10 Items in Dad’s Wildlife Camera Bag

Osprey with Fish | Beebower Productions

When hunting wildlife, a photographer needs a variety of weapons at his disposal.  Dad’s arsenal contains ten basic pieces that allow him to photograph everything from birds to bears:

1. Canon EOS-ID Mark IV camera body

This camera really gets the job done.  At a powerful ten frames a second, Dad easily captures moving subjects and sees great detail.  The Mark IV also has a stunning ISO range from 100 to 12800 making low-light shooting possible.

Egret Flying | Beebower Productions

2. Canon 70-200mm/F2.8L IS USM

Egret Flying | Beebower Productions, Inc.

A mid-range lens, the 70-200mm is an incredibly sharp and fast lens.  When the wildlife allows it, Dad can get closer to the subject and still fill the frame.  Thanks to this lens, Dad was able to capture an unexpected egret photo when the bird flew directly overhead.

Great Blue Heron Soaring | Beebower Productions

3. Canon 400mm/F2.8L IS USM lens with Cannon EF 1.4X III and Cannon EF 2x III extenders

Dad loves the combination of a long lens with either or both of these extenders.  It doubles his focal length without the cost of a 800mm lens.  That means he can back off from the wildlife and still fill the frame.  He even uses this combo when shooting diminutive hummingbirds.  The speed and sharpness of the lens can’t be beat.  Be warned, however, this lens can get heavy.  Dad uses either a monopod or tripod with a Wimberly Gimbal head when shooting with the 400mm.  This combo allows the camera to move smoothly when tracking a moving subject, thus expanding the uses for a 400mm with extenders.

Cormorant | Beebower  Productions

4. Sekonic L508 Zoom Master exposure meter

OK.  So it’s a bit outdated.  It still works.  Dad’s exposure meter really is from his Rochester Institute of Technology days in the 1970s.  In the field, Dad needs accurate exposure readings on subjects that might be pure white to jet-black.  The camera’s meter, in such situations, often gives deceptive readings resulting in an over or under exposed image because it reads only one section of the image.  The Sekonic gives Dad accurate exposures because it turns all light into 18% grey.  The meter doesn’t read single spots but overall light.  The result is correct f-stops and shutter speeds.

Cormorant | Beebower  Productions

5. Two Canon Speedlite 580EX II flashes with Visual Echoes FX-3 “Better Beamer” Flash Extender

Dad uses one of two flashes depending on his distance from a subject.  The plain flash does a great job of illuminating subjects that are relatively close.  The Speedlite offers automatic and manual settings with a flexible head.  When Dad needs to use a long lens like the 400mm for a far-off bird, he uses the flash with an extender.  The extender takes the light and compresses it into a strong beam that works at great distances.

Pintail Duo | Beebower  Productions

6. Wimberly Head Version II  WH-200

The Wimberly Gimbal head, as mentioned in #3, fits on a tripod and allows for fluid movement of large, heavy lenses.  It’s easy to smoothly track running elk, flying birds or stampeding horses.

Bald Eagle | Beebower  Productions

7. Gitzo G-1327 Mountaineer tripod

In the ever-changing world of photo accessories, Dad’s tripod isn’t even available now.  But Gitzo has an outstanding collection of new tripods that will do just as good of a job as Dad’s tripod.  This carbon fiber tripod is lightweight and very strong, a critical point when hauling giant lenses and other gear long distances in search of wildlife.  The Wimberly head fits nicely on top doubling the value of this tool.

Kauai Rooster | Beebower  Productions

8. Gitzo Series 2 Carbon 6X monopod

Sometimes you don’t need a wieldy tripod, but you’d like something to steady your lens.  The Gitzo carbon fiber monopod does the job.  Like their tripod, Gitzo’s monopod is lightweight yet very strong.  It too can handle the Wimberly head.

Black Chinned Hummingbird at Cuphea Bloom| Beebower  Productions

9. Phottix Strato II Multi Radio receivers and senders

Dad loves his wireless flash triggers, especially when he’s shooting hummingbirds using eight flashes.  Phottix’s amazing product works without fail even when sending signals through walls and around corners.  This gives Dad freedom from wires and great confidence he’ll be able to nail the hummingbird photo he’s waited all day to take.

Roadrunner Breakfast | Beebower  Productions

10. The Vested Interest photo vest

Dad’s custom-fitted vest allows him to distribute weight evenly around his body.  He can carry lots of gear long distances without tiring, leaving more energy to focus on the wildlife.

