As a landscape photographer, capturing the beauty of the natural world can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Whether you're exploring a new location or revisiting a familiar spot, the challenge of finding the perfect composition and lighting conditions can be both exhilarating and frustrating. However, with the right equipment, you can take your landscape photography to the next level and ensure you make the most of every opportunity. In this blog post we'll go over the 3 best pieces of equipment for landscape photographers which will help you to capture sharp, well-exposed images but also allow you to experiment with creative techniques such as long exposures. So, if you're ready to elevate your landscape photography game, read on to find out more!
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While cameras have come a long way in recent years, there are still certain techniques and tools that can enhance the quality of your landscape photos. One of these tools is the use of filters. Filters are a powerful tool in landscape photography, allowing you to control the light, reduce glare, and enhance the colours in your images. When choosing filters, consider the conditions you'll be shooting in and the effects you want to achieve.
There are two main types of camera filters on the market, with those being screw-in filters and slot-in filters. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between the two depends on personal preference and the specific needs of the photographer. Here's an explanation of the differences between the two:
Screw-In Filters: Screw-in filters are the most common type of filters and are designed to screw directly onto the front of your lens. They come in various sizes to fit different lens diameters, and they are easy to attach and remove. Screw-in filters are typically more affordable than slot-in filters and can be more convenient to use for photographers who prefer to keep their gear lightweight and compact. They are also less prone to accidental movement or misalignment during shooting.
However, one of the main disadvantages of screw-in filters is that you need to buy different filters for each lens size, unless you also purchase a step-down ring. A step-down ring is a photography accessory that allows a lens with a larger filter thread size to be used with a filter that has a smaller thread size. It is essentially a threaded ring with one end fitting the lens and the other end accommodating a filter with a smaller diameter. This enables photographers to use the same filters across different lenses, saving them the cost of buying multiple filters for each lens. If you're wanting to purchase screw-in filters, I would strongly recommend purchasing one that fits your lens with the largest filter size, along with any appropriate step-down ring for your smaller lenses.
Screw-in filters may cause vignetting or darkening of the corners of your image if the filter ring is too thick or if you're using a wide-angle lens. This issue is made potentially worse by step-down rings as it is another piece of material protruding from the front of your lens.
Slot-In Filters: Slot-in filters, as the name suggests, are filters that you slide into a holder attached to the front of your lens. The holder is usually attached to the lens using an adapter ring that matches the lens diameter. Slot-in filters can be more versatile than screw-in filters since you only need to buy one filter holder and different size adapter rings for different lenses.
Slot-in filters can also be stacked, which means you can use multiple filters at the same time, giving you more creative control over your images. Additionally, they can be easily adjusted and moved during a shoot without the need to remove them from the lens.
However, slot-in filters tend to be more expensive than screw-in filters and may require more setup time. They can also be more bulky, which could be an issue for photographers who need to travel light.
In summary, screw-in filters are more affordable and more convenient to use, whilst slot-in filters offer more versatility and flexibility in terms of filter stacking and compatibility across different lenses. Ultimately, the choice between the two types of filters depends on the photographer's needs and personal preferences.
There are 5 main types of filters that will appeal to landscape photographers:
Polarising Filter: A polarising filter helps reduce glare and increase saturation in your images. It's particularly useful when shooting landscapes with water, as it can help remove the reflections on the surface and bring out the true colours below. Polarising filters can also help you control the brightness of the sky in your photos, making it easier to balance the exposure between the sky and the ground. Whilst both slot-in and screw-in polarisers are available, I would recommend a screw-in polarising filter. Circular polarisers provide a minimal amount of ND, marginally limiting the available light which means you'll need to use a longer shutter speed than without one to achieve the correct exposure. I tend to avoid any slot-in filters with an ND because they can (not all of them) leak light in at their edges as they're not perfectly flush to your lens.
