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  • Writer's pictureBen De Winter

The most essential gear and accessories for landscape photography

You might have heard this statement before: ‘It’s not about the gear but the photographer behind it.’

 

In many ways this quote is correct, but it’s no secret that landscape photography comes with its own range of unique challenges. As a landscape photographer, I’ve been operating in all types of weather conditions, ranging from sun-drenched Madeira, over the pointed Dolomites peaks, to windy and cold Iceland. And every time I was challenged to find the right balance between the performance quality of my equipment and the size and weight of it. That’s why having the right equipment for the job is essential.

 

But the quote mentioned above also has a lot of truth in it. Even the best, most expensive camera far from guarantees you will take great landscape photos. An epic landscape photo always will be the result of a well-thought-out planning, good light conditions, the photographer’s own creativity, patience and camera-handling skills and a few essential accessories that should be found in every landscape photographer’s bag.

 

In this article I take a closer look at those essential gear and accessories for landscape photography so you can face all challenges the elements throw your way.


Lago Federa, Italian Dolomites, 2022 (62mm - 1/125s - f/6.0 - ISO100)



A resilient camera

 

Obviously, it’s hard to be a photographer without having a camera. Exactly what camera you need will depend on the purpose of your photography and the way you want to use your images. If your main goal is to upload your pictures on Instagram, a smartphone camera will do the job. But if you are completely honest with yourself... A smartphone doesn’t make you feel like a real photographer... You want to handle the real stuff.

 

However, this doesn’t mean you need to buy the most expensive camera on the market. While the difference in price can be enormous, the hard truth is that the differences between an entry-level camera and a more professional one are microscopic for a large majority of users. I did use an entry-level model for a long time, and lots of the photos shown on my portfolio were made with it. I still like them; I still show them to the world.

 

It's first when you start printing your images in larger formats, you’ll see a noticeable difference between the two. The more expensive cameras tend to feature a large sensor, a reasonable high megapixel count, good battery life and handle higher ISO values better, meaning they’re more suitable for night photography or capture of the aurora borealis. Also, they usually have more solid ergonomics such as a fully articulating or tilting screen; that way, you can capture low-angle shots without getting down in the dirt.

 

Since landscape photography often requires a long trek in the great outdoors through unpredictable weather, you’ll need a resilient camera made from durable materials. Choosing a weather-sealed camera means you can shoot in rainy weather, as well as close to water spray from waves or waterfalls that might otherwise damage your camera. A camera rain cover is also worth packing for additional peace of mind. A rain cover takes up minimal space in your camera bag and allows you to continue shooting in heavier rain. Alternatively, a simple plastic bag can do almost the same job.



Spend your money on quality lenses!

 

Lenses are where the fun begins and your wallet ends. But if you’re determined to spend money on camera gear, I highly recommend that you invest in quality lenses as well. Lenses are the single most important piece of landscape photography equipment you can buy. You might have the best camera, tripod, or other accessories available, if you don’t have quality glass you will struggle to take a sharp photograph.

 

While the best lenses for landscape photography are subjective, here are some of my suggestions for lenses to consider adding to your kit.

 

A wide-angle lens

A wide-angle lens with a focal length between 16-35mm is essential for capturing sweeping vistas and grand landscapes. It provides plenty of coverage for landscape images and creates a sense of depth and scale.

 

On most of my photo trips I carry a Nikkor 17-28mm f/2.8 objective in my photo bag. Occasionally I need to switch a an even wider lens and use a Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, but the 17-28mm lens mostly will do the job.


Eastrahorn, Iceland, 2023 (24mm - 1/8s - f/22 - ISO50)

 

A telephoto lens

While not as essential as a wide-angle lens, a telephoto lens with a focal length of 70-200mm or longer can be useful for capturing detailed close-ups of distant objects, such as wildlife or dramatic landscapes. These lenses also compress the image and pull the background detail forward, resulting in a different aesthetic than is achieved with wide-angle lenses.

 

I my backpack there’s always a Nikkor 24-200mm f/4-6.3 available.



A quality tripod

 

Once you are equipped with a camera and lenses, buying a solid tripod would be my number one recommendation. This is something you should strap to your backpack already from day one.

 

While many cameras feature in-body image stabilization, a sturdy lightweight tripod is a must for photographing landscapes in various lighting conditions. A tripod opens more possibilities for shots, particularly in low-light conditions or at nighttime, allowing you to maximize depth of field. Using a tripod also makes it easier to shoot using shutter speeds that are too slow for handheld shooting.

