Essential accessories for landscape photography / by Kaspars Dzenis

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          As with anything in the world today, be it a hobby or a profession, you have broad choice of accessories that are meant to enhance your experience. Landscape photography is no exception. With all the gadgets around, it´s sometimes hard to decide weather they will actually improve your photography or not. So I would like to list some of them, that i think are essential to take that next step in landscape photography.

           For landscape photography, the most important accessory, hands down, is a tripod. I use tripod for 95% of my photos. Tripod is used to eliminate any camera shake and even if you think that you have super steady hands and you´re using a lens with vibration reduction (VR), when shooting with relatively slow shutter speeds, you can not produce a sharp image that will look good even on a computer screen. Here you can take a look at the spreadsheet that illustrates this.

It´s also essential to have a sturdy tripod. Cheap, lousy tripod will not do you any good. We shoot outside and a lot of time weather can be a little harsh, so it´s important that tripod can withstand winds as well as waves if you´re shooting near the beach. 

      Another piece of equipment that helps to reduce camera shake to a minimum is a remote shutter release. When you press that shutter button on the camera, even if you are extremely careful, sometimes you might move your camera only slightly, yet on the final image it can be rather visible. Of course, you can also use a timer on the camera, but i find that having a remote shutter is more convenient if you need to time your shot. On a side note, you can also find mobile applications that will do this for you, but i prefer an actual remote.

      Another gadget that any landscape photographer should have in their arsenal is a neutral density (ND) filter. Basically, it´s a piece of black glass or resin that allows you to lower your shutter speeds to create pictures with ''silky'' water, be it a waterfall, river or ocean. Those are also great to create dramatic and smooth clouds. These filters come in great variety, depending on your needs. Also, you have to remember, that it´s an additional piece of glass, so it´s important that filter is of great quality or your images will suffer in terms of sharpness, vignetting or color hues. I would recommend 2 type of filters - ND8 which allows you to stop down your shutter speed by three and is just about perfect to shoot waterfalls and beaches to get that smoothness in water. Another filter that you should consider is a so called ten stopper, that helps you to reduce the shutter speed by ten and will allow you to produce very dramatic scenes.

          Additionally, you should also consider a gradient ND filter. Let´s say you´re trying to take a picture of a sunset. Even though cameras have improved dramatically, in terms of dynamic range, human eye still excels. Most estimate that our eyes can see from 10 to 14 f-stops of dynamic range while DSLRs 3-4 stops less. This difference is even more pronounced in low light and high contrast scenes. So gradient ND filter lets you cover that part of the frame which is brighter and allows you to take a properly exposed picture across the frame. Alternatively you can bracket your shots, by taking multiple pictures with different exposures and later merge them with a software to get a perfectly exposed scene. While were on filters, I have to mention ultra violet (UV) filters that supposedly helps you to reduce UV light and cuts through that blue haze which is created by the sun. However, i think that unless you´re using a very high end, high quality product, it might reduce the quality of the picture. They do have a use though and it´s protection. It´s way cheaper to replace a UV filter than a lens, so that´s something to keep in mind.

      Now, lets move from physical accessories to software products that every landscape photographer should know about. There are dozens of applications available on laptops and smartphones, so you can choose the one that fits you best, but first and foremost I want to talk about Planning is a big part of landscape photography and this application helps you to understand the position of the sun and the the moon at any given time anywhere in the world. This way, you can decide beforehand, where to position yourself, so you can take that perfect shot. Next one is It helps you to understand movement of the tide. It´s essential as there are many places where high tide and low tide can change the composition dramatically. Another helpful tool This application helps you to calculate hyperfocal distance, or the closest distance at which a lens can be focused while keeping objects at infinity sharp. When the lens is focused at this distance, all objects at distances from half of the hyperfocal distance out to infinity will be sharp.

     There are lots and lots of other accessories on the market - lens cloths, camera bags, lens hoods, battery grips etc. However, I think that the ones I mentioned here are the most essential ones to actually improve your pictures.