When people talk about nature and wildlife photography, they give a lot of good advice on getting the shot just right and finding the best camera and lenses to use, but there seems to be very little advice on actually getting out there in the wild. Nature and animal photography is creative work, but it can be physically demanding, so let’s get down and dirty, and look at some of the best ways to prepare for that kind of hiking trips that a nature photographer can expect to take.
1. Plan Ahead and Find a Route Best Suited for Your Fitness Level
Artistic sensibility will dictate where you want to go and what you wish to capture with your camera, but a lot of new nature photographers quickly realize just how exhausting it can be to reach some of the most breathtaking places on earth. It is a good idea to prepare yourself by building up some stamina slowly on a treadmill a few weeks before going on a hike through nature. If you get out of breath quickly, you’ll have trouble setting up and lining up the shot correctly when the time comes.
2. Take Someone along with You
A long nature walk can get a bit boring and difficult, so having someone you can chat with and who can help you out is a good idea. Traveling with a friend or a group will also keep you a bit safer, as you can raise a bit of noise to scare away predators, and take care of each other in case of an injury, illness or other emergency.
3. Pack Your Backpack Wisely – Measure Twice, Cut Once
When it comes to preparation, this is the most crucial step. There are some good general guidelines for packing a backpack for a hiking trip, and choosing a strong waterproof backpack should be your top priority. You want to keep your supplies and photographic equipment dry, but you also don’t want things to rattle around, so make sure that everything is tightly packed. Regular hiking requires you to pack efficiently, but nature photographers will already be lugging around a sturdy tripod, camera and lenses, so it is very important to keep the weight of other equipment to a minimum. Bring plenty of calorie dense food like protein bars, and have plenty of water to stay hydrated. Water purification tablets are also a good idea in case of an emergency. A decent first aid kit will keep you safe from bumps, bruises, cuts, bug bites, stomach problems and headaches. You should also have some emergency signaling options like a signal flare and a loud whistle.
4. In Cold Weather, Dress in Layers, Have Rain Gear and Avoid Cotton Clothes
A photographer may be out in the open for a while, looking for some good shots, so it is important to keep your body warm, especially during colder autumn months and winter. You should always have some rain gear with you to avoid unpleasant surprises, and in winter, you should wear several layers of clothes and have a decent winter jacket and pants. Cotton clothes don’t stay warm when they get wet, and should be avoided. Synthetics and wool work well.
5. Invest in Good Shoes, Socks and Gaiters
The first thing people realize after their first big hiking experience is that they need to take good care of their feet. Rocky terrain will chew up lighter footwear, and anything but good hiking boots will let water in and ensure that you twist your ankle. Good hiking boots can get a bit expensive, but they are a very good investment, and will last you a long time. A few pairs of hiking socks and a decent pair of gaiters will help keep your feet dry and comfortable, so don’t cut corners here.
A good photographer will invest plenty of money to get the best equipment, and plenty of time to hone their skill, but it is also important to develop some other skills that can contribute to your photography career. Nature and animal photographers should put some effort into finding quality hiking gear and ensuring that they stay safe and comfortable out in the wild.