Neutral Density Filter: A neutral density filter is a dark glass filter that reduces the amount of light entering the lens, allowing you to use longer exposures even in bright light conditions. This is especially helpful for capturing the movement of clouds or water, as it allows you to create a smooth and silky effect. As with circular polarisers, screw-in filters avoid the possibility of light leaking in the edges. The downside in this instance however is that when using particularly dark ND filters, once they're attached you can no longer see your field of view in your viewfinder so you have to be absolutely certain your composition is perfect before attaching the filter. The other downside, and one I've been fallen victim to far more often that I'd care to admit, is not switching the camera to manual focus once my image is composed. With the darkness of the filter blocking out light, your camera will begin to hunt for focus (because it can't see anything), and you'll need to then unscrew your filter, re-focus, re-attach your filter, switch to manual focus and THEN retake your image.
Graduated Neutral Density Filter: A graduated neutral density filter is similar to a neutral density filter, but it's graduated, meaning it's darker at one end and lighter at the other. This makes it useful for balancing the exposure between the bright sky and the darker foreground, as you can position the darker part of the filter over the sky and the lighter part over the foreground. Variations include hard and soft graduations. Soft grads are typically used for landscapes where the horizon line has features protruding over it, such as a mountain range, whilst hard grad filters are great for flat horizon lines such as seascapes. Whilst screw-in versions do exist, it's almost a necessity to use slot-in graduated filters. Slot-in's give you far more freedom as you'll be able to choose exactly where in your frame your gradient begins.
The image above (left) was created with a 10-stop Neutral density filter as well as a soft grad neutral density filter. The soft grad was preferred due to the mountain protruding over the horizon line, making it uneven. The coastal image (right) was produced with a 4-stop Neutral density filter as well as a hard grad which I opted to use because of the flat horizon line.
UV Filter: A UV filter helps protect your lens from scratches, dust, and other types of damage. It also helps reduce atmospheric haze, which can make your landscapes look clearer and sharper. Given the main purpose of a UV is for glass protection, these are exclusively screw-in filters. There's an argument to be made that buying expensive glass, only to put a cheap UV filter on the front means you're not making the most of your lens quality, but if you're particularly concerned about damage or retaining resale value then it's worth investing in good quality UV filters. I personally have never used them and wouldn't bother putting them on super-wide lenses, as a tiny scratch is highly unlikely to show in your images.
Infrared Filter: An infrared filter blocks visible light and allows infrared light to pass through the lens. This can produce interesting and unusual images with a dreamy, ethereal quality. However, this type of filter requires specialized equipment and a lot of trial and error to master. Results are also highly dependent on your camera body, with manufacturers using different infrared protection filters on their sensors, providing vastly different results between brands.
LEE 100 filter holder system & 85 filter holder system
Much like lenses, you get what you pay for with filters. The more expensive filters tend to have better optical quality and the screw-in filters have rings made from more durable materials. This translates to a longer lasting filter as well as less colour casting on your images.
The LEE 100 filter holder system is a professional-grade camera accessory for DSLR cameras. The LEE 85 filter system is almost exactly the same, but smaller in size and is made for mirrorless cameras. Designed to allow photographers to attach and use filters on their lenses, the system includes a filter holder that attaches to the front of the lens and can hold up to three filters at once, as well as a range of compatible filters to choose from.
I exclusively use LEE filters and can personally vouch for the LEE 100 filter holder system. My kit is made up of a circular polariser, a 4-stop ND, 10-stop ND, 3 hard grads (0.3, 0.6, 0.9) and 3 soft grads (0.3, 0.6, 0.9). I have used cheaper filter holder systems in the past where I've had problems with light leaks and strange colour casting. Given the way the LEE holder is constructed however, the ND filters are flush to your lens and I've had no issues with light leaks.
One of the main advantages of the LEE filter holder system is its versatility. With slot-in filters including polarizers, ND filters and graduated filters, this really is the only filter system you'll ever need. The system is designed to fit a wide range of lens sizes, with an adapter ring system making the filter holder usable on almost any lens. It also allows users to easily switch between different filters depending on their needs, without having to unscrew and re-screw filters onto the lens itself.
