What gear do you really need for landscape photography?

Tips & Techniques

What’s in your camera bag? For me, it obviously depends on what, where and how I’m shooting. I generally have a minimum gear grab bag ready that would easily cover most situations in a pinch, but if I’m being more specialised I would definitely take my time to pack specifically for each situation. For landscape photography, I am very much aware of having to carry all of my own gear, so I try to keep it as light as possible. But again, it depends on where I’m going, the weather conditions, and how long I plan to be out for. In this video Photo Tom runs us through all his essential gear that he takes with him on his landscape adventures.

Camera and Lens:

The first one is a bit of a no-brainer, you’d think. Yes, the camera is pretty useful if you’re going to take photographs. But I have been known to leave my camera at home before (as well as my brain it seems!). Toma recommends investing in quality lenses as soon as you can afford to because they will stand the test of time and improve the quality of your images better than a camera body upgrade will. Bear in mind that Toma shoots Canon so his recommendations are Canon-based, but most major brands have very similar or equivalent lenses available.

The first lens he recommends is the 24-105 f/4 L. This is a very good overall lens for landscape photography, and the zoom reaches most focal lengths that you might need in an ordinary situation. Having a wide-ranging zoom like this greatly decreases the number of lenses you would need to carry if you were shooting prime lenses and wanted to cover a similar range.

The next lenses to buy are either the 17-40mm f/4, or the 16-35mm f/4, and the 70-200mm f/2.8 with image stabilisation included. Toma admits that he doesn’t regularly use the 70-200mm so that would be the last one to buy. It’s also pretty heavy in my opinion, something to consider when you’re out hiking all day. Personally, the 70-200mm is a great lens but 200mm is not really long enough for shooting wildlife, and yet is almost too long for most landscape instances. Something to consider.

Filters:

Yes, you do still need a few filters, even with Lightroom! The absolute necessity is a Circular Polarising Filter (CPF). Toma keeps one on each of his three lenses so that he doesn’t have to waste time unscrewing them when changing lenses. Of course, if you don’t want to do this you can use magnetic filters which are very quick and easy to pop on and off the lens, and of course, you can buy the biggest size diameter and get step-up rings to adapt for each lens.

You want to avoid skimping on filters because cheap filters can degrade your image very quickly. Colour casts and patchiness are often present in cheap filters. Toma recommends spending at least $100 on a good filter.

The next type of filters you want are the Neutral density and graduated neutral density filters. Toma uses a 6 stop and a 10 stop Lee ND filter. For the Grad ND filter, he recommends the K&F concept 3 stop filters.

Remote shutter release trigger:

This is very important if you want to avoid camera shake, or if you want to appear in the images yourself leaving the camera on a tripod.

Headlamp:

Very useful if hiking out or back after dark or around dusk. The handsfree aspect is very useful.

Tripod:

Obviously, essential for any kind of long exposure. It’s always a battle between sturdy enough but light enough to carry. Carbon fibre will usually be lighter.

Backpack:

Everything must be carried in a backpack, and I am finding myself on a never-ending quest to find the perfect camera backpack that leaves me enough room for extra things that aren’t cameras and lenses. Like lunch, I do like to bring snacks and if pushed I would probably opt to pack a tube of biscuits over a long lens! Toma uses two different types of backpack depending on whether he needs to bring a tent or not. One good option is to buy a trekking backpack and get a camera insert for it.

Optional gear:

A drone: Obviously if this isn’t something you’re into then it’s not essential, but drone piloting can be a lot of fun.

Garmin watch: Has GPS and the entire world map on it. You also don’t need to download any maps in advance. Especially useful in foggy weather conditions. I would add that some sort of map or GPS location device is not optional but essential if going out to remote locations.

Hiking gear:

Hiking boots: Toma has 3 season boots and also Winter ones which go down to -25 C. A good pair of boots will help you walk on rough terrain better and possibly help prevent twisted angles and slips. Obviously, if you’re like me and live in warmer climates you probably don’t need Winter boots unless you’re travelling somewhere cold.

Underwear! Could be a personal preference. I think Toma is again referring to base layers for cold weather.

Winter clothing: gloves, hat, layers, warm jacket, all go without saying really. I have spent a cold night out on a mountain top taking photographs in not the right clothing and let’s just say I was ready to pack it in well before I should have. It’s worth investing in special hiking clothes that have extra pockets and moisture-wicking capabilities. Cotton and wool will stay wet for a very long time, and being wet and cold is far worse than just being cold.

Summer clothing: Think sun protection. UV resistant clothing, sun hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and more water than you think you could possibly need, or purifying tablets if you can be sure to find water. I won’t hike in parts of Spain in the summer months of July and August because it’s actually dangerous heat-wise. It’s better to know your limits and stay on the side of caution. If you’re thirsty and have a headache you are already in the first stages of dehydration.

Waterproof layers: again it depends on where you’re going. I wouldn’t take a waterproof coat out with me hiking in Valencia after April usually, but in Northern Europe, it’s essential at nearly all times of the year.

So that’s Toma’s list of essential equipment for landscape photography. I would probably add to this a very small basic first aid kit, a penknife, and some gaffer tape. What do you always take with you? Would you add anything to this?

 

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