What’s in Your Bag: A Comprehensive Wildlife Kit


Clipboard01Sudhir Shivaram is one of India’s leading names in wildlife photography. Despite working as a Senior Project Manager at an MNC, he manages to find time to fuel his passion. Here, he speaks to Ambarin Afsar about his lifetime investment. 

A comprehensive wildlife kit is one that helps me prepare for any eventuality. In the wild, where nature rules the roost, situations can range from the tricky to the bizarre.

Sudhir Shivaram's kit

Sudhir Shivaram’s kit

1. Ferrying Heavy Telephoto Lenses
This light backpack can hold both the Canon 800mm and the Canon 400mm f/2.8 lenses at the same time. I can easily carry it as hand baggage in flights.

2. Blending into the Surroundings
This hide, which is mainly used for bird photography, is made out of super strong mesh that is lightweight and allows me to blend into the countryside.

3.Charging in the Wild
Chargers usually have a regular 240V cable to be connected to wall sockets. This cable helps connect to the car to be able to stock up on power on the move.

4. Bean Bags for a Special Trick
I cannot think of doing a safari without my bean bags. They provide excellent support and help me with my ‘double decker’ technique which involves stacking two bodies fixed with two telephotos on top of each other, to get two variants of the scene.

5. Close Range Focusing
I occasionally use this with a macro lens or standard lens to get additional magnification, as it helps me focus at closer range.

6. Extending the 800mm
This helps me get additional reach for bird or even mammal photography. However, the focusing speed reduces, hence I use it in good lighting situations.

7. The 800mm Monster
This is my primary lens for bird photography coupled with the Canon 1D Mark IV. I mainly use it when the subject is cooperative as this is an f/5.6 lens and not fast enough for action photography.

8. The 400mm All-rounder
This is my main wildlife photography lens coupled with the Canon 1D X. This combination is my most used setup for action wildlife photography and I do all my shooting with it handheld.

9. Substituting the 800mm
This converter enables me to get more reach on the 70–200 f/2.8 or the 400mm f/2.8 lenses when I am not carrying the 800mm.

10. The Clamp Solution
An extremely useful accessory while shooting from a vehicle, you can clamp this to the bar or windows of the jeep and mount the ball head to support any long lens like the 800mm.

11. A Flexible Tripod Head
I use a specialised tripod head for telephoto lenses. Its easily manageable design allows me to rotate the lens around its cenre of gravity and manipulate very large lenses.

12. Lightweight Tripod Support
These 6x carbon fibre legs are very light to carry around, and I use them extensively when I am on foot, to support the 800mm lens. During safaris, I use them if I am alone in the vehicle.

13. The Monopod Alternative
It is always good to carry a monopod for situations where tripods are not feasible. In places like the North East, you have to do a lot of trekking and photograph birds that suddenly pop out of bushes.

Tips for the Wildlife Enthusiast

  • Jackets for Extra Space
    A multi pocket jacket can hold accessories like CF cards and small lenses. It is very useful on field and also in flights.
  • Easy Exposure Estimates
    When shooting nature, a light meter saves time by estimating exposure so that you can solely concentrate on imagemaking.
  • ND Filters for Creativity
    The wild is full of situations that beg long exposures in the daylight. So, pack in an ND filter to get those silky waterfalls.
  • The Speed Factor
    Choose a body and lens combo that gives you a blazing fast autofocus system in any lighting condition
  • Handy Tools and Devices
    Keep a Swiss Army Knife or a light tool kit of some sort. Penknives, torches, scissors etc can be useful in the wild.
  • Medicines and Salves
    Carry medicines for basic ailments like fevers, stomach aches and sprains. Also, pack plenty of insect repellents.
  • Card Reader Transfers
    Instead of connecting the camera to a laptop, use a card reader as it helps you conserve much needed power.
  • The Invaluable Assistant
    Cellphones often have GPS tracking that can help at times. They also help you make some behind-the-scenes photos.
Tags: Wildlife, Equipment, Ambarin Afsar, tips, teleconverter, gear, TELEPHOTO, what's in your bag, Sudhir Shivaram, packing, extension tubes, clamp, gimbal head