3 “No-Brainer” Accessories for WILDLIFE Photographers
By Micah Moen
Welcome back to the channel everybody! So today I wanted to make this video because yesterday, I was reorganizing some of my gear and since I do photos and videos, I’ve accumulated quite a lot of accessories over the years. Some of it I’ve bought, some of it I got through bundles online. But yesterday when looking at some of the items, I just thought “man, I would never buy this again”. So I thought I’d make this video, talking about 3 “no-brainer” accessories for wildlife photographers My criteria for a “no-brainer” accessory is an accessory that extends my time in the field, makes my life in the field easier, and if I were to ever lose it or break it, I know immediately I would just add it to my cart and buy a new one. So that’s what I’m basing these accessories off of. There’s obviously others that are really important in your kit. But for me these are my 3 favorites. Let me know in the comments below what are your 3 favorite accessories, and let’s just get into the video! The first accessory is the Peak Design camera strap. This is the Slide Lite model and it retails for about 50$ on Amazon. And this is the one accessory that I wish when I first started out Somebody just came up to me and said “ditch your camera strap that comes with your camera, and buy this!”. It’s one of those things that once you try it, you’re pretty much never going back. And you might be wondering why don’t you use the camera strap that comes with your camera? And I’ll explain it to you. You’re generally going to be threading it through these loops on the side. And for wildlife photography these are really bad anchor points. If you’re doing portraits or macro, for example, the lens usually that heavy. So threading it through here isn’t as big of an issue. But with wildlife, you’re usually using a heavier lens. It puts a lot of pressure on your camera mount. And if you do it once or twice it’s not a huge issue. But if you constantly do that, it’s constantly putting pressure on that mount which could eventually lead to damage. Not only would it cause damage to the mount itself, it could possibly cause damage to your neck When I walk around, I see so many people hanging their camera off of their neck. And I did that when I first started ’cause I didn’t know any better. If you’re doing long hours in the field, you really start to feel it. And you might say “you could always just remove it from your neck and hang it off your shoulder” for example. But..this comes back to the fact that these are bad anchor points. So what happens a lot is when you’re walking, the lens flops so much. So it hits against your thigh, it’s really uncomfortable and it’s not very practical when you’re in the field. But there is a much better anchor point Which is the tripod foot. The reason your lens comes with a tripod foot is because they don’t want you to mount your camera to the tripod when you have so much weight on your camera. In my opinion, this is THE anchor point to use when you’re going handheld. So going back to the Peak Design strap, in the box you get the strap itself, you get these 4 anchors (I believe they call them), you get 1 tripod mount. What I like to do is take 2 anchors and attach those to the loops on the side of my camera. And whenever I use a lighter lens like a macro lens or a portrait lens I’ll just attach the strap to those. And I’ll take the other 2 anchors and attach those to the tripod mount. This is the one I use for wildlife. At this point all you have to do is use the Allen key they provided you in the kit, tighten down the tripod mount to the tripod foot, and then click in your strap, and you’re good to go! Now you have a camera strap that’s on a much better anchor point. It holds up to 200 pounds, as well. I never feel worried that this is randomly going to break. The one thing that I’ll tell you to check is on the camera strap itself just everyday give it another tighten. Just to make sure that this doesn’t get loose underneath. What I’ll do in the field is just alternate shoulders every couple of hours. I don’t need to, it’s not like I have so much pressure on one of the shoulder that I need to swtich But it’s just the fact that it’s better for your shoulders if you’re alternating the pressure. So, extremely useful. Extremely handy, I’m never going back. You don’t have to get the Peak Design one, this is just the one I have and tried and I really like it. I’m sure there are other brands that are making similar ones. So if you find a really good deal, you know, maybe test it out. But I really haven’t tested any of the other brands, so I can’t really attest to them. But yeah, the Peak Design one, I definitely guarantee if you’re doing a lot of handheld work. The next “no-brainer” accessory on the list Is the lens coat rain sleeve. And this QUICKLY, become one of my favorite accessories in my bag. It’s just a sleeve that goes over your camera and lens and it protects it from rain and snow. And if you’re at the beach, it protects it from sand and salt spray from the ocean. So extremely useful. And ultimately, what this is, is it’s something that keeps me in the field longer. When conditions aren’t favourable, I’m able to stay out way longer. And anything that does that is invaluable. You need that in your kit. The reason I went with this specific model is it has the quick access area on the side. So I’m actually able to put my hand inside under the lens sleeve itself, and I’m able to control all my settings. Whereas on the other models that don’t have that, I’d have to either expose my camera for a bit to change the settings, or what I’d have to do is adjust them on top of the lens sleeve itself which could be pretty difficult to do if you can’t really touch or feel which buttons are which. I found this was worth the upgrade for me. It’s also big enough that you’re able to adjust the size depending your lens. So if you’re using a telephoto zoom for example, you’re able to adjust it down to the smaller size. If you’re using one of those big primes, you can adjust it to that. So it’s really flexible and versatile depending which lens you’re using. There’s also a small pouch on the side that you’re able to put some accessories in if you need I don’t have any in there now. But I think I’ll probably put a lens cloth or two inside. So I’m on Amazon right now and the price is $99.99, on sale for $87.39, so it’s a little bit cheaper. Which is great because I’m looking to buy one of their white ones for winter time. The one little negative that I encountered with it, and it’s more tailored for when you’re in really hot areas. If you keep your hand in the rain sleeve itself for a really long time, your hand starts to sweat because this is waterproof material and you can start getting some condensation that forms inside the sleeve itself. Although it is breathable and eventually it will evaporate, if you just keep your hand in there for a really