The following is a list of suggested gear for the rainforest we think you should bring to make your Southeast Asia photography tour experience the best it can be. As always, let us know if you have any questions pertaining to gear listed below as relevant to your tour.
After you register for your Asia Eco Photography Tour and secure your place with a downpayment we will create a comprehensive gear list on Google Docs where you can go and check off what you have as you collect it.
This will help you and us to see how you’re coming along. Some things are available here in Thailand or Malaysia, so if you’re having trouble with finding something, let us know and maybe we can find it here before you arrive.
Photography Tours Gear Lists (3)
RAINFOREST PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR
Though your own list may vary, use this as a starting point and add/remove things that you’ll find helpful or essential to having a great trip. Further below is a list of other items like Clothing, and Other.
1. Camera. We use Nikon equipment. If you haven’t bought a camera yet, I suggest you choose a Nikon or Canon camera. Here in Thailand the Canon gear is slightly less expensive, but the quality is basically the same. I use Nikon because of my familiarity with the menu system. No matter.
Your camera should be somewhat weather resistant to survive six days in Thailand. Most newer model entry-level professional DSLR cameras with full-frame capability have some level of water resistance. Do check yours.
Backup Camera Body. You may want to bring along an extra camera body in case your main unit malfunctions. If you choose not to bring an extra body, you’re welcome to use my D610 full-frame, or D7000 DX camera if you need to.
Camera Check. Before you come on your tour you might want to have your camera and lenses professionally cleaned. Finding a spot of oil on your sensor while your in the field can be a bit of a bummer. You can attempt to clean it, but you know how that goes! Better to have someone do it for you and test your equipment before you leave home to ensure it’s all in good working condition.
Waterproof Camera. We also bring along a Nikon waterproof point and shoot camera just in case we either want to get a shot in the water, rain, or at a waterfall. This is especially helpful if doing video in the rain, though the aperture isn’t very wide and the low-light capabilities of the camera are not stunning. It can produce an acceptable 1080p video in many cases.
2. Camera and Flash Batteries. We’ll have access to A/C power outlets for charging batteries for the most part, but there may be a day or even two where we cannot find power, or maybe it will be cut off for a bit.
This happens in Thailand, so be prepared by charging all of your batteries to full capacity at home, and also any chance you get during your tour. Multiple chargers will help, as will a small electrical outlet – we will have some of these for you, don’t bring.
3. Flash. A powerful flash will be of some benefit during your tour, but really when working with the animals we will be, the on-camera flash as well as some added flashlight light – will be enough for most people.
A ring flash is a helpful piece of gear, if you have it – bring it. What’s great is the LED flashlights and headlamps that you should have, will show as white light when you photograph. It’s near daylight rating. I love my Ultra-Fire flashlight for that. I even supplement some natural light shots with my flashlight during the daytime. It is an amazing addition to your arsenal!
4. Lenses. Like water resistant cameras, lenses can have this rating too. Check your lenses to see what level of water resistance they might offer. As mentioned above, you might want to have your lenses cleaned professionally before your tour.
Zoom. While in the field during the daytime I usually have a 70-300mm Nikon zoom lens for DX which gives me 450mm actual reach. I’m not usually shooting birds, but if I get the opportunity I will stop and shoot them for a few minutes.
I’d say 450mm is about the minimum reach you’d want in Thailand if you’re shooting birds. 600mm or better is much more ideal. If you shoot Canon lenses, you might find this video helpful where they compare some of the sharpest zooms you might use for bird photography – here.
Macro – Micro (Nikon calls it). I typically use my little 100mm F/2.8 Tokina micro lens for all of my close-up shots in the dark, and most of the daytime shots too. Make sure you bring a 100mm or better – 180, 200mm macro lenses are probably ideal so you don’t have to get that close to the wildlife.
For venomous snakes, I really like the 100mm because it’s the ideal length to allow me to get some of the environment in the shot – which I like to do for each snake I find. It also allows me to get in close enough to get the details, without getting bitten.
Wide. If I’m shooting landscapes during the daytime I’ll bring my 17-35 F/4 Tokina pro lens. It’s super sharp, and it allows me to use my screw-in circular polarizer. Ideally you’ll be able to screw filters in, or have some other filter option for your wide-angle lens you will use for shooting landscapes in Thailand, Malaysia, or Laos – wherever your tour is.
Normal. I have a Nikon 35mm F/2 lens for ‘normal’ shots. I have a 50mm, but I think it’s too close for most of my needs if shooting people or something else where I need to see a general overview of what’s going on.
For video I like to use this lens at night because it gives enough of the surroundings, and lets in enough light. It also keeps everything in focus at F/5.6, so it’s really pretty ideal as a nighttime lens whether shooting video or just some establishing shots of the habitat an animal was found in.
5. Tripod. A good tripod for stunning landscapes is essential. There are plenty of opportunities for landscape photography during your tour, and we recommend you bring at least a small tripod as a minimum.
Though you might figure there will be others in the group that have tripods, nobody is going to feel all that good about sharing their tripod with you and waiting for you to finish with it. Bring your own tripod. The lightweight carbon fiber Manfrotto tripods are great for travel and hiking.
