Essential Landscape Accessories

Filters, tripods and other extras will help you find and capture the perfect landscape

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Packing the right photo equipment is just as important as finding the right place at the right time. With landscape photography, that isn’t always easy to do. When planning a photo expedition, whether it’s a day hike or an extended road trip, consider these essentials the next time you head out.

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Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer
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B+W Circular Polarize

Filters
If there’s one filter a landscape photographer needs, it’s a polarizer. It saturates color and contrast by reducing atmospheric haze and reflected sunlight. As a result, skies in landscapes become bluer and clouds and colors stand out more. B+W’s circular polarizing filters work with TTL exposure metering and autofocus lenses. Exposure reduction varies between 2.3 and 2.8 stops relative to positioning and the sun. This also makes it a good neutral-density filter. List Price: Starts at $77.

The Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer provides all of the advantages of a circular polarizer but with a warm tinge, adding the feel of sunlight to your images. The LB stands for “lighter, brighter” and there’s only a 11⁄3 ƒ-stop reduction for faster shutter speeds and larger depths of field. The lower density provides a brighter viewfinder image, improving image previews and placement of stacked graduated filters. List Price: $210 to $280.

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Brunton Eterna Binoculars

Binoculars
Seeing what’s ahead is helpful when you’re out on a long hike searching for the perfect view. Weighing less than two pounds, the Brunton Eterna Full Size binoculars provide high magnification in a body light enough to carry comfortably in your pack. Available in three strengths—8x, 11x and 15x—the magnified view is sharp, thanks to BaK-4 prism glass along with state-of-the-art phase, AL reflective and Emerald Fire coatings. The Eterna binoculars are waterproof and fog-proof and use a multistep eye-relief system that works with eyeglasses. List Price: Starts at $374.


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Canon Speedlite 580 ll

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Nikon SB 800 Speedlight

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Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1

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Lowepro Super Trekker AW ll
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National Geographic 5159
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Tamrac Expedition 8x Model 5588

Backpacks
It’s essential to find a comfortable way to carry all of your gear. Lowepro, National Geographic and Tamrac offer backpacks with enough space for multiple D-SLR bodies, lenses, flash units, tripods and other accessories. Some even have room for a medium- or large-format field camera with film holders and lenses. Foam-padded dividers allow you to customize each bag’s fit, and advanced weight-adjustment systems help ease those long-distance hikes.

Flash
Landscapes with gloriously lit skies often come with underexposed foregrounds. A flash is an obvious solution to this problem. But when shooting directly from the hot-shoe, the light can come off as flat or too strong. By shooting with the flash from off-camera, you give your foregrounds more depth.

For use with Canon Speedlite flashes and most Canon EOS cameras, the Canon OC-E3 Off Camera Shoe Cord extends up to two feet while retaining all on-camera flash functions, including E-TTL II automatic exposures. The Nikon SC-29 provides full TTL control for Nikon Speedlights when used with Nikon cameras that have a TTL hot flash shoe. The SC-29 is three feet long, and the included AF Illuminator gives AF assistance to cameras in low-light conditions. The Sunpak PF20XD works with digital and film cameras with or without a hot-shoe. The Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 is a compact wireless flash unit with a USB interface. Estimated Street Price: $60 (Sunpak); $74 (Canon, Nikon); $300 (Metz).


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Giottos Rocket Air Blower

Cleaning
Dust on a lens or a sensor means more time on the computer later fixing image blotches. The Giottos Rocket Air Blower is an inexpensive way to prevent this problem. Made from nontoxic, environmentally friendly materials, the Rocket Air Blower is tear-proof and resistant to high or low temperatures. It also works well on computer keyboards and other gadgets. The design features a powerful air nozzle and includes an intake valve that prevents dust from going back into the blower. Estimated Street Price: $11.

Memory Cards

Fortunately for landscape photographers, the capacities and write speeds of memory cards are ever increasing. The bigger the capacity, the longer you can stay in the field shooting. And prices continue to come down. ATP, Kingston, Lexar, PNY and SanDisk produce a variety of sizes, with the most popular in the 4 GB to 16 GB range.

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ABOVE, LEFT TO RIGHT:
Lexar Professional 8 GB CF ; Kingston 16 GB CF ;
SanDisk Extreme III 12 GB CF
;
PNY Optima Pro 16 GB CF
.

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Western Digital My Passport

Storage
Remote locations mean better landscapes, but less accessibility to desktops. About the size of a paperback, the Western Digital My Passport Studio offers storage capacities of 160 GB, 250 GB and 320 GB—lots of portable storage space for downloading images while out in the field. My Passport Studio is equipped with FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 interfaces for fast and easy data transfers between computers. It’s compatible with Macs. List Price: $129 (160 GB); $159 (250 GB); $219 (320 GB).


