Essential Equipment for Landscape Photography

I often hear people say “It’s not about the gear but the photographer behind it”. While this statement is true in many ways, there is no secret that professional photographers rely heavily on certain gear. Some techniques aren’t possible without the correct equipment, at least not if you want to maintain high quality. In this article I will share with you what I consider essential equipment for landscape photography.

Before we get started I want to briefly get back to the subject “It’s not about the gear but the photographer behind it”. As I mentioned, I do believe this statement is partially true as you will not become a successful photographer (or a especially talented one) without knowing the fundamentals of photography. You create art which is created through hard work and dedication, that also often require expensive equipment. I do believe that you can take good pictures without expensive gear, don’t misunderstand me, but it does limit your possibilities quite a lot. Just like a painter could create stunning art with only two colours, a photographer could take good pictures with just a camera, yet your creative options are limited. As that is said, let’s look into what I consider as essential gear.

Camera and Lenses for Landscape Photography

Obviously, it’s hard to be a photographer without having a camera, so I will keep this brief. Which cameras and lenses are best for landscape photography is a big subject and something we will come back to in a later article.

Beginner photographers should avoid buying the most expensive cameras and lenses. You do not need them! The most important thing as a beginner is to learn how the camera functions and how you can get the most out of it. Learn the settings. Learn the fundamentals. You’ll know when it is time to upgrade. Beginning with the most advanced gear will only work as a disadvantage.

Normally, the differences between cheap and expensive cameras won’t be especially visible for basic landscape photography. The differences starts showing during more advanced or specific tasks such as photographing with a high ISO or when producing larger prints.

In fact, I would recommend spending extra money on quality lenses as the expected lifetime of a lens is much longer than a camera and can follow from camera to camera.

Recommendations: 

Full frame: Nikon D810 / Nikon 16-35mm f4 / Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8

Entry level: Nikon D3300 + Kit Lens / Nikkor 70-300mm f4.5-5.6

Buy a Solid Tripod

My number one advice when someone ask me what equipment I recommend buying early on, is a tripod. Personally I use a tripod for 99% of my landscape photography and honestly I feel naked without my tripod when out in the field.

Photographing in a river with a sturdy tripod
Photographing in a river with a sturdy tripod

When I first started photography I made the mistake of not investing in a sturdy tripod right away. Instead I bought a low end tripod from the local electronic shop and thought no more about it. Until three weeks later, when it broke. Cheap tripods are simply not ment to use for nature or outdoors photography, especially if you’re spending time in harsh conditions. The legs of low-end tripods are not solid and break easily. Also, cheap tripods are much harder to keep steady if there is a little wind, or waves if you’re photographing seascapes.

If you’re still unsure if you should invest in a medium to high-end tripod my summary is rather simple: If you want to achieve high quality images and want the possibility to us a longer shutter speed while still having a sharp image, get a good tripod.

Recommendations: 

Entry level: Manfrotto MT190GOA4TD
High end: Induro CLT304L / Gitzo Series 3 GT3532LS

Filters to Improve Your Photography

The next equipment landscape photographers value are filters. While you don’t need a filter for every single shot you take, many images can benefit from them.

Recommended Reading: Ultimate Guide to Long Exposure Photography

Have you ever wondered if the silky and white water from a waterfall is real? It is. The photographer most likely used filters. More specific Neutral Density filters. These filters allows you to use a longer shutter speed than you normally would as it is a dark glass you insert in front of your lens.

With and Without Graduated ND Filter
With and Without Graduated ND Filter

Graduated ND Filters are also very popular among photographers. This filter darkens only parts of your image, typically the sky. Using a Graduated ND Filter you no longer have to worry about a blown out sky or under exposed foreground.

The last filter photographers often use, is a Polariser filter. To explain it with few words this filter increases the contrast and removes unwanted shine from water or other elements.

Recommendations:

NiSi Filter System V5 Kit / 3 Stop ND / 6 Stop ND / 10 Stop ND / Reverse GND / GND / B+W Circular Polarizer

Use a Remote Shutter

I mentioned that using a tripod will help you to get sharp images. A remote shutter, however, is what will take you’re image from “pretty sharp” to “out-of-this-world-sharp”. Hey, we all need a little exaggeration in our life.

It’s not a joke though. With a remote shutter you don’t need to touch the camera to take a picture. This removes another factor of motion/friction and your camera now stands completely still when you take the image.

Recommendations: 

As these heavily rely on your camera I don’t want to point out one singular product. Instead you can see here if you find one that suits your need.

Don’t Forget to Clean Your Equipment!

My last advice is perhaps the most important: buy cleaning materials for your equipment. This will help protect your camera, keep your images of good quality and save you a lot of time in post production.

Essential equipment for landscape photography - cleaning
Dust Spots revealed due to not cleaning camera equipment

I recommend buying a Air Blower, Microfiber cloth, Lens pen and a cleaning liquid. You can also purchase lens cleaning wipes to carry with you when you go out in the field. Having something to clean your lens with nearby could be extremely beneficial in many situations, you would be surprised!

Recommendations: 

Air Blower / Microfiber Cloth / Pre-moisturised Wipes / Lens Pen / Cleaning Liquid

My Recommendations

Deciding which brands and products to purchase can be a challenging process, so I have included links to the equipment I use (or have used) and have good experiences with.

What do you consider to be your most essential equipment for landscape photography? Do you have any specific brands you’re extra satisfied with? If you have any further questions go ahead and leave a comment below, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!