In many situations when photographing wildlife, whether your subject is large mammals or waterfowl, it is often beneficial to utilize a hide, or blind of some sort to better conceal yourself, your movements, and your gear. If you plan on staying put in one location for an extended period, than this may be an option to consider, and another piece of gear to add to the tool bag.
There are many types and styles of blinds available today, primarily targeting the hunting market, with the exception of a few photography specific products. In reality, the features and requirements that are needed by hunters and included by the manufacturers, are ideal for photographer’s needs as well. For most wildlife photographers, weight and portability are going to be on the top of the list when it comes to specifications. You will first need to decide if you want a blind that will accommodate one person, or two; this will narrow down your search by half. The next most important feature to look at is the opening/window configuration. If you are mounting your camera/lens on a tripod with either a ball-head or Gimbal style head, you will want openings that allow a decent amount of range for your lens to swing from side-to-side, as well as up towards the sky. Having several openings in the blind is a desirable feature to look for. Some blinds offer large zippered, or Velcro closure doors as well. Depending on the size of the blind, there may be two doors available. Another consideration is headroom. I personally do not want to be crunched over if I am siting in a blind for an extended time. The overall shape and design largely affect how much headroom is available. Blinds can be square and have a flat ceiling, they can be square on the sides and have a come shaped ceiling, or they can be one of many other designs. When choosing a one person blind, note the internal dimensions and be sure to consider the amount of space your tripod and a portable sitting stool are going to take up. Like most things, you get what you get what you pay for when purchasing a blind. I would suggest starting at the middle of the road and upward when shopping for your blind. Blinds can range between $50.00 – $350.00 for portable blinds. Materials, weather sealing, floor or no floor, zippers or Velcro closures, and concealment features all play a part in pricing.
I personally use a blind made by Ameristep. I would consider this to be a one person blind, although plenty roomy with a large tripod, 500mm lens, a collapse able stool, and personal gear. I can easily stay comfortable in this blind for several hours. This blind features include three view openings with zippered closures, as well as a large door with zipper closure. The blind is a four-sided blind with a sloped dome roof that leaves plenty of headroom inside. The camouflage is called Tangle 2 by the manufacturer, and works well in most surroundings. Setup is easy and very quick due to an internal spring-steel rod that twists the whole blind down to a 24″ circle when not in use. The blind stows in a zippered sleeve complete with light-weight shoulder straps for transport. At 4.5 lbs., this blind is a lightweight tool to effectively conceal you from wild eyes. It also comes with stakes and high wind tie-downs. Pictures of this particular blind are included in this post.
Other types of blinds include large cloth-type camouflage that simply drapes over you and your tripod. This is a good option if you are moving from spot to spot, and is also very lightweight. There are of course larger two person blinds, but with those models come additional weight. If your are considering a blind for your photography needs, do some research and take some of the tips I gave you to make an educated purchase. Cabelas is a great store (if you have one in your area) to look at different models and get a really good idea of all of the features and sizes of the different models available. Blinds are a great tool for certain applications. I personally like to be very mobile and utilize good camouflage clothing most of the time when in the field, but there are certainly times when setting up a blind and waiting for those ducks to come in for that one in a million touch-down shot, that make owning a blind indispensable.