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How to capture stunning winter wildlife – Part 1: gear essentials

Andy Parkinson goes in search of snowy subjects (Image credit: Andy Parkinson)
Meet the pro: Andy Parkinson

Andy Parkinson

(Image credit: Andy Parkinson)

Andy Parkinson is an award-winning wildlife photographer, regular National Geographic contributor and a recent Nikon ambassador. Working with wild animals only, he often speaks about conservation, animal rights and photo ethics.

www.andrewparkinson.com (opens in new tab)
@andyparkinsonphoto (opens in new tab)

Winter can be a simply sensational time for wildlife photography, wherever you happen to live. With both birds and mammals sporting their finest winter coats, it is at this time of year, in preparedness for the potential hardships that follow, that creatures look their pristine best. 

In this series I’ll look into the many benefits that the weather and light at this time of year can create, the importance of getting to know and enjoying your local species, however familiar they are, and the value of ensuring that you are always well prepared to work safely when the weather is less predictable.

Next, I’ll explore the many different ways to capture seasonal images, from photographing animals as part of their landscape to extremely detailed close-ups, and from explosive or touching animal behaviour to exploring the abstract beauty that a sea of white can elicit.

Join me and explore the magnificence that is the winter landscape, the magic of wildlife photography at this time of year, and all of the potential that lies with the species within.

Getting started: Andy's essential items

In winter, not only must you think about protecting yourself from the harsher conditions, but you must also think about protecting your often-expensive camera equipment.

A decent lens cover is a useful addition, but try to ensure that it isn’t made out of noisy material, and that it isn’t loose-fitting – otherwise it could flap about in strong winds.

In terms of clothing, I favour premium brands like Fjällräven (opens in new tab) as they have Arctic pedigree and are one of the most sustainable and ethical outdoor clothing brands. I opt for a layered approach, adding layers of clothing as the temperature drops. 

Wearing solid waterproofs on top and bottom, Andy can shoot low to the ground without getting damp or cold  (Image credit: Andy Parkinson)

As well as the best waterproof clothing that you can afford, my top tip is to wear glove liners and fingerless gloves. These are incredibly inexpensive, so multiple combinations can be bought for about £10. This way your hands stay warm but can still operate camera/lens with the same speed and fluidity.

QUICK TIP!

1. Warm accessories
You’ll need a decent hat, gloves, and a neck warmer to cover all areas of skin that are exposed.

2. Lens cover
A lens cover can protect equipment from snow and ice, while also providing a level of camouflage.

3. Hand warmers
These can keep your hands functioning for longer in extremely cold temperatures.

4. Nourishing snacks
You’ll need energy-rich foods with you to replenish lost energy from the numbing cold – think nuts, cereal bars, etc.

5. Waterproofs
If you think wildlife photography is going to become a regular hobby, get the best waterproof clothing  that you can afford – including boots.

6. Flask for a hot drink 
A flask of hot drink will protect your core temperature – and also keep up morale.

What’s in Andy’s kitbag?

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Nikon D6
  2. Nikon D4S
  3. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-400mm F/4G ED VR II
  4. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm F/4E FL ED VR
  5. Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III

Read more: 

Take your outdoor photography to the next level with The Photography Show (opens in new tab)
The best camera for wildlife photography in 2021 (opens in new tab)
The best trail cameras in 2021 (opens in new tab)

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