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SATURDAY 17 JUNE 2017

Must-Have Gear for Landscape Photography

 

The very nature of what we do as photographers, especially those who specialize in landscape, means that the equipment is so varied, and I’m often asked what I use.

There’s no steadfast rule to equipment; every photographer will choose what is within their budget and ability to adapt you.

 

When you’re starting out, there are some simple rules to follow that will ensure you buy a camera that is not only right for you but a good place to start to allow you to grasp the basics of taking photos and managing your kit.

 

• The more expensive your camera doesn’t automatically make your photos better.

A camera is just a tool, how well it works is up to you.

• Learn the Basics: composition, lighting, capturing balanced exposures and get to know your camera without the manual.

• Learn what equipment you use the most within your first few months. Take only the essentials on-location. The last thing any landscape photographer wants to do is drag a

tonne of camera equipment around.

• Get adequate insurance to cover your camera and accessories, ensure that this insurance covers accidental damage and theft. If you can’t afford insurance for your equipment, you need to consider what you will do if your gear is damaged. I’ve guided countless trips all over the world. I’d like to think I’ve been shown all the different kinds of kit that people have, and so I feel that I can offer some fairly sound advice.

Camera

 

Needless to say that your primary requirement is a camera because I sure won’t let you take photos on a trip with JUST your phone. There are so many different choices available for every budget, so the only way to know which is right for you is to do your research.

And as much as this can be confusing, nobody else can tell you what is going to suit you.

 

Professional travel photographers use high-end DSLR Nikon, Canon, FujiFilm and Sony cameras which range from around $1,500 to $10,000 USD. Remember though, there are plenty of very capable cameras under $1,000. One of the best ways to make a decision before you purchase is to rent the camera for a day from a reputable hire company in your home location. Go out and take some photos with it and you’ll get an idea of what it’s like. Maybe even hire a lens that you’re looking to purchase and see how the files turn out. You can gain a lot from how the ergonomics fit your hand, how many shots you get from a battery charge and how easy it is to use.

 

The art of travel photography dictates that you should be able to move seamlessly around your location, making minimal disruption to the people and the wildlife so as to be able to capture the moments and the scenery that you’ve traveled so far to catch.

Mirrorless cameras have been gaining popularity in landscape photography in recent years, not only because of their precision technology, but for a number of benefits such as size, weight and price. These cameras are being used by professionals of all genres, and are changing the market for high-end traditional shutter-style DSLR cameras. Those who have chosen to have one or both of these cameras in their kit are singing their praises for their versatility and portability in at a time where what we carry when we travel is being heavily scrutinized.

 

When you are ready to purchase, shop around and don’t forget that you could also buy serviced second-hand cameras which will be in perfect working condition, but at a lower price.

 

Check out DSLRs on Amazon under $1000

 

 

My camera of choice is a FujiFilm GFX 50s. It comes with a hefty price tag, but it is an exceptional camera that won’t let you down and stands up very well at high ISO settings. Previously I had the Nikon D810 which was a solid camera, however I wanted better detail and better noise handling.

Lenses

 

Unless you are buying an entry-level camera, cameras and lenses will often be sold separately. The exception is special offers from camera stores or promotional offers from online retailers.

 

Once again, this comes down to budget and you need to be practical. We’d all love the best gear from the get-go, but remember that until you’ve made acquaintance with your gear and how you move around with it, you should opt for cheaper equipment, because you will almost always accidentally damage it when learning how it works and trying it out in new situations.

 

As a starting point, you will need what I would call a “work horse” lens. It’s the one that the majority of your images will be taken with and will need to offer a good focal length range. Something along the lines of the 24-70mm lens is a good range to start. This will allow you to capture everything from landscapes to portraits. In fact, you could get away with just this one lens the majority of the time. Some will branch out and buy a wide angle lens which is anything from around 10mm to 21mm, as these are popular for the wide-sweeping vistas that so often adorn popular photo-sharing sites.

 

Here is my killer list of the best wide lenses on the market.

 

  • Fujinon GF23mm F4
  • Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4
  • Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8

            

If your budget then allows, you could add a telephoto lens to compliment your wide angle. Something like a 70-200mm lens means you are covered for pretty much everything you will need day to day. While this is a great lens, the professional version weighs 2.5kg and is often too much to realistically travel with.

 

Over time you can build up your lens collection further by adding macro or prime lenses.

But to start, just a wide angle zoom, and if your budget allows a telephoto, will be sufficient. Remember this is where you need to keep it simple.

 

My basic list of lenses that I carry on every trip are:

 

  • Fujinon GF 23mm F4
  • Fujinon GF 110mm F2
  • Fujinon GF 32-64mm f4

Tripod

 

Most landscape photographers will say that a tripod is probably their favorite accessory.

Quite simply a solid tripod is a necessity for the landscape photographer; you will not be able to take photos which require slow shutter speeds as you will not be able to hold the camera by hand for extended periods. Using a tripod can be great for control over what you shoot, as it will make you spend a bit more time thinking about the scene and composing the image, rather than shooting everything quickly and praying the images turn out okay.

