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What camera/lens do you use? Why do you photograph while out? Any tips and tricks?!

Wanted to start a thread on photography in the outdoors. Feel free to share some of your photos in the thread, however, it should be its own category.

1) What are some of your choices in camera and lens?

2) What tips and tricks do you use to get that great shot?

3) Why do you get out to hike and photograph?


My answers...

1) D3400- I kept it on the low price range due to the environment and damage risk. Its good for small trips. Due to the laws and impact I try to avoid drones in the wildlife and I may eventually upgrade but I like the DX for hobby and prefer to keep FX for professional.

2) Try to stick to the basics. Do not over pack your gear. A single camera and two lens should be enough (usually a 12-24 and then a 150-500) as well as a battery for each day. I avoid the tripod and instead elect to use a tree and my arm for steady shots, and try to figure about 25 photos a day for memory space. One option for video is to skill the camcorder and go with the camera so consider space for that (maybe an hour per day).

3) My mission is to inspire others to get outdoors, build how to and review videos and just generally educate others. It is also a great way to challenge myself by creating challenges such as focusing on certain wildlife each hike, or trying to get a specific style of shot (such as a night shot of an animal). It teaches patience, learning habits of wildlife and the extra is a good motivator to work out and be fit.

Mitchell J Clarke
Heartwood Photography
9 Replies

Hi @heartwoodphoto - This is such a great post. The photographer in me loves answering these kinds of questions. Thanks for bringing them to the community!

My responses:

1. My digital camera is an Olympus OMD EM5 Mark ii. I used to use Canon, but switched to this in 2016 because it was so small that I felt like I could bring it anywhere! My go-to lenses are a 24-200mm and a 14-28mm. The compromise is, of course, its micro 4/3 sensor. In recent years the upgraded technology has meant there are lots of options for small/lightweight setups that are also full-frame, but I haven't made the commitment to upgrade yet!

2. I really love shooting long exposures at night and one tip that has kept my images sharp is using a two-second timer. With that, I can click the shutter and have my finger off of the camera without any movement.

3. One of my favorite things is when the climber/kayaker/skier I photograph is really excited about how they look in the photo I captured. I think it's really special to be a part of someone feeling proud of themselves!

You will see that we moved your post over to our newly created Outdoor Photographers group. If you are interested, we'd love for you to join and share more of your tips, questions, and photos! Hopefully others will weigh in with their answers on this post too.

@AngiePaddlesandMore@speakingquitefrankly@Philreedshikes@Gatorboy@TSTEVES@bryndsharp - do any of y'all want to share your photo gear, tips, or "whys" with us?

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Well, let me preference this by saying I'm a wildlife/travel photographer and wildlife is what's most on my mind lately, so what I'm going to talk about wildlife. That said, I actually own five cameras and I use them for different purposes. I have an Olympus TG-6 Tough camera that I take kayaking. I have it and use it only when paddling. Capsizing is a reality in kayaking and it's waterproof. If it falls in the water, it will keep working. I have a flotation wrist strap that makes sure it doesn't keep working on the bottom.

My main camera is a Sony A7R III, which is a high resolution (42 megapixel) pro level full frame mirrorless camera. What lens do I use? It depends. A big part of it is a matter of how far away I expect my subjects to be. One of my favorite places is a local protected swampy area. Frogs will come right up to the side of the path, so I don't need to worry much about the distance. I got this image using my Tamron 70-180 f/2.8 lens @ 180mm; f/11; 1/200; ISO 1250 (This lens: I actually showed this photograph to a pro photographer this weekend and got asked, "Have you ever considered shooting for National Geographic?" That was pretty exciting feedback and made me think it turned out well, especially since I actually do aspire to publish one of these days. 🙂 

Tips for getting an image like that? Light & perspective. See the golden hues on the frog? The image was taken as the sun was going down and that's what gives the frog that coloring. The perspective matters too. I took that photo while standing on the raised boardwalk at a local park. Most people tend to stand right above the frog and take the photo. I was actually laying on my tummy to do it, trying to get as close to the ground level as possible. Not terribly comfortable for me, but very good for the image. It's hard to get a wildlife photo that looks good while you're towering above the subject. Final tip from this image: see the frog's reflection in the water? That comes from using a polarizer filter. The polarizer reduces the light that reaches the lens, but it helps to deal with reflections from water and preserving the coloring and the detail in the sky. 

