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What’s In My Bag: A Minimal Kit for Capturing Wildlife, Nature & Adventure

Nathan Dee (@natedeewild) is a Colorado-based wildlife and adventure photographer. “I feel most alive when spending time in nature quietly observing wildlife or documenting adventures with friends,” he says. “Ever since picking up a camera, I have been drawn to capturing unique perspectives and surprising details that are often overlooked or missed by the human eye. I recently finished an undergraduate biology degree and have been developing a passion for the intersection between art and science with conservation in mind. I am fascinated with animal behavior and the unique evolutionary adaptations of the species around me, including humans. Photography has allowed me to see the natural world through a different lens which often leads to further understanding and appreciation for my wild subjects.”

Product Preview – In This Article You'll Find:
Sony Alpha 9
Sony 200–600mm f/5.6–6.3 G
Sony 50mm f/1.8

Dee’s overall goal is to create images and tell stories that evoke emotion, spark curiosity and inspire others to venture out into wild places to experience and learn from all that the natural world has to offer. The relatively minimal gear he carries in his bag is carefully chosen to accomplish this goal while minimizing distractions in the field. We caught up with him to learn more about what’s in his bag - keep reading as he explains in his own words.

Nathan Dee's photography kit for nature, wildlife and outdoor adventure

Camera

Sony Alpha 9: This is the only camera body I currently carry, and it has easily exceeded my expectations. I was drawn to the Alpha 9 due to its incredible blackout-free continuous shooting at 20 FPS which allows me to capture more frames than I know what to do with. The auto focus with both human and animal eye detection is probably my favorite feature when shooting outside in variable environments where most cameras would struggle to determine my desired focal point.

Photo by Nathan Dee. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G. 1/400-sec., f/6.3, ISO 500

Photo by Nathan Dee. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G. 1/1000-sec., f/6.3, ISO 1000

I have been continually impressed with its tracking ability and have frame after frame in focus to prove its prowess. On numerous occasions, the tracking has been able to lock on to birds in flight as they pass behind trees and branches creating opportunities for unique compositions. I can’t recommend this camera body enough, especially for fast moving subjects.

I sat quietly with this owl for nearly an hour without either of us moving but our gaze. Suddenly the owl took flight toward a narrow opening in the wooded area which we occupied, diving talons first into the long grass. A successful hunt!

Photo by Nathan Dee. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G. 1/1000-sec., f/6.3, ISO 1000

Photo by Nathan Dee. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G. 1/13-sec., f/6.3, ISO 50

Lenses

Sony 200–600mm f/5.6–6.3 G: This lens has been the perfect tool for capturing intimate moments while keeping a respectful distance and minimally interfering with wild subjects. It has amazing optical image stabilization and a well-balanced internal zoom that enables me to shoot handheld most of the time. This allows me to capture more moments without having to contend with a heavy tripod.

Photo by Nathan Dee. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G. 1/2500-sec., f/6.3, ISO 320

Photo by Nathan Dee. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G. 1/2500-sec., f/6.3, ISO 320

I often find that the most compelling images are captured in harsh weather conditions which makes the dust and moisture resistant design of this lens invaluable. A time I was particularly happy to have this lens in my bag was the first time I was able to track down and photograph a beautiful fox during a snowstorm. All the features mentioned above allowed me to capture some of my favorite images handheld without any concern about damaging the lens despite the snowy conditions. I’ve also really enjoyed this lens for minimal landscape compositions. The compression can be a beautiful advantage in these instances.

Photo by Nathan Dee. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G. 1/1600-sec., f/5.6, ISO 50

Photo by Nathan Dee. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G. 1/1600-sec., f/5.6, ISO 50

An eerie yet beautiful scene captured in Southern Colorado during peak accumulation of ash and smoke resulting from extensive wildfires across North America in 2021. I was lucky enough to have stumbled across this composition while searching for a bald eagle that I had recently spotted actively hunting for trout.

Sony 50mm f/1.8: This nifty fifty is a solid budget lens for portraits, landscapes and even comes in handy for the odd wildlife encounter. This low-profile lens lives on my shoulder strap when heading out on longer hikes or full days wandering up Rocky Mountain creeks, usually fly rod in hand. Although I am excited to upgrade to one of Sony’s top of the line medium to wide angle lenses soon, this lens has been a good introduction to one of their prime lenses before deciding to spend the big bucks. I would highly recommend this lens to anyone looking for a solid introductory lens that doesn’t break the bank.

Curiosity, more precious than gold. On a late summer morning in the Colorado Rocky Mountains a curious juvenile fox pauses from playing with its siblings to cautiously investigate me. Meanwhile, the sun began to peak out from behind the rain clouds moving through the valley which revealed a beautiful rainbow overhead. I was thrilled that the Sony 50mm f/1.8 was on my camera as I knew it would be able to capture all the details of this scene. Also, capturing a wider angle image of a fox offers a different perspective than the longer lens images we so frequently see.

Photo by Nathan Dee. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 50mm f/1.8. 1/2500-sec., f/2.2, ISO 400

Photo by Nathan Dee. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 50mm f/1.8. 1/2500-sec., f/2.2, ISO 400

Accessories

Shimoda Explore V2 30 Backpack: This pack has so many great features and is super versatile, the large mirrorless core unit perfectly fits my Sony 200–600mm f/5.6–6.3 G when attached to my Sony Alpha 9. It is critical to have a reliable pack when out in nature! 

Air Blower: For frequent sensor and lens cleaning. I can’t have sensor spots and with only one body at the moment, I do need to change lenses in the field. 

Peak Design Clip: A great accessory which allows me to keep my camera easily accessible on my shoulder strap. This allows me to be reactive if I come across something on an adventure. There is nothing worse than seeing something epic and having your camera in your backpack.

Black Diamond Headlamp + Extra Batteries: A must have for early morning and late evening missions. Without it, I’ve been stuck walking back in the dark on one too many occasions.

Photo by Nathan Dee. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G. 1/1000-sec., f/10, ISO 250

Photo by Nathan Dee. Sony Alpha 9. Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G. 1/1000-sec., f/10, ISO 250

Black Diamond Microspikes: I use these a lot during winter photo missions when conditions are icy and snowy. 

Manfrotto Tripod: I mostly shoot without a tripod but in certain situations, a tripod is definitely necessary for getting the shot. This one is reliable and well built. 

Mini First Aid Kit: A new addition to my pack for more remote missions. This is a must-have for anyone spending time in nature. 

Nalgene Water Bottle: Got to stay hydrated out there!

Rain Gear: Rain jacket and pack rain cover, I must-have to keep myself and my gear dry.

See more of Nathan Dee’s work on Instagram @natedeewild.

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