Originally posted on Photofocus.com
With all of the money that photographers spend on their cameras, lenses and tripods, it can be easy to overlook some of the smaller accessories that may truly have a material impact on your actual shooting experiences. The photo accessories industry is teeming with all sorts of goodies & gadgets that range from pure utility to chic fashion.
Everything from camera straps to lens cloths to filter holders, there is a size and style to suit the taste of just about any photographer. And, for us landscape photographers, we’ve got another level altogether of hardware that we can add to our kits to help ensure a comfortable, clean and safe shooting experience So, I’d like to share the five most important accessories that I own and wholeheartedly recommend to all of you photographers who spend a lot of time photographing out in nature. Now, in some cases, I’ll be linking to the actual items supporting the brands that I use (Sony, Really Right Stuff, Formatt-Hitech), so you’ll want to make sure that those accessories are compatible with your gear before investing. And with that, let’s take a look at some toys. :)
The filter holder to end all filter holders
Neutral Density (ND), Soft-grad ND and Circular Polarizer filters are ridiculously important for my line of photography, especially living in the Pacific Northwest. I’m a firm believer in the good ol’ adage of “You get what you pay for,” which is why I am ok with spending the money on my Formatt-Hitech filters. The trick is to make sure that each filter, adapter ring, and holder are well protected and easily accessible. In the past, I’d have to fling my camera bag off to get access to my filters. However, that all changed when MindShift Gear released their Filter Hive. In addition to the copious amounts of space that the filter holder insert provides, it also has a really secure belt loop system that attaches to most camera belts that have waist belts.
My Filter Hive allows me to store my five adapter rings, filter holder, 105mm Circular Polarizer, three 4×4″ ND filters and two 4×6″ Grad ND filters without feeling like anything is being crammed in. In terms of filter holders, this is simply the best one that I’ve come across. For those of you who may have a smaller collection of filters but still want the same benefits and protection of this system, you can check out the little brother dubbed the Filter Nest.
Rugged Tripod Feet
I always say that my most important piece of photo hardware next to my actual camera is my tripod. I use my tripod for at least 85-90% of my photography and as far as my brand allegiance is concerned, I’m 100% with Really Right Stuff. I’ve been a loyal and dedicated owner of several sets of their sticks. All of their tripod come with exceptionally capable rubber feet that grip really well, however you may find yourself in a situation where you need some extra assurance that your tripod will find purchase on the surface. This is especially true with sand and on rocky terrain.
When I’m shooting at beach locations, especially at the shore with wet sand and waves that constantly move your tripod, anchoring each leg is critical. I’ve lost more than my share of photos to camera shake due to waves pulling my tripod as they go back out to sea. In these situations, I simply mount my foot spikes on, which aid in locking my tripod legs deep into the sand.
For those times when I’m out in the high desert or mountainy areas, my rock claw feet are vital. There is something really comforting about feeling your tripod legs just lock onto a rock face, knowing that it is not going anyway. I used the hell out of both of these rock claw feet and spikes on my recent trips to Tetons and Arches National Parks.
Cleanliness is next to godliness
I had previously written about the important role that these wonderful little lens wipes play when I’m out in the field. While microfiber cloths do a great job of wiping away larger pieces of dust and strands, they also have this gross tendency to smudge around any residual oils or films that may have made their way onto your lens or filter surfaces. This only leads to subpar and soft images, as well as potential focusing issues. To alleviate this, I’ve invested in a gigantic box of lens cleaning wipes made by the good folks at Zeiss. These optical grade wipes are pre-moistened with a solution that wipes away fingerprints and smudges without scratching your lenses and it dries exceptionally quickly without streaking (I sound like a Windex commercial). I usually toss 15-20 of these individual packets in my bag whenever I leave the house to go on a shoot.
Double your battery charging capacity
My Sony A7-series cameras are notorious for sucking batteries dry. It’s just a fact of life for me. It’s also why I travel with at least six spare batteries wherever I go. Usually, I’ll carve out a few hours in the middle of the day or overnight to get my batteries charging and ready for another day of abuse. The key, though, is to be as efficient with your time as possible and this is doubly true (see what I did there?) with battery charging, which can take a good amount of time. So, that’s why I invested in this Watson dual battery charger. While it is a bit pricey, I really like having a graphical representation of how much charge each battery currently has. Fortunately, there are plenty of more affordable models that seem to cover a broad range of battery types. Just do a basic Google search for ‘”dual battery charger for [battery model]” and you should be in business.
Always know where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going
When I was a Canon shooter, I relied very heavily on the dedicated hotshoe GPS radio that they made. It seamlessly added a whole bunch of relevant geodata info right into the EXIF of every image as they were taken. This data helps me visualize where I had been shooting, as well as let me see whether I was spending too much time in one area (something that I try to avoid doing). It also helps me scout other nearby areas for future shoots. So, when I moved to the Sony mirrorless system, I needed to find a solution that works well. Fortunately, I was referred to this app on iOS called GPS Tracks and it is simply wonderful. The first thing I do is ensure a time sync between my phone and my camera. This will be super important during the post processing phase. Next, I launch the app and press ‘Start.’ And that’s it!
GPS Tracks will consistently monitor my path, allowing me to set milestones or add photos for reference. When I’m done, I can save a GPX file right into Dropbox and import that file right into Lightroom. As long as you’ve synced up your phone’s time with your camera, all of your images should get geotagged in no time. I’m also happy to report that after four hours of consecutive use the other week, I only lost 9% of my total battery power. For the Android users out there, Google actually has an awesome geo tracking app called My Tracks, which offers very similar functionality. Now, you won’t need to guess or fumble through Google Maps to know exactly where your photos were taken.
So there you have it! I hope this list has helped you think about what sort of add-ons and accessories you need to maximize your own shooting experiences.
Do you know of a must-have accessory? Be sure to leave it in the comments for everyone to check out, too!