Going Birding, Part I

I’ve got a trip planned to photograph birds in Florida next week.  I’ve decided on two locations.  First, I’m heading to the Saint Augustine Alligator Farm.  Second, I’ll visit the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Both of these locations are within a few hours drive of Orlando or Jacksonville.

Location Choice
I chose these locations because they are not only familiar to me, but they are also places where I know I can get amazing shots of Florida birds in their breeding plumage.  The Alligator farm doesn’t sound like a place for birding, but the back half of the facility is an enormous rookery with an elevated boardwalk, which puts you closer to the birds level in the trees as they perform nesting behaviors.  Merritt Island NWR has been one of my favorite hang-outs for years.  The Black Point Wildlife drive is very accessible and doesn’t have the elbow-to-elbow crowds of a place like Ding Darling.
What to bring?
This is always the hard part.  A few years ago, when I was shooting exclusively with a DX-format D2x, I would have simply packed my 200-400mm f/4 AFS VR Zoom Nikkor lens and a TC-14E.  Now that I’ve got the D3, the equation changes a bit, due to the FX format frame of the D3.  After some thinking, I decided to go all-out and bring my 600mm f/4 AFS VR Nikkor and the 200-400 VR. Dang, that’s some serious glass-mass.  I realized that not only do I need to remember all the accessories, but I’ll need to be able to fit them all in my carry-on luggage!  I figured a checklist would be a good idea:
Above is the preliminary checklist I came up with to help me pack.

How to carry all that stuff
A few months ago, when I started planning this trip, I knew that if I wanted to carry both lenses that I needed to have the right kind of bag.  On the one hand, I have my Think Tank Photo Airport Addicted bag.  This bag will hold everything you throw at it.  The problem, however, is that it gets so heavy that you either need a strong back, a pack mule, or a folding roller to carry it.  I liked none of those options, so I went and ordered the Think Tank Airport Security Roller v2.0.  While not quite as large inside as the Airport Addicted (due to the internal roller mechanism), it will hold both my big lenses and the D3 body, along with some accessories.  Even better, this bag includes an integrated TSA-approved combination lock, something the original Airport Addicted lacked.  The rest of my gear will travel with me in another Think Tank Bag, the “Shape Shifter”.  This bag has the advantage of being able to carry my Mac Book Pro, too. (Click here to get a free Think Tank bag).

Think Tank Airport Security 2.0.

Airport Security 2.0 with gear

Think Tank Shape Shifter, with gear.

The rest of my gear (tripod, monopod) will be sturdy enough that I’ll check it in my normal luggage.  I’ve done this a lot with no trouble.

Now, all I need to do is hope that the weather is good
in Florida next weekend– I’m getting nervous because of rain in the forecast for the entire time I’ll be down there…

One thought on “Going Birding, Part I”

  1. Whats up Jason ?
    Looks like you have a fun photo shoot planned.
    Are you still in Florida

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