At the most basic level, all that you need to take landscape photographs is a camera and a location.  One of the reasons that landscape photography is so popular is that it is so accessible, without the necessity for the newest camera bodies or most expensive lenses.  You can pick up any entry-level DSLR and kit lens and be able to make great landscape images.

However, there are a few extra tools that, if included in your camera bag, will help you improve your landscape photography in terms of both your technique and resulting images.  Below is a selection of accessories that serious landscape photographers do not leave home without and the majority are cheaper than a basic kit lens.

1. Tripod

This has the potential to be the most expensive item on this list, but it is probably the most crucial accessory for every landscape photographer.  They come in all weights and sizes, and therefore costs, however a tripod can be key to ensuring you can capture sharp landscape images.  A lot of landscape photographs are captured at the beginning and end of the day, under low light conditions, meaning that it is not always possible to handhold the camera and still achieve shake-free images.  Also, a tripod is a good way of becoming more methodical in your approach to composing your landscape images, forcing you to slow down and critically assess the view through your viewfinder

2. Graduated ND Filters

Graduated neutral density (ND) filters are crucial for balancing the exposure between bright sky and dark land, overcoming the limited dynamic range of most DSLR sensors.  Generally, half of the filter is darker to reduce the amount of light allowed though across half of the frame.  Without them, if you expose for the sky the land will be in silhouette or if you expose for the land, the sky will be blown out.  You can use exposure bracketing to overcome this, however that will then require more time spent in front of a computer blending the multiple exposures.  Using graduated ND filters allows you to capture both the sky and land, correctly exposed, in one shot.

ND Grad fitlers

Graduated neutral density filters.  A ‘hard’ grad is shown on the left, a ‘soft’ grad is shown on the right.

Check out this recent article on the basics of choosing, buying and using graduated ND filters.

3. Hot shoe spirit level

Probably the cheapest accessory on this list, but a valuable tool none the less.  Just slide the spirit level in to the hot shoe to help ensure your horizons are perfectly level.  Some of the latest cameras now come with in-built level gauges, however they struggle to match the fidelity of an actual spirit level.

Hot-shoe spirit level

A three-axis hot shoe spirit level

4. Remote Shutter Release

A remote shutter release allows you to release the shutter, when your camera is on a tripod, without touching the camera and introducing any movement.  Also, as these remotes allow you to lock the shutter open, they are very useful if you want to make exposures over 30 seconds, using ‘bulb mode’.  In some instances, the remotes also have a digital display telling you how long the shutter has been open or a programmable timer mode so you can define the exposure length before taking the shot.

remote shutter release

Remote shutter release – if you avoid the official accessories from the big brands, you can find these relatively cheap on eBay.

5. Neutral Density Filters

Similar to the graduated filters mentioned above, however in this instance, the entire filter is of uniform density, meaning that light is blocked out across the entire frame.  You can get them 1-stop, 2-stop or 3-stop densities if you want to marginally slow the shutter speed for shooting waterfalls or introducing some movement, or you can get them as dense as 10-stops for seriously long shutter speeds.

10 stop neutral density filter

An example of the use of a 10-stop neutral density filter to achieve a long exposure time of 5 minutes

6. Polarising filters

Polarising filters are often used to increase the saturation of blue skies, however they are more useful in suppressing reflections from non-metallic objects, such as foliage or water.  This helps to increase the saturation of foliage, even on overcast days, and remove glare from the surface of any water in the scene, revealing detail below the waters surface.  An invaluable tool when shooting landscape scenes that include water.

Effect os using a polarising filter

A polarising filter was used to reveal the detail in the stones beneath the surface of the heavily reflective lake

The items above could almost be considered the essentials to go along with your camera and lens.  There are options that cater to all budgets meaning that you can build your self an effective landscape photographers toolbox without breaking the bank, and once you start using them, you will find you can exert much greater creative control over your landscape photography, and improve the images you make.