My Tools

My Tools

Same as most photographers I acquired much equipment for my wildlife photography over the years. Some was a serious waste of time and money, others were integrated into my toolbox. The latter will be presented hereafter.

Camera Bodies

My primary camera bodies are the Nikon D810 and the Nikon D300S. Both are used with the Nikon MB-D10 battery grip and eneloop batteries. As a wildlife photographer I usually require as much focal length as possible, so I usually prefer the D300S because of the crop factor (1.5) and for the "Quiet Mode" option. With low light conditions (ISO > 1600) and for macros I use the D810.
Over the last years I gradually switched to Fuji equipment: I use the Fujifilm XT-2 as primary body and the X100F as everyday camera.

Lenses

I started in wildlife photography with the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm with the 1.4 converter. My next step was the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400 mm, sometimes with the 1.4 converter. By acquiring the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 600mm f4 I found my lens of choice. For 90% of my wildlife pictures I use the 600mm, mostly with the 1.4 converter, rarely with the 1.7 converter. For international flights I use nowadays my AF-S Nikkor 500mm/f4, alternatively the 200-400mm when maximum focal length is not a must. For both the 200-400mm and the 600mm I use the Kirk Lens Plate Foot (Kirk LP-47 and LP-46). This saves me the hassle of adding additional Arca- Swiss style plates the the original lens foot. For the 600mm lens the Kirk LP-46 is IMO a must have since the original foot has a much too high profile and is prone to vibrations. For my 500mm I use the Kirk Lens Plate Foot with Sure Grip. For macros I use the Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm 1:2,8G VR, sometimes with the Nikon Macro Flash (see below) and/or a converter or close-up rings 21/31mm).
For Fujifilm, my primary wildlife lens is the 100-400mm, sometimes with a x 1.4 converter.

Tripods

While increasing my lens collection I had to increase my tripod collection as well. As the saying goes, "buy once buy right" ...*sigh* Nowadays I use a Gitzo GT5541LS Carbon Tripod in combination with a Gitzo GS5320V75 75mm ball adapter and a Manfrotto 520 BALLSH 75mm Half Ball for leveling. This combo is only used with my 600mm lens. When tripod weight is not so relevant I use the Berlebach UNI 22C wood tripod. With its weight of 14,77 lb. it is mostly used for stationary shootings. When I photograph at the beach and want to shoot primarily at ground level, I use the Novoflex BasicBall. This works best with the 200-400mm/f4.0 and smaller lenses. When it is impossible to use a tripod I use my old Gitzo G-1564L Monopod with a Really Right Stuff Clamp (RRS MH-01 Pro).
My latest toy is the NSN SKIMMER II for ground level photography at sandy beaches.

Heads

My primary head of choice is the Wimberley WH-200 Gimbal Head Version II. This head is usually mounted on my Gitzo tripod and almost exclusively used with the 600mm/f4.0. For my Berlebach tripod I use a Manfrotto MN519 Pro Fluid Video Head. In combination with the heavyweight Berlebach tripod the weight of 2,9 kg is no issue. This is my only head which does not use Arca-Swiss style plates. I very rarely use classical ball heads for wildlife photography. If necessary I use a Markins Ball Head M10. This should not be used with a 600mm/f4.0.

Backpacks and Bags

Photographers cannot have enough bags. Or better: Photographers never find the exactly right bags. So most photographers own dozens of bags, me being no exception... My bag of choice for international travel is the Thinktank Airport International 2.0. It fulfills the size requirements for carry-on all international airlines and allows me to travel with my 200-400mm/f4.0, two camera bodies and additional smaller lenses and equipment. For local photo trips I use a Lowepro Lens Trekker 600 AW II. The backpack accommodates my 600mm/f4.0, and two camera bodies. For additional smaller equipment I add a Lowepro Lens Case 5S. For heavy duty requirements I use a Kata HB-207. I almost never use the DTS Insertrolley. All in all, while the Kata HB-207 provides excellent protection it usually is too heavy for most purposes. When I just go for a photo stroll without any backpacks I usually use the Thinktank harness or belts with different bags.

Flash

I very rarely use a flash for wildlife photography. When I use one it is usually a Nikon SB-800, decoupled on a Wimberley F-9 flash bracket with a Nikon SC-29 TTL remote cord. For a better flash range with long lenses I add a Better Beamer. For macro photography I use the Nikon Close-up Speedlight Remote Kit R1.

Gimmicks

One of my newer tools is the Solmeta Geotagger N3. I started to use this with the new Lightroom release supporting GPS tagging. The Geotagger N3 is supported both by my D700 and my D300S. It requires no additional battery and is usually operational within seconds after activating it. Another tool I regularly use is the Thinktank Hydrophobia Hydrophobia 300-600. This protects both my 200-400/f4.0 and my 600mm/f4.0 from rain. While the initial setup requires some fiddling it works quite well when attached to the lens.

Software

I finally left all Adobe stuff behind and use Capture One Pro and Affinity Photo. I very rarely do serious image editing, almost never for wildlife images. When I do I use Affinity Photo then with a WACOM Intuos 4 graphics tablet.