OTHER ESSENTIAL RAINFOREST GEAR
1. Flashlight (Torch for UK English speakers). One of the most important items. You can carry a flashlight in your hand at night, or you can have a head-mounted flashlight (headlamp) with elastic bands. Both of these options work well.
Personally I carry a Petzl headlamp. The headlamps can be helpful for freeing up your hands when you’re shooting photos or trying to handle wildlife. Or both! Ideally, bring both flashlights. Most of the time we will be able to charge rechargeable batteries in an A/C outlet, but occasionally we may not be able to.
You will need an alternative that accepts regular AA or AAA batteries in that case. Don’t skimp on batteries! I think the ultimate setup is to have multiple recharging units and a boatload of batteries. There’s nothing worse than running out of batteries in the jungle and having to use your phone flashlight or worse, using a lighter!
2. Emergency Whistle. We may get separated by a hundred meters or more while going our separate ways and a whistle can put us in touch with you quickly, even in the dense rainforest.
3. Lighter, Candles, Paper. We will give you here. If you are lost, you can use the lighter for a couple functions, like starting a fire and staying put. The fire will keep bugs and animals away and enable us to find you quicker.
4. First Aid Supplies. We carry a small first aid kit, but if there is anything else you need to ensure your good health – bring it. That includes Ventolin or other breathers, heart medicine, and every kind of medicine you require. Don’t rely on a Thailand pharmacy to have what you need. We have many things here, but we are also missing some.
I remember trying to get Pseudophedrine hydrochloride for my blocked sinuses – and the pharmacists all looked at me like I was nuts. Do you know why? That is one of the prime ingredients in YaBa – a major illegal drug in Thailand. The pharmacies cannot sell it in a pure form.
They have it mixed with other things that affect your alertness – make you sleepy. So, I haven’t had it for 10 years now. It’s things like this that make it a bit of an adventure, whatever you’re doing in this country!
Other first aid items you might bring: plasters (band-aids), compression bandage (elastic), iodine solution (we have here too), handy-wipes – the wipes with alcohol that can clean and disinfect a small injury. Do not bring snake kits with suction cups, they are not used. They actually increase the damage to tissue.
5. Wide brim hat. Essential to keep the sun and bugs off your head. I usually throw a snake bag around my neck too, but if you have a hat with a neck protector, even better.
6. Sun Lotion, Bug Spray with DEET 50+. We have this here, you can purchase upon arrival.
7. Immodium AD. Stops the runs. Can buy in Thailand pharmacy. We have some, but better we never run out. 😉
8. Waterproof Bag. Two 10 or 15 liters, or maybe one big one. We have frequent rainstorms that come out of nowhere. You’ll need to be prepared to store your electronic gear and IDS and other water-sensitive items in waterproof bags quickly.
9. Snake Bags with Drawstrings. If you plan on collecting snakes for photographing and releasing later. We do not take any animal from the location we find them in. This seems contradictory, I know.
If we find a venomous snake, a monocled cobra for instance, in a heavily wooded area we may want to bag it and take it to a more open area so we can ensure our safety. We need space to work around venomous snakes. We don’t take any chances.
10. Snake Tongs and or Hook. Strongly built for turning over logs and rocks is ideal.
11. Rain Poncho and Rain Cover for your backpack and other bags.
12. Emergency Contact Phone Numbers. Family, health insurance cards w/phones, blood type, allergies, medicines taking regularly, in a plastic ziplock bag.
13. Emergency Cash. Bring enough for hospital treatment ($2,000 USD recommended). The hospital will begin treatment without a large payment, but within a day or so they’ll start getting anxious.
Probably best if you setup a Paypal account that can be used by friends back in your home country to Paypal me or other friends here payment for hospital costs as needed in an emergency.
CLOTHING FOR TROPICAL CLIMATES
1. Clothes. Bring two pair of underwear and socks for each day of the tour. Really. We will probably take 2 showers per day, maybe 3? Thais typically take two showers each day without walking through the jungle. We will have some laundry detergent with us so you can wash clothes when you get a chance, but we may not have many chances.
Bring your own favorite laundry soap (powder) from home in the sealed, original bag. Our laundry soap affects foreigners differently. I was allergic to many types and finally settled on infant clothes detergent!
2. Hiking Boots. Boots are the best footwear if you’re used to wearing them. It is very hot in Thailand. I wear hiking boots about half the time. I much prefer some trail running shoes. Keep in mind, I am very cautious about where my foot goes with every step. You don’t want to step on a snake without boots on your feet.
Keep in mind too that hiking trails have many roots. Trails are not maintained as well as they are in the USA, the UK, Germany, etc. Trail running shoes are stable enough, light enough, and grippy enough for most situations. However, going off trail, boots are highly recommended. I have some Gore-Tex North Face boots that work well.
3. Running Shoes. These are great for a number of reasons, lightweight, dry quickly, more comfortable than boots, and they tend to be much more grippy than boots with harder rubber.