Overall, the LEE filter holder system is a versatile and high-quality camera accessory that can help photographers capture stunning images in a wide range of settings. With its durable construction, ease of use, and compatibility with a range of lenses and filters, it is a must-have tool for any serious photographer looking to take their work to the next level.
If you're finding filters a little overwhelming, LEE have started offering bundles specifically aimed at landscape photographers to get you up and running. The LEE 100 Deluxe Kit is comprised of a range of essential items for any photography enthusiast. Included in this kit is the LEE100 Holder, which can hold up to three filters, along with three different neutral-density grad filters: a 0.6 medium grad, a 0.9 hard grad, and a 1.2 medium grad. Also included is the popular Big Stopper, which comes with a storage tin to protect it when not in use. The kit also features the LEE100 Polarizer, which can be used to control reflections and glare in your images, and a three-filter pouch and wrap to keep everything organised. Additionally, the ClearLEE Filter Wash 50ml and ClearLEE Filter Cloth are included to ensure that your filters stay clean and free from dust and smudges. Overall, this Deluxe Kit provides a comprehensive and practical solution for anyone looking to enhance their photography with the LEE 100 filter holder system. This is currently retailing on Amazon for £495.00, and whilst this is a significant investment, it will arguably offer you far more versatility in your work than any lens could, and it's also a good saving if you were to purchase all the individual items separately over time. If you're just testing the waters with your first filters, the LEE 100 landscape kit (22% off at Amazon right now) includes a LEE100 holder and guide blocks, and a 0.6 (2-stop) ND Medium Grad filter. Additionally, the kit includes a Holder Pouch, Guide Block Pouch, and Filter Pouch to keep your filters organised and protected while on the go.
Budget option - Urth Filters
Urth is a company that produces high-quality photography filters that are eco-friendly. Their filters are made using sustainable materials, and their packaging is made from recycled materials as well. Urth offers a range of filters including circular polarizers, neutral density filters, and graduated neutral density filters that are compatible with different types of cameras and lenses. In addition to producing eco-friendly filters, Urth also donates a portion of their profits to environmental conservation organisations which we're really pleased to see given our ethos here at WILD Photo Awards is very similarly aligned (we plant a tree for every entry we receive in to any of our competitions). They have an extensive range of screw-in filters at a really affordable price, with options available in everything we've covered above. They also have a filter holder system similar to that of the LEE system.
A sturdy tripod is one of the most important accessories for landscape photographers. It provides a stable base for your camera, eliminating camera shake and allowing you to capture sharp, well-exposed images.
Tripods are all about finding a balance (no pun intended)! A large tripod can be difficult to transport, especially if you're hiking long distances. A lightweight tripod on the other hand, may not be strong enough to withstand windy weather or uneven terrain. A flimsy tripod can be worse than no tripod at all, as it may actually introduce camera shake instead of eliminating it. Consider the weight of your camera and lens and look for a tripod that's rated to hold at least 20% more than that amount. Tripods are often built from one of two materials: aluminium or carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is an outstanding weight-saving material that will not rust in sea water. Aluminium, on the other hand, is heavier and more brittle in the sea, providing more sturdiness with more weight. Aluminium tripods are typically less expensive than their carbon fiber counterparts, so if you're willing to accept the extra weight and you're unlikely to use your tripod on the shoreline, save money and go with aluminium. If, on the other hand, you're concerned about saving weight and are likely to come into contact with salt water, carbon fiber is a must-have. Speaking from personal experience, it will definitely save you money in the long run! Also, think about the tripod head you wish to use. A ball head is a versatile option for adjusting the angle of your camera, whilst a three-way pan/tilt head gives you more precise control over your composition.
