While my camera and lenses are my most important pieces of gear, other items are almost as essential. In this post, I share my four favorite landscape photography accessories and why I use them, including fishing waders, a handheld GPS, a portable diffuser, and my remote shutter release. Each example photo would not have been possible or much more difficult to create without these pieces of gear.
Fishing Waders or Water Shoes
I always enjoy photographing water, often getting quite close to my subject. But unlike some photographers who are willing to get in water with normal shoes, I personally can’t handle the cold. I spend more time thinking about being in pain from the chilled water than focusing on my photography. A great solution to this problem: fishing waders or water shoes plus neoprene socks.
For many photography situations, I wear a pair of full-length fishing waders with built-in neoprene booties plus Crocs-brand fishing shoes. This set-up is pretty light weight, so I can stash the waders inside my pack and attach the shoes to the outside of my pack when hiking. For situations where I might need more ankle support, I switch out the Crocs shoes in favor of sturdier fishing wader boots. While I wear full waders for warmth, they can be a bit too much. For ankle deep water, neoprene socks and water shoes are often sufficient with the benefit of being less cumbersome. With this gear, I am not going to win any photographer fashion contests but I am able to comfortably get into a stream or gentle waves without worrying about getting cold or wet. For the photo above, my waders allowed me to comfortably stand in the water for more than an hour without ever getting cold.
An important note: if you decide to give waders a try, always be smart about how you use them and place your safety as the top priority (some very basic tips: stay out of any fast-moving or deep water and anything but gentle waves; use the safety devices that come with waders, like a wading belt to keep the waders from filling with water in the event of a fall; and always use an abundance of caution since stream beds and rocks can be very slippery).
A handheld GPS is typically thought of as a handy tool for hiking and navigation. One can also be a very useful tool for a nature photographer. In fact, my handheld GPS is my favorite tool for scouting photography locations. With my GPS, I am able to save locations that might be good for photography so that I can return to a specific spot on a return visit.
Take the example of the photo above. This small patch of mud tiles is in a massive expanse of sand dunes. Because the dunes are small and mostly featureless, returning to a specific spot without a navigational aid is quite difficult. In this case, I scouted during the day, saved the location of this spot on my GPS, and then returned at sunset to take this photo. I follow a similar practice in most of the places I visit, using the GPS to create a catalog of spots for future reference.
While photographing grand landscapes is dependent on a lot of factors outside of your control, a simple portable, folding diffuser can make it possible to photograph smaller scenes in almost any conditions. Thus, I carry a 5-in-1 diffuser/reflector set in my camera bag. This light-weight accessory makes it possible to create shade over my photography subjects during any time of day. I am able to eliminate harsh contrast in favor of soft light in an instant.
Take the photo of the spiral aloe above. I have wanted to photograph this fascinating plant species for years and we finally visited a garden that had a few specimens. The only specimen close enough to photograph happened to be located in a spot that received direct sun almost all day – not the conditions I had in mind for the photo I wanted to create. With my portable diffuser, it was easy to create soft, even lighting over just the plant.
Remote Shutter Release
Since cameras have built-in timers, some photographers go without a remote shutter release. Even with the built-in timer, I find that bringing along a remote release is essential for my photography. (At least for my camera, a remote release with a cord is more reliable and easier to use than the cordless, battery operated remote releases that are also available.)
So why carry an additional piece of gear when your camera timer will work? One simple word: timing. With my camera’s two-second or ten-second timer, I click the shutter and then have to wait for the camera to take the photo. While this works well in some circumstances, it can mean missing the decisive moment in others situations.
Over the last few weeks, I have been photographing fall colors, which inevitably seem to be accompanied by windy conditions. In order to capture sharp leaves during longer exposures, it can be important to time my shutter release for lulls in the wind. With a remote release, I can click the shutter instantly without having to wait for the delay with the built-in camera timer. Timing can also be really important when photographing other moving subjects, like waves (as seen in the photo at the top of this post). And, beyond timing, using a remote release can help increase the sharpness of your files since keeping your hands off your camera can reduce vibration.
Beyond your camera and lenses, what are your favorite landscape photography accessories that you use to help create your photos? We welcome any additions to this list in the comments below.