Click on the cameras and lenses for more information about them from Popular Photography. To see more of John Hyde's wildlife photography, click on the photo at right or visit his website, Wild Things Photography.
Here are some of the other items Hyde takes along for photographing nature and wildlife:
Really Right Stuff Tripod Head
Hyde equips his Gitzo carbon-fiber tripod with a multi-part head made by Really Right Stuff. He starts with a BH-55 Pro ball head, then adds a PCL-1 Panning Clamp and a MPR-CL Nodal Slide. The panning clamp lets him level the camera quickly and pan smoothly. The nodal slide allows him to pull it back so that the optical center of the lens is over the axis of rotation, eliminating parallax errors that can make objects look different in side-by-side shots. The setup works well for both shooting a series of images for a panorama and panning to track moving subjects. Hyde also attaches an L plate to the camera so that he can quickly switch it from horizontal to vertical orientation. He likes Really Right Stuff's gear because, he says simply, "their ball heads are the best I've used."
Really Right Stuff BH-55 Pro Ball Head: $415
Really Right Stuff MPR-CL Nodal Slide: $110
Really Right Stuff PCL-1 Panning Clamp: $235
Really Right Stuff MC-L Plate (universal L plate): $105; (Really Right Stuff also makes custom L plates for specific models.)
Visual Echoes Better Beamer Flash Extender
To shoot with a flash unit when capturing a distant subject with a telephoto lens, Hyde uses this flash accessory. It employs a Fresnel lens to extend the range of the flash, narrowing the beam somewhat so that specific subjects can be highlighted in a scene. Hyde told us that the animals he photographs never notice when he uses a flash. The Better Beamer folds up when not in use, and takes up very little space in a camera bag.
Gepe Card Safe Extreme
Hyde carries several memory cards in this waterproof case when he goes out on a shoot. It protects them even if it's dropped in water, and it floats, too. The case can hold as many as eight cards at a time -- four SD or MMC and four CompactFlash. It can also accommodate Memory Stick media. The interior is lined with static-free cloth and the exterior is a tough, crushproof plastic with clear viewing windows that let you see the contents without opening the case. The Card Safe Extreme comes in onyx, red, blue, and neon-yellow, so that you can buy the shade that will stand out against the environment where you're shooting if it's dropped.
LowePro Photo Trekker AWII Backpack
Backpacks are the only style of camera bag that John Hyde uses on the photographic expeditions that often take him through rough terrain. "I need the safety of having one hand available to grab onto something, and a lot of time there's a tripod in the other hand, he explains. "I can't have a shoulder bag because it could bounce around and catch on something, and I'd get pulled off the path." LowePro's Photo Trekker AWII has an adjustable harness and waistbelt, water-resistant zippers, and a built-in cover that can be pulled over the pack to protect it from rain and snow.
LowePro DryZone Backpack
Land animals are not the only type of fauna Hyde photographs. To capture images of whales and other creatures of the sea, he sometimes shoots from a boat. When a trip includes time spent in wet conditions, he packs his gear in one of LowePro's DryZone backpacks. Although they're soft-sided bags, they're completely waterproof (and dustproof) and designed to float if dropped in water. LowePro makes DryZone models in three different sizes, the large 100, medium 200, and small Rover.
About $200, $250, $270 for the three models, respectively.
Nanofilm Clarity Fog Eliminator Cloths
When Hyde is shooting in cold weather, he avoids using liquids of any kind, so to keep his lenses and filters from misting over in fog-prone conditions, he wipes them with a dry antifog cloth. Nanofilm's individually wrapped antifog cloths are impregnated with a dry compound that stops condensation from forming on optical glass. Each cloth can be reused multiple times, and wiping a surface with a Fog Eliminator keeps it clear for hours.
About $6 for a pack of three.
Read on to find out what Hyde would like to add to his kit for nature and wildlife photography.