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Essential Equipment for Landscape Photographers

I can’t even remember the number of times that I have arrived on location for a shoot and realized that I forgot something vital, like the memory card or battery for example (and yes, this happened more than I care to admit). Without further ado, here are the things that I always make sure to keep inside my camera bag at all times. Spoiler alert: you need a camera bag.

Camera and Lens

First of all, you’ll need a camera and a lens. The camera isn’t a big deal. The most important part is the lens. For the best results and more composition opportunities, use a wide angle lens. With wide angle lenses, there’s a chance for vignetting and slight distortion on the corners. I prefer using prime lenses because they offer more creative potential. especially for achieving the highly sought-after Bokeh effect. However, having zoom ability offers more flexibility, which can always be helpful.

My Recommendation: AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 ED

This lens is one that I have wanted for a long time, but its near-$2000 price tag has made it hard to justify. If the price tag makes your wallet a bit nauseous, Sigma does make a similar 15-30mm f/3.5-4.5 wide angle zoom lens for about $700 on Amazon. For other lens options, I would highly recommend fast prime lenses like the Nikon 50mm or Canon 50mm equivalent.

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Filters

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Filters are an incredibly useful tool. UV filters are great for shooting in bright daylight, graduated filters can create great color effects in the sky, neutral density filters hlep with shooting running water and waterfalls by regulating the amount of light that gets into the lens. There are so many filters that I can’t possibly include them all in this article. You also have to keep in mind that not all lenses have the same sized front element and not all lenses can hold a filter.

There are two main types of filters; screw-on lens filters and filter holders. The screw on filters are small circular filters that you physically screw onto the front of the lens. Filter holders work  in a similar fashion in that they screw onto the front of the lens but they simply hold the filters, but the filters are interchangeable. I highly recommend the filter holder instead of the made-to-size filters because if your lens can’t fit the filter, you can always hold the filter by hand and achieve a decent effect.

My Recommendaion: Neewer Versatile Square Filter Holder System

Neewer is my go-to budget equipment supplier. Their products are significantly cheaper than name brand products and, while you do sacrifice a little quality, their products are not in any way poorly made. I recommend Neewer for any non-essential accessory needs such as filter kits, battery grips, etc. Speaking of filter kits, this particular filter kit allows you to use up to 3 filters at the same time with 360 degree rotation. You have the buy the filters separately but it’s a worthwhile investment to get higher quality filters. The Neewer filter holder can be found on Amazon.com.

Sturdy Tripod

A tripod is a necessity for most photographers but it’s especially useful for landscape photographers because you’ll often find yourself shooting at longer shutter speeds to achieve certain effects such as smooth waterfall lines, time lapses, self portraits, etc. The sturdier your tripod, the better because it will be able resist swaying in the wind and stay standing on more precarious locations such as the side of a steep mountain. However, as landscape photographers, we’re often traveling on foot to remote locations so having a large, heavy tripod might not be the best option. You’ll want to find a tripod that is both light, compact, and has thick, sturdy legs.

My Recommendation: Manfrotto BeFree Lightweight Travel Tripod with Ball Head

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The Manfrotto BeFree tripod is a great tripod with a very compact folding design that makes it easy to store or clip onto the side of your camera bag. Manfrotto’s products are of incredible quality. If you’re looking for something a bit more versatile with the ability to swap tripod heads, look at Manfrotto’s 055 Carbon Fibre 4-section tripod. While the 055 is quite a bit pricier than the BeFree, it’s much lighter and stronger, as well as giving you the ability to choose what kind of tripod head to run. For a more cost-effective option, look at the Neewer’s Lightweight Carbon Fiber tripod with 360 degree ball head and detachable monopod. At approximately $110, it offers great bang-for-your-buck but will most likely not last as long as the Manfrotto tripods.

Camera Bag

You’ll need to take your camera equipment with you when you travel and having a pelican case for each lens and camera body, while safe, will not be practical (not to mention the carry-on fees when you fly). Having a good camera bag that has room for your camera, lenses, straps for carrying your tripod, space for filters, microfibers, extra memory cards, and whatever else you might want to bring with you will make life much easier.

 My Recommendation: Lowerpro Fastpack 350

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The Lowerpro Fastpack 350 is the largest of the fastpack series of backpacks and has ample space for your DSLR, lenses, as well as regular backpack space for your extra goods. It’s design allows you to easily and quickly access your camera gear. It’s relatively cheap and is extremely high quality. While Amazon Basics does offer a few camera bags that can hold plenty of equipment, they tend to warp and wear out easy and they don’t give you space to carry other things besides camera gear. Skipping the cheap camera bags and getting a large, high quality bag early on will save you the trouble of having to get another bag when you begin to expand your camera equipment.

Shutter Remote

A shutter remote is a very cheap investment that every photographer, not only landscape photographers, should invest in. It allows you to take photos without ever touching your camera, therefore reducing any camera shake and making your photos as clear as possible.

My Recommendation: Amazon Basics Wireless Remote

This shutter remote is small and easy to use. All you have to do is set your camera to remote mode and point the remote at your camera. It is affordable and comes with a protective pouch. The only downside to its small size is the fact that it’s really easy to lose (which I’ve done more than once). More versatile shutter releases will have time-lapse features as well as shutter hold features but will cost a bit more. however, you shouldn’t have to spend more than $40 on something like this.