Finally, consider a tripod that you can adjust the angle of each leg independently. With landscape photography, you're likely to be working with rough, uneven terrain on a regular basis so having the freedom to change the angle of each tripod leg separately is a huge bonus. It's also worth looking at a tripod that you can remove the centre column from entirely. This will allow you to shoot extremely low to the ground.
Images like these, a collection from our talented competition winners and highly commended entrants, simply wouldn't be possible without a tripod.
Manfrotto 190 Series and Manfrotto 055 Series
The Manfrotto 190 and 055 series both offer a variety of models with aluminium and carbon fiber options available, as well as different maximum load capacities (the 190 series is lighter than the more rugged 055 series), heights, and leg configurations. They also offer various features such as adjustable leg angles, offering the capability to shoot close to the ground, a centre column mechanism that can be flipped horizontally, enabling you to slide your camera back and forth which can be really useful for macro photography, and quick-release systems for fast and easy camera mounting. The 055XPRO4 carbon fiber model is the model I personally use, as I live near the coast and shoot with a bulkier full-frame DSLR. I picked up my 055 4 section carbon fiber legs for £399.00 at Amazon. Those of you on lighter mirrorless systems should be just fine with the 190 series.
Budget option - K&F Concept Camera Tripod Monopod
The K&F Concept Camera Tripod Monopod is a multi-purpose item that can function as both a tripod and a monopod. It has a strong aluminium alloy design that can handle up to 10 kilograms of weight. The tripod legs are adjustable to three different angles and may be extended to a maximum height of 67 inches, while the centre column can be reversed for low-angle pictures. The tripod also contains a detachable monopod for use when a tripod is neither practicable or permitted. A 360-degree panoramic ball head, a quick-release plate for fast camera mounting and removal are also included.
Premium option - Gitzo GT2542 Series The Gitzo GT2542 Series is a professional-grade tripod range designed for photographers and videographers who require maximum stability and precision. The tripods are constructed of high-quality carbon fiber, which is both lightweight and sturdy. Interchangeable feet, adjustable leg angles, and a centre column that can be removed or reversed for low-angle images are among the characteristics of the tripods. Gitzo's patented G-Lock Ultra twist locks, which offer secure and rapid leg extension and retraction, are also included in the series. Overall, the Gitzo GT2542 Series is an excellent choice for professional photographers and videographers that require the highest levels of stability, precision, and longevity.
3. Camera Bag
Remember what I said about tripods being about sacrifices? Well, the same applies to camera bags too and you'll probably soon discover that there simply isn't one camera bag suitable for every occasion. A good backpack or camera bag is essential for protecting your gear and keeping it organised. Look for a bag that's comfortable to wear, has plenty of compartments, and is weather-resistant.
You'll want a bag that's large enough to hold your camera body, lenses, tripod, and any other accessories you may need, but not so large that it becomes cumbersome to carry. Think about the type of shooting you'll be doing and choose a bag that fits your needs. If you're on a longer trip and need to carry other essentials (like snacks) you may want to look at camera bags that offer additional compartments as well as a laptop sleeve if you're somebody that likes to edit on the go. You'll want a bag with padded compartments to protect your gear from bumps and knocks, and consider a bag with weatherproofing to keep your equipment dry in wet conditions. Some bags even come with a rain cover for added protection.
Lastly, consider the comfort of the bag. Look for a bag with padded straps that distribute the weight of your gear evenly, reducing strain on your back and shoulders. Some bags even come with a waist belt to provide extra support. I personally always opt for rucksack style bags when I'm out in the field. You may come across shoulder bags which are great for ease of access to your camera, but I would certainly not recommended them for trips with a lot of walking. You also won't be able to attack your tripod to one.
Lowepro is a well-known brand in the camera bag industry, offering a wide range of bags designed to meet the needs of photographers at all levels. Their bags are known for their durability, versatility, and attention to detail, with features such as customisable compartments, weatherproofing, and comfortable straps. Lowepro offers a variety of bag styles to fit different shooting situations, including backpacks, messenger bags, and rolling cases. Overall, Lowepro is a trusted brand for photographers looking for high-quality and reliable camera bags.
