Rainforest Equipment

mlawson

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Hi, I'm a beginner with DSLR's and am going to be travelling around various locations in Southeast Asia (Borneo, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand...) where I plan to be doing a lot of rain forest trekking and some wildlife photography in low-light, hot and humid conditions. Currently I have a low entry level Nikon D40 with the standard 18-55mm lens and a 55-200mm VR telephoto lens, with some kenko extention tubes I play around with for some macro shots. I primarily want to equip myself to take close ups of small bugs and wildlife as well as some bird photography. With a budget of around ÂŁ500, can anyone advise me on the most essential equipment that would come in useful, ie. Flash, beamer flash extenders and filters? Also ideas for protective measures like rain and humidity? Would it be better to upgrade the camera body to something like a D5100?
Any advice is strongly appreciated.
 
I would get a macro lens. Something around 100mm. You can use it for shooting close up OR something somewhat far away.
 
Maybe Tamron 90mm or Sigma 100mm
 
You already mentioned that you have extension tubes. That's a viable option for close up or macro photography. Certainly not as good as a true macro lens, but you've already got it, so it costs you nothing.

I'm unfamiliar with Nikon's models in terms of weather sealing. I'm not sure that upgrading to a mid-range camera like the D5100 would give you the protection that you might want. I might be more temped to buy another body (cheap used) as backup.

I might also suggest adding a 'faster' lens to your kit. Maybe a 50mm or 85mm with a maximum aperture of F1.8 or F1.4 etc.

I would also suggest a flash. I've done a bit of shooting in some rain forest areas and under the tree canopy it can be very dark. Especially if you are trying to shoot animals that are up in the trees. The Better Beamer, would be helpful, but not 100% necessary.

Do you have a good quality tripod? If not, then you might look at a good tripod...one that folds down to a nice size for travel.

How is your camera bag? When I was traveling in Costa Rica (during the rainy season) I was very glad that I had a LowePro AW camera bag. The fabric is somewhat water resistant, but it also has a built-in rain cover. There were several times when I had no means to get out of the rain...it would have been frustrating if I had been worried about water soaking through my camera bag, the rain cover allowed me the freedom not to worry about it.

You might also look for some sort of rain cover your your camera/lens (even flash as well). That way you can still try to shoot if it's raining. You don't want to go all that way, then be afraid to bring your camera out of your bag. At the very least, I usually carry a few zip-lock bags in my camera bag. I also grab plastic shower caps from hotel rooms...something to cover my gear in a 'rain emergency'.

Also, I'd suggest getting some desiccant packs (silica gel) for your camera bag. They help to absorb moisture so that your gear won't be zipped up into a stagnant humid space.

Lastly, I'd suggest getting/having insurance on your gear. When I was in Costa Rica, I got into a situation where I had my camera but not my camera bag...and I found myself in a torrential downpour. I couldn't even protect the camera at all times, as I need the use of my hands. My camera got soaked...the LCD screen was fogged up, on the inside for at least a week. I took the battery out while in the rain, but on the way back down the mountain, I put it back in and started shooting. The camera still works great, 5 years later. The one thing that kept me calm about it, was that I knew my camera was insured...so at least I wouldn't be out $2000 if it died.
 
You already mentioned that you have extension tubes. That's a viable option for close up or macro photography. Certainly not as good as a true macro lens, but you've already got it, so it costs you nothing.
I might also suggest adding a 'faster' lens to your kit. Maybe a 50mm or 85mm with a maximum aperture of F1.8 or F1.4 etc.

So, would combining a 50mm fast lens and extension tubes yield reasonable macro pictures?
Would this be a suitable lens? Nikon 50mm F1.8D AF Nikkor Lens: Amazon.co.uk: Electronics
Would getting a lens with auto-focus be worth the extra money?

I would also suggest a flash. I've done a bit of shooting in some rain forest areas and under the tree canopy it can be very dark. Especially if you are trying to shoot animals that are up in the trees.

Do you have any advice on any particular flashes for a low budget?

Do you have a good quality tripod? If not, then you might look at a good tripod...one that folds down to a nice size for travel.

I have a manfrotto monopod and a terrible old cheap tripod, but a good tripod may be a good investment.

How is your camera bag? When I was traveling in Costa Rica (during the rainy season) I was very glad that I had a LowePro AW camera bag. The fabric is somewhat water resistant, but it also has a built-in rain cover. There were several times when I had no means to get out of the rain...it would have been frustrating if I had been worried about water soaking through my camera bag, the rain cover allowed me the freedom not to worry about it.

You might also look for some sort of rain cover your your camera/lens (even flash as well). That way you can still try to shoot if it's raining. You don't want to go all that way, then be afraid to bring your camera out of your bag. At the very least, I usually carry a few zip-lock bags in my camera bag. I also grab plastic shower caps from hotel rooms...something to cover my gear in a 'rain emergency'.

Also, I'd suggest getting some desiccant packs (silica gel) for your camera bag. They help to absorb moisture so that your gear won't be zipped up into a stagnant humid space.

Oddly enough I have a LowerPro AW camera bag. Silica gel is a good idea. I also will need to buy a rain cover too.

Lastly, I'd suggest getting/having insurance on your gear. When I was in Costa Rica, I got into a situation where I had my camera but not my camera bag...and I found myself in a torrential downpour. I couldn't even protect the camera at all times, as I need the use of my hands. My camera got soaked...the LCD screen was fogged up, on the inside for at least a week. I took the battery out while in the rain, but on the way back down the mountain, I put it back in and started shooting. The camera still works great, 5 years later. The one thing that kept me calm about it, was that I knew my camera was insured...so at least I wouldn't be out $2000 if it died.

That's a good idea and something I completely forgot about, I should know as a few years ago my uncle had a few K's worth of camera equipment stolen in Peru but luckily had insurance.
Thanks for the advice.
 
If it were me going i would take 1 my film cameras that does not need batteries to work

That's what I used to do whn trekking around the Caribbean!

Always good for backup, not much can go wrong, I know a photographer who shoots in the mountains around the world and he will only take a film camera
 
The D5100 is not weather sealed either, so upgrading is a moot point. I would, however... be concerned about the conditions. There are "underwater" bags made for your gear I'd consider. I am not so sure I'd trust it under water, however it's an excellent option for what you are doing. I'd also invest in a couple of cans of silica gel to keep in your camera bag. knee high nylons and those little nylon baggies that brides use for candy at weddings are great for putting the silica in to place in your bag.
 
I should also mention another problem I had with the humidity.

If you are staying in a place that has AC, be careful when you go outside and take out your camera gear. The water in the hot humid air will condense on all the cold surfaces of your gear. Once or twice, it was 15-20 minutes before I could use my gear because the lens would constantly be fogging up. Worse is that this condensation can form on the inside of your gear as well. So when possible, let the gear warm up before you expose it to the warm air.

But if you're not staying in an ACed place, this shouldn't be an issue.
 

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