Miscellaneous

Additional equipment you might want to have include:

  • Microfiber cloth for cleaning your lenses when shooting in poor weather
  • Rain cover for those wet, rainy shots
  • Vertical camera grip and backup battery
  • Camera holster, preferably a backpack attachment so you can easily store the camera out of the way of the rest of your gear
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Food for Inspiration

As an amateur travel and landscape photographer, I’m always looking for inspiration for my next shot or location. since I started taking photos, there have been many people who have steered me towards the path I am on now and I am sure that there will be many more people who inspire me along the way. As of right now, there are the people that I admire the most and their Instagram handles, in no particular order. I should also make it clear that none of the photos in this post are my own and they belong to the stated owners.

Elia Locardi (@elialocardi)

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Elia Locardi is someone I found out about when I was browsing the web for photography tutorials and came across the first installment of his Photographing The World collaboration with FStoppers. In his tutorial, he was extremely knowledgeable and showed every step of his workflow and process. Photographing The World is available through the FStoppers website and includes 12+ hours of instructional content in many different countries including Iceland, New Zealand, and much more (I’m starting to sound like an advertisement right?). For about $300, this tutorial is a bit pricey but it’s well worth it just from the first episode (available for free on the FStoppers Youtube channel).

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The thing that I admire the most about Elia Locardi is that he has devoted every second of his life to travel photography, and I mean that in a very literal sense. By this, I mean he is 100% location independent (basically homeless) and lives out of hotel rooms and travels full time, making money from photography tours, speaking at events, and collaborations with esteemed photography communities and entities such as FStoppers. He exemplifies the very lifestyle that I hope to live in the future. For some more of his work and his upcoming events and photo tours, check out his website: Blamethemonkey.com

Jacob Moon (@moonmountainman)

As an avid hiker, I’ve admired Jacob Moon’s work for a while. What I love about Jacob’s work is that he captures natural beauty incredibly well, but I mostly admire his portraits of lone adventurers conquering incredible landscapes, showing harmony between man and nature.

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As a somewhat amateur mountaineer, I often find myself trying to emulate Jacob Moon’s portrait compositions and show man admiring the unaltered beauty of nature. While I haven’t spent much time climbing and mountaineering, I always try to take a self portrait like the one above at each location I go to photograph.

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Peter Lik (@Peterlik)

A few months ago, when I was visiting Las Vegas, I was strolling around the shops in Caesar’s Palace and happened upon on of Peter Lik’s galleries. In it, I was bombarded by beautiful panoramas of the milky way, antelope canyon, and many more visually stunning images. While Peter Lik’s photographs are incredible, I must admit that his photography isn’t what I admire most about him.

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The thing that I admire the most about him is the way he approaches his photography business. While some may consider his work and the way he goes about selling his work a “scheme”, I see it simply as clever marketing. See, Peter Lik prints a limited number of each of his images. The first images sell for around $4000 each and as the supply dwindles, the prices go up. The thing that causes the most controversy is the fact that he prices his work as “fine art” and sells it accordingly, most in the art world would say that his photos have no artistic merit. One of the things that I admire most is the fact that he has streamlined his printmaking process down from a month to just a few days, about a week, turning his print selling business to what is essentially a small corporation selling beautiful landscape photos. To date, he is the highest grossing photographer (grossing about $400 million) of all time and currently holds the world record for the highest price paid for a photograph ($6 million for a one-off print of “Phantom”).

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Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll be inspired to go follow some more photographers and draw cues from their work to improve yours, because I know I will.

Cold Nights With a Camera

I love taking photos of the stars. As a landscape photographer, I love places that don’t have a lot of people. With that being said, there’s not many places these days that people haven’t discovered and aren’t swarming to visit. The best solution for a lack of solitude is to go, not to places, but at times when nobody is around. The best time for this is at  night.

The image below is a self portrait I decided to take after I had spent over an hour and a half taking photos for a star trail image. By the time I was gearing up to take this photo, I was so cold I had lost feeling in my fingers and toes.

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The reason I’m bringing this up is because when I was standing there, clicking the shutter button over and over, I had an unbelievable view of the stars. It felt surreal. I mean, I’ve seen some incredible night skies before when I was somewhere in the Nevada desert driving from Boulder to San Diego but I never get tired of it. If you haven’t seen a clear night sky filled with stars, I highly suggest it. It’s mesmerizing. I’ve spent countless hours trying to capture on my camera and post-process accurate depictions of what it’s like to stare up at a sky like this, and I have failed every time. The fact of the matter is, I will always fail and any photographer before and after me has and always will fail. There’s just nothing like the real thing. For now, I’ll just sit indoors and count down the days to warmer weather so I can go shoot the night sky again.

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Welcome to Aperture Focus

Welcome to Aperture Focus! This is a website and photography blog dedicated to landscape and travel photography. Simple as that! With that being said, here’s a little about me.

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My name is Lei Yang. I have been taking photos as a hobby for about 6 years now, but I began to take it seriously about 2 years ago. Since then, I have taken my trusty Nikon DSLR along with me to many places including France, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Florida, Nevada, and of course, my home state of colorful Colorado. On this site, I will be posting anything from photography tips to travel destinations to equipment reviews, and a whole lot more. Take a moment to click the follow button to receive updates about new posts!

Here is a small sample of my work:

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