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Power
Great outdoor scenery doesn’t usually come with power outlets nearby, so well-charged batteries are a must. Compatible with popular battery models from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Sony and more, the Ansmann Digicharger Plus universal battery charger quickly charges rechargeable Li-Ion, Li-Polymer and NiMH cells, as well as AA and AAA rechargeable cells. The 3.6- and 7.2-volt charger features microcontroller charging with faulty cell detection and automatically adjusts to the battery’s voltage. Estimated Street Price: $59.

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Gitzo GH2780QR
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THE pod

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SLIK PRO 714 CF-II
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Manfrotto 337
2-Axis Level

Support
Tripods for landscape photography need to be light enough to carry easily, yet strong enough to support cameras solidly. Carbon-fiber tripods like the SLIK PRO 714 CF-II are sturdy enough to support cameras and lenses that weigh nearly three times their own weight. Legs that split into sections with multi-position, twistable locks allow you to set the legs at various angles. Many come with spiked feet for better stability on soft ground and foam grips for a more comfortable hold. Estimated Street Price: $245.

While not as stable as a tripod, a monopod is lighter to carry and faster to set up, plus it doubles as a walking stick. The P-Pod (MM5580) from Giottos has these advantages and offers tripod stabilization with three support legs that store within the monopod’s base. The legs screw into the base or the head, providing support for low-level shooting of flowers or foliage that you may come across. The P-Pod extends to a height of 72.6 inches and supports up to 33 pounds. Estimated Street Price: $99.

THE pod is a light and unobtrusive support that can be placed anywhere. Its flexible beanbag design provides a custom fit on any irregular surface for better maneuverability in places that a tripod can’t fit. The interior is made of plastic pellet stuffing that can be tailored to accommodate the needs of different camera models. THE pod is available in six sizes. List Price: $17 to $49.

Ballheads offer 360-degree rotational freedom for quickly and precisely aligning shots—that’s why landscape photographers love them. For more on ballheads, see Gadget Bag on page 96.

A bubble or spirit level is indispensable for taking the guesswork out of a level horizon. The Manfrotto 337 2-Axis Hot-Shoe Double Bubble level simply slips into the hot-shoe of standard SLRs and adjusts with the camera until the air bubbles inside give a reading that the frame is level. The fluorescent green liquid is easy to read, even in low light. Estimated Street Price: $36.

Special Extras From The Pros
Some of OP’s longtime contributors weigh in on what helps them take great landscape pictures.
  • Jack Dykinga: “A compass to preplan sun and moon positions. Five Tennies (Five Ten) canyoneering boots for wading into water-filled slot canyons.”
  • Jay Goodrich: “My all-wheel-drive SUV—it can get me into backcountry photo locations with ease, provided vehicles are allowed, and allows me to bring along my family and gear.”
  • George Lepp: “A small penlight is critical for early-morning and late-evening shooting. Yes, you can light up the LCD with the push of a button, but can you find the dropped whatever or the right accessory in your bag? You might even need it to find your way back to the car.”
  • William Neill: “Water bottle and Clif Bars or Aussie Bites.”
  • Art Wolfe: “French press and good beans. Lots of extra reading glasses.”


Resources
Ansmann (HP Marketing Corp.)
(800) 735-4373
www.hpmarketingcorp.com
ATP Electronics
(408) 732-5000
www.atpinc.com
B+W (Schneider Optics)
(631) 761-5000
www.schneideroptics.com
Brunton
(800) 443-4871
www.brunton.com
Canon
(800) OK-CANON
www.usa.canon.com
Giottos (HP Marketing Corp.)
(800) 735-4373
www.hpmarketingcorp.com
Gitzo (Bogen Imaging)
(201) 818-9500
www.bogenimaging.us
Kingston Technology
(877) KINGSTON
www.kingston.com
Lexar Media
(800) 789-9418
www.lexar.com
Lowepro
(800) 800-LOWE
www.lowepro.com
Manfrotto (Bogen Imaging)
(201) 818-9500
www.bogenimaging.us
Metz (Bogen Imaging)
(201) 818-9500
www.bogenimaging.us
National Geographic (Bogen Imaging)
(201) 818-9500
www.bogenimaging.us
Nikon
(800) NIKON-US
www.nikonusa.com
PNY Technologies
(973) 515-9700
www.pny.com
SanDisk
(866) SANDISK
www.sandisk.com
Singh-Ray
(800) 486-5501
www.singh-ray.com
Slik (THK Photo Products)
(800) 421-1141
www.thkphoto.com
Sunpak (ToCAD America)
(973) 627-9600
www.tocad.com
Tamrac
(800) 662-0717
www.tamrac.com
THE pod
www.thepod.ca
Western Digital Corp.
(877) 934-6972
www.westerndigital.com

