Being prepared is a big part of having success as a landscape photographer. That preparation can involve scouting locations, understanding the weather and lighting, and having the right gear with you. Of course, a camera, lens, and tripod are essential for landscape photography, but there are also several other accessories that you should always have in your camera bag in case you need them. In this article we’ll look at 13 different accessories that will prove to be extremely useful to you.
A polarizing filter will come in handy quite often for things like increasing contrast between clouds and the sky and reducing glare and reflections. Polarizers can also increase the saturation of colors in your photos. A circular polarizer will screw on to the end of your lens, and they can be purchased for lenses of all sizes. To learn in more detail how polarizers work, see this article at Cambridge in Colour.
Like most other photography gear, polarizers come in a variety of different prices and levels of quality. You can get a good quality option like a Tiffen or Hoya for under $60, and sometimes much less, or you can spend more for a higher-end option like B+W. There are some budget options available as well, but generally Hoya and Tiffen polarizers are a good buy.
2. Neutral Density Filter
Neutral density filters will reduce the amount of light coming in to the camera’s sensor. They come in two different varieties, the solid neutral density filter and the graduated neutral density filter. A graduated neutral density filter will block more light at one end than the other (like a gradient) and a solid neutral density filter will impact the entire photo. The solid neutral density filter is a necessary accessory when you want to use long exposures during the day. For example, you may want to use a long exposure to give a soft, blurred effect to flowing water.
Neutral density filters come in different strengths, with the thicker ones blocking more light. The 10 stop neutral density filter is a good option to have on hand when you want to use long exposures during daylight hours. You can also get other neutral density filters that will not be as strong, or even variable neutral density filters. Personally, I’ve had much better results with solid filters as opposed to the variable variety.
10 stop neutral density filters can get quite costly, but there are some affordable options. The B+W 10 stop ND will cost about $100 – $200 but it is a good quality without totally breaking the bank. The Big Stopper from Lee Filters is one of the most popular options and is currently priced at $140 at B&H. Some budget options are available, like the Ice 10 stop ND filter (I haven’t personally used an Ice filter but the reviews are pretty good for a cheaper filter).
3. Graduated Neutral Density Filters
Graduated Neutral Density Filters will come in very handy in situations where the scene has a broad dynamic range, which is very common with landscapes, especially around sunrise and sunset. The grad filter will allow more light in at one end and block more light at the other, which can help you to get a more even exposure. The effect of a graduated neutral density filter can be replicated in post processing, but with the filter you can get it right in the camera and not have to rely as much on post processing.
Grad filters come in a variety of different strengths and transitions (harder edge vs. softer edge). You can buy kits or sets of filters, like the ones from Cokin, that will cover all your bases.
4. Cable Release
When you are using a tripod a cable release will be very useful. The cable release allows you to shoot without touching the camera, eliminating even the smallest of movements that can impact the sharpness of your photos. Cable releases are also helpful for long exposures in bulb mode when you can lock the cable release rather than holding in a button on the camera to keep the shutter open.
Cable releases can be purchased from your camera’s manufacturer, or you can get one from another manufacturer that will be compatible with your camera.
5. Lens Wipes
Landscape photographers wind up exposure their gear to the elements, and this means that your lenses are bound to get dusty. Carry pre-moistened lens wipes, like these from Zeiss, make it easy to clean your lenses whenever needed.
6. Dust Blower
Simple dust blowers can help to keep your lenses and your camera’s sensor clean. Using dust blowers is one of the safest ways to clean your sensor.
7. Lens Pen
A lens pen is another inexpensive accessory that can help to keep your lenses clean. You can use the lens pen to clean spots and smudges on your lenses.
8. Spare Batteries
Spare batteries are a must. The last thing you want is to go to a lot of effort to get to the ideal location, to wait for the perfect lighting, and then have your battery die on you. Most landscape photographers are out in the field for long periods of time, taking hundreds or maybe thousands of photographers, so batteries get drained pretty quickly. Make sure you always have a few fully-charged spare batteries with you to avoid problems.
9. Rain Gear
There will be times when you’ll need to protect your camera in the rain. You can get rain sleeves or a cover, like this affordable option from Altura, that will allow you to keep your camera and lens dry while still photographing in the rain.
10. Flashlight or Headlamp
If you’re photographing at sunrise or sunset you will most likely be doing some hiking or walking in the dark, so a flashlight is essential. Flashlights can also help you to see your camera’s controls when you’re shooting at night. For those night landscapes you can also use a flashlight for light painting to emphasize something specific in the photo.
11. Extra Memory Cards
Memory cards can fill up pretty quickly, especially with the massive file sizes of today’s megapixel beasts, like the new Canon 5Ds & 5Ds R. You’ll always want to have some spare memory cards in your bag so you won’t run out of room.
12. Weatherproof Memory Card Case
Protecting your memory cards should also be a priority. Landscape photographers can use weatherproof holders/cases to keep memory cards safe and protect the images that are on those cards.
13. Allen Wrench
Most likely your tripod will need to be tightened with an Allen wrench. This is something you probably won’t think about until it loosens and becomes a problem, I know that is when I first started to carry an Allen wrench with me. It won’t take up much space in your camera bag but it will come in very handy when you’re in the field and the tripod needs to be tightened. Just make sure that you have the proper size to be used with your tripod.
What’s in Your Camera Bag?
If you have other suggestions please feel free to leave a comment.
I’m not sure about waterproof card case. I accidentally put an SD card through an entire wash cycle and it came out unharmed.
Thanks for your comment. That’s great that your card wasn’t ruined, but I wouldn’t count on that happening. A case is pretty inexpensive and can help to protect your valuable photos.
Well, a washing circle with all the detergent and movement, that is quite impressive. But a hardcase can do more than repell water. It’s shock-resistant. Also the Cards are held in tight so you don’t have them loose in your pocket. I careied them loose myself. Until I wanted to change one on a little hike through some steep-ish mountains. Now, there lies a class 10, 16gb SD… ever since I used a case. Wich came in handy just a few days ago while I hiked the french coastline. A wave got me good. And saltwater is quite harmfull to the pins of the cards. But due to the case and the cam, they stayed dry. The Body is fine as well, nust the lens took quite a hit there…
Notebook and pen to journal, comment or caption your photos. Clamps and sand bag for tripod stability. I go out in a canoe and use a dry box to keep everything dry until I use it. Microfiber cloths help
I have just about everything mentioned above, along with microfiber cloths, clamps, definitely my “photography journal” but one thing I have found comes in handy is Electrical tape! It can be used for so many things & now I have 2 rolls with me at all times. It has saved me in a few situations!
3 old CDs to add under the legs on soft ground do wonders for stability
I’m no professional but I think a doobie would be an essential accessory – post production of course.
I keep an old plastic grocery bag in my camera case at all times. It comes in handy for some make-shift weatherproofing in a pinch!
I always bring some water and snacks and a map of the area I am going to be in along with a compass and matches. Never hurts to be prepared!