Daniel Groves

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Gear for a Landscape and Adventure Photographer

Published: 13 February 2016 · Tags: technology, camera, gear

A look at the photographic equipment I'm currently using for landscape and adventure photography.

Something that seems to go hand in hand with photography is a large pile of equipment. For those of us who place ourselves within the adventure photography bracket it extends far beyond camera gear as I’ve previously demonstrated. This post will only focus on photographic equipment.

What I’m going to look at here is everything from the basics of what camera body I’m currently using and what lenses I’m working with all the way through to what filters I’m putting in front of the lens, and in what situations I might do so. This is an interesting time for my current gear selection as I’ve recently switched camera systems due to the conditions in which I primarily work; remote places which require a long walk-in or mountain bike ride to access them.

For those who are not interested in why I’ve chosen the gear I have, you can skip down to the big list near the bottom of this article.

Body and Lenses

The camera body I’m currently shooting with is the Fuji X-T1. It’s still early days with it as I’ve only had it for a about a month, but I’m loving it so far as I explained when I published my initial thoughts on it. The main motivations for this body was the small size and weight while it retains the performance of my previous camera, a Nikon D7100. Much of this was motivated by plans for a bigger expedition similar to my previous John O’ Groats to Lands End trip a few years back.

I’m currently shooting with two lenses, which cover the vast majority of my needs. First up is the Fuji 18-55 ƒ/2.8-4 XF Zoom. This is a kit lens option with the X-T1 camera body, and is incredibly sharp lens which is a pure joy to use. The build quality is far beyond anything I’ve seen in a kit lens before — it really does put the offerings from the likes of Nikon and Canon to shame.

The second lens is the opposite extreme to the electronics filled Fuji lens. It’s a manual Samyang 12mm ƒ/2; this lens has mechanical aperture control and mechanical focus. There are no electronics at all: you actually need to tell the camera body the shoot without a lens for it to work with the Samyang. There are plenty of options out there which do allow for automatic aperture and focus on the market, but they were simply out of budget during this switch. This lens is an absolute steal at £2501.

 alt: Samyang 12mm ƒ/2. This picture really shows how well the X-T1 and 18-55 lens work together.
Samyang 12mm ƒ/2. This picture really shows how well the X-T1 and 18-55 lens work together.

With these two lenses I’ve got the main range I require covered. The mid-zoom is perfect for action and adventure photography when I can’t get up-close, and the ultra-wide covers most of my landscape needs. I’d like to add a 10mm and 14mm primes to my collection collection in the future.

Filters

I’ve spent a number of years using the Cokin P-Grade filter system. This has seen little use over the last year as the field-of-view on my old Sigma 10-20 ƒ/3.5 was simply too wide, and clipped every filter holder I could find. Since switching to the Fuji system I can easily mount two or three filter in front of even my widest lens without an issue.

I work with a range of neutral density filters to equalise light and to extend exposure times. The darkest of these is a ten-stop neutral density filter, while the lightest is just two stops. These filters are what allows me to shoot he style of images I love, from the two or three minute exposure that have resulted in images like St. Micheals Chapel over on Rame Head through to the much shorter exposures that have resulted in images like the Plymouth Hoe landscape I recently shot. I’e even gone to the extent of shooting with two ND1000 filters stacked on top of each other, resulting the 15-minute exposure of Loch Etive in Scotland.

 alt: Plymouth Hoe at dusk. Shot with Samyang 12mm ƒ/2 on a Fuji XT-1 using a Cokin P.154 and a P.121M.
 alt: Glen Etive  alt: St. Micheals Chapel
Top: Plymouth Hoe at dusk. Shot with Samyang 12mm ƒ/2 on a Fuji XT-1 using a Cokin P.154 and a P.121M.
Bottom Left: Glen Etive, Scotland. Shot using two ND1000 filters on a Sigma 10-20 ƒ/3.5 on a Nikon D7100 body.
Bottom Right: St. Micheals Chapel, Rame Head, Cornwall. Shot using a single ND1000 filter on a Sigma 10-20 ƒ/3.5 on a Nikon D7100 body.

Being able to mount a square filter adapter again now means I’m doing less HDR blending to get the same result. These adapters allow me to stack filters on top of each other to balance the light, bringing it all into the dynamic range of my camera. This is achieved by using graduated filters2 which are darker at the top than at the bottom. By lining the darker area up with the brighter area of the sky you can decrease it’s brightness to make it closer to that of the foreground. This allows you to use a longer exposure without clipping the highlights3 and loosing any details.

I previously mentioned that I use a range of solid neutral density (ND) filters, but I generally pair them with one or more graduated ND (GND) filters as well. I have a much smaller range of these, with a few soft GND filters and a few hard GND filters.

 alt: Cokin filter system in use with the Samyang 12mm ƒ/2 and Fuji XT-1.
Cokin filter system in use with the Samyang 12mm ƒ/2 and Fuji XT-1.

One thing I do need to add to my collection is a polariser filter for each lens as this will allow me to cut the reflections on water caused by strong summer sun, or cut through gentler reflections in order to see through the water. These will be essential when photographing landscapes under the strong mediterranean sun next summer.

Flashes

I do very little flash lit photography, but they’re useful to have and I do have a selection of shots I’d like to do with some in the future. I currently have two flashes; the Fuji EF-X8 and a cheap own-brand Jessops one.

I bought the Jessops one simply because it was the cheapest Nikon compatible unit which could be used as a wireless slave if I wanted to. This isn’t compatible when mounted directly on my Fuji body, however I can still use it by configuring the Fuji flash to act as a commander4 I can trigger it as a wireless flash. Keep an eye on my twitter account for the results of doing this as I’m currently planning a few shoots over the next few months.

 alt: The tiny Fuji EF-X8 flash next to the Fuji 18-55 ƒ/2.8-4 XF Zoom lens.
The tiny Fuji EF-X8 flash next to the Fuji 18-55 ƒ/2.8-4 XF Zoom lens.

