As with most types of photography, one of the most useful accessories you can get is a good tripod. Wildlife and nature photography usually involves very long focal lengths, and even the best image stabilisation systems can have problems eliminating camera shake once you get over 300mm, especially since your budget telephoto zoom lens will probably have a fairly narrow maximum aperture at its long end. Animals and birds are often unpredictable and seldom appear just when you want them to, so you're going to find yourself doing a lot of waiting, and holding a heavy DSLR and zoom lens in the right position for half an hour is tiring. Set your camera on a tripod, and use a cable release if you have one.
Since you'll probably have to carry your gear some distance over rough terrain the ideal solution is a light but strong carbon fibre tripod such as the Manfrotto 190CXRPRO4 or, if you're feeling flush, the expensive but excellent Gitzo Traveller 2. Any tripod is better than no tripod however, so if all you've got is a cheap aluminium one then use that.
If you're serious about getting into wildlife photography another very useful accessory is a portable hide. Unless you have the skills of an an SAS sniper, sneaking up on even our relatively tame UK wildlife is incredibly difficult. Most animals have very acute senses and will have seen you coming and run away long before you're ready to take a photo. With a hide you can set up near your target's habitat and wait for the perfect shot. Since you're hidden from view you can move about a bit without disturbing your subject, useful if you need to stretch or have a drink of water during your vigil. A good hide also provides protection from the elements for you and your equipment, an important consideration here in England. One of the best portable hides on the market is this two-man chair hide from UK company Stealth Gear. It is made of heavy-duty waterproof fabric with a unique year-round camouflage pattern, it is very quick and easy to set up, weighs approximately 7.7Kg and comes in its own handy backpack. Best of all it costs under £90.
While a camera, a tripod and even hide are all important considerations, don't neglect other vital equipment. It may be Summer right now, but for most of the year skulking about in the woods here in Britain is a cold and damp experience, so make sure you take a good pair of walking boots, warm rainproof clothes, a hat and gloves. Fingerless gloves are good, although if you have a gun shop in your area they may have shooting gloves, which have a removable tip on the trigger finger, ideal for shooting photos as well as shotguns. If you're heading out into the wilds on your own, don't forget to take a map and compass (or at least a phone with a good GPS navigation app), and to tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back. We love each and every one of our readers dearly, and we'd hate to lose any of you!
Don't miss part 2 of this tutorial, when we'll look at some of the best locations for wildlife photography, and some of the organisations that can help you to get the most out of it.