If you love shooting landscape photographs but find yourself always going out with only your camera, you could be missing out.
The right accessories make it easier for you to capture high quality images with less struggle. They also help you avoid common shortcuts that deteriorate image quality.
While they will add some weight to your camera bag, the benefit of bringing the right landscape accessories along is definitely worth it.
Here are a few of the most common accessories great landscape photographers bring along on their adventures.
A Sturdy, Easy-to-Maneuver Tripod
Landscape photography means expansive vistas as far as the eye can see. This also usually means a small aperture, dramatically reducing the amount of light available to expose with.
This leaves you with two choices – a high ISO or a tripod.
Cut back more light for sunrise or sunset and a tripod is a must. It’s also a great accessory to have when shooting landscapes on overcast, cloudy days.
Not all tripod, however, are equal.
If you shoot often, you’ll realize how frustrating it can be using a cheap, poorly built tripod. This becomes even more apparent in cold weather.
When possible, test drive your gear in-store before purchasing. Make sure knobs and levers move easily. The more force required to expand your tripod, the more difficult it will be when your hands are numb from cold weather.
Be sure also to test how the tripod operates when used for vertical-format images. Many lower priced tripods make vertical-format photography a nightmare. It’s better to invest a bit more for one that makes vertical shooting as easy as horizontal.
Water and clouds make for mesmerizing subjects when blurred from long exposure photography. When shooting in brighter conditions, however, this can be impossible to make happen – even at the smallest aperture and lowest ISO. This is where the value of ND filters come in.
ND filters block light from your camera, allowing you to reach even lower shutter speeds. Depending on your ND filter, you can block a little or a ton of light.
One ND filter I have takes a shot that requires ¼ of a second of a shutter to from 30 seconds to over 1 minute – with ISO boosted up. This makes it easy to blur moving grass, clouds, and objects on a sunny day.
Graduated ND Filters
If you hate HDR photography and want to capture a dynamic range of light within your camera, graduated ND filters are a must.
Graduated ND filters work just like regular ND filters, except for only a portion of your frame. These are great for sunrise or sunset landscape shots where you want to expose more light to the foreground and less above the horizon where the sun is.
That, of course, is the most common way to use graduated ND filters. There are many other creative ways to use them as well, such as for scenes with a mix of shade and direct sun or indoor/outdoor lighting.
The word polarize means to restrict, or block. Polarizing filters work to block light reflected from non-metallic surfaces. This includes light reflected from lakes or other water bodies, glass, and the sky.
As certain light is blocked from the sky, for example, polarizing filters tend to make skies a darker hue of blue.
These effects allow you to:
- Make a stronger contrast from the sky and foreground
- Reduce reflections on lakes and oceans, bringing out darker blues
- Minimize reflection from glass
There are straight polarizing filters and circular polarizing filters. Circular polarizing filters allow you to choose whether to turn on the polarizing effect or not by turning your filter.
Because it’s much more difficult to remove reflections in post-production, I recommend always having a polarizing filter around when you’re going to be near water.
In fact, I know a few photographers that keep a polarizing filter on their camera at all times. This, of course is up to you. Because polarizing filters are coated, you will require slightly more light to expose images than without the filter.
Looking to improve your landscape photos? Check out this lesson: The Untold Secrets for Landscape Photography
Remote Releases for Longer Exposures
When shooting long-exposure landscape images, the slightest camera shake can create blur. This includes pressing down on your shutter.
You can avoid this with a shutter release. This allows you to trigger your DSLR’s shutter without touching your camera.
Shutter releases come in a number of ways:
- Shutter release cables, connected to your DSLR
- Wireless shutter release devices
- Timed exposures (many DSLR’s allow you to set a 2 second timer before exposing)
I personally like using the shutter release cable as it doesn’t require batteries or for me to mess around with my phone.
I just plug it in and shoot.
Sometimes, however, I forget my cable. When this happens, I use the timed exposure setting that counts 2 seconds before triggering the shutter. It’s annoying and loud, but is better than manually pressing the shutter and causing blur.
A quick flip through your camera’s manual will help you pinpoint if your camera has a timed shutter setting. Whether you use this or not, it’s a great feature to know about in case your remote release technology decides to stop working.
Lightweight Lens Cleaning Kit
If you’re doing landscape nature photography right, you’re going to come home with dirt on your shoes. And as Murphy’s Law states, if something can go wrong, it will.
Rain, mud, camera slips, and accidentally touching your lens can happen at any time in the wild – no matter how careful you are.
A lens cleaning kit lets you clean your lens and get right back up after an incident. Because nothing’s worse than starting a shoot, getting your lens dirty, and having to go home because you don’t have a cleaning kit on you.
Cutting Down to the Bare Bone Essentials
While there are a handful of other accessories you can bring with you, these are a few of the bare-bone essentials I always take with me on a landscape photo shoot:
- ND Filter (unless it’s a night shoot and I know I won’t need it)
- Remote Shutter Release
- Lens Cleaning Kit
- Polarizing Filter
While I love the concept of graduated ND filters, I personally like to just shoot a few different exposures and combine them digitally than have to mess around with a filter. It’s quicker and speed is critical when I’d need it most – sunrise or sunset.
If you find yourself needing another accessory for your landscape needs, feel free to add that to your list of ‘must-haves’.
As I always say, photography is a very personal hobby – assimilate what you find most helpful and adapt it to your needs.