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I have a trip to the lake district national park (UK) in a few weeks. I want to know from personal experiences what kit is essential and what can be done without on a landscape trip that involves some light hiking since I don't fancy lugging around everything. I'm not the best shape I could be!

I am a noob to landscapes, but have been shooting event photography professionally for a while and know my way around my kit. I wanted to try my hand in making professional quality landscape photography and am looking for kit tips.

What do you take on a hike as a landscape photographer?

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Are there things that you're specifically interested in? I assume you already have a camera and some lenses, so is this about other gear such as tripod, filters, etc? –  John Cavan Apr 27 '13 at 14:49
    
where in the LD are you going? –  TZHX Apr 27 '13 at 15:22
    
@John Cavan. I am an event photographer, and have a wide selection of decent quality gear, but not much tailored toward landscapes specifically. I wanted to know exactly what a landscape photographer has in his bag when he goes hiking. –  Good Gravy Apr 27 '13 at 16:20
    
@TZHX We are touring for a few weeks and will be planning it as we go, but our hostel is in Windermere.Scafell Pike summit is on the agenda, so if the kit is light enough, it might join us up there! –  Good Gravy Apr 27 '13 at 16:21

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

This is difficult to answer because each one of us has different shooting styles, goals, and preferences.

Here is my big tip: Less is more

Hiking is much more enjoyable when your pack is as light as possible. Five extra pounds of unnecessary gear can turn a fun trip into a chore. You might consider 1-2 lenses that aren't that heavy, or you might even be a good candidate for a micro 4/3rds camera that could cut your weight needs in half.

One option that works well for me is to look at my historical shooting habits when determining what gear to bring with on a future trip. I use Lightroom to to do this, by filtering my library down to an event, then inspecting the Lens information such as the following:

enter image description here

In the above example, the 40mm f/2.8 STM lens appears to be one that I could have left at home if I wanted to pair down my kit. It only accounted for 3% of the shots during this timeframe! Taking it a step further, I would probably leave the 135mm and 1.4x teleconverter at home, and the 50mm lens at home as well. This still leaves two massive lenses, but you get the idea.

Beyond historical information that you might have, think about what the purpose of the trip is. If your main goal is photography, then what will you be doing with the photos? Are the photos intended for personal use and to capture memories, or is the intention to sell the photos professionally? If the main goal of the trip is to capture professional quality images to sell, then certainly bring any and all equipment necessary to achieve that, which may be the best lenses you have, and a very sturdy tripod for example with all of the necessary accessories. If the purpose of the trip is to "get away from the world" and into nature, then pair your kit down accordingly and only bring with the bare essentials to capture some memories and have fun.

The two biggest gear specific tips I can give you for landscape photography, are the following. Bring your ND filters, and bring a good tripod. These two items are essential and can make the most of the lenses and cameras that you do bring.

Overall, consider your intentions and the reasoning for the trip, then pair down your equipment using some of the ideas above. Hiking should not be a chore and you have a choice when it comes to photography equipment.

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+1 for tripod -- one of the few absolute requirements IMO for landscapes. –  TZHX Apr 27 '13 at 15:25
    
I am very interested in the lightroom feature. I must find an aperture equivalent feature! –  Good Gravy Apr 27 '13 at 16:33
    
This answer will be more useful after I have done a few landscape shoots. But it's also got all the info I need to get started, thanks! –  Good Gravy Apr 27 '13 at 16:44
    
@GoodGravy - You can search Apple Aperture for images used with a certain lens as well. Just search the EXIF for "Lens" "Is" "lens xyz". I don't have aperture or I would provide screenshots. This thread has more info though: discussions.apple.com/thread/2706960?start=0&tstart=0 –  dpollitt Apr 27 '13 at 18:13

Do not take a DSLR and a couple of lenses and a tripod.

Rent a Fujifilm X100s. Take it and nothing else. When hiking, your most important criteria is weight, and second, size. David Hobby has written extensively that its the only camera he takes when he is going light. Review: http://strobist.blogspot.com/2013/03/in-depth-new-fujifilm-x100s.html traveling light: http://strobist.blogspot.com/2013/04/traveling-light.html

Maybe carry a monopod as a walking stick.

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I do not agree that in 100% of cases weight is the most important factor when hiking. What if the purpose of the hiking is to get to a great location for a sunrise shot? If the sole purpose of the hike is photography, bring the best gear with that you can. –  dpollitt Apr 27 '13 at 18:10
    
Not 100%, but often 98% or more. Of course, if the goal is a particular shot from a place that requires a hike, take what you want. Or rent a helicopter. I read the @OP as taking a hike and wanting to record the great views. –  Pat Farrell Apr 27 '13 at 18:30
    
I'm not convinced by the monostick. Can you give examples for using it. –  Good Gravy Apr 27 '13 at 18:34
    
Here is an article: photographylife.com/how-to-use-a-monopod and a video youtube.com/watch?v=1KfR8mM4dtI One huge advantage of the X100s is that it has no mirror flapping up and down, so you can hand hold it with much better results. –  Pat Farrell Apr 27 '13 at 22:41
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I'm not convinced. Especially for Landscape, I like zoom. Usually lighting is good, and "zooming by walking" just doesn't work: subjects and distances can be enormous. Of course, it depends on what kind of pictures you want to make and what challenges you are willing to accept. –  feklee Apr 30 '13 at 12:24

For camera equipment on a day hike, I take one body and two lenses (18-55mm and 55-250mm) a tripod, wired shutter release, a waterproof case with my memory cards inside, spare battery and polarizing filter. You can see more in my blog post at http://www.thecreativescorner.com/2012/08/21/my-new-ultra-adaptable-and-inexpensive-camera-daypack/

Some of my noncamera gear includes: a cut-down piece of foam knee pad to kneel on, a washcloth to wipe mud off of my tripod, some plastic tarp to lay on if I'm laying on wet grass for a photo, and other items if shooting in snow.

