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Nature Photography. The top 5 things to have in your bag.

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As I look into my camera bag, I see a wild assortment of lenses, attachments, items of clothing, filters, etc. I even have a couple of cameras. But if I could only take five essential items here is how I would approach the process.

First I would decide what I wanted to accomplish. To photograph a rare Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle would require different items in my bag than would photographing a meteor shower, a soaring Bald Eagle, a Black Bass swimming in a farm pond or one of the beautiful sunsets we have in California.

I enjoy photographing our wild birds so let’s set that as our goal. More specifically, let’s photograph one of our most beautiful birds–a male Wood Duck in breeding plumage. Research tells us they can be found in riparian habitats, freshwater marshes and local farm ponds. We have looked through the literature to see precisely where to find them.

Pair formation begins in late summer and continues into fall and winter. So we will plan to photograph Wood Ducks in the fall.

What do I need in my bag?

1. Camera: Ducks move. So to get the sharp photos we want, we need a good quality DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera. A point-and-shoot camera has a major lag between when you push the shutter and when the photo is taken. The duck will not be where you want it when the photo is taken.

2. Lens: Wild birds don’t want you in the neighborhood. So you need a lens which will allow you to get more duck in your photo and less pond and cattails. A minimum of 200 mm is suggested. I use a 100-400 zoom.

3. Tripod: Since you want a sharp photo showing the beauty of the Wood Duck, you need to keep the camera steady. A tripod is the preferred method; which is especially important in the less intense light of early morning.

4. Camouflage/Blind: Even with a “long” lens you want to get close to the ducks without disturbing them. The best way is to use an inexpensive portable blind. At minimum, wear camo clothing including gloves and face mask (always in my bag).

5. Chair/Stool: Photographing any wild critters takes patience. To be patient you need to be comfortable. A portable stool is always a part of my equipment. Mine has a pocket where I can carry a thermos of hot coffee.

Enjoy Nature! Enjoy Nature Photography!