Essential Landscape Photography Gear for 2014

Landscape photography is a very popular "genre" of photography, and it’s not a surprise. Who doesn’t enjoy being somewhere beautiful, majestic, or even surreal, and also having the opportunity to make a photograph of that place at the same time? Skill, expertise, experience and location are, of course, important elements to making a great landscape photograph, but we wouldn’t be able to make anything without our photography equipment. Aside from the basic camera and tripod, I have a handful of items that are essential to me when I’m out in the field. Here is a list of some of the equipment that I would never leave home without:

1. L-Brackets for Landscape Photography

L-Bracket, Nicole Young, landscape photography L-Bracket, Nicole Young, landscape photography

An L-­Bracket allows me to securely place my camera horizontally or vertically on the tripod head.

It’s well known that a good, sturdy tripod and tripod head are important for serious landscape photographers. How else are we going to photograph long exposures and HDR images? Yet there is one piece of equipment to go along with a tripod that many photographers have found to be invaluable, especially to those who use them, and that’s the L-­Bracket.

The L­-Bracket is an L-­shaped metal device that semi­-permanently attaches to your camera (it is removable, but only with the proper tools). It then allows you to securely place your camera on a compatible tripod head, and position it either vertically or horizontally without having to angle the head sideways.

Another advantage to the L-­Bracket is that it secures the camera to the tripod head much better than a standard tripod plate. Often times I will carry my tripod over my shoulder with the camera attached, and I only do that because I trust my L­-Bracket. I’ve had a few close calls in the past with a flimsy tripod plate, and ever since switching to the L-­Bracket system, there is no way I would go back to any other method.

2. Filters for Landscape Photography

Filters, ND filter, Nicole Young, landscape photographyFilters, ND filter, Nicole Young, landscape photography

This shows an image without a filter, and then an image with a 10­-stop ND filter added to blur the water.

When photographing landscapes, I never go anywhere without my filter set. I tend to gravitate towards the coastline, waterfalls, or anything with a lot of movement that I can effectively blur with a nice, thick ND filter. An ND filter is a very dark piece of glass (or plastic) you place in front of the lens to increase the exposure time and create a long exposure. Let’s face it, to get cotton candy water when there is any decent amount of light outside, you need to use a filter to get an exposure that lasts several seconds, or even several minutes. I currently have three different types: a 3­-stop, 6­-stop, and 10-­stop ND filter. This gives me a nice selection to choose from and depends on the amount of ambient light in my scene.

Filters, ND filter, Nicole Young, landscape photography

This image, photographed quickly with my iPhone, shows me displaying a 6-­stop ND filter I was using to photograph a waterfall. (I held it much closer to the lens when exposing the actual image.)

Filters, ND Grad filter, Nicole Young, landscape photography

ND­ Grad filters are great for landscapes with land and sky.

Another essential filter I also use is the ND ­Grad filter. This is a filter that has ND on one half, and it’s clear on the other, typically with a gradation in between. These filters are excellent to use when you are shooting landscapes that encompass both the land and sky, and are a great way to get balanced tones throughout the entire scene in one frame.

Also, let’s not forget the wonderful (and oh so helpful) circular polarizer. Whether you want to knock out the reflection in the water, cut through a hazy atmosphere, or darken up your sky, this filter is a must-­have for any landscape photographer.

3. Lee Filters Foundation Kit for Landscape Photography

Lee Filters Foundation Kit, Nicole Young, Landscape Photography

The Lee Filters Foundation Kit allows me to stack square and rectangular filters on the front of my lens, as well as a circular polarizer to the very front. This image shows the circular polarizer on a 24mm tilt­ shift lens with no other filter added to the foundation.

In my opinion, the best types of filters you can use are square or rectangular-­shaped filters. Most of the filters I mentioned above come as circular screw­-on type; however, they can be very limiting. First of all, not all lenses have the same filter size, which means that if you have one ND filter for one lens, it might not work for other lenses. Also, the more filters you stack onto the front of the lens, the greater the chances are of adding unwanted vignettes to your photographs.

If you are interested in using square or rectangle filters, then the best option is to go with the Lee Filters Foundation Kit. This is a device that goes onto the front of your lens (you use adapters to allow it to fit to many different lens sizes) and then you place the filters inside of the foundation kit. You can stack filters, easily switch over to a new lens, and there’s even an additional attachment for a circular polarizer on the front.

4. Cable Releases & Intervalometers for Landscape Photography

cable release, intervalometer, Nicole Young, landscape photography

A simple cable release is essential for long exposure photographs.

Many photographers will already have a cable release. I typically use the same simple Canon remote trigger that I’ve had for several years. It’s a crucial piece of equipment, and entirely necessary when doing long exposures (anything over 30 seconds in Bulb mode). If you don’t have one, it’s definitely something to add to your list.

If you’re also interested in doing any type of time-lapse photography with your landscapes (which I tend to do on occasion), you may want to also consider an intervalometer. These are remote trigger devices that will photograph a frame at a given interval, such as one photo every 10 seconds. Then, take the frames, import them as a movie, and voila! You have a time-lapse video. Aside from the standard intervalometer, there are a lot of really unique ones out there as well. Some will even rotate the camera for you in the process, such as the Astro (on Kickstarter), or work with an iPhone, such as the Galileo (also on Kickstarter). There are a lot of options out there for both standard cable releases and fancy intervalometers, and once you find your groove you’ll know which is best for you. My advice is to start simple and go from there.

5. GPS for Landscape Photography

GPS, Nicole Young, landscape photography

Using a GPS device (the object in the hot­ shoe of my camera) allows me to record the exact location data of my images.

When I photograph landscapes, I love to capture as much information as possible. Some of this information includes metadata, and, in particular, the location where it was photographed. I use the Canon GP­E2 device with my Canon 5D Mark III. It’s small, light, and has great battery life! They also have GPS devices available for other cameras, and some cameras even have it built into their bodies.

If you don’t have a GPS device or a GPS­enabled camera, there are other ways to record this information! If you use a smartphone, try taking a photograph with your phone of the same scene (I like to include my camera in the same shot) and then sync the GPS information with my images once they are on my computer. (If you’d like more information on this, click here to view a video tutorial on how to do this using Lightroom.

Landscape Photography E-Book by Nicole YoungFor more information on Nicole, please visit her website,
Nicolesy.com. Also, if you would like to see more of her
work and learn about landscape photography in the
process, take a look at her latest eBook and tutorials
set on landscape photography
in her online store. 

 

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