Recommendations for our Alaska Photography Tours
The selection of camera equipment for a trip to Alaska can be highly personal. The following list is the basic gear recommended by Hugh Rose, the professional photographer and naturalist who guides our Alaska Photography Tours. Hugh uses Canon equipment so this list refers mostly to Canon focal lengths for lenses. However, equipment and lens choices can be applied to Nikon brand cameras as well.
- Tripod: A tripod is essential for good sharp macro images or scenery that require great depth of field. Carbon fiber is great due to its light weight, but the downside is the higher cost. Daily trips to shore will be made for scenic and macro photography, and your tripod will be invaluable. While very helpful for steadying a telephoto lens and for shooting scenery at slow shutter speeds, a tripod is also a fantastic tool for improving your photography because it makes you slow down to compose a photo. However, there will be many times when it is not possible to use a tripod, such as on a moving boat. Be ready to “handhold”, even your long lenses!
- Ball head: A ball head such as a RRS, Kirk, Arca Swiss or Benro are excellent and versatile. If you own a gimble head such as a Whimberley, they are not very useful on the boat due to their size and weight. Gimble heads are great for photographing flying birds from a stable tripod, but do not work well in the rainforest environment or deck of the Discovery in Prince William Sound.
- Bean bag: I recommend a Kinesis photo gear bean bag. You can purchase the beanbag from Kinesis empty of beans and we can fill your bag after you arrive in Alaska. Beanbags are useful on board the Discovery (draped on a railing) and for shooting from the van.
- Primary camera body: Your newest, latest model body!
- Spare camera body: Alaska is a long way to travel, and if a camera fails, you are well suited with a backup. If you don’t own one, you may want to consider purchasing one. If you do buy a new camera for your Alaska trip, save your old body as a backup. I’ve seen cameras come to grief on trips, and I hate to see anyone on a trip without a camera who came to Alaska to photograph!
- Telephoto lens: A long lens (300mm or longer) is helpful for getting close up shots of birds, seals and otters. I personally like a 500mm f/4.0 for its focal length, weight and versatility (it can be used with extenders). However, a 300mm f/2.8 (with extenders) or if you shoot Nikon, a 200-400mm f/4.0 zoom is an excellent choice. Image stabilized lenses are the dream tool for shooting whales, birds, scenics, etc., from the bow of the discovery without a tripod.
- Tele extenders: Preferably matched with the lens, 1.4x, 1.7x (Nikon only), and 2.0x
- Longer-range zoom: For wildlife and landscapes (70-200mm or 100-400mm)
- Medium-range zoom: For people and landscape (24-105mm)
- A fast (f/2.8) wide-angle zoom: For landscapes (16-35mm)
- Macro lens: For those of you who are interested in shooting flowers insects, mushrooms and anything else small! Macro photography takes time and patience. Provided we have interest, we will make time in the field to shoot macro, so if you have a macro lens or close-up filters bring them.
- Flash unit: Only necessary if you plan on using a strobe with your macro or if you will be shooting people indoors.
- Lots of extra memory cards
- A digital storage device: Such as Epson, Hyperdrive, Wolverine or laptop computer. Laptops are excellent, because they allow you to review your images and check for critical sharpness, composition etc. Reviewing in the field can be critical for discovering repetitive mistakes in your photography before the trip is over.
- Battery charger and spare battery(s): Once on the boat, we have no access to stores! Power for recharging batteries is available.
- Polarizing filter: To fit all the lenses you will use one with.
- Cable release
- Rain cover: When you are in coastal Alaska it is good to plan on some rain. Be prepared by bringing a good camera rain cover that fits your camera and lenses you plan on using. Storm Jacket Rain Covers makes a cover that works well with the 24-105mm and 70-200mm lens sizes. Try your lens cover at home before it’s raining to get comfortable with how it works. If you do not have a rain cover, a heavy duty trash compactor bag with a hole cut in it for the lens and a rubber band will work. Some find shower caps a sufficient and inexpensive alternative, but bring something since we are likely to do some shooting in the rain.
- Lens cleaning supplies: A non-abrasive cloth for cleaning outer lens element, and a chamois to wipe water off lens element.
- Sensor cleaning kit: If you are experienced and comfortable cleaning your camera sensor bring this equipment; it can be very useful to eliminate those annoying dust spots from your images!