In Parts 1 – 4 of this series, I covered a minimum three pieces of equipment one should own to begin down the road to becoming a serious hobbyist bird photographer: the DSLR camera body, the good lens, and the memory card for the camera. You can actually go out and snap photos of birds and wildlife with these three items but there are plenty of other photography accessories and software (and tips) that you’ll either need or want, to make life easier when you go out shooting and when you get back home to your computer. Let’s get started with accessories.
Accessories for Bird Photography
I acquired many of my accessories over time because it was easier on my budget, my lenses were my top priority (not accessories), and a lot of them weren’t “must have” accessories. I think the best way to tackle this subject is to list the items I have acquired over the years and explain what they do and how they help me.
As you do more shooting it will become apparent what accessories will be most important to you. You may not shoot birds the same way I do. If you’re a beginning bird photographer and this is your first DSLR, you may not even be aware of some of the best locations to photograph birds and wildlife in your area. This is an important aspect of the hobby that you will have to determine. For instance, two of the accessories included on my list are bean bags for my truck windows because I live within 40 minutes of a wildlife refuge that has a 4-mile auto tour route and I do 98% of my shooting there and at least 90% of that is from my vehicle.
You may not have this type of refuge near you so you may not need vehicle bean bags. This is why it would be a good idea to scout out your area and see what parks and refuges are available for bird photography. As you make connections with other photographers online and in person, you’ll get more information about any hot spots in your area, too. Where you shoot, whether you hike trails to find birds or drive, has a lot to do with the kinds of accessories you will want to consider buying.
Here’s my gear list as it now stands (10/28/2014):
|Canon EOS 7D-back up|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark III|
|Canon EF 500mm f4L IS II|
|Canon EF 24-105mm f4L|
|Canon 1.4X Extender III|
|Canon 2x Extender IIICanon 50mm f1.8 (Nifty Fifty)|
|Canon 580EX Flash|
|Sandisk Compact Flash Cards|
|The Molar Bean Bag by Vertex|
|Joby Gorillapod Focus & Ballhead|
|Canon EG200 Backpack|
|Storm Jacket Camera Cover|
|Kinesis Safari Sack|
|2 Canon LP-E6 camera batteries|
|Canon BG-E11 Battery Grip|
|Rechargeable AA Batteries for flash|
|Adobe Photoshop CC|
|Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5|
|Nik Color EFEX Pro 4|
|Nik Dfine 2|
|Nik HDR Efex Pro 2|
|Nik Sharpener Pro 3|
|Nik Silver Efex Pro 2|
|Nik Viveza 2|
|On One Suite|
The first item on the list after the camera and lenses happens to be the 580EX external flash. This is not one of the low cost accessories, at $449. You may find that the manufacturer of your camera probably makes several models of flash for your camera which cost less. But the good news is that you don’t have to use a flash. It’s nice to have in certain situations but I wouldn’t blow a decent part of my budget on a flash if it meant I couldn’t get a decent lens–the lens always comes first. Many bird photographers do not use flash at all–they prefer that all shots be lit by natural light. This is a personal preference and as time goes on you will make a decision regarding flash sometime down the road. There’s no hurry and I’ll be covering the way I have used external flash in bird photography in much more detail later in this series.
This is a gadget that attaches to the external flash and directs the light more efficiently. If you don’t have an external flash, then you don’t need a Better Beamer (BB). But if you do use external flash, you might get some use from this $40 accessory.
The BB is a 3-piece gadget made up of two plastic side pieces that are made to fit your brand of flash perfectly around its sides. Velcro is used to affix the smaller ends of the left and right plastic pieces to your flash unit. The sides protrude out in front of the flash about 7 or 8 inches and become wider at the far end. The two sides at the far end have Velcro strips lining the far ends which accept a piece of Fresnel lens which also has Velcro on its edges and attaches to the far end of the two plastic sides. The Fresnel lens is now parallel to your flash lens. When the flash unit fires, the light goes through the lens and is ‘focused’ more directly at the area of the bird instead of traveling at a wide angle and wasting light on the empty areas to the sides of the bird that are not in the frame. This can save power and maybe even give you faster recycle times, but this is dependent on your flash settings. This is a great accessory if used correctly. I find though, with most of my shooting done from my truck with a large lens, the BB can get in the way of the vehicle’s window frame. So since I acquired the 5DMarkIII with its lower noise at higher ISO’s, I have had less reason to use the BB or flash in general. If I were on foot with the camera, I’d definitely bring the BB along.