15 Comments

    eing new to SLR’s, Digital SLR in particular, I’m interested in a polarizer. But your short description mentions that this filter is for TTL exposure metering and autofocus lenses. So, I guess this lens would not be for a Digital SLR, correct?
    We just purchased our first ever Digital SLR and we have never had a SLR, so most all of the abbreviations are unknown.
    Thanks for all the great information.

    Maureen, yes, you should absolutely get a polarizer and it will work great with your DSLR. You will love what it does–in my opinion, a polarizer is close to indispensable. TTL stands for through the lens–just means that your camera will still meter correctly and autofocus even with the polarizer on.

    Pablo…

    B+W’s entry-level CPL (circular polarizer) is more than adequate, and they offer several quality steps above that. Singh-Ray’s products are marvelous, but the difference in image quality is exceedingly fine, and may only be of use to extreme hobbyists and pros.

    More important is to have a strategy for equipping yourself with filters: think about the lens(es) you have and those you want, and buy filters to fit the largest lenses first (usually 77mm). Then you can use step-up rings to mount those filters on your smaller-diameter lenses before deciding if you need to invest in a whole series of different diameter CPLs and neutral gradient filters.

    Maureen (and Pablo), I believe that the reason the article mentioned TTL metering is that there are two different kinds of polarizing filters: regular, and circularly-polarizing.
    As you might expect, regular polarizing filters are (on average) cheaper than circularly-polarizing ones.
    However, you need to be sure that you have the circularly-polarizing type if you are going to depend on your camera’s TTL metering.
    (I believe I’m correct in saying that if you use a handheld meter, and do the numbers yourself, it’s not an issue.)
    For reasons too obscure to go into here,
    a non-circularly-polarizing filter will “confuse” your camera’s TTL metering.
    So the article just wants to make sure that you get one of those — independent of whether you get an an “entry-level” one or a “high-end” model.

    An LED headlamp is a great accessory – I LOVE mine (I have one from Petzl – a Zipka Plus model). It frees up your hands and allows you to work in your camera bag and with other items. The Zipka can even go around your arm, a tripod, or other item if you need to strategically place the light in a fixed spot for awhile.

    A tip I’ve learned about buying a polarizing filter is to buy a very high-quality filter (e.g. ultra-thin, multicoated) at the largest diameter of your lens collection. In my case that is 77mm. Then simply get step-up rings in order to fit the filter to your various lenses.

    I have started using the Cokin P-series filter system for my Nikon. They have square filters of all types such as graduated neutral density and a circular polarizer. The beauty of this system is that for each new lens diameter I only have to buy an adapter plate. For the P-series, the adapter rings will go to 82mm and cost approx. $15.

    Ditch the backpack!!! I only use a backpack for carrying stuff on board a plane, train, in the car, etc. Once I’m where I need to go, out comes the vest. The vest is SOOOOO much faster and easier to quickly grab whatever you need for the shot.

    Gitzo carbon fiber sticks and Arca-Swiss Z1 with a Kirk QR (the Arca QR releases too easily). Both will set you back a bunch, but you won’t ever need another tripod. Also a Hoodman Loupe–makes a HUGE difference in looking at your in-camera images.

    I am over six foot tall, I am in the market for a light weight travel tripod. I have found that most manufactures only make models that go maybe to 60″, and I would have to extend the center post in order to reach my eye level.
    Any suggestions???
    Stooped Over

    Conrad,

    I just recently bought the Slik Pro 700 DX(aluminum, magnesium & titanium alloy). It stands fully open I think 74+ inches. I am 5ft. 8 in., and it is way over my head fully extended. It”s not the lightest at around 8 lbs., but I have no problem carrying it all day in the woods. It”s built like a tank, sturdy, holds between 15 and 20 lbs. I mount my canon and long lenses on it without worry, as well as my spotting scope with camera attached. No problems. You can build a house on this thing and the legs are all foam gripped. The pan head and quick release are great. I paid $139.00 for it. I love it

    Conrad I have the same problem and solved it with a Seagull 90 degree viewfinder attachment. Works great and was less expensive than buying a new tripod.

    There are apps available for very little money that will show you not only the direction of sunrise or sunset, but also the times. Great tools! I can recommend LightTrac.

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