General items include: first aid kit, sunscreen, hat, old CD to use as a signal mirror, cell phone, headlight, small poncho, food, twice as much water as I think I need, and other gear depending on the weather.

Have Fun, Jeff

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An on topic self promotion that actually adds value to the discussion! Thank you for sharing Jeff! –  dpollitt Apr 30 '13 at 3:33

I just take my Panasonic Lumix GF-1 with the 14mm f/2.5 pancake. It’s my only camera and I have picked the combination of a Micro 4/3 camera with a wide-angle pancake lens especially because I like to go outside and wanted something small & light. The whole thing including the lens and the battery is around 400–450g, which is great when compared to a DSLR. I carry no extra lenses, no filters and no tripod – there’s plenty of light and if not, I just use the backpack as a simple stand. Here are some sample photos from the Alps.

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Most of my photographing is outdoors while hiking, so I have some experience with this.

There is no one answer, since it depends on how much you are willing to take (lug around) versus how much flexibility you want in capturing something you see. The longer the hike, the more you may want to minimize the gear and live with the realization that you're just not going to capture everything as you would if you had your full kit available.

The amount of time you have for the distance also matters a lot. Is this a 10 mile hike you only have one afternoon for? If so, keep yourself unencumbered. If you've got all day and easy abort paths back to your car, then you can take a lot more, bump around slowly, and quit if you've had enough.

That said, my minimum gear is my camera (Nikon D3s), 24-105mm zoom lens, and polarizing filter. This is fine for just about all landscape photography applications. The polarizer may sound like a frill, but it's useful for the majority of landscape shots. Unless it's totally overcast (not good for lanscapes anyway), you can always make the sky look a little nicer. Even if the sky doesn't matter or isn't in the picture, the polarizer will be useful for deciding whether you want the sheen off of leaves and puddles and the like, or want to reduce it. Both can be useful, depending on the scene and what you are trying to show. Particularly for landscape photography, don't leave home without a polarizer.

If you are into wildlife, the kit above won't help much, but then again that's a much harder problem. Serious wildlife photography requires a long lens (too much is never enough), a good tripod, and lots of time. Casual wildlife photography requires a long lens, hope you'll find something to brace yourself against where and when you need it, and lots of time. A polarizer is much less useful. I usually don't bother putting one on a long lens. Besides, with a long lens every bit of light is useful.

I disagree with others in that I recommend not trying to bring a tripod, especially since you said your main interest is landscapes. Think about it. Landscapes are by definition in the open, which usually means plenty of light. Generally they are taken with wide lenses. The problem is usually getting the whole scene into the picture, not the details of something small and far. The combination of plenty of light and wide lenses means that hand-holding is really not a problem. Tripods are heavy, but most importantly are unweildy and take time and trouble to set up. You just don't need one, and the disadvantage of having to lug it around, probably requiring a larger pack and system for strapping it, outweigh the advantage of being light and more portable and less of a chore to set up in most cases. If you want to do velvet flowing water with a multi-second exposure and ND filters, then you need a tripod. Leave the tripod and ND filters back in the car unless you know that's what you're going after and are dedicating the time and effort to it.

Beyond the 24-105mm zoom, then next thing I take, which is most of the time, is a 60mm macro lens. That's a personal thing whether you're into flowers, bugs, moss, and the like. Personally I find the small world both fascinating and easily overlooked, which leaves a lot of possibilities for interesting pictures. If you're not into that, forget about the macro lens.

When I want to leave more options open, the next thing I take is a 300mm lens. Often I don't use it at all, even on a all day hike. There are only limited things you can do with it, but if you encounter the right situation there is no substitute for a long lens.

Another area I disagree with others on is worrying about weight too much. Again, think about this logically. If you're on a short hike of only a few miles or less, then a extra few pounds aren't going to make any real difference. Your day pack will feel about the same whether you throw in a extra lens or two or not, even if one of them is a 300mm. The real issue is space and klunkiness, not weight. On this type of hike I keep the camera with one lens on it (usually the 24-105mm) around my neck and over one shoulder while walking. That allows it to be grabbed quickly, but it doesn't dangle like it would just around the neck. That's most of the photo-related weight right there, and it's not even in the pack. There should be plenty of room for another lens or two in the pack.

On long hikes, again a extra lens or two won't matter much because its weight will be small compared to the water, wind breaker, flashlight, etc, you are going to bring anyway. That extra 60mm macro lens if pretty much free either way. The 300mm lens is more of a size problem than a weight problem.

All this of course assumes you have a good and comfortable day pack. Get the kind with a layer of foam sewn in up against your back. Camera gear is rigid with hard edges, and can easily dig into your back if not positioned right. The foam padding makes that situation a lot better.

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"Landscapes are by definition in the open, which usually means plenty of light." Except a lot of great landscapes are taken at the edge of darkness (dawn/dusk), and you may need a fairly small aperture for "here-to-infinity" DoF. Carrying a tripod sucks, but I would not dismiss it so easily. –  coneslayer May 2 '13 at 14:22

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