In outdoor photography, having the right equipment can make the difference between getting the shot and going home disappointed. That said, having the best, or most expensive, equipment in itself won't make you the best photographer. The most critical pieces of equipment are your eye and your imagination. Knowing how to get the most from your gear is also key to successful outdoor shooting.
Camera and Manual
Digital photography is hugely popular, and for good reason. Both point-and-shoot cameras and digital SLRs are now available with great image quality, a range of prices and versatile shooting capabilities to meet almost anyone's needs. Any digital camera with a good selection of shooting modes and some degree of user control can produce great outdoor photos. A digital SLR will give you maximum flexibility and creative potential. More important than what kind of camera you use is being familiar with it--this means reading the manual, tedious as that may be and bringing it with you on trips.
The range of possible subjects in outdoor photography is vast, including everything from extreme closeups to panoramic scenic shots. This means you need lens flexibility, from macro to telephoto, to take full advantage of what's in view. Many point-and-shoot cameras offer a macro mode as well as wide-angle and zoom features. For digital SLRs, it's handy to have one "workhorse" lens that handles most of what you shoot (such as an 18-200mm zoom), plus a few single-purpose lenses, such as macro, fisheye (extreme wide angle) and telephoto. Special-effect lenses, such as a Lensbaby, are fun to try as well.
All digital cameras need batteries and memory cards. It's a good idea to carry an extra battery and at least one spare memory card whenever you're out shooting. A lens hood can help reduce lens flares in bright sun. Lens-cap keepers are inexpensive and are great for peace of mind. Filters can be protective (haze or UV filter) without affecting the image or designed to produce specific effects (polarizing, neutral density, colored, etc). A lens brush or pen is small, lightweight and great to have on hand for keeping your lens free of unwanted dust.
A tripod and cable-shutter release are essential for low-light shooting and also when using a long telephoto lens, to allow you to use the exposure settings you want and to eliminate camera shake. A reflector/diffuser is useful for adding or softening light. Clamps or clothespins are handy for pinning branches out of your way for a shot (don't forget to remove and take them with you when done). A small notebook or voice recorder is handy for noting anything you want to remember later about how, when, why or where you took a picture, for example.
Article Written By Peggy Hansen
Peggy Hansen holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from UC San Diego, Doctor of Medicine from UCLA, and completed postgraduate training at Stanford, Duke and Harvard. An award-winning writer and photographer, her work has been featured in Catnip, Herbalgram, Porter Gulch Review, and many online pieces. She's also a commentator for KQED-FM