Essential Gear For A Nature Photographer

We asked our favorite pro nature photographers what they just can’t do without.

What accessories-and other stuff-should you bring for a successful excursion into the wild? We asked more than a dozen of our favorite pro nature photographers to tell us what they just can't do without, and we were surprised by their creativity.

Your Must-Haves

Trekking in the Badlands of South Dakota or the wilderness of Yosemite can yield hundreds of great photos. But first you have to pack.
Start with:

[1] A compass to keep your bearings Scoutstyle. (Silva Type 7 ER (discontinued). Current model: Silva Polaris 177 Type 7, $15, www.silvacompass.com.)

[2] GPS dongle to geotag your shots. (Nikon GP-1 GPS Unit, $220, www.nikonusa.com.)

[3] Energy bars to keep you going. (Clif Bar, $2 each, www.clifbar.com.)

[4] Gaffer tape, which can hold an entire shoot together. (Shurtape Gaffer Tape, from $8 (depending on width/length), www.shurtape.com.)

[5] A hot-shoe flash for fill or for a main light for insects and flowers. (Canon 580EX II, $420, www.usa.canon.com.)

[6] A bubble level to keep horizons in line. (Hama Camera Spirit Level, $30, www.hama.com.de.)

[7] An LCD loupe to nail focus. (Hoodman HoodLoupe Professional 3.0, $80,.) www.hoodmanusa.com

[8] An ultrawideangle lens to get the full landscape. (Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Nikkor AF, $1,830, www.nikonusa.com.)

[9] A collapsible reflector/diffuser to tame direct sun. (Creative Light Reflector Deluxe, from $46 (depending on size), www.creativelight.com.)

[10] A supertele lens with [11] teleconverter to bring you eyeball-to-eyeball with faraway fauna. (Sigma 300mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM APO, $3,300, www.sigmaphoto.com and Sigma 1.4X DG EX APO teleconverter, $250, www.sigmaphoto.com.)

Pack Right, Pack Light

Size doesn't correlate to value, and often the smallest tools prove the most useful. Little things to bring along:

[1] A waterresistant notepad for jotting down data, thoughts, and prime locations come rain or shine. (Rite in the Rain Outdoor Journal, $5, www.riteintherain.com.)

[2] A 1:1 macro lens to get truly close up. (Pentax SMC P-D FA 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens, $540, www.pentaximaging.com.)

[3] A polarizing filter to turn blue skies bluer. (B+W 77mm Kaesemann Polarizer, $125, www.schneideroptics.com.)

[4] A headlamp for finding subjects-and your way- after dark. (Petzl Tikka Plus Headlamp, $35, www.petzl.com.)

[5] A camera remote to trigger your shutter without shake. (Sony Remote Commander for the Alpha 700 and Alpha 900, $27, www.sonystyle.com.)

[6] A light, full-movement tripod head to reach every angle. (Acratech Ultimate Ballhead with Quick Release Plate, $300, www.acratech.net.)

[7] Polarizing sunglasses to preview the effects of that polarizing filter. (Ray-Ban Cobalt Blue Clubmaster frame with Polarized lenses, $169, www.ray-ban.com.)

Make Room for More

Other tools to pack:

[1] An umbrella to soften sunlight for close-ups and, in a pinch, protect your DSLR from drizzle. (Photek Goodliter 60-inch umbrella, $70, www.photekusa.com.)

[2] A high-speed, stabilized tele zoom for sharp handheld pictures, even in low light. (Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, $1,900, www.usa.canon.com.)

[3] A universal system that lets one filter fit many lenses, with a split neutral-density filter to balance a bright sky and dark foreground. (Cokin P-Series Filter Holder CBP400A, $16, www.omegasatter.com.)

[4] Insect repellent. (Off Active Insect Repellent, $6 for 9 oz., www.offprotects.com.)

[5] A multipurpose tool. (The model shown is no longer available. A good substitute: Gerber 05500 Multi-Plier 400 Compact Sport tool, $37, www.gerbertools.com.)

[6] Portable memory to back up your images. (Wolverine 320GB PicPac Portable Backup Drive, $200, www.wolverinedata.com.)

[7] An L-style tripod bracket for flipping your camera from horizontal to vertical while holding the optical center. (Really Right Stuff BD3-L, $183 direct, www.reallyrightstuff.com.)

[8] A macro focusing rail for shooting tiny subjects. (Kirk Enterprises Focusing Rail FR-1, $270, www.kirkphoto.com.)

[9] Maps. (DeLorme Atlas & Gazetter, $20 per state, www.delorme.com.)

[10] ND filters for slow shutter speeds in bright light. (Tiffen 77mm ND filters (0.3, 0.6, 0.9), $29 each, www.tiffen.com.)

[11] A carbon-fiber tripod that's light enough to lug. (CGitzo GT3530LS, $725, www.gitzo.com.)

[12] A lightning trigger, which automatically fires your DSLR when lightning strikes. (Lightning Trigger, $329 direct, www.lightningtrigger.com.)

[13] A gimbal-style tripod head to aim your monster tele easily. (Wimberley Head II, $595, www.tripodhead.com.)

Our sources: Marc Adamus, Daniel Beltrá, Richard Bernabe, Steve Bloom, Ian Frazier, Tom Leeson, Michael Penn, Ian Plant, Julie Quarry, Joe Rossbach, Nye Simmons, George Stocking, and Guy Tal.

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