Fieldwork for Wildlife Artists-What I Use

I’m leaving for Mongolia on August 24, coming home on September 21st. As is the case with fieldwork in any really “interesting” place, self-sufficiency is critical. As is the ability to “get the shot”, which means the camera equipment has to be reliable and ready to go at all times.

On the road in western Mongolia, Sept. 2006; some of the “endless steppe” of Central Asia

Camp kitchen at Khar Us Nuur, last night out. Trusty Russian Furgon van in the background.

Here’s a list of the gear and art stuff that I need to do my job in the field and bring home the reference that is a large part of why I’m spending the money to go to countries like Mongolia in the first place.


Bag and The Big Lens

2 Nikon D80 camera bodies

1 AF-VR Nikkor 80-400mm lens (effective 600mm on a digital body)

1 Promaster (made by Tamron) 28-300mm lens

Two bodies, two lenses because, with wildlife, there’s never time to swap them, plus risk of dust, dirt, drops

4 2GB memory cards; two Promasters, purchased when I got the camera bodies from my local photography store and two SanDisk Extreme III’s, which are designed to perform in cold, heat, wind, etc.

1 40GB Firelight external hard drive

For the first time- my MacBook Pro. I’ve used Flashtrax and Wolverine external hard drives for storage and back-up till now. This time I’m going to download onto my MacBook and back-up to the Firelight. The MacBook has Photoshop Elements on it, so my hope and plan is to be able to view and create jpgs of some of my images during the trip and post them to my blog when I have internet access. I’ve been interested for awhile now in location-independent functioning for artists and this will be my first experiment in staying connected and sharing the trip in almost “real time”. My husband, an IT professional, will be along for most of the trip, so he’ll be my tech support.

Extra batteries; for a total of four

Battery charger

Inverter for recharging batteries using a vehicle cigarette lighter, critical on the road when there is no reliable access to electricity

I-Sun solar charger; Mongolia does have sun over 300 days a year, so having one of those available was a no-brainer

Probably the Nikon Coolpix for ultimate back-up or for around town


Fieldwork supplies plus piece done at Hustai National Park ger camp, Sept. 2006

Plastic box with gel pens, carbon pencils, kneaded eraser, sharpener, travel watercolor brush

Some additional brushes

Pelikan gouache 24 pan kit; I like the gouache because it can be used opaquely or transparently

Aqua Tote water holder; folds flat

Aquabee Superdeluxe Sketch Book, 8″x9″- heavy paper that can take any media; I’ll use it for my journal, too.

Annigoni 100% cotton paper, acid free; a natural beige color which provides the same medium value as putting a toned wash on a canvas for oil painting; The inspiration here was Thomas Moran’s fabulous “sketches” from his travels to Yellowstone, done on toned paper, using white “body color”, i.e. gouache, for the lightest areas.

Rags from old clothes, napkins from various restaurants


My faithful photo vest; why should photographers have all the good stuff?

1 Domke Super Compact camera bag

1 Domke PhotTogs vest, which I’ve had since 1999; two trips to Kenya, two to Mongolia, plus Yellowstone five or six times and wherever else and it still looks embarassingly new. It’s more or less a substitute for a day pack and has the advantage that everything is more quickly available than if it was in the pack and  it also leaves the hands free. I don’t take a sketchbook bigger than will fit in one of the lower front pockets. The patches are just for fun, but have been good conversation starters over the years. I’ve heard some great stories and gotten useful tips on where to see various species.

1 REI daypack; which gets carried on the plane and holds my laptop, book, plane tickets, hotel/rental car confirmations; folder of other trip info., steel water bottle (which is refilled once I’m through security), protein bars (because I never, ever travel without some food, just in case), and my TravelSmith purse, which has a steel cable inserted into the shoulder strap and zippers which all zip forward under my arm (and that foiled a pickpocket once, as it was designed to).


1 Platypus water system for hiking hands-free and still being able to drink water regularly without messing with the daypack. Mongolia has VERY low humidity, so staying hydrated is important. Essentially it’s a water bag that goes in the pack and has a tube that I clip to my vest, so it’s easy to take a sip as wanted.

2-3 Protein bars

1 Pair sturdy hiking boots, ankle high for support on rough ground; a twisted ankle can be serious business in a country with not much in the way of western standard medical facilities (medical air evacuation insurance is a must, also)

1 hat with a full 360 brim and a chin cord

1 Magellen GPS, so I can go off on my own and find my way back. Very liberating!

A handful of bandaids and a compact first aid kit, a bandana, Swiss Army knife, kleenex, sunglasses, lip balm, sunscreen, passport, phrasebook

Maybe most important of all, an open mind, patience, a willingness to go with the flow and find the humor in the ridiculous things that happen when one travels.


Had a great turnout for the Wild Visions 2 show reception last Friday night! Pretty much non-stop. The show was very well-received. Lots of compliments. Here’s a couple of photos:

The bighorns are my newest major work “Heavy Lies the Head”. Terrific custom frame by Mark at Southstream Art Services.

A few of Shawn Gould’s paintings