WWF’s Mac Mirabile recently traveled through Yellowstone on our Yellowstone Wolf Quest & Photo Adventure. He shares with us what he packed in his camera bag:
Think Tank Street Walker Hard Drive Camera Bag – This bag held 20 lbs. of camera equipment and an additional 12 lbs. from the tripod, gimbal head, and laptop. It is able to fit my D600, Sigma 150-600 Sport with teleconverter attached in half of the bag, and my backup camera body, lenses and accessories in the other half. It also contains a separate area for a 15” laptop, tripod connection straps and a pull-out rain cover which protects the entire camera bag.
Nikon D600 w/grip and 3 batteries – Nikon’s original entry level full frame DLSR. Although it’s nearly 5 years old now, the D600 performs very well, relative to smaller sensor cameras, in low-light situations such as photographing in winter.
Nikon D5500 with 3 batteries – Introduced 2 years ago, this is my backup camera for the trip. It features a cropped sensor, which performs worse in low-light, but has the effect of acting like a 1.5X converter for my full frame lenses. It also has higher 1080p 60fps video, Wi-Fi and weighs half as much as the D600.
Sigma 150-600mm Sport f5-6.3– When shooting wildlife, you almost always want more reach and on a trip like this should bring your longest lens. I opted for the “Sport” version of this lens primarily due to the improved weather proofing and construction materials, but at 7 lbs. this is not a light lens.
Sigma 1.4x teleconverter – This accessory mounts between your camera body and your lens and effectively extends the focal length of the lens by a factor of 1.4, though this extension comes at a cost of one f-stop of light and a small reduction in image quality. With this teleconverter, my Sigma becomes a 210-840mm f7.1-f9 lens.
Nikon AF-S FX 18-35mm f3.5-4.5 – This is the widest angle lens in my collection and my choice for capturing the mountains, valleys, and geothermal features of Yellowstone. The lens weighs less than a pound and can focus as close as 11” to your subject.
Nikon 50mm 1.4G – This is a great walking around town lens and portrait lens and can be pressed into service to shoot panoramic shots using photo stitching. I kept this mounted on my D5500 for most of the trip.
Western Digital My Passport Pro 3TB – This is the only piece of gear I acquired especially for this trip. It’s basically a small portable hard drive which will automatically backup your SD memory cards. It holds 3TB of data, enough to hold about 50,000 RAW files. It also has a 10-hour battery and Wi-Fi, allowing you to share your images easily. You can also use it as a USB power bank, allowing you to easily charge your phone in the field.
EnergyFlux Enduro USB power bank/rechargeable Hand Warmer – This palm-sized gadget is an additional source of USB power for charging my cell phone, a flashlight, and a rechargeable hand warmer.
Benro TMA28A Mach3 Aluminum Series 2 Tripod – I chose to bring an aluminum rather than carbon fiber tripod as I wanted the added weight to maintain steadiness even in windy conditions. The TMA28A supports 31 lbs. worth of gear and weighs just 4 lbs. It also extends to a maximum height of 61”, which kept me from hunching over to use my camera. It also features a center column hook, allowing the photographer to hang sandbags or other camera gear to further improve stability.
Movo GH700 Professional Gimbal Tripod Head – This Gimbal style head has a swinging arm which allows for much more flexible movement and control of large telephoto lens than a ball head. At 3lbs, it weighs almost as much as my tripod, but it was an invaluable tool, fully supporting the weight of my camera and lens, while allowing me to smoothly pan and tilt in any direction.
Dell 14” laptop with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom – Lightroom and Photoshop are the post-processing go-to programs for most photographers. Being able to assess sharpness on a large screen allows me to delete many images each night, freeing up space on my memory cards for the next day. Additionally Lightroom allows the photographer to rate and flag images, helping expedite which images merit additional processing.
SD cards 128GB, 64GB, 32GB (2x) – I always shoot in RAW to preserve the most post-processing flexibility, but there is a storage cost associated with this as my RAW files are about 5X larger than typical high quality JPGs. In my D600, I used an SD slot for RAW files on the 128GB card and the other slot for JPGs on a 32GB card, allowing some semblance of a backup strategy. In my D5500, I recorded both RAW + JPG to the same 64GB card.
Hoya 77mm ND400x HMC Filter – Apart from the UV filters on each of my lenses, this is the only additional filter I took. A 400x Neutral Density filter reduces light to 1/500th of its original intensity and is typically used in conjunction with a tripod and low ISO to blur the movement of water.
Rain cover for camera – I used OP/TECH rainsleeves, packaged about the size of a sandwich bag which unfold to cover even my largest lens. Costing just a few bucks each and taking up almost no space, they should be in everyone’s camera bag.
Ziplock bags –These are useful for organizing spare batteries, chargers and memory cards, cleaning cloths, etc.