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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Landscape Essentials In A High-Tech Age

The gear and gadgets that every landscape photographer needs to take better shots

Labels: Gadget BagGear

Beyond the camera and lens, the accessories you use can go a long way in making your landscape photography look sharper, more creative and dramatic. So it’s worth spending as much time thinking about what to take as where to go.

Garmin Oregon 550t; DeLorme Earthmate PN-60 GPS
The more remote the location, the more likely you are to get lost or never find that particular spot again. A GPS device ensures that neither will happen. Using a handheld unit will help prevent you from getting lost while en route to a destination whether from the car or on foot. You can set the device to mark your trail as you hike and then follow the trail backward when you’re ready to leave.

For photography, a GPS enables you to record precise location data into the metadata of images you take while on the way to a specific location and once you’ve arrived. A GPS can be synced with image files or connected to the camera (via an optional connector) for embedding GPS coordinates into the file when the photo is taken. This can make for a helpful way of planning your next landscape photography trip because you can use the GPS information with other software that syncs map views with your photographs. These devices also give useful details like when the sun will rise and set, the location of the nearest highway and nearby points of attraction.

While often overlooked, an off-camera flash can make a significant difference in your landscape work. Beyond just adding extra light to a dark foreground at sunrise or sunset, a flash gives you the power and control of broadening what’s creatively possible. This is particularly true when the natural light just isn’t right for making a photo that incorporates all of the elements you find important to a composition. A flash can brighten colors during daylight hours, extend your time in the field to early mornings or late evenings for low-light shooting and liven up a scene on gloomy days by adding contrast that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

Nissin Flash
Most models are fairly easy to set up, particularly if you use one made by your camera manufacturer. They’re also small and easy to pack up in your camera bag. Output power, physical size, bounce capability and angle of coverage are the most important features to consider. Flash with larger outputs allow for shooting at longer distances and smaller apertures, as well as faster recycle times.

Remember that shooting with a flash directly from the hot-shoe can cause light to come off as flat or too strong so move it off-camera to avoid this and add depth to foregrounds. Shooting from off-camera also gives you the freedom to explore more creative lighting angles. You can vary the kind of light that’s emitted from harsh and dramatic to soft and diffused by using a modifier, such as a softbox or diffuser.

Easier than taking a laptop to some remote location, portable hard drives let you download those large, high-resolution files from your memory cards and reuse them to do more shooting. Capacities of up to 2 TB are fairly standard now, allowing you to go on an extended trip without worrying about maxing out on storage.


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