For photographers require quick and simple access to their equipment while on the move, Lowepro has created the Fastpack line of camera backpacks. The backpacks come in a number of sizes to fit various camera configurations, from compact mirrorless systems to larger DSLRs with several lenses. The Fastpack bags feature a dedicated camera compartment that can be accessed from the side, allowing you to quickly grab your camera without having to remove the entire bag. Additionally, the compartments are movable, so you can change the arrangement to fit your gear more appropriately. The backpacks contain a lot of accessory storage space in addition to the camera compartment, including a laptop compartment, a front pocket for personal goods, and mesh side pockets. With padded shoulder straps, a vented back panel, and a waist belt to evenly disperse the weight of your gear, the Fastpack backpacks are made with comfort in mind. Overall, the Lowepro Fastpack camera bags are a fantastic option for photographers who require a flexible and comfortable camera bag that allows quick access to their equipment while on the go.
I'm a big fan of the Flipside series. As somebody who ventures in to cities with their camera gear, the added security of this line of bags provides me with some additional reassurance. The Flipside bags feature a back-entry compartment, which is accessible only when the bag is removed from the wearer's back. This design provides extra security for your gear, as potential thieves cannot access the camera compartment without first removing the bag from the wearer. Designed for photographers who prioritise security and protection for their gear, the bags are available in different sizes and are designed to fit a variety of camera setups, from small mirrorless systems to larger DSLRs with multiple lenses. The Flipside bags also have customisable padded dividers, allowing you to adjust the layout of the compartments to fit your specific gear. In addition to the camera compartment, the bags also have plenty of storage space for accessories, including a front pocket for personal items and a mesh side pocket for water bottles or other small items. The Flipside bags are designed for comfort, with padded shoulder straps and a ventilated back panel to reduce heat and moisture buildup. Overall, the Lowepro Flipside bags are a great choice for photographers who prioritise security and protection for their gear, while still providing ample storage and comfort. I grab my Flipside 450 AW Trek bag whenever I'm on a long weekend in a new location where I'm not completely certain on the camera gear I need to take... so end up taking all of it! With ample space for my gear and other essentials (again, snacks), you can't go wrong. I picked mine up for £169.00. People on mirrorless systems can probably afford to go smaller, so take a look at the Flipside Trek 250 or the Flipside 200.
Budget option - TARION
Compared to Lowepro, TARION may not be as well known, but they do make some top-notch camera bags. With features like customisable compartments, weatherproofing, and cushioning, their goods are renowned for their dependability and attention to detail. With components like quick-release buckles and anti-slip fabrics, their straps are also made with comfort and usability in mind.
TARION TR-H Hardshell Camera Backpack
The TR-H camera backpack by TARION provides excellent protection for your camera and drone equipment, thanks to its EVA hard case and thick inner padding. This hard shell construction makes it shockproof, water and abrasion-resistant, and able to withstand high weight pressure while remaining lightweight, weighing only 1.5 kg. The backpack offers ample storage space, with a large camera compartment featuring modular dividers and two tripod pockets, as well as accessories pockets on each side with safety straps. In addition, there is a 14.5" laptop case on the back and multi-purpose pockets for a notebook and accessories. The X-Cross straps on the front are versatile and can be used to hold larger drones, sleeping bags, and lens bags, with quick-release clips for easy disassembly and buckles on each strap for adjustable sizing. The backpack is also theft-proof, with access to only the camera compartment and laptop from the back, secured with double zippers, and no safety gaps for thieves. It also comes with accessories such as a waterproof hood and two X-Cross straps. Overall, the TARION TR-H camera backpack offers excellent protection, ample storage, and versatility for photographers on the go, whilst only costing you around £60.00.
