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.
Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer
B+W Circular Polarize
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.
Brunton Eterna 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.
Lowepro Super Trekker AW ll
National Geographic 5159
Tamrac Expedition 8x Model 5588
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
SLIK PRO 714 CF-II
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.
| Ansmann (HP Marketing Corp.)
B+W (Schneider Optics)
Giottos (HP Marketing Corp.)
Gitzo (Bogen Imaging)
Manfrotto (Bogen Imaging)
|Metz (Bogen Imaging)
National Geographic (Bogen Imaging)
Slik (THK Photo Products)
Sunpak (ToCAD America)
Western Digital Corp.