One of the great things about landscape photography is that it doesn't require a lot of gear; just grab your camera and a few lenses and you're (almost) ready to go. There are a few accessories, however, that I never leave home without. These accessories are essential to my landscape work, and are always in my gear kit.
Watch the video to learn more about my 5 Essential Landscape Photography Accessories.
Carbon fiber tripod
For landscape photography, you absolutely need a sturdy yet lightweight tripod to ensure maximum image sharpness and to keep your camera steady during long exposures, as you are often working with small apertures in the relatively low light of sunrise, sunset, and twilight. And, you want to make sure your camera doesn't move while you are doing exposure bracketing (for HDR exposure blending) or focus bracketing (for focus stacking). You don’t need a tripod that is unduly large, heavy, and burdensome, but it should be tall enough to go almost to eye level when the legs are fully extended. You may also want a smaller, lighter tripod for long hikes or extended backcountry trekking.
For landscape work, nothing beats a tripod made out of carbon fiber, which is considerably lighter than other tripod materials while offering comparable rigidity and stability. Carbon fiber is also a bit more expensive, but definitely worth it. A heavy tripod will just weigh you down while you are in the field, and when you get physically tired, you are less creative. Many landscape locations require difficult hiking to reach, and a carbon fiber tripod will help you lighten your load. Also, be sure to buy a tripod that will easily allow you to get down to ground level, as with landscape photography, you often need to get extremely low.
A low-level setup is useful for certain types of landscape images, so make sure your tripod has a ground-level option.
I've been sponsored for years by Fotopro, and they make some of the best tripods I have ever used. One of my personal favorites is their T-Roc MAX carbon fiber tripod, which provides an excellent balance between stability and portability. And most recently Fotopro sent me their X-Aircross 2 tripod (featured in the video), which weighs only 2 pounds. It has become my new go-to landscape tripod, unless I am photographing waterfalls or on the coast where I will be in moving water (which requires a heavier tripod).
Of course, their are many other excellent tripod brands out there, but if you are considering a Fotopro tripod, you can use discount code PLANTGEP15 and get 15% off if you buy here: https://stetindenphoto.com/collections/tripod
An L-bracket is a simple accessory that cradles your camera with an Arca-Swiss compatible connection on both the horizontal and vertical axis of the bracket, allowing you to easily flip your camera between horizontal and vertical orientation and to keep the camera above the center of gravity of the tripod, resulting in a more stable setup. Without an L-bracket, to switch to vertical, you need to flop your ballhead over to the side, which not only reduces stability, it can also make getting your camera into position extremely challenging. Shop for L-brackets here.
L-brackets aren’t universal, but rather are tailor-made to fit specific camera models; make sure to get the correct bracket for your camera and that will allow you to access all of your camera's buttons, ports, etc.
Remote shutter release
Triggering the shutter button of you camera by hand creates vibrations that can reduce image quality. The best way to prevent this and to ensure maximum image sharpness is to use a remote electronic shutter release (also called remote switches or triggers). If you don’t have a remote or your remote breaks, you can use your camera’s two-second timer to trigger the shutter by hand. The two second delay will be sufficient for any vibrations to die down, but this won’t do you much good if you are working with dynamic scenes where timing is critical, so always having a remote switch in your landscape kit is a great idea. You can easily find a variety of wired and wireless remotes made by camera manufacturers and third park brands as well. Shop for remotes here.
A remote shutter switch is essential when working scenes where timing is critical, such as when trying to capture waves crashing on the coast.
These filters are designed to remove glare and reflections. As the filter is spun, the angle of polarization changes, causing reflections to disappear. Polarizers are primarily used for waterfall and stream scenes, enhancing color and contrast by removing glare from wet rocks and water. Note that polarizer filters typically reduce the amount of light coming into your camera by between one and two stops, which means you might have to adjust your ISO, shutter speed, or aperture as necessary to compensate for the loss of light. Shop for polarizer filters here.
Okay, you might be inclined to not take this one seriously, but hear me out: my smart phone has become a critical landscape photography accessory. You can pack your phone with useful apps like GPS (for safe and efficient navigation to and from landscape compositions), weather forecasts (to maximize your chances of getting great sunrise and sunset skies), and photo planning (using apps like PhotoPills or The Photographer's Ephemeris to plan where to be for sunrise, sunset, or night sky photos).
For me, the most beneficial use of my phone is for composition scouting. Most mobile phone cameras these days have the option of going from extreme wide-angle to short telephoto, which are the most used focal lengths for landscape photography. I use the camera on my phone constantly while in the field, as it allows me to easily scout compositions and to find the optimal position and focal length for a shot without having to take my gear out of my camera bag. That way, I can quickly decide if a scene is worth shooting, or whether it makes sense to move on to something else. Once I find a composition that I like, I can rapidly try different variations of focal length and position, and when I have everything worked out, I can get set up. Once you start using your phone's camera in the field, you'll quickly find that you can't live without it, so make sure you are fully charged before heading out for a photo shoot!
About the author
Whether hanging over the rim of an active volcano, braving the elements to photograph critically-endangered species, or trekking deep into the wilderness to places most people will never see, world-renowned professional photographer Ian Plant travels the globe seeking out amazing places and subjects in his never-ending quest to capture the beauty of our world with his camera. Known for his inspiring images and single-minded dedication to creating the perfect photo, Ian has reached hundreds of thousands of people around the world in his mission to inspire and educate others in the art of photography. Ian is a frequent contributor to many leading photo magazines, the author of numerous books and instructional videos, and founder of Photo Masters.