I’ve driven out to Brenham in search of the wildflowers for the past three weekends and we’ve had the most pitiful weather for landscape and nature photography. It’s been either completely overcast or not a cloud in the sky. Both ends of the spectrum are not the best for shooting wildflowers. So until I can complete my mission, here a couple of shots taken last year near the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge in Eagle Lake, Texas.
As many of you know this spring’s Texas Landscape Safari is scheduled for later this month (April 24th – 27th, 2010) and I thought I’d help folks get ready by discussing some “tools of the trade” used by every landscape photographer. So over the next three weeks I’ll be posting images of the gear I use along with some shots made possible by this gear. Honestly, it’s just plain fun to “geek out” over gear every once in a while.
The single most important piece of photographic gear you’ll ever purchase (after your camera and lens) is a set of light-weight, good quality tripod legs. A good tripod can make the difference between a shot that “looks” sharp on the camera’s LCD and one that “is” tack sharp when printed at 24″ × 36″. Remember, the number one cause of soft images isn’t poor focus, it’s camera movement.
Click on the image above and look at the crisp detail of the rocks and trees compared to the silky smooth look of the water. Getting this type of shot required a 2 second exposure in the late evening and the slightest camera movement would have completely ruined the image.
Good quality tripod legs are not cheap and you can expect to pay somewhere between $300 – $800 (USD) depending upon the materials of construction, size and weight. I currently use two different set of tripod legs these days; one for studio & on-location work (Gitzo GT2541 Mountaineer) and one for hiking (Gitzo GT1541T Traveller). Both are constructed from carbon fiber making them very light-weight but extremely strong and durable.
I’m an unabashed believer in Gitzo tripods (probably the only French product I’ve ever bought) and highly recommend them to any photographer. Both of my tripod legs have seen the extremes of heat, humidity, mud, sand, gravel and just plain dirt and they work as well now as the first day I bought them. You may buy four or five cameras over your lifetime as a landscape photographer but you’ll only need one Gitzo tripod!