Tripod

I’ve got a couple of Tripods. Mostly recently I purchased an Induro CLT103 with a Induro BHL1S ballhead. This thing weighs next to nothing for a tripod of its size, provides plenty of working height and is really solid. If the wind is high I can hang my bag off the bottom to increase the weight for more stability or fit spiked feet for steep, soft or slippery ground.

I also use a Slik Pro 340DX tripod, which is my oldest tripod. It’s pretty worn these days, but it makes an ideal secondary tripod for another camera. I don’t often carry it now, but do tend to leave it in the boot of the car incase I manage to forget the Induro, or have some other problem.

Accessories

I use a third-party Hama remote shutter release with my X-T1. It’s designed for Canon cameras, but the software inside the Fuji body is smart enough to recognise it, despite it needing to be plugged in via the microphone port. I actually prefer the interface with these, as the Fuji ones plug in via micro usb which can be fiddly, especially with gloves on.

I make heavy use of a Peak Design Capture Pro plate, which I move between my backpacking rucksack and my normal mountain bag as well as my F-Stop camera bag. It lets me keep the camera quickly accessible while keeping both of my hands free while I’m setting equipment up, scrabling on a ridge, or have my hands otherwise engaged. It’s a fantastic piece of equipment that I’ve come to rely on massivly over the last 12-months. I can’t recommend these highly enough.

I currently use two straps: The Peak Design Slide Lite and the Peak Design Cuff; each has it’s purpose. I use the Slide when I’m walking around with the camera, and only occasionally using it. This is normally when walking around urban environments, or scouting out shoots when I’m camping before I haul the rest of my equipment to the spot. The second strap — the Cuff — is what I use when I want to keep the camera in-hand for fast shooting, particularly when I’m in an environment when I may have to let go quickly. I also use this as a safety tether to my rucksack when my camera is in my Peak Design Capture Pro clip in a mountainous environment.

I also own a Black Rapid RS-7, but that’s pretty much gathered dust since I got the Peak Design straps. It mounts where the tripod plate would normally go which makes it awkward, and the quick-release nature of the Peak Design straps is a blessing. It does, however, work exceptionally well when shooting faced-paced environments such as stadium sports where multiple bodies may be swapped between quickly.

Recently I’ve also added a Peak Design Shell in small to my setup. This provides protection for my camera in wet weather that allows me to quickly shoot while being heavy-duty enough that I can trust it not to catch and rip on something. I often fit this to the camera before slotting it onto the Capture plate to protect it from the rain in bad weather, or when I’m shooting on a tripod in heavy rain. The small-size shell fits my Fuji X-T1 and a mid-zoom perfectly.

I’m a bit of a brand snob when it comes to SD cards, particularly since I only have a single slot on the Fuji5 and so there is increased risks of loosing data due to a card failure or loss. This is something I’m always slightly cautious of, and mentioned in my review of the Fuji X-T1. As a result of this I always use SanDisk Extreme SD cards, and make a point of choosing the pro models when available.

 alt: The Gepe Card Safe Extreme with a small pile of SanDisk Extreme and Extreme Pro SD Cards.
The Gepe Card Safe Extreme with a small pile of SanDisk Extreme and Extreme Pro SD Cards.

To ensure cards don’t suffer any damage when they’re not in the camera I keep the, inside a Gepe Card Safe Extreme. This case is shock-proof, waterproof and dust proof. I’ve dropped both it and other things onto it a few times, and it still looks like new. I intentionally get brightly colored ones to make them easier to find inside rucksacks or in the dark.

I’ve tried a 3rd party battery for the Fuji, but have found it does not work as well as the Fuji ones in cold conditions. The Digipower battery actually has a higher capacity than Fujis own batteries, but in the cold I’ve found they die very quickly. During the sunrise shoot I covered in From Dawn to Dusk I actually had it die in about 90-minutes. It wasn’t fully charged when I left, but when I got it home and warmed it back up I found it to have two-thirds charge. It seems ok in warmer conditions so I may pickup a few more for longer summer trips, but they’re certainly not suited to winter conditions. Fuji’s own battery lasted all day without any issues, so i’ve now picked up a second one of these.

The Big List

For the sake of comprehensiveness, here’s the full gear listing. This doesn’t include any old gear I’ve kept for sentimental value, or anything I’ve currently got for sale or will be selling soon (if you’re after some good Nikon gear, keep an eye on my Twitter account).

Although all of this gear cheap compared to some other photographers setups it’s still a big capital outlay for me. If you want to help support my work as a photographer the best thing you can do is follow me on the social networks listed below, drop me an email about purchasing some prints, or buy your gear using the amazon affiliate links above.

  1. I’ll probably do a review of this lens in the future, if time allows. The given price was accurate at time of writing, it may have changed in the meantime.

  2. If there is enough interest I’ll write a more detailed blog post on the use of graduated filters in the future.

  3. A camera can only capture so much light before part of an image turns white. This is because the light in that area of the image is too bright for your camera to capture at the given exposure, and is known as clipping or being blown out.

  4. The Fuji EF-X8 flash is only a very basic unit for mounting directly on the camera body. It’s included with the X-T1 body to make up for the lack of a built-in flash — something which doesn’t bother me at all.

  5. The Nikon D7100 I had previously had two slots, and allowed me to run the secondary one as a clone of the first one. If an SD card failed or I lost one I wouldn’t loose a single image.