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What’s in my outdoor bag?

As a professional outdoor photographer, I tend to shoot a fairly broad and varied range of subjects – frombig, sweeping vistas to miniature wildlife. Therefore, I have quite a range of different focal lengths to suit different subjects. I don’t carry all of my kit all the time, though – it would be too heavy and bulky. Instead, I select the kit I anticipate I will need depending on the subject or location I’m visiting. I’ve been a Nikon user since my teens and continue to shoot solely with Nikon gear.

Camera:

I always carry two bodies – not only does that allow me to swap between lenses quickly and efficiently, but the second body acts as insurance, should one camera go wrong or get damaged. I currently have a Nikon D810 and D800E – their huge 36-megapixel resolution and impressive dynamic range make them ideal for the type of subjects I typically shoot. The D810 has great high ISO performance and the image quality is better than any other digital SLR I’ve seen. I also own a D7100, which I use as a lightweight backup body for oversea trips.

Wild garlic/Ramsons {Allium ursinum} close-up, Combe Valley, Cornwall, UK. May 2014.
Wild garlic/Ramsons {Allium ursinum} close-up, Combe Valley, Cornwall, UK. May 2014.

Lenses:

Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR

I love shooting wide-angle landscapes, particularly of the coastal views in South West England where I live. I love the focal range of this lens, the stretched perspective and three-dimensional feel you can create by shooting at its widest end. It is the lens I use to capture the vast majority of my scenic images.

Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S

This range is the perfect companion to the 16-35mm. Whenever I need something just a little longer for a scenic view, I reach for my 24-70mm. Optically, it is superb.

Nikkor 70-200mm AF-S f/2.8G ED VR II

This completes the ‘Nikon holy trinity’ of lenses. This lens, combined with the last two, allows me to cover every focal length from 16-200mm using the highest quality glass. It is a great lens for more distant views and also good for some wildlife and plant-life too. The VR makes it easy to use handheld.

Pied Wagtail {Motacilla alba} in snow, nr Bradworthy, Devon, Uk. December 2010
Robin in snow, near Bradworthy, Devon, UK. December 2010

Nikkor 80-400mm AF-S f/4.5-5.6G ED VR

Although I don’t shoot a large number of bird and mammal photos, when I do, this is the lens I rely on. Although it is not the fastest tele-zoom, that doesn’t really bother me thanks to the good high ISO performance of modern digital SLRs. Given its power and range, the lens is remarkably lightweight and compact, making it comfortable to use handheld – ideal for shooting action and flight. Image quality is superb and during a recent trip to the Galapagos Island, it hardly came off the camera thanks to its amazing versatility.

Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G AF-S VR Micro

I shoot a lot of close-ups, so I carry two macros in my backpack during spring and summer, when there is lots of insect life and wild flowers to photograph. 105mm is a great focal length for handheld shooting, being long enough to generate a practical working distance, but short and light enough that you can shoot without a support. Its VR is also a great aid.

Nikkor 200mm f/4D ED-IF AF Micro

When I am able to use a tripod for insects, I tend to use my 200mm micro. Although an aging lens, optically it is excellent. It provides a large working distance, allowing me to shoot from further away and minimize disturbance to my subject. Its shallower zone of focus helps me generate nice clean, diffused backdrops.

Banded demoiselle {Calopteryx splendens}, male and female silhouetted on reed, Lower Tamar Lakes, Cornwall, UK. June 2014.
Banded demoiselle {Calopteryx splendens}, male and female silhouetted on reed, Lower Tamar Lakes, Cornwall, UK. June 2014.

Tripod:

An essential item of kit for a landscape and natural history photographer. I use Gitzo Systematic GT3541LS legs – they are fantastically sturdy and, being designed without a centre column, are ideally suited for low level macro work. I couple this with the Manfrotto 405 geared head. I have long been a fan of Manfrotto’s geared heads – their great precision is perfect for static subjects, like landscapes and close-ups. When I travel abroad, I use an alternative, lighter set-up – Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 legs and Manfrotto 410 Junior geared head.

Accessories:

  • Reflector – for bouncing natural light onto small subjects.
  • Wimberley Plamp – to clamp things into position, or hold my reflector in place.
  • Lexar memory cards – multiple cards to ensure I always have ample memory.
  • Lee filter system x 2 – I rely heavily on filters when shooting landscapes.
  • ND grads – sets of both hard and soft grads.
  • Heliopan polariser – the effect of a polariser cannot be replicated during processing.
  • Lee Filters Big- and Little-Stoppers – extreme ND filters for creatively blurring movement.
  • Nikon MC30 and MC36 remote cords – so I can trigger the shutter remotely.
Lindisfarne castle silhoutted at dawn, with gulls in flight, Holy Island, Northumberland, UK. March 2014.
Lindisfarne castle silhoutted at dawn, with gulls in flight, Holy Island, Northumberland, UK. March 2014.
Ross HoddinottOther articles by author

Ross Hoddinott is one of the UK’s leading natural history and landscape photographers. He is the author of eight photography books and a multi-award winner. Ross has been working as a full time professional since 1997, supplying imagery and undertaking commissions for a wide range of publications and clients. Based in the South West of England, Ross is best known for his intimate close-up images of nature, and for evocative landscape photographs. He is a member of the 2020VISION photo team, an Ambassador for Nikon UK (2013-15) and one of Manfrotto’s Ambassadors.

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