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  1. #1
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    Lenses (and filters) to buy for Landscape photography

    Hello.

    I'm a beginner photographer. I just got done with 4-week basic photography course (aperture, shutter speed, composition, lighting, etc.). I bought a Rebel GII with a 28-80mm lens.

    I'm interested in doing landscape photography and am wondering what other equipment,
    mainly lenses and filters, I should purchase. I already have a tripod and shutter release cable. Any help with lenses (e.g. 80-300mm) and filters (e.g. UV, polarizing, yellow, red) I should buy would be tremendously helpful. I'm going to Grand Teton in 2 weeks and would like to purchase this equipment before that.


    P.S. I'd like to be able to use the same equipment on a Canon Digital (e.g. 10D) which I plan to buy in 3-6 months.
    Last edited by biguniverse; 06-27-2004 at 01:45 PM.

  2. #2
    Old hack
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    As far as lenses go,almost anything works for landscapes -- long lenses let you concentrate on small pieces of the landscape and wide-angles, properly used, can give you a great sense of depth. Everyone has their own set of subjects and styles and what works for one photographer doesn't necessarily do it for another. Some people love the big glass, some prefer the ultra-wides, and other like the stuff in between. So don't rush into a lens purchase. Shoot with what you have for a while to find your own style and taste After a while you'll get a sense of what you want to do but can't because you haven't got the right focal length. Also look at photos in photography magazines and photo websites. That'll help you get a sense of what each focal length range is good for and you can pick the lens that gets the shots you like. John Shaw's book "Landscape Photography" is a great intoduction to the tools and techniques of shooting landscapes. Shaw has also written "Nature Photography Field Guide" and "Close-ups in Nature" which are also excellent if you're interested in those related subject areas.

    As far as filters go, the two most important are a circular polarizer and a graduated neutral density filter. The polarizer cuts out some light that's reflected from non-metallic surfaces. Some things, like leaves, have a slightly shiny surface and the shine washes out some of the color. A polarizer will cut down on the shine and let the color show through. Another photographically important non-metallic object of interest to landscape shooters is the sky. By reducing light from the sky, the polarizer darkens the sky and makes it look bluer so that any clouds show up better and it brings the exposure for the sky closer to the exposure for the land so that you don't always have have to choose between a washed out sk\y and too-dark land. The limiting factor of a polarizer is that it works best when you're shooting at a right angle to the sun. Make an "L" with your thumb and index finger; with your index finger pointing at the sun, you'll get the most effect from the polarized by shooting along the line of your thumb. BTW, make sure you get a circular polarizer; a linear polarizer will confuse your autofocus system.

    A graduated neutral density filter is a better solution for the sky-ground problem. It's rectangular filter that's gray (neutral) at one end and fades to clear near the middle. You put the filter into a rotating holder so that you can rotate the filter and slide it in and out of the holder so that the darker end covers the sky, the clear end covers the ground and the transition is at the horizon. The most common filter holder is the one from Cokin. If you go with that one, get the larger "P" size rather than the "A" size. The bigger size gives you more flexibility to position the filter. With the holder, you buy an adapter ring the size of you len's filter thread and as you get more lenses, you just get an adapter ring for each size. You can get the filters from Cokin as well, but when I bought mine a number of years ago, the closest thing they had was called "graduated gray" and I found that they had a distinctive magenta color cast. I don't know if that's still true or not. Now I use a glass filter in the Cokin "P" size made by Tiffen. Singh-Ray also makes a series of grads in "P" size. For my use, I find that a 2-stop filter works well -- that means that the dark end of the filter reduces the incoming light by 2 stops. Singh-Ray also gives you the choice between a "hard" (more sudden) or "soft' (more gradual) transition zone. Some photographers carry a selection of filters to cover any situation.

    The Cokin filter system also offers a big selection of colored and graduated color filters and some for special effects. I never use any of those, but that's my taste -- by all means find your own preference.

  3. #3
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    Thanks a bunch, schuchmn. I really appreciate the detailed reply.

