There is no doubt that good preparation is half the work before going out into the wild. Nothing is more frustrating than having a spectacular view in front of your camera and missing that perfect shot because you forgot a crucial piece of equipment.
It all starts with a good bag or backpack, just enough space and not too heavy. I'm using the Lowepro Backpack Flipside 300 AW II Camo Pixel. It's a medium-sized backpack printed with camo motive. Below you see a collage of all the equipment that goes into my bag (except the monopod attached to the outside).
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The answer is: No!
A camera, a lens, a battery and a memory card are enough, but you will find out soon that to cover specific situations you need specific equipment:
With all this equipment listed above in my bag, I can cover every situation!
The disadvantage of having all that equipment is the weight. Doing wildlife and nature photography usually means that you need to walk long distances, and the less weight you carry, the more fun you have.
So I needed a solution without compromising image quality. My goal was A.S.A.P. (not an abbreviation for "As Soon As Possible" but for "As Small As Possible").
No big Nikon or Canon 600mm lenses or heavy DSLR cameras that together can be 5Kg, a burden to carry while hiking unless you want a power gym session. Instead, I chose the Fujifilm X-Series camera system. This is smaller than a regular DSLR.
Tripods with a big gimbal head are also a no go for me, and they are too heavy and time-consuming to set-up. Instead, I prefer a good monopod; it's a real time-saver.
In fact, all the equipment that I own is characterized by its size or weight.
Before the shoot, I always do a check-up of my camera equipment. Is everything working like expected? On longer trips, I always take a second camera-body with me. You never know.
Power is crucial, so multiple batteries are a must! If that's not enough, an external power bank can save you. Memory cards are cheap these days, but I prefer a good backup system instead.
Digital cameras have hundreds of settings that you can change, and they must be all set the way you want them for a particular shot. Fujifilm has a handy software tool to backup all those settings, and then you can load them on the fly with Fujifilm X Acquire (free to download). I love this tool because you don't want to dig into the menus while on location and miss some action.
When doing a long trip or vacation abroad, I always check what to expect at the location. What kind of wildlife would I encounter, and what are their behaviours? Although I prefer to go solo, it's sometimes recommended to consult a local guide, after all, they know where to find all the best places for wildlife. Climate is also important to take into account. If you go for a trip to the cloud forests of Costa Rica or the Colombian jungle, be prepared for heavy rain showers, so dress accordingly and protect your equipment with a rain cover!
Most of the time, I spend long hours at a location waiting for some action, so I always take food and drinks. A good cup of hot coffee can help you pass the time while enjoying the surroundings!