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Section 1: Recommended clothes for wildlife photographers and frequent travelers
In almost every activity at every level, and in every climatic condition, wildlife photographers are benefitting from the extraordinary properties of Merino wool.
Excellent moisture management
Merino wool garments transfer moisture vapour away from the body helping you keep cool and dry during exercise or hot weather. Exceptional breathability keeps you cooler and drier in Merino wool clothing when compared to synthetics. That’s because the Merino fibre can absorb up to 35 per cent of its dry weight in moisture vapour and still feel dry to touch. This causes the micro-climate above your skin to become less saturated with vapour, so you feel less clammy and sweat droplets are less likely to form on your skin’s surface.
Efficient temperature regulation
Merino wool offers excellent protection from extremes of temperature. Merino wool is an active fibre with a natural crimp which creates a lot of very small insulating air pockets. That’s how it helps keep you warm in cold conditions, and cool in hot conditions. This not only keeps you comfortable but can also be essential for those exercising in the outdoors, especially when adventuring in severe conditions.
Effective odour control
Merino wool helps you sweat less and smell better. Unpleasant smells during and after exercise are caused when sweat degrades. The complex chemical structure of Merino wool actually locks away these unpleasant odour molecules. And because Merino wool is able to absorb moisture vapour, it also reduces the amount of sweat – and therefore odour – left on the body in the first place. So your Merino wool clothes will remain fresher for longer than cotton or synthetic garments, and are cleansed more easily when washed.
Comfort and shape retention
Merino wool works in total harmony with the wearer’s body due to the fibres’ excellent natural elasticity. When you’re exercising, you do a lot of stretching – and you want a garment that stretches with you and then returns to its natural shape. At microscopic levels, Merino wool fibres are like coiled springs, returning to their original state when pressure is released. Merino wool garments are ideal for stretch-related activities such as gym workouts and yoga. And as Merino wool fibres are so fine, they feel luxuriously soft next to the skin.
Easy care and stain resistance
Merino wool stays cleaner for longer and is easy to wash too. Unlike synthetic fibre, Merino fibre has a natural protective outer layer that prevents stains being absorbed and makes cleaning easier. And even when they do need washing, many garments can now be machine washed and tumble-dried for easy-care convenience.
Long Sleeve Zip Hood
I´m sure you got the point. Of course, these things are also available for women. I just want to recommend only things here that I use myself and have tested extensively. Women’s clothing is not one of them. 🙂
Section 2: Recommended cameras and lens for wildlife photographers
Over the last years, I have received many requests for gear-buying advice. Start with a camera you can handle comfortably, and which fits your budget. I had taken about 100 successful wildlife images with my $150 point-and-shoot-camera. One of them won the “Blende 2010” competition run by several German newspapers.
As I gained experience, I wanted to try different lenses for different types of subjects and situations. Therefore, in 2012 I purchased a Canon APS camera. During the next years, I added about 500 successful nature images to my portfolio.
Then I made the decision to purchase only high quality full frame lenses. The more I photographed, the more I realized that my time spent in the field is valuable. Going back to a location with a better lens in order to create a really good image of something special that I took a snapshot of previously, just doesn’t work.
Time and travel are the most costly commodities. My growing success motivated me in 2015 to purchase a full frame digital camera optimized for action and low light situations. Because of my earlier decision, I didn’t have to replace any of my lenses.
I recommend investing in a system with interchangeable lenses. This is because you can invest in lenses and upgrade your camera body in time. Investing in lenses is always worthwhile because a good lens will last you many years and will hold its value reasonably well should you ever want to sell it.
So what do I look for in a camera for wildlife photography? Firstly, I want a camera that can record clean images in low light. This allows me to use faster shutter speeds and to shoot in twilight conditions when many animals are most active.
Low-light sensitivity requires large pixel sites in order to gather lots of light. This means cameras with more megapixels often have worse low-light performance. Therefore, in my opinion more megapixels isn’t always a desirable feature.
Full-frame cameras have a larger sensor which means they collect more light and therefore will usually have better low light performance than crop-frame cameras.
So how can you compare the low-light performance of different cameras? Well fortunately, the hard work has already been done by DxOMark. You can find a listing of cameras ranked by low light performance here.
A second important measure of image quality is dynamic range. This relates to how much detail the camera records in the highlights and shadows. Often we can’t control the lighting when photographing wildlife so we may need to lift detail from dark shadows or recover it from bright skies in post production. A sensor with a large dynamic range gives more flexibility to do this necessary task.
Note, to take advantage of this you must shoot in RAW mode as JPG compression strips this extra detail out of the files. DxOMark has also ranked cameras based on dynamic range.
Lots of megapixels can be nice to have, particularly if you want to crop your images. However, keep in mind that more megapixels usually comes at the expense of frame rate, low-light performance and dynamic range.
When I print an image or view it on a computer screen, it is rare that I wish the resolution was higher. For me, the megapixel sweet-spot (at this point in time) is around 20MP on a full frame camera. Note, this is only for wildlife photography!
After image quality, the next most important area of performance is autofocus. Wildlife photography requires a camera that can focus quickly and reliably. Often we have moving subjects and shallow depths of field which means it is critical that the focus is accurate.
The most important features of autofocus for me are:
- The ability to select a very small focus point to focus on.
- Lots of autofocus points to choose from so that I can select a focus point over my subject and still have plenty of flexibility to compose my shot.
- An accurate autofocus engine that can reliably track moving subjects.
- Ability to focus in low-light.
In my experience, the autofocus on the latest Canon and Nikon cameras is excellent. Canon’s system is slightly more customisable than Nikon’s.
Sony is generally considered to make the highest-quality DSLR sensors. So far I have been astounded by the image quality! But unfortunately the autofocus on these is a serious limitation and means they are not suitable for long-lens wildlife photography.
Whatever camera you get, you will need suitable lenses. Canon and Nikon both make excellent lenses for wildlife photography. Sigma also make lenses that are high quality, good value and compatible with a range of different cameras.
When photographing wildlife, I need to be able to respond to situations quickly so that I don’t miss the shot. This means I need to be able to adjust settings in the blink of an eye. I frequently adjust aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, focus points, exposure modes and more. Ideally, I should be able to adjust these settings with minimal button presses and without taking my eye away from the viewfinder.
I like a camera where I can customise the controls so that I can choose which buttons and dials control which settings. In general, this is another feature that you get with the higher-end camera bodies.
The speed of the camera, i.e. the number of frames you can take per second, is important if you are aiming to photograph action or birds in flight. A fast camera may be able to shoot 10 frames per seconds or more, whereas a slow camera may give you closer to 3 frames a second. The more shots you take of a fast-moving subject, the more likely it is that you will capture that decisive moment when the focus, composition and animal’s pose all come together. If, however, you are mainly after fine-art style portraits then you can get away with using a much slower camera as you will usually be photographing a relatively still subject and you will be able to carefully compose your picture and deliberately pick the moment to take your shot.
Wildlife tends to live in wet or dusty places so your gear needs to be able to survive in these conditions. No matter how hard we try, our equipment does get exposed to the elements and inevitably gets knocked around a bit while travelling.
Build quality and weather sealing tend to be features of the “pro” bodies. Higher-end cameras are often made from metal rather than plastic. If you are aiming to spend lots of time in the field then investing in a well-built camera is worth it. If the latest high-end cameras are above your budget, then you can usually get hold of an older iteration of a top-end camera for a significantly reduced price. These older cameras will usually have equally high-end build quality.