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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Learn Landscape Photography Series: Other Essential Gear


So now that you have your camera and lenses mostly set, you need something to hold it perfectly still for all those long exposures. The tripod is the quintessential landscape photographer's tool. Picture all the greats holding there massive 8x10's on solid wood tripods, now fast forward to today and the tripod is becoming less and less needed with high ISO's and crazy good image stabilization. If you want tack sharp though, and landscape photography demands tack sharp, a tripod is still a must.


TRIPODS
There are two options aluminum and carbon fiber. More and more carbon fiber is becoming the norm with better construction and pricing that is becoming easier to swallow. Considered to be the top of the line, Gitzo is a premier brand and also comes at a premier cost. Of course with tripods you can either pay more for one or you can pay even more for one per year or that's at least what they want you to think. There are other top notch brands like Induro, Slik, and Manfrotto that have all made quality carbon fiber tripods at more reasonable prices that will do just fine. Keep in mind two factors for whichever brand you decide on. The maximum extended leg height(not with a center column raised) should be close to your height and the maximum weight load should be rated for at least 10lbs(15 being better). 

Budget Tip: Although the Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 055 and Vanguard Alta Pro are heavier aluminum, they are also super stable and will take a beating all for less money. In fact I am still waiting for my Vanguard to die after some serious torture tests, yet it just keeps on working and working and working.

BALLHEAD
Along with the tripod you will need a decent ballhead. Most brands will have a match for the tripod you purchase and it should work pretty well. Look for magnesium alloy, a quick release mount and read reviews to make sure it will lock down and not move a bit.

BACKPACK
Now that you have all this gear, you need a way to carry it. A backpack is the way to go if you are making even a short hike into the wilderness and more and more you will have to hike in order to get away from the crowds. Lowepro, Thinktank, and f-stop all make very good packs, but up until more recently they screamed look I have a bag full of camera gear please take me. Not ideal! That's why I went with the DAKINE Sequence Pack not only does it hold a ton of gear, it also looks like a regular backpack(if your not carrying a the tripod). I can also throw on a snowboard or snowshoes and still access the camera gear through reverse entry. Love it!


COMPUTER
Once back from capturing these vast landscapes, it's time to download the photos. What I need a computer too? Ok ok you already have one and if you purchased it in the last few years it will work. I still have a cheapo HP laptop that I take with me on the road, but when I process my work it's on my iMac. And whether you love them or hate them, Apple makes computers that are amazing for processing photos and movies.

SOFTWARE
If Photoshop is the king. Then Adobe Lightroom 5 is the queen. For a lot of photographers LR with maybe a plugin is all you will really need. If you want complete control down to the finest detail though, Photoshop is unmatched. I will get into how to use both and which is the best choice later in the series. As for me I am using Photoshop CS6 with lightroom.

Budget Tip: Get Lightroom on sale and pair it with PS Elements for a dialed down version with a lot of similar functions. No it's not as powerful, but a lot cheaper and no subscription. One other note is Camera Raw that comes with Photoshop(not Elements) has the exact same processing functions as Lightroom.

Next in the series I will actually go into creating photos. Hooray!!!



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