Landscape photography gear


Let's talk about photography Gear: What do you need


Gear can be tools or can be objects of collection; the first will serve you in your photography. The later, will only serve your in your chats.

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First, some definitions:

Full frame cameras: camera which sensor measures approximately 36mm X 24mm. Canon 5D II, 1DS MK III, Nikon D700, D3 and D3X

APS-C cameras: Cameras which sensor is approximately  22.3mm x 14.9mm. Canon Rebels, Xt, 20D to 60D, 7D, all other Nikon cameras. In this case, Nikon APS-C sensors are a little bigger than Canon APS-C

APS-H cameras: well there is only one which is the Canon 1D (MK I to MK IV)

Compact cameras: Small portable cameras with non removable lens, which sensor is regularly small as your little finger nail or smaller. Very practical for the ones who travel and do not want to be bothered by carrying photography gear. I will not talk about compact cameras but when I will mention focals and lens, this should help you choose the compact camera by checking the focals built in the compact cameras)

Prime lens: a camera lens with only one fixed focal. Ex. 35mm

Zoom lens: a camera lens with a zoom range of focals. Ex. 24-70mm

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Gear for landscape photography:

 Landscape photography is the type of photography where, "take your time but get up early" should become your motto

  1. The start: Well, we all start somewhere in photography. The basic kit should be a camera (some will choose a compact and that is fine).
    • A wide angle prime or zoom allowing focals between 20mm and 28mm is the first lens to look for: primes like 21, 24 or at the extreme, 28mm, or zooms in the 24-70 or 24-105mm focals will allow you to capture a very good range of possibilities for full frame cameras. For APS-C (starter or mid range cameras like Canon 20D to 60D, rebels or Nikon SLRS that are not full frames),  a zoom lens i the range of 18-55mm or 75mm will be the equivalents.
    • A good tripod. No one can pretend taking well composed and sharp photographs without a good and stable tripod. For thoses with the means, a carbon tripod would do great as they are stable and lighter.
    • Camera wired trigger is also a must in the basic equipment. If you also have to choice and means, a camera with mirror lock up would also be a wise choice and preference.
    • Filters: one filter is mandatory to your starting kit: the circular polarizer that will serve you in bright days, as well as to add colors in sunrises and sunsets and also will serve you well in fall colors shooting and cascade(rivers) photographs
  2. Evolving, by expanding the choice of lenses: 
    • the next choice of lenses will be zoom lens in the 16-35mm focales (For those who prefer primes, an 18 or 20mm would do great.)
    • Also, a good 70-200 would complete the kit. For landscapes, stabilized lens is not mandatory since we are working with a tripod.
    • Additional filters extremely uselful in landscape photography will be the Neutral density filters. There are 2 kinds: the solid and the graduate (grad) The first will b eused to reduce the general light because it it too hard or simply because you would want tu slow the exposition and create movement in your shot. A good example would be when photographing a cascade and you want the water to look like a film, showing movement. The neutral density filters (NDgrad) will be used to reduce the light in some part of the pictures, like the sky that is too often too luminous.
  3. The last step when you know well how to use use all the previous: 
    • For the experience shooters or those ready to carry a load, a 300mm 2.8 or a 400mm DO would complete the lens list. There is also the new Canon 70-300mm L IS that could cover the 2 later lens range being the 70-200 and the 400mm.
  4. The ultimate tool: the tilt-shift lenses (TS-E for Canon, PC-E for Nikon). Tilt shift lenses are probably the most accurate and at the same time the most difficult lens to operate. Many people consider these lenses as specific to architecture photography since they allow you to make sure there are no distortion to the lines, especially the verticals which are a problem when using a wide angle. This type of photography uses the tilt aspect of the lens. There is also the shifting aspect of the lens that would allow you to make panoramas without any distortion as well since the lens pivots or shifts on the nodal point of the lens. But the best aspect of this lens for landscape photography is that it would allow to maximize the sharpness and the depth of field in focus using the sweet spot aperture of your lens at f/8 instead of using f/16 or f/22 which bring all sorts of diffraction and deterioration of your images. Tilt-shift lenses use the same mechanical principals as the large format camera which are known for producing the top image sharpness. I do teach how to use tilt shift lenses in my workshops if people do want to learn about it. Canon produces the fabulous TS-E 17mm f/4L and TS-E 24mm f/3.5L , and the older models TS-E 45mm f/2.8, TS-E 90mm f/2.8. Nikon produces the recent PC-E 24mm f/3.5, PC-E 45mm f/2.8 and PC-E 85mm f/2.8.

I will discuss in more details some application of the above material at a later time.

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