Successful wildlife photography depends on having kit that I can rely on in all kinds of conditions. I simply couldn't make my pictures without using equipment that I know won't let me down when it matters most.
I shoot on Nikon D800 and D750 cameras with Nikon lenses including:
Nikon 17-35mm f2.8 - My "go to" lens for every close-up that shows the animal in context. Close focusing and rugged.
Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 - Not a wildlife lens, but perfect for documentary and conservation work - particularly people working with animals.
Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 - My most versatile lens. Super sharp and excellent in low-light.
Nikon 200-400mm f4 - The ultimate mammal and hide/blind lens. Incredibly sharp for a zoom. My favourite long lens.
Nikon 60mm f2.8 macro - The sharpest lens I own. Every time I use this for macro work it reminds me that I need to use it more.
Nikon 1.4x teleconverter - The only teleconverter I trust. Maintains perfect autofocus with all of my lenses and great for a little extra reach.
Nikon SB 800, SB 700 and SB 28 Speedlight strobes - simple and intuitive to work with. Perfect for close-ups and loads of punch when needed.
MANFROTTO - www.manfrotto.co.uk
Manfrotto and Gitzo supports are known for their superior quality and I've been using their products for over 10 years. My ideal combo is the super sturdy Gitzo systematic GT5542LS with a Manfrotto 405 geared head, which is perfect for long-lens long exposures, macro work and making fine adjustments to compositions when I'm setting up close up wide-angle shots. For travelling, I have the compact and lightweight 190CXPRO4 with 484RC2 head, but my favourite alternative supports and possibly the most versatile bits of kit I own are Manfrotto magic arms. They can be combined with various clamps and heads and are ideal supports in slightly more tricky and awkward situations. I use them in all kinds of set-ups, to rig strobes to tree branches or railings or to get an angle I want with a body and short lens which can't be achieved with a conventional tripod.
LASTOLITE - www.lastolite.co.uk
To shoot nocturnal urban wildlife, sometimes I have to take the studio out into the street. I use Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite and Micro Apollo softboxes.
POCKET WIZARD - www.pocketwizard.com
To get close-up animal portraits, sometimes the only way is to set up my camera and fire it remotely. That way I can get a frame-filler without standing by my camera and scaring the animal away. Pocket Wizard Plus IIIs are perfect for me and are by far the most versatile and reliable remote trigger I have used. They can be set to fire instantly as if the shutter is half-pressed, can be used to fire multiple flashes and can be daisy-chained for extra reach when needed. I can even set up a second body with a wide lens and a +III and fire it remotely by simply pressing the shutter on my main body whilst shooting from a distance with a long lens.
TIFFEN FILTERS - www.tiffen.com
Images always look better when they are made in-camera and using filters can open up a whole new world of creative opportunities. After shelling out on expensive lenses, the last thing you want to do is put a poor quality piece of glass in front of it, so I have tried a bunch of different filter systems and constantly find that Tiffen filters are the most versatile and best quality.
- 77mm VARIABLE NEUTRAL DENSITY - Versatile, high quality variable ND. Perfect for stills and video.
- 77mm XLE SERIES APEX - A 10 stop neutral density filter for extreme long exposures.
- 77mm CIRCULAR POLARIZER - For punchy, dramatic skies and reducing glare and reflections.
- 77mm 0.6 and 1.2 ND ATTENUATORS - Smooth graduated 2 and 4 stop neutral density blenders to balance bright skies. I rarely shoot anything with a distant featureless horizon, so these are great for rich, dark and moody skies, even on a bright day.
LOWEL GL-1 HOTLIGHT - www.gl1hotlight.com
Sometimes with low-light wildlife photography, there simply isn't time to set up a lighting rig. I need to react to what is happening there and then and the GL-1 is the perfect solution - a portable continuous LED light source for all types of challenging conditions. It can flood light a whole street scene or can be dimmed and focused with minimal light spill. I use it as a main light source at night, as a fill light so that I can underexpose backgrounds in daylight and for light-painting during long exposures.
BUSHNELL - www.bushnell.eu/uk/
If I have a strong suspicion that an animal is using a location I use Bushnell NatureView trailcams to recce the area. Time-stamped pictures and video help me determine what wildlife is using an area and when it is there.