  4. #4
    has-been... another view's Avatar
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    Excellent advice above. Those two filters should do most of what you need and at this point I wouldn't worry about any more. John Shaw's books will tell you how to get the most from them.

    There are three pieces of equipment that are probably even more important for landscape photography than these filters though: a tripod, cable release and level. Get a good sturdy tripod but not one that's so heavy that you don't want to carry it with you. You have to use it to have it help you!

    Many good choices, but look at a Bogen 3021 with a 3001 head. Very sturdy and a good compromise on weight and price. Get whatever cable release is needed for your camera - I don't shoot Canon but the manual will tell you. And a bubble level that fits in the hotshoe will make sure that your camera is straight. Using these three pieces will improve the sharpness and also composition because it will force you to slow down and think about what you're shooting.

  5. #5
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    Thank you.

  6. #6
    Toon Army Foot Soldier straightarm's Avatar
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    You didn't say whether you were going to use colour or b&w film.

    If you are going to use black and white film, then yellow, orange and red filters are essential to give decent skies. B&W is overly sensitive to blue light, and these filters absorb blue light ( yellow gives weakest effect, orange medium and red strongest effect) give a darker and more dramatic sky.

    Simon
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  7. #7
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    [QUOTE=another view
    There are three pieces of equipment that are probably even more important for landscape photography than these filters though: a tripod, cable release and level. Get a good sturdy tripod but not one that's so heavy that you don't want to carry it with you. You have to use it to have it help you!

    Many good choices, but look at a Bogen 3021 with a 3001 head. Very sturdy and a good compromise on weight and price. Get whatever cable release is needed for your camera - I don't shoot Canon but the manual will tell you. And a bubble level that fits in the hotshoe will make sure that your camera is straight. Using these three pieces will improve the sharpness and also composition because it will force you to slow down and think about what you're shooting.[/QUOTE]



    Ah - the tripod! How could I have neglected that?!? I'd agree with the Bogen 3021; I carried one for years until I finally winced and sprung for a carbon fiber tripod. It seems that as I got older, the tripod got heavier. In fact I'm sure that during one long hike the tripod somehow gained about 10 pounds :-) Ditto the cable release and the bubble level (I have a cablefor my camera and I keep meaning to get a level and curse when I need it and don't have it). Another help is a focusing screen with grid lines, if one's available for your camera, to help keep horizons horizontal. Tripod heads are a matter of taste -- some people prefer pan heads and some like ball heads -- go take a look at www.bogenphoto.com for a selection of each. Ball heads set up quicker but pan heads allow for finer adjustments along all three axes. If I was doing strictly landscapes or macro, I think I'd prefer a pan head, but for all-around work I like a ball head. A quick release system for the tripod head is a must -- the Bogen site has a selection of those as well.

    Regards
    Dennis

  8. #8
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    Thanks again, guys. I do have a tripod, a remote switch and a mini-level, however, in reading John Shaw's "Nature Photography Field Guide", he suggests the use of a "Diopter" as a good alternative to macro lenses.

    I tried finding this for my Rebel GII (with a 28-80mm and a new 75-300mm lens, both 58mm filter size) but am a bit confused. Doesn't a diopter fit on the front of the lens (like a filter)? I found stuff like this, however: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...u=12410&is=REG, which looks more like it would go on a viewfinder than a lens.?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  9. #9
    has-been... another view's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by biguniverse
    I tried finding this for my Rebel GII (with a 28-80mm and a new 75-300mm lens, both 58mm filter size) but am a bit confused. Doesn't a diopter fit on the front of the lens (like a filter)? I found stuff like this, however: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...u=12410&is=REG, which looks more like it would go on a viewfinder than a lens.?
    Yes and yes. A closeup lens is sometimes called a closeup filter because it attaches to the front of the lens like a filter. The best ones are the Canon and Nikon brands, they have the least optical distortion to them. If you ever need a good 77mm, Canon is the only one that makes it ;) . Closeup lenses tend to lose sharpness around the edges, but the best ones that I mention have less problems than the inexpensive ones. By definition, they are diopters (don't ask me the technical reasons...) but they're rarely called that by photographers.

