ADVENTURES OF A LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER EQUIPMENT ENVY
How to avoid equipment envy and get the shot, every time.
THIS IS A COLUMN ABOUT KIT. HOWEVER, I cannot promise that it will contain the intricate technical details you might expect from a landscape photographer. The most common question that comes up if I bump into another photographer out in the field is, “So, what are you shooting with?” Innocuous, right? Well, it would be if part of me didn’t immediately panic about my camera’s credentials. For the most part, of course, I answer and there’s a nod that either signals approval or indifference.
Earlier this year, on the Isle of Harris, after a particularly exhilarating morning shooting a hail storm, a lovely chap who I’d shared the scene with asked me which lens I was shooting with. Upon inspection, he took a sharp intake of breath and exclaimed, “Hopefully it’s the MkIII because the MkII had some real issues”. When I checked later, feeling a little stupid for not knowing, I discovered it was the MkII.
After encounters like that I realise that a lot of how I feel about the landscape is less about the medium, and much more about the moment. I’m unlikely to notice the nuances between lens models unless there is a tangible difference to the final output, like when I used a prime lens for the first time and had my mind blown at just how sharp the image came out.
I often wonder how important kit is, and how easy it can be to get caught up in equipment envy. I don’t have a preference or loyalty when it comes to a certain camera brand, and looking back I’ve ended up with one brand or another due more to accident than design. The biggest factor for me is the quality of available lenses, and that old adage is true – you get what you
KIT IS IMPORTANT, BUT KNOWING YOUR KIT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL...
pay for. Investing in good quality glass instead of trying to make a cheaper lens do something that it cannot was probably one of my better creative decisions. I do a lot of commercial architectural work, and for that I invested in a tilt-shift lens to ensure all my parallels were, well, parallel. It’s something I can technically do with a wide-angle, but then comes the difficulty of distortion and correction.
Likewise, investing in a decent telephoto, despite being an added weight, opened new worlds of composition. I’ve built up my collection over many years, and it’s difficult to financially justify purchasing a ton of lenses at the beginning, but that’s where experience comes in. I started out with a cropped sensor and a wideangle, and I cut my teeth with that setup before I ventured into waters new. This gave me an insight into the limitations of focal lengths and enabled me to make informed choices about new purchases. Now, when people ask for advice regarding essential pieces of kit for a landscape photographer, I’ll gladly recommend a wide-angle and, if it’s feasible, a telephoto equivalent to 70-200mm.
Kit is important, but knowing your kit is the most important thing of all. Light comes and goes in the briefest of seconds, and if you’re unsure of how to get the best out of your setup, you might end up missing an incredible moment. Trust me, I know.
Verity Milligan is an award-winning landscape, architectural and commercial photographer based in Birmingham. She runs workshops and her clients include American Express, Yorkshire Tea & Visit Britain. veritymilliganphotography.com