Wildlife photography for us has become passion of ours over the last number of years and we continue to strive to master our craft. Many times we are asked how we get such images, and the answer is that there are a number of things that go into making great images. I get asked all the time about our gear and what we all use. I am going to give an overview of the gear we use as a point of reference for anyone interested.
THIS IS OUR MAIN RIG SET-UP....
IT'S ALL ABOUT THAT BASE:
It all begins with a sturdy base. We typically use a tripod for many of our wildlife adventures. Our main tripod is a Really Right Stuff - (TVC 34L) Carbon Fiber Tripod. Weighing in a 4.7# it is the workhorse of tripods for us. It offers exceptional height range of 68.3" for us taller folks and it is built extremely well.
* Other brands for you to consider in the heavy duty tripod arena: Gitzo, Induro and Manfrotto (just to name a few)
The tripod coupled with a quality Really Right Stuff - (PG-02 FG) Pano-Gimbal Head keep all the big gear in check and allow for fluid motion and stability, both of which are crucial in creating great quality images.
* Other brands for you to consider for gimbal heads: Wimberly, Induro offer top notch gimbal setups as well.
When not panning the skies chasing birds in flight we couple the tripod to our Really Right Stuff - (BH-55) Ball Head for landscape and still photography with Really Right Stuff camera brackets and L-plates.
* There are many manufacturers that produce good quality ball heads for you to consider.
There are times when sneaking up on wildlife is better done by driving around is search of critters. Sometimes wildlife doesn't seem to mind a vehicle being near versus a human on foot. For this situation this I find that our "The Vest Guy" large bean bag does the trick.
At this point you should begin to have an understanding of the importance of what your gear is supported with is just as important as the gear itself. Now that you know what we prefer to have under our main gear, let's get into the camera and lens combo's we use.
There are many things to consider when purchasing a camera body. Budget is probably the first thing to consider. The other is what type of photography are you considering. There are two types of camera bodies in the Canon lineup. There are both Full frame and Crop sensor models, both of which have pluses and minuses. I have switched my main rig over to full frame primarily as I find it works better for what type of images I am trying to produce. I will, however carry a crop sensor version with a shorter focal length lens to give me some opportunities throughout the day as it can be handheld and allows more flexibility to get the shot.
Main Camera Body - Canon EOS 1Dx
Second Body - Canon EOS 7D Mark II
Landscape / Portrait Body - Canon EOS 5D Mark III
With lens selection comes many decisions that will need to be made depending upon your subject and shooting style. Budget will be a large factor as well, as good glass is extremely expensive. You can spend from hundreds to 10's of thousands of dollars on good quality glass. The most important thing to remember is that making a purchase of a lens is that it can, and should be, considered a LONG term investment. Camera bodies will come and go every couple of years but quality glass can last upwards of nearly 20 years or more. Many of the lenses that Canon has updated in the recent years were the same lenses they had for many years. While some updates like AF and internal components were upgraded the lens and glass elements themselves remained unchanged for many years.
Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Super Telephoto Lens
This is the workhorse that we use for producing many of our wildlife images. This lens is fast, accurate and produces some of the most amazing images we have made to date. Newly added to our gear line up in the Spring of 2014 we have continued to grow and to learn how to tame this monster and in turn make some great images. Learning your gear is key to reaching the next level of photography.
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x Super Telephoto Zoom Lens
While this is the newest member of the lens lineup we have to work with it wasn't what we started with. There are stepping stones that we all need to make along our journey and this is just one of those steps for us. We look forward to putting this lens to good use for our wildlife work along with many of our sporting events that we shoot throughout the year as well.
I know there are many other things that I would like to cover but I think the best way to approach it all is from multiple posts that I will share with you all. While many of this gear I have shared with you all may seem over the top or too expensive, please remember that this is where we are today and not where we started many, many years ago. It is a process to begin how to master the craft of photography and I highly encourage you all to get our there and learn your gear. There are many great opportunities out there just waiting for you to capture it.
Life is short... so go make some images to remember the journey along the way!