 

The tripod is something you should invest a few extra euros into. Do yourself a favour and avoid the €50 tripods found in most electronic shops. In the long run, these are going to cause more problems (and cost more money) than getting a higher quality one right away. Cheap tripods are simply not made to be used for nature and outdoor photography, especially in harsh conditions. Trust me. I’ve learned that the hard way!

 

Tripods come in all sizes, weights, and max load capacities. To ensure the best stability for your camera, get a tripod capable of supporting a maximum load that is 20-30% in excess of the actual weight of your gear.

 

The tripod’s weight is also important. You need a tripod made of strong materials. But it can’t be too heavy. Your camera backpack is already full of cameras, lenses, and accessories. Adding a heavy tripod is only going to bring you discomfort and exhaustion. That’s why you need to strike the right balance between durability and weight. 



A sturdy backpack or camera bag

 

When it comes to landscape photography gear, a backpack is essential – and it’s not the place to skimp on quality. You get what you pay for, and it’s very important you use a strong, water-resistant bag, one with reinforced padding. The goal here is to protect your equipment and keep things comfortable, and while protection and comfort may not currently seem like a pressing issue, wait until you spend a day hiking through the forest through a downpour!

 

As you consider different options, pay attention to the size of the bag and how it matches your own cameras, lenses, and accessories. Check user reviews to assess comfort and see if you can find a durable model that gives you some room to grow.



Remote shutter release

 

Using a tripod brings a great deal of stability to landscape photographs, but there’s still a risk of shaking when depressing the shutter release button. You can avoid potentially degrading the sharpness of the image by using a remote release, or as a cheaper alternative, use your camera’s built-in self-timer. Normally using a 2 or 5 second timer can do this job just as well (most cameras have this option so check your manual).

 

It can become an issue when you like taking photos at a shutter speed longer than 30 seconds. While some cameras have a ‘bulb’ timer (Canon) or ‘time’ function (Nikon) not all do. And this is when a remote shutter release can come into its own.

 

Once you investigate your camera and what its capabilities are, you can decide if you need one of these. My best advice if you do need one, don’t invest in an expensive one (they are one of the most commonly lost accessories). A cheap one costing under less than 30 euros will do the job just fine.



An L-bracket

 

This is a piece of equipment that’s used by most professional landscape photographers but, for some reason, it’s also one that’s rarely talked about.

 

An L-Bracket is best described as an L-shaped piece of metal that’s mounted to your camera. This is used instead of a regular tripod plate and works very similar. The main difference being that you can quickly switch from shooting horizontal to vertical without moving or adjusting the tripod itself.



There are many benefits of this but the two most important is that you don’t risk the tripod being unbalanced when tilting to vertical alignment and that you can keep the same compositional center point. Another benefit is that it can, to some degree, help protect the camera if dropped.



Filters to improve your photography

 

There are many tools and types of gear that may sound nice and useful but in reality, they’re not much more than money-making machines for certain companies. Filters are not in that category. The right filter can do wonders for your photos. It can eliminate blown-out skies or spice up drab foregrounds. Filters are small pieces of gear that can make a world of difference.

 

Neutral Density (ND) Filters

ND filters reduce the amount of light entering the lens, allowing you to use longer exposure times in bright light. This is particularly useful for capturing motion blur in waterfalls, rivers, and other moving elements.


'Reflections', Reitdiephaven, The Netherlands 2018 (22mm - 15.0s - f/5.6 - ISO100 - 10 step ND filter)


Polarizing Filter

A polarizer helps reduce reflections, saturate colours, and improve clarity in landscape images. It is especially useful for shooting water, skies, and foliage.



Waterproof clothing

 

Keeping yourself warm and dry when out photographing landscapes is as important as maintaining dry equipment, so you need to dress for the occasion.

 

If you’re anticipating heavy rain, decent waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers are handy items of clothing to include in your kit in case you get caught in a downpour.

 

As an alternative, a rain poncho is a lightweight and compact accessory that can help keep you dry during unexpected rain showers.



A good pair of shoes – Seriously!

 

Landscape photography often involves walking on uneven terrain, so a good pair of shoes is one of the most important non-camera related on my list of accessories for landscape photography.

 

Look for shoes that are comfortable, supportive, and waterproof, and that offer good traction on a variety of surfaces.

