It was only when out a couple of weeks ago in the New Forest I took stock of what I’d taken with me.
Besides the relevant camera kit, I’d gone dressed for a day of crawling through damp vegetation, and not standing out when getting close to wildlife.
To this end I was dressed in greens and browns, and wearing my trusty camouflage coat (that goes with me on most forest & nature shoots) I blended into the vegetation quite nicely, so much so I almost walked into a grazing stag as we’d not seen each other!
I am a firm believer that you should blend into your surroundings when photographing wildlife. You are essentially encroaching into their environment, so you don’t want to upset them or force them to change their behaviour if they are startled by your bright and gaudy colours. To this end, I believe wearing bright colours in a woodland is a bit futile, so I don’t do it as I’m not there to change the behaviour of my chosen subject matter. I find it best to wear clothing that you’re not too precious about getting grubby.
We seem to live in a society that is obsessed by being clean, and to this end many nature and wildlife photography articles will recommend taking some waterproof sheeting with you for lying on the ground to protect you from the damp and wet.
If you want to travel light, then be prepared to get wet and dirty and leave the sheeting at home. Having a change of clothes back at your car gets around us the problem of being in wet clothes all day.
A good comfy pair of walking boots is key. You’ll be walking over uneven vegetation, carrying fragile and expensive kit, so you don’t want a turned ankle to ruin your day in the event of a trip or fall. Ankle support offered by a decent set of boots can save the day. As a side note, if you do suffer a fall when out and do yourself an injury, consider the fact that your mobile phone might not get a signal as you’re out in the wild away from a decent mobile phone signal. We all hope this never happens, but the thought of not being able to contact anyone for help when out on a shoot does help sharpen the mind when it comes to thinking about being careful.
Consider your smell too. You’re out shooting wildlife, and most animals will pick up on the flowery smells of washing detergents and deodorants. Smells completely alien to them could affect their behaviour, so while blending in visually, consider blending in smell wise too. To this end the camouflage coat I mentioned earlier very rarely gets washed. After many outings in various woodlands it has obtained its own natural air, thus making being upwind of any animal less obtrusive. Okay, if I do happen to have crawled through something nasty on an outing, it does get washed; I do have some standards after all.
Think about sustenance when you’re out.
Staying hydrated when walking long distances, often carrying some weighty camera gear is vital, so make sure you’re carrying enough water for your trip out.
Consider various insect repellants as well. Lying on the ground for some time while lining up a shot can leave you open to becoming an insects snack. We can all respond differently to various bites, so don’t leave anything to chance no matter what the season, but I concede this is more applicable to summer months.
Remember, it’s not just about taking the right camera kit out with you. Make sure you have the right clothing on/with you and your trip out will be that much more enjoyable.