    A diopter usually refers to the piece you have the B&H link to. It corrects your vision so you can look through the camera without glasses on but has nothing to do with the final image (well, obviously you can see what you're doing which would be a big help!).

  10. #10
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    So, is this more along the lines of what I might be looking for? Sorry for the dumb questions :-)

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...u=96144&is=REG

  11. #11
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    Just wanted to add...

    You can't really ask for any better advice than what you've already received, but I'd just like to add that normal (or non-graduated) neutral density filters can also be quite valuable when shooting in the field.

    A normal ND filter reduces the same amount of light to the entire frame of a shot. This is handy when overall lighting conditions are too bright for your film ISO or camera settings. This is especially true when using slide film, as any overexposure will usually mean bad things.

    A good example would be a relatively bright outdoor scene where you want shallow depth of field (wide aperture) yet also use a slow shutter speed to capture moving water and exaggerate the effect.

    I always carry a 1 and a 3-stop ND filter...
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  12. #12
    has-been... another view's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by biguniverse
    So, is this more along the lines of what I might be looking for?
    First off, it's not a dumb question. Nobody knew what these things were when they started out! And the confusion of terms doesn't help either (nor does the fact that everyone calls the same things by different names!).

    That type of closeup lens kit will work, but probably will have a lot of distortion on the edges. Depending on your subject and how you compose, this may or may not be a huge problem, although personally I'd rather go with one good one like this: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...u=87494&is=REG

    They do have two different strengths, made for different focal lengths. This one is for 70-300mm lenses. I'll let you get over the sticker shock now...

    Also agree about the ND filters - but I'd say a polarizer should probably be higher on your list. Since the polarizer is "neutral" in color and blocks light, it can work as about a 1-2 stop ND filter although there are situations where you might be better with an ND filter if you don't want any polarizer effect. It's not the best way to do it but it might help sometime.

  13. #13
    Old hack
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    The Canon 500D is a good choice. I use one on the end of an 80-200/2.8 lens and am pleased with the results. Note that the brand of close-up lens (or close-up filter or diopter) doesn't have to match your lens brand. The better close-up lenses consist of two glass elements instead of one. Besides the Canon, there's also the Nikon 3T and 4T (52mm filter size) and the 5T and 6T (62mm). In the Canon line-up the ones with the "D" in their names are the two-element ones. If you can't find one the right size for your lens, you can get a bigger size and a step-up ring.

  14. #14
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    Thanks guys. You have been extremely helpful -- I really appreciate it!

  15. #15
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    Re: Lenses (and filters) to buy for Landscape photography

    If you are going to purchase a digital Canon soon, do not spend the money on the red, green or yellow filters. You can filter those through your Digital camera. If you really want to buy them though I will dust mine off and sell them to you

  16. #16
    Senior Member freygr's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses (and filters) to buy for Landscape photography

    One Filter you really need is a Polarizing Filter. You will use it with color photography more than B&W. But it is great for removing reflections (in glass widows or on water).
    GRF

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  17. #17
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    Re: Lenses (and filters) to buy for Landscape photography

    I think biguniverse probably has bought whatever he needs by now. This post is from 2004. Others might need the info though.
    Keep Shooting!

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  18. #18
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    Re: Lenses (and filters) to buy for Landscape photography

    I found it very useful anyway. Just getting started with my first digital SLR (Canon 400D) so lots to learn.

  19. #19
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    Re: Lenses (and filters) to buy for Landscape photography

    I'm glad this was resurrected. Good info.

  20. #20
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    Re: Lenses (and filters) to buy for Landscape photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Ridgetop
    I'm glad this was resurrected. Good info.
    Perhaps this could be condensed and made a sticky for the newcomers.

    One thing about the close up filters - I would suggest a set of Tubes instead, much more flexibility and gives you more distance to work with than the filters, so easier to capture insects, lizards...

    Polarizers are a must for landscapes. I use mine a lot.

    Roger
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