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Landscape Photography on a budget - Using available equipment

Wayne Lorimer (wjlorimer)

Keywords: landscape, gear, inspiration, basics, wjlorimer

For anybody starting out in photography, landscapes are a popular subject choice. They don’t move very quickly, don’t complain if you take half an hour to get your camera settings locked down, and there are plenty of them around. If pushed to categorise myself, I would say that I am a ‘landscape photographer’, even though I also shoot weddings and portraits from time to time. I can, and do, shoot other genres, but deep down my passion is photographing nature. I could even argue that there are really only two genres in photography – landscapes and portraits. You are only ever taking one, or the other. I might even take that further and say that a landscape image is just a ‘portrait’ of nature. But I digress.

12 Mile Beach. Nikon D90 with Nikkor 18-105mm ©Wayne Lorimer


Landscapes are also popular, perhaps, because the beginning photographer sees them as being somewhat ‘easier’ than portraiture – for all of the reasons mentioned above. It can be very stressful to take someone’s portrait, even if that someone happens to be a very patient family member or friend. Even the most patient sitter will get bored if it’s taking a long time to set up the shot. And how do you pose them, interact with them, or get them to do what you want them to do? A landscape, on the other hand, has all day. It’s already posed for you. All you have to do is point and shoot – right?

Any photographer, beginner or otherwise, who takes this approach to shooting landscapes, will quickly realise that it’s not as easy as it seems. Yes, many of us are lucky to be surrounded by beautiful landscapes. And yes, many of them can be also quite easy to get to. But why then, do we often come away disappointed with our landscape images? Why is it that they don’t convey the grandeur or the emotion that we felt when we were there taking the photograph? Why don’t my images look like the ones I see when I have a look through landscape forums or other photographers work? I guess it must be the gear I’m using? If I find out what they shoot with, and buy that, then it stands to reason that my landscape photos will look like theirs too – won’t they?

Hang on a minute. Not so fast. Before you go off and buy that $5000 camera body, or $2000 wide angle lens, let’s think about this. What I’m about to say may shock you, it may upset you (sorry about that), or it may even delight you? But it’s the truth. And the truth is, a $2000 lens will NOT make you a better landscape photographer. And a $5000 camera will NOT make you a better photographer – period. The photographers you admire may very well use the latest full frame bodies, and the most expensive ultra-wide lenses that money can buy. But that’s not what makes them great photographers either. Trust me, you can take wonderful, amazing, stunning, incredible landscape pictures with an entry level or mid-range camera body and the humble kit lens. Seriously. When it comes to beautiful landscape images, it is most definitely not about the gear.


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Ellis Feibush (efeib) on July 3, 2017

I believe I took my best landscape images with my first digital camera, a Nikon D70. Someone told me you can do quite welll with a 6mp camera. They were right. The D70 and kit lens, an 18-70 non VR lens did very well for me for quite a while.

Susan Gale (GaleForce22) on June 30, 2017

Great article! As a beginner who could only afford a D3200 with two lenses off eBay, I'm really happy to read this as I'm hoping to learn on this first camera and maybe get better gear in the future. But glad to know that as I learn I should be able to take decent photos with what I have.

Paul Blais (PBlais) on June 3, 2017

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the 2017-2018 fundraising campaign

Great article! I've always thought Great Landscapes are mostly about showing up. I've worked that skill a lot! Knowing WHERE and WHEN separates the pros from the novice. I use a tool called the "Photographers Ephemeris" (free download). Runs on my PC and my iPad or your Mac. It's a map with the ability to get all the solar and lunar times and angles by picking an exact spot. You can know and when you need to be there as well as where the sun and moon will be too for any date! You capture light so know where it will be before you go there! Going someplace else may be the better idea! It also has a Google Earth background or a Google Map background. The map will help with the driving. The Photo background may solve issues such as "So where do I park the car?" or "How close to the water can I get to?" Scouting a location in full daylight for that sunrise shoot is never a bad idea! These are totally simple logistics that in the dark are a nightmare. BTW, you show up in the dark for a Sunrise and wait because you are setup and ready for the early show! Most of landscape photography is about the dumb stuff. The rest happens in post! Shoot raw only and always! Knowing the gear you have is worth everything else! If you take enough crappy pictures and figure out why, you'll still take bad ones but you'll know the good ones right away! Maximize your chances of being lucky! It's all you have.

John A. Meiers (Dakotaboy) on May 30, 2017

Fellow Ribbon awarded for his efforts to make easier to reach landscape information at Nikonians

Great article. You make a very good point. Still use my 18-55mm kit lense to take pictures of granddaughter. When going on photo tours one does notice all the top notch lenses and cameras others have and one can get to feeling a bit under supplied. Like Mr. Demers my gear is also more advanced than my skill set.

Jeff Hansman (Martinplayer) on May 28, 2017

hear, hear! I have gotten some really nice landscapes and close-ups with my kit lenses that now adorn my walls. Recently I posted a query here about the advisability of getting a 24-70mm after spending a sunset session with a friend who rarely uses any other lens. He was truly impressed with the results I got with my 18-55mm, as I as with the shots he got with his lens that cost him about eight times what mine did. Not a fair comparison, except in our results. Was his sharpness eight time better? No. In fact, neither of us could detect any appreciable difference. The responses I got here to my query were of the flavor of "Well, one day you'll understand how much better glass can mean," and "You need to outgrow your kit lenses." Conversely, it's nice to see the results the author got with affordable glass. Part of me wants to drop a grand on the 24-70mm, while another asks, "Do you NEED it?" Thus far, the latter is winning.

Robert Demers (shipsdrummer) on May 28, 2017

Good reality check for this member. I have to always remember that my gear is still more advanced then my skill set.

Moshe Priest (Meprst) on May 27, 2017

So true Great Pictures (Especially D70 - Loved this camera until it malfunctioned beyond repair) Bravo

Harish Subramanian (Harish1957) on May 26, 2017

Great article Wayne. Thanks for stressing the importance of light in landscapes. Liked all the shots especially the last one - Early morning, Moana .

Carl Crosby (wile e coyote) on May 26, 2017


Steve Kunder (smkunder) on May 25, 2017

Really enjoyed this, all too often we get into the trap of needing the latest and greatest because we seen it on utube or on a fourum, I am guilty myself. I am starting to tire of the concept of people posting that yon need this or that, and find it refreshing to read that one needs to perfect the use of whatever we own. Great article, thank you.

David Summers (dm1dave) on May 25, 2017

Awarded for high level knowledge and skills in various areas, most notably in Wildlife and Landscape Writer Ribbon awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Nikonians community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded as a member who has gone beyond technical knowledge to show mastery of the art a

Great article, Wayne. Thank you.

Diane L. Simmons (coolmom42) on May 24, 2017

Awarded for her enthusiastic support of the community and exemplifying the Nikonian mission “Share, Learn and Inspire” Awarded for her in-depth knowledge and high level of skill in several areas.

Great article, Wayne, with a common-sense perspective. I've said for years that my lowly 18-55 kit lens is a great go-to. Wider-angle lenses have their place, but they are pretty much useless without an important foreground. You are so right that the photographer makes the picture, not just the equipment.

Sarah Boser (Sarah9) on May 24, 2017

Wayne, thanks for your perspective. Great article.

Philipp Duffy (Nuvolari) on May 24, 2017

Great article, Wayne. Nice shots, too. One Tree Bay looks like it could have been taken near my home.

Kerr Moyer (klm) on May 24, 2017

Excellent article.