Every photo genre has its arsenal of accessories. Portrait photographers choose light modifiers; macro photographers have extension tubes and sports photographers walk with monopods to support heavy telephoto lenses out in the field. Similarly, landscape photographers pack a few accessories to help them work with the natural environment, time of day and elements to maximize their time. Here are a few key accessories that you will want to leave in your camera bag.
1. Filters (Polariser, ND, GND, UV)
Filters are a great way to shape your available natural light and there are many different kinds. The most common ones used for landscape are the polarizer and the graduated neutral density filters.
Polarizer / Circular Polarizing filter (CPL)
Some landscape photographers never leave home without this accessory. The major pros of CPLs include the way they enhance your colors (think blue skies) and also cut glare/reflection. In contrast, there are situations when you will not want to use a polarizer.
Neutral Density (ND)
This filter is basically a darkened piece of resin/glass that reduces the amount of light that enters your lens. Furthermore, in a proper ND filter, the color of the light is not affected (neutral). It is most useful in bright conditions, where you want to use a longer/lower shutter speed or wider aperture. ND filters come in different increments, which vary the amount of light that you block.
Graduated Neutral Density (GND)
Also known as a split neutral-density filter, GNDs selectively transmit light. Therefore it is essentially an ND where only part of the filter is darker, which allows you to reduce the brightness in part of your image. As a result, it is particularly useful in a contrasty scene with a bright sky.
While these filters do little to affect your image, their main purpose is to protect the front element of the lens from dust and scratches. That being said, compromising on the quality of a UV filter may degrade the quality of your images. The best reason to add a UV filter would be for lenses that need a filter in place to complete its weather sealing.
2. Remote shutter/Intervalometer
So by now, you know that when capturing an image, minimizing vibrations goes a long way towards the eventual sharpness. It is one of the reasons that most cameras have a built-in delayed shutter function (usually 2 or 10 seconds). A remote shutter release gives you even more control over this functionality and comes in wireless/wired options. Some remote shutter releases (or cable releases) have basic or expanded options.
One of these options, available in advanced remote shutters, is interval timing. An interval timer (interval meter or intervalometer) gives you the option of automatically taking images at preset intervals for a defined period. Hence the intervals can be small (seconds) or long (hours). This feature allows you to capture light as it changes over a period of time and is more commonly known as time-lapse photography. Consequently, the lines between advanced remote shutter controls and intervalometers became blurred over the years, as each now has similar functions. Most of the recent ones are now easier to use as they are integrated into phone apps.
Some camera models come with built-in interval timers. If your camera already has this, you need an intervalometer only when the more advanced features are required. This includes setting the timer to wait more than 10 seconds before shooting or more time options before/between each image. Another good reason is if you want to tweak your settings between your images. When using the built-in function, the interval timer locks your camera for too long before you can make adjustments.
3. Rain protection
Even if you have a weather-sealed camera, large amounts of water can still damage it. As a landscape photographer, you have to be prepared for weather changes. Alternatively, it may be your choice to shoot in the rain or snow. If either is the case, you are better off playing it safe and protecting your camera body, lenses and any connected electronic accessories.
Protection can be a simple or expensive solution, which ranges from shower caps or plastic/garbage bags with holes cut out or a purchase option. Camera rain protection (ponchos, sleeves, jackets, raincoats) are all variations of customized plastic solutions, tailored for shooting easier in inclement weather. Therefore, they are usually heavy duty or thin enough to maintain access to your controls, but more durable than your everyday plastic bags.
Ponchos/Sleeves are thicker plastic capes that fit snugly over your camera and usually have a drawstring to securely cover the lens body. Jackets are made from a similar weatherproof material as raincoats, which are usually more breathable material. These have cinch straps for medium and larger sizes and slip on and off quite easily. Thus jackets and raincoats for your camera are more durable (and pricier) than ponchos and sleeves. Whichever solution works for you, most take up very little space and should own a place in your camera bag.
Considered an essential pack for night photographers, this small tool comes in handy when you least expect, so keep one in your bag. If you are a sunset chaser, a small reminder that night follows closely. A flashlight can be useful to do a quick sweep of the area to ensure you do not leave anything behind. Furthermore, if you are a night shooter, these come in handy to focus or light paint a subject in the dark.
Pro Tip: Choose a tough and lightweight flashlight and store it in an easy to reach outer pocket of your camera bag.
5. Tripod feet
Chances are you already know the importance of having a good tripod. In some conditions, such as mud, snow, uneven terrain or wet sand, adding tripod feet elevates your stability. Additionally, you can buy a one fit for all, although most of the top-rated tripods customize their tripod feet by terrain.
Some of the accessories you take with you can make the difference between a successful expedition and an average one. Choose what you pack wisely or customize it based on location. Either way, some accessories should just be part of your everyday bag, just in case.
Which accessories do you always have with you?