you get a lot of bag for your money here - The TARION Zone is a 3-in-1 modular camera backpack with an innovative design that allows photographers to create personalised areas within the bag. The backpack includes a modular insert, pockets, and a complementary shoulder strap, all of which can be customised to fit different gear and daily needs. The modular organiser insert features specially designed modular dividers that can be arranged horizontally or vertically to form compartments of different sizes, and the position can be adjusted as needed. Additionally, the backpack has modular organising pockets with transparent fronts, allowing photographers to easily see what's inside. The backpack also includes a passenger shoulder bag that can be accessed from the top of the backpack and used as a standalone bag for short trips or additional storage. Furthermore, the backpack is equipped with two adjustable multi-purpose straps with magnetic clips and fasteners provided by Fidlock. These straps can be taken out of the side pockets and fastened into magnetic closures on either side of the Tarion Zone to hold large items such as a drone or tent. Overall, the Tarion Zone backpack offers photographers versatility and flexibility in organizing and carrying their gear. At the time of writing (April 2023), there's currently a 23% saving on Amazon as well as some promotions for a free shoulder neck strap.
Premium option - VANGUARD Alta Sky series
The ALTA SKY series from Vanguard is a highly versatile backpack designed for both professional photographers and enthusiasts. It can carry pro-level camera equipment as well as other gear such as drones, clothing, or even a snowboard. The ALTA SKY series backpacks are designed to offer maximum comfort when carrying heavy loads. They feature extra non-slip padding around the shoulders and back to distribute the weight of the equipment evenly, reducing strain and fatigue. The shoulder straps, waist belt, and chest strap are all adjustable, allowing users to customize the fit and find the most comfortable configuration for their body. Additionally, the chest strap can be moved up or down to fit the user's contours perfectly. The backpacks also feature a wide air-flow system, which allows for ventilation and prevents overheating during prolonged use. Overall, these design features ensure that the ALTA SKY series backpacks provide a comfortable and ergonomic carrying experience for photographers and other outdoor enthusiasts. The Vanguard Alta Sky series comes equipped with an external harness that can securely hold a large tripod or other equipment like a drone (up to DJI Phantom 3 on most models). The harness is designed to balance the weight in the centre of the backpack, allowing for comfortable carrying. Additionally, the backpacks have the ALTA LINK system that can be used with the Alta Action tripod bags for added protection. The series offers a wide array of bags for varying purposes:
These Vanguard models are created to function as traditional professional camera backpacks for carrying maximum camera gear, or even drones. You can easily access your equipment through the top of the backpack or via the rear. At the time of writing, there's 20% off the Alta Sky 53 at Amazon.
The Vanguard Alta Sky 45D and Alta Sky 51D offer maximum versatility with two compartments that can be split 70/30 for gear. These backpacks are designed for both camera gear and personal belongings, and the user can customise the setup as needed. The backpacks also offer multiple access points to the camera, including quick side, top, and back access. The Alta Sky 51D model has won the prestigious Red Dot design award for its versatility and functionality. You can currently save 19% on the 51D at Amazon.
The Alta Sky 66 and 68 models are ideal for carrying large and heavy telephoto lenses, including those up to 600mm and even 800mm. The Alta Sky 66 is designed to carry a lens of this size along with a Pro DSLR camera and tripod, while the Alta Sky 68 can accommodate additional lenses and other accessories. Both models provide excellent protection and comfort for carrying heavy and valuable camera gear.
3 Best Pieces of Equipment for Landscape Photographers
In conclusion, having these three essential pieces of kit - a tripod, a good camera bag, and a set of filters - can greatly enhance the quality of your landscape photography. With a sturdy tripod, you can achieve sharp images even in low light conditions, while a selection of filters such as a polariser can help reduce glare and enhance the colours in your scene. Neutral density filters allow you to experiment with long exposures and create stunning effects such as silky waterfalls and streaky clouds. Investing in these pieces of kit will not only improve your photography but also open up new creative possibilities. Happy shooting!