 

Number one for me is comfort – if your feet aren’t comfortable, you won’t have an enjoyable shoot. And your photos won’t be as good if your feet hurt – trust me on this one! For summer landscape photography, it can be a good idea to trade the walking boots for some lightweight trainers, making it easier to scramble over rocks and access different vantage points.



Smartphone

 

Aside from safety reasons, your smartphone is a great tool to have with you on a landscape photo hike.

  • You can check weather conditions in real-time

  • Use GPS and trail maps to navigate the terrain

  • Record GPS coordinates during exploratory trips

  • Remotely control your camera

  • Collect photos and videos for “behind the scenes” documentation of your trip

  • Navigate the night sky thanks to augmented reality

  • Read the PDF version of your camera owner manual in case you need it



Torch or headlamp

 

A lot of landscape photography is shot during the golden hour as that’s when the light is the best, but it also means you are arriving or leaving when it’s dark. Carrying a simple torch or wearing a headlamp is an easy fix for these, and I recommend having both as each has a purpose.

 

One thing I don’t recommend is relying on your smartphone flashlight. It’s really not that great, and I’d rather not waste the battery from my phone.

 

Whether you choose a torch or headlamp is purely personal preference. A headlamp can be handy as it leaves both hands free when walking in or out of your location, and to adjust camera settings.

 

The torch or headlamp can also be a surplus when used as an extra detail lighting for photographing smaller objects, as the mushrooms on the image below.


'Twins', Belgium 2020 (200mm - 1/50s - f/6.3 - ISO320)



Camera and lens cleaning kit

 

Let’s be honest, though, it’s important to take care of the camera equipment. After all, we spend all this money to capture quality images, so we don’t want to ruin them by having dust spots and smudges all over. Regularly cleaning the camera saves you a lot of time in post-production but also allows you to keep using the equipment for longer.

 

Cleaning the sensor isn’t as difficult as you might think. This is especially important if you find yourself often photographing outside in rough conditions.

 

You also need to clean the lenses on a regular basis. Personally, I always have microfiber cloths. These are extremely useful for outdoor photographers and helps you to always keep those front elements free for smudges and dust spots.



Don’t forget your Allen keys!

 

These handy little tools can be a lifesaver when you need to adjust your tripod, camera mount, or L-Bracket. They should come with your tripod and L-Bracket when you buy them, so pop them straight into a pocket in your bag.



Back up gear

 

When going for a photo trip for several hours or a whole day, one of the worst things that can happen when shooting in the great outdoors is to run out of batteries, missing the opportunity for a great shot.

 

To avoid this frustrating scenario, I recommend taking at least one spare battery in your camera bag (or more if you’re also shooting lots of video footage).

 

Additional memory cards are also important. While you can delete unwanted images to make space, this is a time-consuming process.



Plastic zipper bags and Silica gel packets

 

You can use plastic zipper bags to seal your camera before going indoors after being out in cold and humid conditions. This will allow the camera to slowly warm up, preventing condensation from forming. Alternatively, once you’re inside, don’t open your camera bag/ICU until a few hours have passed and your gear has warmed up slowly.

 

You may want to remove your memory card before sealing the camera. This way you can review, edit, and share your photos without having to wait hours for your gear to warm up.

 

Save those little bags of silica gel you find when you buy shoes and other products. They’re the exact same things as the ones you’d buy. So, if you just save them, you save a few dollars.



Water and snacks

 

Staying hydrated and fueled up is important for any outdoor activity, and landscape photography is no exception. 

 

Make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks with you on your shoots, especially if you’re planning on spending a lot of time outdoors.



Insect repellent and sunscreen

 

If you’re planning to be outside taking photos, it’s important to bring along insect repellent and sunscreen. Insect repellent will help protect you from bugs like mosquitoes.

 

And sunscreen will help prevent sunburn and skin damage from prolonged exposure to the sun. So, whether you’re out for a few hours or a whole day, make sure you have these two essentials to keep yourself comfortable and protected!



First Aid Kit

 

Keep a first aid kit with you on every outdoor adventure, including landscape photography. It’ll come in handy for treating minor injuries and ailments like cuts, blisters, and headaches, making sure you’re safe and comfortable during your shoots.



Power bank

 

Power banks will allow you to recharge your GPS, smartphone, headlamp, and compact camera while in the field. It’s useful for long expeditions.

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