Landscape Photos: The importance of using the right camera equipment.

For Landscape Photos You Need A Digital Camera with Full-Frame Sensor
First things first... The camera sensor is critical if you want to create big landscape photos. Full-frame is the key. If you buy a camera that has less than a full-frame sensor your lenses will produce sub-par performance. What do I mean by this?

When you use a wide angle lens it will focus the light to the area of a standard 35mm film. So, if you have a smaller digital sensor the light will be focused beyond the edges of the sensor so your 17mm wide angle lens will now become a 30mm lens (depending on how small the sensor is) and so forth. This means you will not be able to make that wide angle composition with one exposure. And, you will not be able to follow standards that may be required to calculate other parameters involved in landscape photography.

I use a Canon 5D Mark II which has a full-frame sensor with three interchangable lenses.

Professional Lenses
Camera lenses are a better long-term investment then your camera. So, bite the bullet and buy the right ones. I purchased Canon lenses when I bought my first camera (Canon 5D). If you buy good lenses and make sure they are protected they will outlast your digital camera.

Lenses do not improve in quality as quickly as digital cameras do. I have owned three cameras (my second camera was a Canon 1DS Mark II). Choosing the right lenses is critical because they may only work for one brand of cameras. This is one way the manufacturer ensures repeat customers.

Lens Filters
Landscape photography requires one or two types of filters. Everything else can be handled in photoshop. I sometimes use a circular polarizing filter and occasionally I use ND (neutral density) filters.

The effects of a polarizing filter cannot be achieved with photoshop. These filters remove reflections and glare from the surface of the water. They also increase the saturation of colors beneath water. They help to remove glare from leaves and other vegatation and can improve the color capture of the sky.

Polarizing filters can darken the color of a blue sky. But the darkest saturation will be at 90 degrees from the sun and from there the effect will gradually fade towards white as you get closer to the sun. The blue of the sky may be too dark when the filter is turned to its most intense position... avoid this! It will ruin your landscape photos.

Also, when making a collage panoramic with multiple captures that include the sky, it is advisable to avoid use or use with caution.

Landscape photographers use neutral density filters to reduce the amount of light that passes through the lens. The effect is most used to create motion blur, such as in moving water. So, when when adding a ND filter you may lengthen your shutter speed while keeping a desired aperature. The result? Keeping the shutter open will create motion blur if something is moving in the composition, like water.

A tripod is a "must have" in landscape photography. Most of the time I set my aperature at the highest aperture necessary to create infinite depth of field (typically between 12 and 22 or 32 or 64 if the lens allows it). This typically requires a tripod because the smaller aperature size (I mean the actual size of the hole letting light in to expose the sensor) will require a longer shutter time setting.

Even more, I shoot most of my photos at times when the world is not maximally bright: Sunset, sunrise, dawn, dusk, cloudy, etc. Less light requires greater exposure times. So, to keep the captured image crisp and clear with no motion blur you need a tripod.

When can you safely go without a tripod? It depends on some factors like length of lens and how steady you can hold your body and hands (or can you rest your body and camera against something?) I was in Cabo, Mexico at a beach resort playing around with my camera at the beach at dusk when I saw a metallic glow behind the clouds overhead. When I turned my polarizing filter the glow popped and the orange-yellow color screamed at me to photograp it. But oh no... No tripod!

I had left my tripod in our hotel room. It was after sunset and the polarizer filter will also lengthen exposure times. I sacrificed depth of field by setting the aperature to 8 (which made the shoreline going into the distance lose its sharpness) but I was able to create an amazing composition with a small wave crashing onto the shore in front of a reef.

I wouldn't have made the same photo with a tripod... because I would have naturally set the aperture to 22 for maximum depth of field. But, using a tripod really is the best way to capture landscape photos. I just got lucky... I held my breath and tried to be steady for 1 sec and it worked with some sharpening in photoshop.

So what shutter speed won't create motion blur if you are holding the camera in unsteady hands? it depends on the focal legnth of your lens.

With wide angle lens (below the standard of 50mm) you can easily hand-hold a camera with shutter speed set at 1/100 or faster. With practice, you may be able to do it at 1/60 or 1/20. For longer lenses try to select a shutter speed that is faster than the length. What I mean is... if you are using a 300mm lens select 1/350 as the shutter speed.

Really Right Stuff
I love the camera support products that Really Right Stuff offers. From quick release clamps to ball heads to camera L-plates, they really have accessory camera gear covered. I also use their panaramic components.

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