Spring is here, but it’s not just the plants and animals that are emerging from their hibernation! Everywhere, photographers are cracking open their camera bags and thinking about the pictures they want to take as colour begins to re-emerge in the landscape.
If spring has inspired you to get back outdoors with your camera, you may find you need a few extra pieces to complement your kit. Here are five camera accessories that could really give you an advantage and a fresh perspective on nature this spring.
Camera accessories for spring: 01 Polarising filter
Spring weather brings blue skies (everywhere but England), and we all know that a polariser filter will deepen those shades of blue.
However, you might not have know that polarisers will also dampen reflections from shiny surfaces. Typically you’ll see landscape photographers use them to this effect to reveal detail under the water in lakes and ponds.
But when shooting spring photography, a polariser filter will make fresh green leaves look even richer and greener.
You can get polarising filters to fit square filter holders, but this is one instance where buying round filters to fit your lens can be the best option. Round filters are not only smaller and lighter, but less expensive and easier to use.
In particular, try and get a circular polariser filter. Oddly, its name has nothing to do with the shape but rather the way the light is polarised.
Linear polarisers will be cheaper, but these can interfere with a camera’s autofocus mechanism.
Camera accessories for spring: 02 Macro lens
A macro lens is the ideal optic for capturing sharp close-ups of fresh spring buds, flowers and insects – all classic subjects for this season!
Now, your standard lens can focus pretty close, but with these subjects you need to get that extra bit closer and a macro lens is the best lens to deliver the goods.
Macro lenses typically have fixed focal lengths, and while those with shorter focal lengths are usually less expensive, it’s the macro lenses with longer focal lengths that give you a greater advantage in the field. With these you can usually stand a bit further away from your subject and get the same excellent results.
This is particularly useful when shooting insects, but also because it means you’re less likely to cast a shadow over the subject you’re trying to photograph.
Camera accessories for spring: 03 Nature tripod
A what? Trust us, there is such a thing as a ‘nature’ tripod. This is basically a tripod that can bend and stretch and support itself in weird, wet and often-inaccessible environments. The best subjects in nature aren’t usually in flat, dry terrains, and a nature tripod helps you get your camera in position.
Benbo was one of the first companies to launch such a tripod. Its ‘curved bolt’ design introduced independent leg angle adjustments for getting your camera into those hard to reach places.
The Benbo Trekker Mk 3 was a classic in tripod design, and only costs about £135 / $190 for kit that also includes a ball head and a carry case. It’s also quite light, as well, and you hardly notice it on your back.
Each leg can be rotated to any angle, independent of the others, and the centre column can be rotated into a horizontal boom.
What’s more, its lower leg sections are waterproof, which opens up all sorts of creative possibilities..
Camera accessories for spring: 04 Dual-purpose backpack
There’s no shortage of great camera backpacks on the market that can fit all your gear and offer a customisable interior design with a waterproof exterior. But if you’re a photographer who takes long walks to get to your ideal location, you’ll know that bringing just your camera gear isn’t enough.
You need a bag that will hold water, maps, extra clothing and food, as well as all your gear. And you need it to be comfortable. A tall order, right!
In the last few years a number of manufacturers have launched camera backpacks with split compartments so you can pack all of your camera gear, as well as other practical items you may need.
Typically you’ll find a lower compartment for your camera and lenses and an upper compartment for your other items. Keeping them separated like this ensures that a leaky water bottle won’t test the weather sealing on your Nikon D810!
You don’t have to spend a whole lot on one of these bags. I bought this Caden bag for my everyday adventures around town, and it’s light and comfortable, even with my Fuji X-Pro1, two lenses, a Macbook and a drink on my back. All for £30!
For longer ventures into nature, take a look at the Lowepro Rover Pro AW Series. This innovative backpack features padded inserts for your camera gear, with additional compartments for sleeping pads, trekking poles, even a small tent!
Camera accessories for spring: 05 Collapsible hide
Spring is one of the best times of the year to shoot wildlife photography, but even when you’re in the right place at the right time with the right lens and the right subject, you can still get it wrong.
That’s because, unlike toddlers, you can’t chase wild animals around until you corner them and can grab a shot. Any experienced wildlife photographer will tell you that the keys to getting great images are disguise and patience!
With a collapsible hide, you can set up in your ideal location and lie in wait with a Thermos of coffee and wait for the wildlife come to you.
A hide lets you blend in with your surroundings, reassuring the wildlife that you’re safe and not a threat.
And hides don’t need to be big and bulky. Take a look at the Stealth Gear One Man Photography Chair Hide – priced about £85. This fantastic hide gives you the space to sit comfortably and read Camera Jabber on your phone until those elusive red squirrels come down the tree!
These ‘photography blinds’ from LensCoat – priced $120 – are also quite good and fold up very compactly.