long time, you could get quite a bit of sweat in there. So, one thing I recommend is remove your hand every so often and cool it down. Sometimes I shake the lens sleeve itself to get some cooler air flowing inside. and it evaporates pretty quickly. So it’s not a huge issue, just something to consider. In winter time you’re probably never going to have this issue. If you like this rain sleeve but you’re not sure if you’ll use it that often or if you even want to spend that much money on it. One thing I recommend buy these cheap plastic ones, I think it’s like 5 or 10 bucks for a 2-pack, and I have a few of these in my different camera bags.They’re so useful in a pinch. Definitely if you’re comparing it to the lens coat it’s not as good of quality it’s not as useful. And I don’t trust it as much as the lens coat. In the snow, it’s not as much of an issue I definitely would use these plastic ones in the snow, and I have in the past. But for rain, that’s where it gets a little bit iffy, I think There’s a lot of areas where this could have holes in it. Yeah I definitely don’t trust it as much in the rain. So I recommend this if you want to just try it out, see if you’ll actually use it. and the eventually you can upgrade to the lens coat itself. But in general, a rain sleeve is probably the most important thing in your kit. Because not only is it going to protect all your gear, but at the same time it’s just going to keep you out there way longer. So when other photographers are heading home because there’s heavy rain and heavy snow you’re able to stay out there and capture some more moments So I can’t recommend this accessory enough. From the second I got it, it never left my kit. And that’s one of the reasons it’s apart of my no brainer accessories. for wildlife photographers. For the third no-brainer item, I wanted to save this one to the end because you’ll probably want to add some accessories on top of it. So my third accessory is a speedlight. And I don’t really use this for birds or mammals. But what I do use it for a lot is macro Especially when I’m on the forest floor and there’s not much light. This allows me to get shots that I wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. When photographers talk about understanding light and understanding the quality of light This is one of the best ways that you can actually do it, is just getting a speedlight and putting different diffusers on it and understanding distance and angle. And it’s probably one of the things that could advance your photography really quickly is using a speedlight. At the beginning of the video I mentioned my criteria for a no-brainer accessory, and one of them was it keeps my in the field longer. And that’s exactly what the speedlight does. I probably wouldn’t have gone on as many night hikes as I did when I was in Central America and South America if i didn’t have a speedlight. Just because, you could use a flashlight and other things like that, but with this you can really manipulate the light and get exactly what you want. So I think it’s an incredibly valuable piece of kit. But in order to get the most out of it there are accessories you’ll need to add onto it. For me the most important one is a wireless transmitter or a wired transmitter that you’re just able to get this flash off of the top of your camera. Now it’s a little counter-intuitive because there is that perfect hot-shoe mount that you could slide in your flash But a flash mounted on top of your camera is probably the least appealing angle you can get for your photos. There’s a few reasons that I don’t recommend you mount this directly on top of your camera. For me, probably the most important is that it limits your creativity If you just slap this on top of your camera, you’re always only getting one light angle. Whereas if you were to use a wireless transmitter, or a wired transmitter You’re able to move and shape the light as you want, so you can go at different angles and at different distances. And depending on your subject you’ll definitely need that. So instead of continuously changing your settings on the back of your flash if it was mounted on top of your camera, you can leave it on pretty much one setting, and just adjust your angle and your distance So, in the field it’s way quicker to just have it off the camera and it creates way more appealing light. So I highly recommend that you get a transmitter so you can get your flash off of your camera. I use Godox flashes, this is a TT685S for Sony. The light that’s actually lighting me right now is a Godox SL60W, and my transmitter is the Godox X1TS and in terms of best bang for your buck, this is probably one of the best flash and lighting companies that i’ve run into. So definitely check them out. Another accessory that I recommend that you get with your flash is something to diffuse the light on the top. The light coming out can be pretty harsh, so something to soften it up helps especially when you’re working with wildlife. I’m on Amazon right now and I see a whole kit put together. It has the flash itself, the TT685S, the transmitter it has a couple diffusers, little cheap diffusers. Some color filters, a stand, and it’s $156 So it’s a pretty good price, especially comparing it to some of the other flashes out there. I have a few of these diffusers that have come in a few different packs that I’ve bought over the years But I’ve never really used them. I have another one that I bought from Neewer and it’s a double diffusion, so it’s a little bit softer the light. But there’s a reason that I like to buy cheaper diffusers, and the main reason is when it’s on the flash it could get pretty big. But sometimes your subject is in the brush or it’s in the forest. And getting your diffuser in there, you’re going through branches and stuff. So I don’t want to spend like 200$ on a diffuser, that is likely going to get ripped in the field. So that’s why I use cheaper diffusers.And another thing you’d want for your flash, is since it uses batteries, I’d get rechargeable double AA batteries. I use the Eneloop model, and I also got this Panasonic charger to go with that charges not only double AA, but triple AAA batteries. I have a few flashlights and headlights that use AAA batteries, so this is beneficial. It saves a bit of space in my kit. It also has an LED strip on top that tells you the charge of each individual battery Which is really handy and it looks great. So far I’ve been really impressed. And that’s pretty much it! Those are my 3 “no-brainer” accessories for wildlife photographers. I didn’t include any like tripod, or batteries, or memory cards cause those are pretty much givens when it comes to wildlife photography. And I wanted to showcase 3 items that aren’t in everybody’s kits but people can certainly benefit from having them there. So let me know what you think, and let me know your 3 items down below. What are your 3 favourites? And I’ll see you in the next video, happy birding!