Accessories for Landscape Photography

April 27, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Accessories for Landscape Photography

When people look at my images I quite often get asked either what kind of camera I have or if I have special equipment to get a certain kind of shot Of course, it's not about the gear. Landscape photography is about the imagination and vision of the photographer, and about being in the right place at the right time. Having said that, there are some things that make realising the vision a lot easier. I'm not getting into cameras and lenses here, I'm talking about the accessories that, for me, improve the chances of getting the shot I want. I thought I would share that list with you, maybe you already have all of this stuff, maybe you find that some of these things aren't helpful for you. maybe you have accessories that aren't listed here, in which case I'd love the hear what they are. OK, let's start of with something that I don't really count as an accessory. I think of it as a pretty much essential piece of kit for the photography I want to do. And that thing is... A tripod

Tripod

You don't have to shoot from a tripod. Unless you want to shoot in low light around sunrise and sunset without pushing up your ISO. Unless you want to be able to shoot long exposures. Unless you want to be able to shoot a number of exposures of the same scene to merge later. Actually a tripod is also great for really fine tuning the composition and for making you carefully consider the framing and all of the other elements. I have two tripods. One is a large tripod, very sturdy and able to absorb vibration from wind or water pretty well. Despite being carbon fibre it's quite heavy and that's it's downside. It takes a bit of lugging around. Especially as I have a three way geared head on it (more on that in a minute). Nevertheless it is still the tripod I will choose to use unless I have to do a lot of hiking or if I'm going to spending a lot of time in a town when carrying this big around will get in the way.

If it's not practical to take this tripod then I will take my small 'travel' tripod. It's a lot smaller, a lot lighter and I can strap it onto my rucksack without it being off balance or getting in the way.

Tripod Head

The second thing is the tripod head. I've already mentioned that I have a three way geared head on my big tripod. The advantage to this is that I can make really precise adjustments to my composition while keeping everything else the same. The disadvantage is that it's heavy (back to the carrying issue again). Some other people also dislike three way heads because they are 'not as quick' to position as a ball head. Personally I don't think that's an issue in landscape photography but it's something to consider.

My lightweight tripod has a small and simple ball head. The advantage is the weight (or lack thereof). the disadvantage is that it is not as precise and it also doesn't have the same load capacity as the bigger head.

Cable Release

If I'm going to all the trouble of putting my camera on a tripod to avoid camera shake then I really don't want to disturb it by pressing the shutter button. A cable release lets me release the shutter without touching the camera. I use a cable release because I find it more reliable than the infra red type. Some people prefer to use the self timer mode on the camera to avoid the shake. Press the shutter button and 5 seconds (or whatever you have the self timer set to) later the shutter releases which allows that much time for the vibrations caused by pressing the button to die out. I have used this technique and it works. One of the issues about it is that you can't be precise about the timing of your exposure this way. Say, for example, you want to catch a wave breaking over a rock. You have a much better chance of catching it with a cable release than trying to predict 5 seconds in advance when it will happen.

Filters

There are a variety of filters available for landscape photography. I did a separate post on filters and you can read it HERE

An L Bracket

This is a bracket that screws into the tripod mount on the base of the camera and has a right angled section that fits up the side of your camera. Both sides have a tripod quick release plate on and this means you can simply switch from horizontal to vertical shooting without having to swing the head over 90 degrees. Properly set up (and this normally means having a battery grip fitted unless you have one of the big pro DLSRs like the D5) the position of the lens remains exactly the same regardless of the orientation of the camera.

A Stop Watch

If you get into the realms of long exposures then I find a stop watch to be a really useful tool. Of course you can buy cable releases that have built in timers but they cost more and are a bit less robust than the ordinary ones (my cable release has been in seas, rivers, mud, sand and all sorts and it keeps on working)

Cleaning Cloths

You can NEVER have too many of these. I always carry at least two in the camera bag so I can clean off lenses and filters if they get sprayed

A Camera Rucksack

A good rucksack will carry all of the camera gear you need, plus have some space to fit in clothes, a drink, maps etc. Personally I use a Flipside by Lowepro. It has the advantage that access to my camera gear is against my back. This means that nobody can sneak up behind me, unzip the bag and help themselves to my camera or lenses. It also means that I can slip off the shoulder straps and swing the bag around in front of me where I can open it and use it as a kind of 'table'. This can be really useful if you're working in water or mud and you can't really put the bag down. There is a downside to this type of bag and that is that the items at the bottom of the bag can be tricky to get to. If you're smart about how you pack it that's not much of an issue.

A Head Torch

Walking along footpaths in the hills or mountains, or along coastal paths or even open fields while it's dark, either because you are heading out to shoot at dawn or because you're heading back from a sunset shoot, means you need to be able to see where you're going. Once you get to your location you need to be able to see to set your gear up. A good head torch will allow you to see and keep your hands free. I also carry an additional more powerful torch which I use if I need to be able to see to focus the camera when it's dark and this is my backup if, for any reason, the head torch fails.

Planning Apps

The direction of the light, the position of the sun, or moon. The timing of sunrise and sunset. These are critical elements in planning a landscape shoot. I personally use The Photographers Ephemeris as my home planning tool and I use the PhotoPills app when I'm out scouting

Processing Software

Post processing your image yourself (as opposed to letting the camera do it if you shoot in JPEG) means that you have full creative control over how the image ends up. I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I have the CC subscription which I have to pay for every month and I know that some people object to that. Personally, given the quality of the software and the support available through Adobe (which I have used several times) I don't think it's a lot of money and these programs have the bonus of a mass of tutorials on the web to help you get the most from them. Whether you choose to pay for Adobe, or something else, or go for the free solutions, having some good processing software and learning how to use it can make a lot of difference to your images. It's not necessarily about doing more processing, it's about being able to do the right processing to get the image the way you want it to look.    


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