What are your favorite pieces of gear to bring along on a wildlife shoot? 

Bugaboo Falls

Bugaboo Mountain Falls | Beebower Productions

The wheels were turning in his mind.  Spectacular waterfalls.  Cascading streams of water.  Powerful torrents pounding the rocks below.  Dad could see it in his mind.  Now he just had to find it.

From the minute that Dad learned advertising executives were looking for a spectacular waterfall as part of their new ad campaign, he began researching potential spots even though the advertising execs hadn’t decided which photographer would win the assignment. 

Undeterred by this minor detail, Dad flew to Canada, a place his research confirmed had many spectacular waterfalls, to hunt for the perfect one.   First stop on his quest–the remote Bugaboo Falls in British Columbia, Canada. 

To reach the waterfall, he and his assistant zoomed down 50 miles of rutted, rough logging roads in their rented truck. The duo then hiked down into the river valley lugging camera gear (which meant they hiked back up hill too) for Dad to get this shot. 

This photo could have been taken with any number of cameras.  Dad chose the Horseman SW-612 for several reasons.  The waterfall was quite wide.  Since this was taken in the days of film and Photoshop was in its infancy, shooting the picture correctly was of primary importance.  A panoramic camera would allow Dad to show the full width of the falls without distracting distortions that could happen with a regular 35mm camera and wide-angle lens.

The Horseman is a lightweight camera compared to other medium format rigs.  Since Dad was hiking to the falls, every ounce counted. 

The camera also had a viewing lens on top along with masks to fit three different size lenses.  It was almost like using a view camera, a tool that many landscape photographers routinely used.  A view camera is a heavier and more expensive option than the Horseman.

Finally, the size of the film played in Dad’s favor.  Knowing that the advertising execs would blow the image up to billboard size, Dad chose the Horseman because he could use 120 roll film as opposed to 35mm.  The large size of the 120 roll film provided more detail and resolution, something you definitely wanted if a photo of epic proportions would be greeting you along the highway.

To create that epic photo Dad got up very early one morning waded knee-deep into the water at the base of the falls and set up his heavy-duty Gitzo tripod in the swirling, churning waters.  He shot for about two hours, choosing a slow shutter speed to create the foamy streams of water cascading over the rocks.

All of that hiking and shooting created a big appetite.  Once the shoot was in the can, Dad scrambled out of the river and exchanged his muddy duds for clean jeans.  He and his assistant headed up river for some goodies at the ski resort along the creek. 

They didn’t stay long, though, because a giant storm was pressing down on the area.  They needed to get off the logging road before it turned into a muddy monster that could suck a small truck into its depths.  The pair made it safely back to Radium Hot Springs before the worst of the storm hit.  Despite the quick exit, it had been a successful day at the waterfall.

Upon his return to Dallas, Dad learned that the advertising folks did want him to shoot the ad.  He showed them the Bugaboo Falls photo along with several other locations and then waited on their decision.  He waited.  And waited.  And waited. 

The advertising team finally decided they wanted to use the Bugaboo location, but it was December and the range was buried under 30 feet of snow.  (That wasn’t a typo.  They really get at least 30 feet of snow in the winter.)  That extreme weather also freezes the waterfall during wintertime.  So Bugaboo Falls was a no-go for this particular ad campaign.

Luckily Dad knew how ad agencies worked.  He already had a “Plan B” ready for the ad folks in case they took too long deciding on Bugaboo.  He would piece together three different photographs from Canada and Colorado to create the perfect backdrop for beer sales.  At one point, he would find himself dangling over a half-frozen creek to get “a part” of the shot.  You can read all about that adventure here.

While the advertising folks weren’t going to use the Bugaboo photograph, Dad realized he had a very nice image to add to his portfolio.  Plus he had a great story on the lengths he’d go to make his clients happy. 

 

If you like this photo, check out some more fun Outdoor Art!

Canadian Mountain Wilderness |
Beebower Productions

High Country Fly Fishing |
Beebower Productions

Packhorse Rider Fog | Beebower Productions

Keyhole Arch | Beebower Productions

Waterfall People | Beebower Productions

Get Great Beebower Photos & More!

Receive our Photo of the Month Newsletter with tips, techniques, and more fun stories!
Plus be the first to know about events and special promotions!

You have Successfully Subscribed!