This article is meant as a baseline for you to see, what I use and value about my gear, providing you with a point of reference when I‘m talking about it in my other blog posts.
(I will continuously update this article and add links to related blog posts.)
Before we dig into the ‘how’, let me explain shortly ‘what’ I photograph.
My focus in photography lies with wildlife photography and within that area specially with birds. I might expand my photography to include more nature subjects, as landscapes and macro work, but the majority of my time is invested in photographing local birds (Swiss). At the moment I’m also getting more familiar with mammal’s like Capricorns and Foxes and try creating opportunities to make photographs of them.
I’m mostly relying on long lenses and keeping a healthy distance between me and my subjects. A current project though, is to get really close, without compromising a respectful relation. More on that later this year.
I use Nikon equipment and even though I have some experience with other brand DSLRs and mirrorless Cameras, I find Nikon to deliver consistently very good products and have not seen the need to change. Now that’s not to say, that you’ll never hear complaint’s, or wishes that I have for Nikon product’s. Because I’m that kind of person, that spends a lot of time analyzing his equipment from a practical point of view, and find a things I wish were different, I also tell people and Nikon about it. I will cover such things in more detailed articles, but let me give you an example:
Nikon cut the for my photography most crucial autofocus mode the AF-C dynamic 9 from the Nikon D500, while the D5 and D850 have it. Of course I understand that this is an marketing decision. None the less this are things that I then check, if and how much they truly affect my photography, rather then just complaining over the spec sheet and not trying out the camera. In this case it is sometimes an annoyance, but definitely not a deal breaker what thousands of images I took with it can confirm.

My Gear has not only grown, but has basically nothing in common anymore, with what I started out in 2014. Instead of giving you the full history, let me give you an overview of how my packed bags do look like at the moment of writing.
Current kit:

(F-Stop Sukha 70l):

D5 and D500, 600mm f/4E FL, 70-200 f/2.8E FL, 20mm f/1.8G and/or 16-80 f/2.8-4E, opt. TC.

The Nikon 600mm f/4E FL is my most used lens so far and the one that has helped me realize my visions the most. It has been with me for 2 years now and I basically never leave home without it, when I go looking for wildlife. Even in urban areas it often comes with me, and you can believe it, that you will get strange looks when you walk down the street with a 600mm f/4E FL in one hand, huge tripod in the other and carrying a 70 liters backpack. This lens delivers the reach, the speed and quality I always want to have with me. Now I know, that this kind of lens is not in the budget for most photographers, but bear with me, because for the most part the benefits of this kind of lens are also valid for the more budget friendly solutions, like the Nikon 200-500mm 5.6E Lens, which I will cover in detail until end of the year (2018).
An important thing to keep in mind, is that such exotic super telephoto lenses demand a totally other level of commitment, because they can be such a burden to lug around and shoot. (And don’t forget the rather pricey insurance policies you should get for them.)
Usually when I go out with the 600mm prime, I also take my huge Sirui R-4213X Tripod with the leveling base and a Gimbal Head (~3.8KG), not because I can’t handhold it, but for the times where I would have to be ready for something to happen for more than a few short minutes. With lighter lenses I would no need it, because I could react fast enough. Never underestimate the challenge of handling a 5.5KG camera/lens combination.
The big lens goes accompanied by a Nikon D5 and D500. This is an excellent combination. What I really appreciate about both body and lens, is the speed and reliability they offer.
What and when I use it:
Urban – Small Mammals and Birds
In urban areas, where many commonly known species are often quite trusting, I still benefit from having a long lens, so I can have small animals big enough in the frame. With my 600mm prime Lens on a full frame camera body it’s barely enough, when I’m between 8 and 12 meters from my subject, to not have to crop my images, other then maybe for getting it perfectly level.

Wood Mouse in summer at lake Zürich. (Apodemus sylvaticus)

| Nikon D500 | 600mm f/4 E | 600mm | f/4 | 1/200 | ISO 5000 |

So while 600mm might seem like much at first, I find myself craving for more from time to time, because with a lot of smaller wildlife you’ll either have to get the really long lenses or get really close (< 2 meter’s) with lenses that provide a low minimum focusing distance and good magnification, like the new Nikon 70-200 f/2.8E FL 1.1m and 1:4.8 that I used in this shot, combined with the D500 and it’s 1.5x crop factor, to photograph the Dragonflies (uncropped).

Dragonflies mating.

| Nikon D500 | 70-200mm f/2.8 E | 200mm | f/7.1 | 1/400 | ISO 280 |

In these situations I like having two cameras ready. While I walk by the side of the lake and look out for mice, rats, larger insects and birds, I never know what I will find and how far away it is going to be. So being prepared sometimes get’s me the shot, I would have most certainly missed. This does not mean, that I always have two cameras ready, but rather that in some cases, I know it might be beneficial. For example when I’m just walking and discovering, rather than being after one specific species only, at a point where I know what distance my subject is going to be.
Diverse – Medium to Large sized Mammals
When I’m only after larger mammals, the reach frenzy can be controlled a little. For example these very trusting marmot’s that we could approach, to the point, where I was switching between my 600mm, my 70-200mm (on APS-C 1.5x) and my 20mm, giving me entirely different fields of view (fov). Here the reach wasn’t my limitation, but only a tool to control the perspective/fov. The real limitation was my positioning, which is something to keep in mind, especially on such a super steep sloap. (Please) mind the gap.

Alpine Marmots group shot. (Marmota Marmota)

| Nikon D5 | Nikon 20mm f/1.8 G | 20mm | f/4 | 1/800 | ISO 800 |

So while I could have gone without my super long lens here, because these marmot’s were accustomed to humans, I doubt that it would have been possible to take any usable pictures of these naturally shy animals without some camouflage/hide and a very long lens.
Waters (Rivers, Lagoons, Lakes) - Birds
Now for the birds in “the wild” I rarely have too much reach, especially with water birds in open lagoons, where I have no possibility get closer, since my preferred places are usually protected and I’m not allowed to go into the water. So, for the most part my 600mm is the only lens I use, because my 70-200mm even with the 1.5x crop of my D500 is simply not enough reach.
Such reach of course demands good support, so my tripod with gimbal is always with me.

Little Egret fishing. (Egretta Garzetta)

| Nikon D500 | Nikon 600mm f/4 E | 600mm | f/4 | 1/1600 | ISO 220 |

Since this I my main focus in photography I will leave it at this and go much more into depth, in an dedicated blog post.

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