Birds are small and usually not as tolerant of humans, so I tend to use a bigger lens for them. The specific lenses I use for birds are the Sony 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 G Master (this one: and the Sony 200-600 f/5.6-6.3 (this one: If I need even more reach, I might attach a teleconverter.

This image of a barn swallow was taken on the Sony 200-600 @415mm; f/6.3; ISO 8000: Again, look at the vivid coloring. That's the result of the setting sun again. But also look at the focus. Zoom in and you can actually see the details of feathers on it. Notice how the bird is in focus, but the fence posts on either side are starting to fall out of focus. That's intentional. Manual focus is usually more precise than autofocus. That's an example of manual focus. So is the frog, actually, but I was trying to not say too much about the single photo. 

Harsh daylight sun doesn't look good. It looks something like this image take on the Sony 100-400 G Master: See how the contrast between shadow and light is very harsh? And it's almost washed out? That's what happens in the sun during daylight. It's not the time to get the best image. But, luckily, sunrise and sunset are both the time when the lighting is best and the time when wildlife is most active. 

Can't shoot during the sunrise/sunset? Use nature's lighting softeners. Cloudy days will soften the light. I've even been known to go out in the middle of a storm (use a rain cover!) to take advantage of softer light and the lack of other people. And shoot from under the forest canopy. All of these will help improve the quality of the light hitting your subject.

Wildlife photography is 90% luck because you cannot pose a wild animal like you can a human model or even a pet. Good photographers get lucky more often though because they learn about their subject's behavior. They are patient waiting to get the image they want. And they plan out how their going to take the image. For example, this image, again on the Sony 200-600 lens  @ 400mm; f/5.6; 1/160; ISO 320 I had to sit and wait and wait and wait for this image. See the two turtles heads? One atop the other? Well, it's snapping turtle mating season and that's what's going on under the water. 

Why do I take photos? Well, I do it mainly because I really do believe we live in a wonderful, amazing world. This is my way of sharing it with people. If I'm lucky in my images, then I can show people the world through my eyes. The way I see it. And plus, I've had people bugging me to write a book of my images. That's been going on for years, but when I had 3 people independently come and bug me about it in one day, it sort of shook me up. I started taking photography more seriously and decided to take it more seriously and work on developing skills to photograph at a pro level. Frankly, the more I learn and the better I get, the more fun I have actually taking photos. 🙂


Hi @AngiePaddlesandMore - Thank you so much for this thoughtful response! Wow. There is so much great information here and the photos you shared are awesome.

I especially appreciate your tips around lighting, as I see it as the biggest game changer of the whole photography process. I remember in a high school photography class my teacher telling us that we needed to understand the rules of basic lighting so we could know when it was time to break them. Everything time I shoot directly into the sun for a back-lit image, it reminds me of that wisdom!

As someone who photographs mostly humans, I give you big kudos for working with subjects you can't verbally communicate with! To line up strong composition, good lighting, and an animal with its own plans seems like a ton of hard work.

Thanks again for taking the time to share all of this with us. I'm sure other outdoor photographers will appreciate reading through it and viewing your photos! 

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

To start off I consider myself a Landscape / Nature photographer, I don’t have the patience for wildlife.


I carry a Canon 7D with a 10-22 mounted on it and a 24-70 along with it, and always a tripod I like long exposures


Tips Hmm, best I can say is get out and shoot learn your camera, try new setting, shoot on manual and see what comes out. Join a camera club you can learn so much talking to other photographers.


I just like to be outdoors, to look for those places maybe no one else has been too. (that’s never going to happen) you can never see enough sunrises and sunsets.

something to look at..



My current go to Camera has been the Nikon D4S. I was originally drawn to this size of camera because of its winter performance.  I spent years doing ski photography, including ski races. This camera has the battery power and weather sealing to handle the coldest of days and still work.  The camera has seen 20 below zero/-30C and still worked flawlessly.  

