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As a working professional photographer I am always learning: how to take a better image through more accurate exposures, knowing my camera gear better and its capabilities, understanding and reading light in a more educated fashion, predicting weather and reading its patterns in a more educated approach, what not to leave behind in the car when going for a “short” scouting hike and how to accurately pinpoint locations on a map to be able to return to them in the dark, snow; all that craziness Mother Nature loves to throw at you.

Think small to shoot bigWe’re going to look at these concepts more from a landscape photographer’s perspective and I will share helpful tidbits of info saving you some of the headaches I have experienced from running at it rogue. Think of this as a crash course in mentoring: they fast track your progress by pointing out the pitfalls in the road ahead as they have either been there themselves or have had assistance along the way as well.

Light: What would photography be without it? The short answer: Nothing. But, it’s also not just about picking up your camera and taking a picture simply because you have the tool in your hand and the sun is up. Of course, the type, style, emotion in the image you want to convey is all subjective, we all are also looking to create something visually compelling that resonates with the viewer and creates emotion. For me “light” happens in extreme conditions after a storm has just blown over, it’s snowing as I hike into the mountains for sunrise or hiking back out to base after shooting sunset. I am looking for this dramatic and warm feel that can only happen at this moment.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 1.38.48 PM

Reading this type of light is challenging and fully understanding it can be tough. Heck, I’m still making mistakes and learning from them. The best thing about failing on a photo shoot and getting frustrated is learning what not to do the next go round. The only way to learn is to get out and practice, but keep in mind you are looking for that soft warmth, delicate pinks and blues and clouds or mist to bring it all together.

Think small to shoot BIG

That’s right, go macro for the grand landscapes. One of the biggest strengths to any image is an anchor point in the foreground. Many times this is accomplished by a rock, flower; anything up close. See those awesome peaks in the distance? Instead of just putting your camera on it’s tripod and taking a picture of them stop and look around. What do you have at your disposal you can get down low and shoot? Those flowers you thought were ok just in your frame at the bottom are stronger visually if you get closer and fill more of your frame with them.

Where was that fancy branch?!

Where is that log Lumoid

We’ve all been there, running around looking for that great spot we saw earlier unable to find it when light is changing. What do we do? Well, you could take some snacks and a jug of water before leaving base camp so you can sit there all day risking some crazy boredom and sunburns, but more importantly missing other shots in the same location. Going about it a little smarter and increasing your keepers from a day in the field is the goal. Your significant other will be happier and more agreeable to let you head out and shoot the next time family comes into town, you’ve proven yourself.

I do not recommend using your gps as a one and only means to get back to where you started or a substitute to a map and compass, but thinking of it as a tool in your arsenal of photographic tools is the proper slot. I use the heck out of mine when scouting a location, especially if it’s a new one, dropping pins and titling them for ease of locating later. As I move and work a location I am making notes of the area: is it best for sunrise or sunset; how many potential shots in this location did I come across?; what about the previous location a mile down trail I scouted earlier that had only three possibilities: which has the strongest, second strongest and so on and now how do I prioritize all of the 10 shots?

Dropping pins, reading weather forecasts, understanding light and being prepared will help get you the shots you are looking for.

I wish I had my Tripod…

Where's my tripod Lumoid

All too many times I have seen photographers run from their cars sans gear thinking, “I’ll be right back.” Ask any seasoned photographer if they’ve done this and they will all most likely say Yes and have a story to go along with it. We’ve all been there and even after reading this section in the article, presuming you haven’t already given up on me, will do the same. You will get out of the car, walk away from camp, run to shoot a bride and either leave something behind thinking you’ll be right back or you will think hiking that massive hill with a lighter load to be the best idea. It’s not. Don’t trim your gear. Just don’t. Sure, you don’t need to take multiple lenses that overlap focal length or crazy amounts of granola bars, but you do need to put together a smart kit from the get go avoiding this conundrum. When leaving base I always have with me exactly what I will need to successfully complete a shoot just in case I do not come back to base. Most times I don’t.

What’s in my bag…

Whats in the bag Lumoid Cropped

When I put together my kit I focused on these guiding principles: Light, Minimal, Complete and FAST. I did not want my lenses to overlap in their focal length as this just adds weight and bulk, I also wanted to keep my kit small and effective so I can get any shot ranging from the grand landscape to a portrait up through a tighter zoomed in shot for wildlife. And most importantly, FAST. I never have to take my bag off or set it down in sand, snow, water to access a lens, filter, headlamps, etc. For me and my style of photography I feel I have produced the perfect bag, lens and accessory setup and these items listed here are ALWAYS in my bag:

Lowepro Inverse 200AW

Lowepro S&F Filter Pouch (Holds my ND Filters, Umbrella, two headlamps, handkerchief’s)

Nikon D600 with Hejnar Photo L-plate (Check out the upgrade, the D610)

Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8

Nikon 20mm f/2.8 (for its amazing sunstar. The 17-35 has a terrible mushy looking ball for the sun)

Nikon 50mm f/1.8

Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6

Spare EN-EL15 Batteries

Spare AA and AAA batteries for GPS and Headlamps

Nikon ML-L3 Wireless Remote

Peak Design Capture Pro

Peak Design Clutch Hand Strap

Peak Design Slide

Small travel umbrella (REI)

Tiffen Vari-ND 2x-8x

Hoya CPL

Step rings for each lenses to standardize the 77mm diameter Tiffen and CPL Filters

Breakthrough Photography UV filters

64gb of SD memory cards

Suunto Compass

Garmin eTrex Vista HCx GPS

ResQLink Personal Locator Beacon

Hitech .3, .6, .9 Soft Edge Grad ND Filters

Two $2.99 handkerchief’s to wipe off water/double as a sling if needed

Two small rolls of duct tape I roll myself taken from a large roll (MacGyver knows what’s up)

Couple of Quaker granola bars

Clear 3M Safety Glasses


Water canteen

Vanguard Tripod (Not pictured carried in ThinkTank Bazooka Tube)

Machu Pano Light 2 Lumoid

If you want to make the most of each trip into photographing, keeping all of these tips in mind will hopefully help out. Should you have any questions or I happened to overlook important info, please feel free to get in touch. Shoot me an email to and I will happily respond. I love teaching and helping out and would happily clarify or better answer any questions not covered in this article. Happy shooting and good light to all!

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