Photographing Wildlife: A Gadget Guide

Canada is a paradise for nature-lovers, especially those who love to capture wildlife in gorgeous, dynamic images. From national parks to local bird sanctuaries, most Canadians live just a short drive from great wildlife-viewing areas.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in wildlife photography is spotting the animals—you may have found the perfect vantage point, but the human eye can only see so far. This is where gadgets come in. Just a few key pieces of equipment can help you spot the wildlife, look closely enough to identify your subject, and snap the shot that captures the beauty and majesty of Canada’s wildlife.

Here’s our guide to the most useful gadgets for wildlife photography.

Using your camera lens to spot wildlife can be like looking for needle in a haystack; a zoom or telephoto lens has a small field of view, making it awkward to skim over large areas. Light and comfortable, binoculars allow you to look over a large, sweeping vista until you find the bald eagle on the branch or a deer drinking at the shore of a lake. Once you know where to look, positioning your telephoto lens is a snap.

The technical specifications of binoculars are described using two numbers, 10×32 for example. The first number refers to magnification: in this case, the binoculars will magnify the subject 10 times the size detected by the human eye. The second number refers to aperture diameter. The wider the aperture, the more light is allowed in, which is important at dawn, dusk, and in heavily shaded areas.

Binoculars are essentially your equipment filter, the equipment you will grab first to determine if you need your camera. You will need easy access, so look for a weight that is comfortable. Durability is key—a rugged casing, waterproof body, and coated lenses are small investments that will pay off over the years you use them.

Telescopes are not just for star-gazing—they are excellent for spotting and identifying wildlife. Spotting telescopes have a greater magnification than binoculars. For instance, a 12–36x50mm telescope will magnify from 12 to 36 times the human eye. As with binoculars, a larger aperture diameter will let in more light.

Telescopes have such a high magnification that you will need to stabilize it. Some telescopes have built-in tripods, which is handy if you have your camera set up on your main tripod.

Telephoto lens:
With focal lengths in the range of 70mm and higher, telephoto lenses are the ideal lenses for photographing wildlife. Generally speaking, the higher the focal length, the greater the magnification of your subject.

A common issue with a telephoto lens is that of light. The longer focal length means light has farther to travel through your lens to your camera’s sensor. A wide maximum lens aperture will help compensate—this is called a ‘fast lens’, and it means you can use a faster shutter speed and still take a properly exposed image.


Choosing a tripod is all about balance: balancing your lens, balancing your camera equipment load, and balancing your needs. Tripods are used to stabilize your equipment; the heavier and stronger the construction material, the more solid your camera will be. In nature photography, however, you will be photographing on the go, and the weight of camera equipment adds up. Telephoto lenses, binoculars, spotting scopes, camera bodies, and external flashes are heavy in their own right, so a lightweight tripod can help balance the load.

Look at minimum and maximum heights for your tripod, and imagine the perspective you want when shooting. As with the tripod composition, you may need to compromise size with portability. A quick release tripod head is a great feature, particularly if you will be switching a spotting telescope for your camera.

If you intend to use large magnification binoculars, consider a binocular tripod adaptor. This piece is designed to stabilize binoculars with 10x or more magnification by attaching to any standard tripod. If you are carrying a lot of heavy equipment, this small attachment may allow you to use higher magnifying binoculars and leave the spotting scope at home.

Remote shutter release:

Imagine this scenario: you have set up your camera on your tripod, trained on a favourite perch for a beautiful bird. The bird lands, it’s time to snap the photo. A remote shutter release is made for moments like this. Snap shot after shot without calling attention to yourself and spooking the bird.

Your own professional proof book:
Professional photographers print out a proof book so they can examine each photograph carefully. We suggest you shoot lots of images and then edit out the obvious missed shots. Then you have two options:

  1. Print your pictures in 4×6 and purchase a small, inexpensive album to serve as your proof book. Most albums have a place for notes—jot down the equipment you used, the lighting conditions, your camera settings, and any information that will help you hone your skills. This is an inexpensive way to store your shots, refer back, and choose the best ones to enlarge.
  2. Let us do the work! London Drugs Home Edition software builds proof books automatically. Download Home Edition, upload your photos and type comments. When you are finished, send us the file and we will print and bind your book. This is an easy, cost effective way to catalog your photos.

For more information on binoculars, telescopes, and camera accessories, visit your nearest London Drugs Camera Department or click here.

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