I have considered smaller cameras, but once you are used to something, it is hard to change. 

My go to lens for  winter outdoor sports is a Nikon 70/200 2.8f; often with a 1.4 or 1.7x Teleconverter. In the winter I will use a Osprey Kamber pack. The pack is designed for skiing and the rear opens up for fast access to the camera gear. 

Summer hiking, I will bring the Nikon 24/70 2.8f.  or my iphone.  The camera will be mounted to my strap of my backpack.

If I am out taking pictures of birds, I will bring my Nikon 200/400 and a 1.7 and 2.0 teleconverter. My pack of choice is the Osprey Stratos 34.  Likely I will also bring the 70/200 lens.  A carbon monopod will also be attached to the pack. 



My camera and lenses were chosen in an attempt to lighten the load when I go backpacking/climbing/hiking/skiing, etc. Often I use my iPhone SE and the Camera+ 2 app. This app allows me to manipulate the exposures more than the native camera app does. This solution is very light, but the resolution of the photos leaves something to be desired.

For higher resolution photography I have a Sony A7 which I bought because the mirrorless camera body was very light compared to my old Nikon digital. The photos were twice the resolution of the Nikon as well. Seemed like a win/win. But I was dismayed when I discovered that the native Sony lenses were not only expensive but heavy too, which kind of negated the advantage I was seeking by going with a mirrorless body.

Happily I learned that there is a work around for this problem: the A7's light sensor is the same size as an old 35mm frame of film, so you are able to use old, vintage film lenses with an adapter and still take beautiful photos. And these old lenses are substantially lighter than their modern digital counterparts, not to mention substantially less expensive. Additionally, your battery life is extended because you are not powering the lenses. You can use this website to learn about the amazing advantages of combining vintage lenses with your full frame, digital camera:



Just chiming in because maybe I can help a fellow Sony shooter. 

The Sony A7 was a very early full frame mirrorless camera. When it was released, the lens ecosystem wasn't very well developed simply because it was new. Not sure how long it's been since you looked at lenses, but these days there are native lenses available that are much lighter weight. Tamron, in particular, has carved out a niche for themselves making lightweight native lenses. 

Extreme long focal lengths are still something of a weak spot. There's a Sigma 100-400 Contemporary lens and a newly released (last month) Tamron 150-500 lens, both native to e-mount and both full frame format. Other than that, you're stuck with the brand name lenses (Sony 100-400 G Master and 200-600 G) or non-native options like the Sigma 150-600 + adapter. And only the brand name lenses work with teleconverters because Sony won't license any of the third-party lens makers to make teleconverters/teleconverter compatible lenses. So if you shoot in those long focal lengths often, as I do, going outside of Sony's own options can be limiting, alas. 

Hope that's helpful!


Thanks, @AngiePaddlesandMore. I'm excited by the Sigma lenses. They are good quality and a bit more reasonable compared to the native Sony lenses. Someday, when my last 2 kids are done with college...


@heartwoodphoto What a cool topic! Thanks @REI-CarterC for tagging me, even though it's taken me a minute to get back and respond to this post (I recently moved to Uruguay for 6 months so things have been a bit hectic!)!


To answer your questions in reverse order, I love to get outside to remind myself of the simple things in life, and to escape the seemingly never-ending cycle of urban life. I love photography because it helps me capture those hard-to-reach places (and some not so hard to reach) so that I may in some way share those same spaces with others unable to experience them in person. The ultimate goal of this is, of course, to inspire others to explore and discover in whatever capacity that is for them.


For me, getting a great shot is all about the moment - particularly framing, lighting, and perspective. Are there animals in the frame? How is the lighting? Is there a storm brewing on the horizon? Are the leaves changing color? Does the shot look ideal from higher up or closer to the ground? Trying to capture raw uniqueness while preserving the ambiance - the emotion, thoughts, movement (or stillness), etc. of a scene is the ultimate goal. 

To answer the second half of question 2 and all of question 1, I am sharing a link to this post I had responded to a while back that deals with the pro's and con's of different cameras (just search for my comment on p. 2).


Super excited to see what else gets posted in this group! Keep on exploring everyone!

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