By Mel Sinclair (One Stop Photo Workshops tutor for Brisbane)
Years ago when I started out, I thought I had everything I needed. A camera, a lens, a computer. I was set, ready and rearing to go like a drag racer at the starting line! Little did I know that there’s so much more to it than that. Safety while out and about, for yourself and your expensive camera gear, is paramount. So with that in mind, here are a few things that every landscape photographer, whether amateur or professional, should have.
While some of these may seem like common-sense, I’ve come to learn a thing or two about this and the fact that it’s not too common any more! All of us at One Stop Photo Workshops want to make sure you’re safe on location, whether you’re shooting with us or alone, so these items should be a staple in your kit.
Not just any torch, but the kind that’s mounted to your head. Why? Because this is the hands-free version. Imagine you’re in a new location, somewhere you’ve never been. You’ll have no idea of what’s on the ground – tree stumps, electric fences, slippery rocks, cliffs… you need to be able to see where you’re going and what you’re doing. A standard torch won’t cut it, you’ll need your hands free for navigation and negotiating anything that comes your way.
2. Appropriate footwear
Hiking boots, gumboots, work boots, joggers. I highly recommend some kind of closed-toe footwear for landscape shooting. Once again, you don’t know what’s in the grass or in the water. The last thing you want is to be bitten by something and be out of mobile range.
3. First-aid kit
Whether it’s in your car or in your bag, always be prepared. A simple first-aid kit can be bought from most large supermarkets and specialty shops. There’s no excuse not to have one. You should add to this with your chosen painkiller and antihistamine.
4. A reliable mobile phone
Don’t take this for granted. I left a cheaper carrier to side with Telstra, the nominated national-carrier. The advantage of this is coverage in remote and regional places. Sure the plans can be a bit more expensive, but the money is nothing compared to the ability to be able to check maps on the run, calculate exposure times with an app, or call for emergency help should it be needed. Also being contactable by loved ones stops the anxiety of where you are and what you’re doing.
I forecast strange looks at this one. Doesn’t matter what size, any of those cheap coarse-bristle ones will do. What’s it for? Dust removal. Your rocketblower might be too bulky for daytrips and you may only have one microfiber cloth for cleaning your filters and optics. Dust storm, sandstorm, unexpected pollutants in the air or dropping onto your gear. To quickly clean away dry substances and continue shooting (remember, one speck of sand can kill your dSLR), grab your brush, make sure its dry, and flick off any offending particles. DO NOT however, apply this to your camera’s mirror or sensor in the field. This is for external use on cameras and lenses only.
6. Plastic bags
They’re everywhere, they come with nearly every purchase. Store one or two in your bag for emergency situations. Scrunch them up small and stash them in spare pockets or as protection for accessories. Protect your smartphone, keys, even your camera for an unexpected rain shower, dust storm, soft-drink spillage… the uses are unlimited. If you can’t afford a raincover, go to Ikea and buy the boxes of large 4.5 and 6L dual ziplocks. They should be enough to make impromptu covers. Wet shoes after shooting by the sea? Hello bag!
7. Gaffa / electrical tape
So many uses the mind boggles! Seals breaking and need to cover a port? Broken filter holder? Broken shoe? Want to secure your remote to the tripod? Keep a small roll of electrical tape in your bag for all those times you need to tether something to something else. I once lost the battery cover to my remote shutter release and the batteries wouldn’t stay in place…until I taped them in. The remote stayed like that until its death a few months ago, and it lasted years.
So it may seem like I’m a bit of a walking hardware shop at times, but you really can’t afford to have unexpected and unfortunate happenings ruin a shoot. Inexpensive and small, think about all the little things that can make your experiences all the better :)