 

Which tripod you choose will come down to personal choice, budget, and how much weight you can carry from day to day. Carbon fiber tripods are usually what landscape photographers’ use as they are stable and lightweight, compromising on any one of these two points will mean that you will either have something solid but ridiculously heavy, or so light that your camera comes crashing to the ground.

 

Cheap tripods may look stable in the shop, but out in the wilderness, remember that you have wind, vibrations of bridges or pathways, branches and other factors to consider whether your tripod is up to task. Choose the best tripod that you can afford because it will last you a long time and will be well worth the initial investment long term.

 

I use the Novoflex TrioBalance C2830 3 Segment Carbon Fiber Tripod with built-in Leveling Head which is delightfully light to carry.

 

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Camera Bag

 

A good camera bag is one of the most important items you will buy. Not only will the bag keep your equipment safe while in transit but also when you are at your destination photographing. There is no shortage of choice, and there is no shortage of features on offer. As you become more experienced, it is likely that you will have different bags for different scenarios.

 

For example, if I’m hiking or out in the wilderness I carry my F-Stop Anja as it is a comfortable bag for long walks and has plenty of room for equipment as well as space for things like a water reservoir or to strap my tripod. Whereas if I’m travelling local, I’ve likely got a much smaller shoulder bag for ease of access. I use the Artisan & Artist Red Label laptop camera bag. It’s easy to carry and not too imposing, thus allowing me to blend into my surroundings and not draw attention to myself.

 

F-Stop is one of the market leaders, and they alone have virtually every type of camera bag you will ever need covered. The main thing to consider is what you will be using the bag for and what is the most comfortable style for you to carry. Remember that while wheels will be useful for the airport, they may not be great for on-location where you will have to deal with a range of weather conditions that might see the bag become a burden. Take into account what you’re going to be doing, where you want to go, and adapt.

 

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Conclusion

 

The purchase of a new camera will always be a daunting prospect. The key is to do your research and only buy the absolute essentials, as hard as that may seem at the time. As your personal tastes with shooting style and equipment develop, as will your desire to reach into better lenses, more filters and this is a natural progression. Whatever you like using will always be the right gear to use, do not feel like you’ve made a bad decision just because someone uses something different, make the decisions for you, not for anyone else.

 

Most importantly, have fun and be safe out there!

 

Thanks for reading Timothy Poulton

Would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Other Essentials

 

Once you have your camera, lens, and tripod the only other things you need are camera batteries, memory cards, and a lens cleaning kit. When you buy a camera, it will come with a rechargeable battery, but it might be wise to invest in at least one more. The last thing you would want is to be away somewhere in the backcountry when your battery fails, and you can’t charge it. A spare will always come in handy. For some trips where electricity isn’t an option for several days, professionals will carry a small treasure chest of spare batteries and their essentials to make sure they never miss a shot.

 

The other essential that you will need is a decent size memory card. The cost will again be a factor here, but keep in mind that RAW files take up much more space, and take longer to write to the card, so if you are planning on shooting in that format you will need extra memory card space and a fast card such as anything over 95mb per second. It isn’t unheard of to fill a 64GB memory card in just a few days when traveling, so always carry a few spares.

 

The last of what I consider to be essential is some sort of lens cleaning kit. That might just be a brush and a lens cloth, but there is no doubt that you will need to wipe dust, debris, and dirt off your lens glass a few times on a trip. I would also recommend that you fit a UV filter to your lenses as this will help ensure that the lens doesn’t get scratched. It will be far cheaper to replace a UV filter than to repair a scratched lens glass. For those who are a little OCD with their lens and filter cleanliness, you can buy a great tiny spray bottle of ROR (Residual Oil Remover) which works great on sea spray and pesky fingerprints.

 

 

Accessories

 

While I’ve covered the absolute basics of any camera kit, the following items will give you an edge and many more options for experimentation with your shooting:

 

  • Polarizing filter – helps get rid of unwanted reflections while boosting blues and greens. Also great for boosting sky and seeing through water or glass.

  • Neutral Density filters (ND) – helps to limit the amount of light entering the camera, which allows for effects such as smooth looking water to be created.

  • Graduated Filters – similar to ND filters, graduated filters are useful in situations where you have a disparity in the brightness between the background and foreground and want to even that out.

 

I’m one of Australia’s resellers for NiSi Filters and wouldn’t leave home without my 100mm system.

 

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  • Hard drive – if you have limited memory card space, a hard drive is useful to transfer your photos over to. But a hard disk is also useful as a backup in case something happens to your memory cards.

My list of accessories are as follows:

  • UV Filter: All of my lenses are fitted with a NiSi UV filter. This helps protect the lens glass especially in very harsh conditions such as the desert where stark light is dominant.

  • A set of NiSi ND and Graduated ND filters.

  • 32GB and 64GB ScanDisk compact flash memory cards. I take approximately enough to use one each day. The type of memory you have will depend on what your camera takes.

  • Fully charged Petzel headlamp with spare batteries

  • 2 x WD 250GB Passport external hard drives

 

 

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