DIY tools for landscape and time-lapse photography

What essential tools have you always wanted to mount on your camera setup?

Completing the gear set to bring for a specific landscape photography trip depends on many factors. If you want to make the most of the location and the effort it takes to get there, you want your gear to help you become more efficient, more focused, and more creative. A common dilemma is when you want to bring anything and everything that could be useful for filming, while at the same time you want to pack light and be comfortable. Ultimately, the key is to strike the right balance between being prepared and being comfortable.

Over years and years of shooting in different locations and having to adapt to the challenges, one would be able to figure out which gear is essential and which accessories are considered “must have” for a specific type of shoot. These tools may or may not be easy to carry and pack, but their impact on the way you shoot can make them useful. The idea for this video and this article came from a simple frustration trying to find solutions to problems and/or inconveniences I encountered while filming. I mentioned some to the SmallRig brand, which makes tools and accessories for camera gear, and they challenged me to build the setup I want with what they have to offer and find that which might be useful. In this article, let me share with you some DIY tricks that you might find useful, and at the same time give a little overview of the selection of accessories available and their functionality for the needs of photographers. of landscape.

Bare minimum

For any landscape photographer, there are accessories that most would consider essential. These are of course apart from the camera, lens, tripod and filters. These simple accessories facilitate certain parts of the shooting workflow and/or keep your valuable equipment safe.

An L-bracket is perhaps one of the best accessories to get when buying a new camera, which is why I ordered the SmallRig L-bracket for the Sony A7IV before the camera even arrived. photo. Landscape photographers may be the ones who use tripods the most, so it’s wise to keep a tripod plate on your camera whenever possible. Besides the fact that L-brackets make it easier to shoot in a vertical orientation, L-brackets suitable for your camera model have dedicated holes to make room for your battery, memory card, and side port doors so you can keep on camera as long as you want.

A less popular alternative to an L-bracket is a full camera cage. Although this cage does not have a side plate, all sides of this rectangular cage have 1/4″ and 3/8″ threads for tripod plates and arms. While this cage can make the camera bulky, it offers a bit of protection and flexibility in terms of mounting other accessories on it.

The type of camera strap to use is entirely up to your preference. However, it is important to keep in mind that a long and relatively heavy strap can cause unwanted camera shake during long exposures on a tripod. A common solution is, of course, to wrap the strap around the center column of the tripod, but if you don’t particularly like wearing a neck or shoulder strap, a wrist strap might be a better choice for you. A wrist strap would be easier to attach to the tripod or hold your camera securely with your hand without inducing movement. This SmallRig wrist strap uses a quick release buckle that allows you to easily remove the wrist strap when not in use. The locking mechanism, however, appears to use a one-sided anchor, which causes very minimal inconvenience.

For any photographer, a multi-tool can and will come in handy at crucial times. Whether it’s just attaching the mounting screw to your tripod plate, tightening your tripod joints, or even opening a stuck battery door, having tools ready will save you a lot of crucial time on the job. ground. This particular multi-tool has a flat head, a few cross heads, and different sizes of hex keys. This multi-tool can be handy for purposes other than photography, which is why it can be more convenient for it to have a way to be attached to car key rings for all carrying options. days.

Filter bag and counterweight

There’s no need to say why filters are useful in landscape photography, but what I always look for in my setup, especially when shooting time-lapse photography, is a part of my tripod that can contain my filters for me. For this simple and perhaps trivial need, I used a SmallRig Superclamp and mounted it to one of my tripod legs. The ends of the T-shaped button can be used as a hook to hang the strap of a filter bag. This can also be used as a way to attach the camera strap, a remote control or to use a bag as a counterweight by attaching it to the center column. This clamp comes with different screw thread sizes which will allow the use of a wide range of accessories. It also has excellent grip and an all-metal construction that gives it a heavy payload. It would be nice to have a larger version of this that could mount cameras on railings and ledges, which would be especially useful for filming from rooftops.

Remote controls, triggers and external monitors

Other common accessories for landscape photographers are tolls that make long exposure, HDR and/or time-lapse shooting more efficient. When shooting long exposures, a wireless remote can be very useful in trying to avoid any camera shake caused by pressing the shutter button. While using a 2, 5, or 10 second timer delay is an option, it can be a hindrance when precise timing is crucial. This Bluetooth remote is an easy solution for that and is also a handy tool for shooting video on a tripod. It can also be screwed to the L-bracket or camera cage or secured with Velcro.

For more advanced purposes, I use a MIOPS Smart+ Camera Remote Shutter. This can be controlled via smartphone with the mobile app but also has a screen on top for easier use. The Smart+ can be mounted very easily on the hot shoe of the camera; however, when shooting with a relatively tall tripod, the screen is out of your field of view. To solve this I planned to use a hot shoe mount mini ball head or 1/4 inch double ended mini arm which will allow me to change the angle of the trigger for better visibility. This can also be used to redirect the lightning and laser sensors to the Smart+ in case I use them.

Another common accessory that one may want to mount on a camera setup is a smartphone. This can be used as a remote control via various apps, whether or not in combination with a remote trigger. Another option is to use the smartphone as an external monitor through an app that transmits the live view via Wi-Fi. Although external monitors are available in the market, they may not be the priority when it comes to is all about reducing the amount of gear you bring to a shoot. To mount it, options include using another super clamp or using the link port on my Manfrotto 055. Either way, the smartphone and its cage can be mounted to the port using an articulated arm, which also helps to position the phone. Since the arm has 1/4 inch threads, I used a thread adapter from a spare set of screws I also got to adapt it to a 3/8 inch port .

Continuous Power for Time-lapse

While most cameras have much better battery performance these days, time-lapse photography takes that requirement to a whole new level. Time-lapse footage often takes at least two hours and can last several days, filmed 24/7. Although one option is to have multiple spare batteries, using continuous power and charging eliminates the possibility of missing an exposure when the battery is depleted and/or while you are changing the battery. Most cameras released in the past three years now come with USB-C charging, allowing power banks to be used to continuously charge batteries. To make this more convenient, I used a SmallRig portable power bank mount and a 1/4 inch double ended screw so I could mount the power bank to another SmallRig Superclamp on another tripod stand .

In general, it is good that DIY accessories are now readily available in the market to help photographers find solutions to problems they encounter in the field or at the very least find ways to make their workflow more efficient and/or practical. Running into mechanical issues with crucial props can ruin the outcome of a shoot, which is why it’s invaluable to be ready with tools and solutions.

About Debra D. Johnson

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