When I’m heading out for a long day(s) in the outdoors this is the kind of equipment I usually take with me. Now it may be more than you would ever need, but for those looking to get into landscape or wildlife photography, particularly those about to head out on safari – this blog is for you.
A bag for your gear
There are too many camera bags in the world, meaning that the choice available is verging on ridiculous! If there is one item that ignites G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome) over anything else it is probably camera bags. I’m currently using a Pelican 1510 hard case with a Thinktank Ultralight (discontinued) that fits inside the case. This basically acts like a backup backpack as it isn’t the comfiest bag for long treks, so it generally acts as a safe and secure place to store gear. I took this set up to Costa Rica because I’m based there for such a long time so the pain of travelling with such a heavy pack was negated by the benefits it offers me over the six months away, namely water-tight, lockable security.
For when I’m out and about I have two non-camera bags to choose from: Millican Dave, a great hiking bag that when combined with a cheap padded insert becomes a very good camera bag. Or a dry bag backpack which I often use on light treks where the conditions are looking a little ominous. This isn’t to say that Dave isn’t up to the challenge (he’s pretty good at being water repellent and has rain cover), but out here in the rainforest, when it rains, it pours! And having a bag that can in fact be submerged helps to ease the mind. The advantage of both of these bags is that they are easy to stuff lots of items into. One of the issues I usually have with camera bags is that once all of it is padded, it has lost of significant percentage of space for misc items. Misc items are usually seen as add ons with certain bag companies, leaving little room for other helpful items, so hiking bags can be really helpful non-camera gear.
What photography equipment do I take?
- 2 x X-T1 (fantastic all-round cameras, definitely brought the X-Series to a wider audience, and very much looking forward to trying out the new X-Pro2!)
- X100s (Out of all the Fujifilm cameras I’m lucky enough to have this is the one I’d probably sell last! Does everything very well, wonderful lens/camera, makes you think much more about your photography. Above all else, it is small enough to carry around everywhere. So some of my most treasured photos are taken with this because otherwise it would have been left to my phone. Combined with the wide angle and telephoto adapters, makes for a brilliant little system. I haven’t had the chance to work with the T yet.)
- XF10-24mm (Almost perfect – fantastic lens, hoping for a WR version in the near future.)
- XF16mm (Generates so much creativity, from the extremely close focusing to the fantastic depth of field control, 24mm equiv. is quickly becoming my favourite focal length.)
- XF16-55mm (Fantastic workhorse of a lens, built to last and equipped with image quality to make any prime-lover happy.)
- Soon to be – XF35mm F2 (when I get back to the UK this is high up on my list – 50mm equiv. lens, small, fast and discrete WITH WR!)
- XF50-140mm (My most used lens – can’t really say a bad word about it, produces the goods every time, simply fantastic!)
- Nikon 300mm F2.8 ED Manual focus (The elephant in the room, because my current role is focusing on birds, I needed something longer than 200mm equiv. As the much anticipated:
- XF100-400mm Isn’t quite out yet I opted for a quirky alternative… Yes it is heavy, yes it is manual focus, but thankfully peaking assist and a sturdy tripod help to make this a viable option. Nevertheless, my back is looking forward to Fujifilm’s new super telephoto zoom!)
- Fujifilm extension tubes and Nikon 2x teleconverter (yep, that gives me a 900mm equiv. lens… Absolutely bonkers!!)
- Filter system (Depends on what you prefer to photograph but I highly recommend a neutral density graduated filter set up and a circular polariser.)
- Flash system (Lots of options out there, depends what you can afford/prioritise – space or power output.)
Things to always keep in your bag
Get some silica packs and store some in your backpack, these can be the difference in saving your precious lenses. Many believe that fungus is an issue reserved for older lenses, unfortunately this isn’t the case, and in particular non-weather resistant lenses are vulnerable so please look after your expensive investments! Bearing that mind, always have some lens cleaner and lens cloths in your bag. You never know when a speck of mud or raindrop will ‘attack’ your lens. Though easy to deal with they can easily ruin a photo, so best to deal with any artefacts asap.
Other items I have in my bag:
- Duck tape (If you use lights in particular duck tape can be invaluable to secure lights in obscure locations to light your photos or simply to repair your watertight gear)
- Pen knife (Always ends up being useful for different things but of course be mindful of this when travelling internationally.)
- Table top tripod (Lets face it, tripods are always annoying to carry around and generally always scream PHOTOGRAPHER, but they are invaluable for certain situations. Nevertheless on some occasions you might not be carrying around a full size tripod so as a small, light back up is generally a good idea, so have a little tripod in the bag.)
- Remote trigger (I have a variety from wired to wireless, all with their own pros and cons)
- Rain cover (Generally not for me as in the tropics it is nice to get rained on! But I have a cover for my camera if I’m still shooting in moist conditions.)
- Rogue Flashbender (A relatively inexpensive flash accessory, easy to pack and very effective, especially when used off-camera to help quickly improve a portrait.)
- Food and water (Especially if you are trekking, these are the most important items to have on you!)
- Insect repellent (Insects love me so I usually carry some form of bug spray, DEET is the best but pretty grim stuff to cover yourself with so I have a natural remedy that I prefer. Also a form Vitamin B is meant to be good for repelling mosquitoes so if you know you’re off to a problem region then start some Vitamin B pills or alternatively marmite.)
- Hat and layers (Yes suncream helps to fight off sunburn but a hat can make all the difference when you are out all day. Depending on where you are, the weather conditions can change quickly so it is important to have spare clothes if it is likely to get cold.)
- Rehydration sachets + general medication (You can never fully guarantee what is going to happen when you go out and about so it is best to carry some simple things with you to negate any ‘niggles’ that could hamper your day.)
- Communication (Generally a normal mobile phone to contact anyone if necessary. Not for selfie usage!)
- Scarf/shall (This might sound strange, being described as a ‘must have’ item, but they have a wide range of uses, from portable shade, towel, dust remover, etc.)
Thick straps, and a comfy all-round design. Makes long days so much more enjoyable!
Other items to pack in the hold:
- Sensor cleaning kit (I’ve made the mistake far too many times of not bringing this with me and regretting it pretty quickly. The X-Series is very good for countering this problem, especially considering how often I change lens, but it’s best to pack safe.)
- Spare chargers/cables (This may well be over the top for certain trips but if you are going into very remote regions the last thing you want is to not be able to charge your batteries or download your photos.)
Kit care in the tropics
Taking a look at the gear I have brought with me to Costa Rica. From camera gear to items keeping the cameras working, I hope this will give you a good visual representation of what to take on your next adventure!
Keep your kit dry
If visiting the tropics or areas where conditions can often be very humid then it is important to figure out a way of keeping your kit dry, generally wiping away any moisture and having some silica gels in your bag should be fine but for my current placement I created a form of ‘dry space’, an area which I draped a tarpaulin in front of and had a light bulb at the top, this is generally left on whenever it is raining and works as a dry location to keep kit dry, anything slightly damp is kept as close as possible to the light bulb to dry it out and to hopefully kill off any fungus.
My camera bag system is constantly evolving but hopefully this will help some of you looking to take your camera into the great outdoors. First and foremost, remember to enjoy yourself, that is the priority. Cameras are wonderful tools for enjoyment and capturing moments, but don’t let the very item you use to capture moments get in the way of them. If you have any suggestions or ideas for other things to take with you in the great outdoors then comment below.
Until next time, happy shooting!
A little about Ben
Ben is an environmental photojournalist, zoologist and Fujifilm X-Photographer. His passion is showing the beauty and fragility of the natural world. Find more of his work at: