What are the essentials to take for a landscape shoot?
Landscape photography can often just be a spare of the moment thing. If you are going out purposely to photograph a landscape, there are a few essentials that can make the experience not just more enjoyable but also more successful.
Here are my top ten things to pack for your next landscape shoot:-
- Camera – OK, that might seem an obvious one but it is well worth considering your camera for a few minutes…
- Batteries – Is the battery charged? Is your spare battery charged?
- Memory Card – Have you got a memory card in the camera (or film if you’re going old school)? Have you cleared the last images off the memory card? It’s no good getting to your location only to find those precious shots of your little’n at school sports day are still filling up the memory card and you haven’t transferred them to your computer.
- Settings – think about the settings in the camera. Now is a good time to check what ISO you have selected; that awesome panoramic shot will be ruined if shot at 6400 ISO. What about metering mode? Bracketing? Or even focus selection? Get used to having a base that you always start from. That way you are not left scratching your head frustratedly when the camera isn’t doing what you expected and the sun is setting fast.
- Lens – again this might seem obvious, but it’s well worth giving your lens some thought. Have you got the right lens? Is it clean? What about considering taking a second or third lens in case there is something different that catches your eye. Just like the camera, are there any switches or settings? It is worth getting in to the habit of establishing a baseline to start from. You can easily think you’ve got a couple of great shots only to find out later when you get home and review the images that you were shooting on manual focus the whole time.
- Tripod – a good tripod is a worthwhile investment and almost essential if you want to consider landscape photography. Don’t be tempted to buy a cheap one, it’s often false economy. Primarily a tripod needs to provide a stable platform to shoot from. A cheap tripod might be adequate for a small point and shoot at home, but put a DSLR camera on the top of a windy hillside and you will quickly find it no longer offers the support you need. You should also consider how heavy the tripod is, as you could be carrying it a long way! One more thing, don’t forget the tripod adapter for your camera. It’s no good getting out there only to find the adapter to fit your camera is back at home.
- Remote shutter – a remote shutter trigger for your camera not only helps with stability and removes camera shake when taking longer exposure shots, but can also make taking the shot an easier process. If the camera is mounted down low to get an interesting perspective then (once framed) not having to crouch down on the floor to take each shot can be a real bonus, or being able to take a shot with hands warm in your pockets can also be beneficial on a really cold day.
- Filters – The exact choice of filters to take is your choice and dependant on budget. However, I would recommend to start with a Neutral Density filter and a Polarising Filter. Again you kind of get what you pay for, so don’t be tempted with really cheap ones on eBay. Another consideration when buying filters is to future-proof your purchase. What I mean is that if you are starting off on a kit lens and considering at some point in the future upgrading to better lenses, then make sure you get the sized filter with the future lenses in mind. You can pick up a step-up ring for a couple of pounds that will fit your kit lens and allow you to affix the larger sized filter. For example, I have a 20mm lens which takes a 62mm diameter filter. However, the filters I have are for my other lenses and they have a 77mm mount. Rather than buying a 62mm filter I simply bought a 62 / 77mm step-up ring from eBay.
- Clothing won’t make a single difference to the end shot but will make a significant difference to you. As a minimum I would recommend a hat and gloves for early morning sunrise shoots, it can be amazing how cold it can be before sunrise, even in the middle of summer. Also consider a pair of Wellington boots, they are the go-anywhere shoes. Not just for muddy tracks but also especially good for wading into the edge of a riverbank.
- Coffee – well I suppose any hot drink is suitable, but actually sitting down with a nice cup of coffee as you wait for the sun to rise is almost essential. It really makes a difference if it is cold and wet and can be quite relaxing if the weather is favourable.
- Smartphone – not just useful to have a phone in case of emergencies but also very useful for tracking or identifying locations. There are a number of apps that are really useful to the photographer, such as those with a compass, sunrise times and directions, weather forecast, tide times, mapping and GPS software. Many cameras now have built in GPS receivers to record your location to the metadata, but even if yours doesn’t, just take a shot with your smartphone and you have a permanent record of your location that you can add to the rest of your shots later.
- Rain cover – Generally a few light spots of rain wont bother your camera too much, but a real downpour of the like we often get on Dartmoor can cause real problems. You can spend anything from a couple of pence to even a hundred or so pounds on a rain cover for your camera. Once again you really get what you pay for, a lot depends on how often you are going to be out in pouring rain? But even a simple carrier bag, bin bag or even shower cap can be used as a simple rain cover.
- Rubble sack – this last one may seem a little odd but has a number of uses. It takes up next to no space in your camera bag, but can be used as a ground sheet when taking shots where the ground is damp, or as a make shift rain cover, or even as a seat protector for the car when you get back and find you are soaked right through. It also comes in handy to put a set of muddy boots in rather than messing up the boot or footwell of the car.