I’m a gear junkie, not doubt about it. I love watching camera gear videos on YouTube and reading articles about the latest lenses in blog posts. I even love the look of camera gear, the crispness of the numbers printed on a focus scale, the combination of a lens and a camera body together. This does create problems though.
Packing camera gear is a bit like going on holidays. You know where you’re going, but you don’t know what to take because you’ve never experienced the uniqueness of the location. Going out on a shoot is the same thing.
Landscape photography is a dance between the landscape you’re in and the light that falls upon it. There’s no one size fits all approach and different tools will allow you to achieve different results. Yet the laws of physics make this simple fact hard to handle.
If I had 100 million dollars at my disposal, I’d simply hire 20 people to carry all the gear I wanted everywhere I went shooting and would hire a helicopter to drop me off at the exact location. I don’t have 100 million dollars, so I must work within my means, in this case weight and size.
Weight is a big factor when trying to work out what camera gear to take. Lenses are full of glass, which makes them heavy. Heavy is the price you pay for quality of pictures. It means that you’re limited in the number of lenses you can take, that is if you value your back and don’t wish to do permenant damage (I value my back).
But, what about an all-in-one lens solution? They trade quality of image for convenience. Sometimes, that trade is the only choice you can make, but it’s not one I generally feel comfortable with. Furthermore, they don’t cover the wide end of the angle-of-view spectrum, the bread and butter of a landscape photographers craft. So, you’re left to guess your needs in advance and hope to god that you got it right.
You have to look at a location and imagine the shots you’re hoping to get. “I’ll get really clear night skies” That’s my 24mm f1.4 lens, but it’s manual focus and means I won’t be able to carry my 35mm f1.8 with auto focus. “There’s going to be plenty of flowers” That’s my 100mm macto, but it is the heaviest lens I have and usually requires a speedlight to go with it, which is more weight and hassle that I don’t need. “There’s potentially going to be rocks along that beach which will be great for long exposures” That will require a carbon fiber tripod, which will be awkward to carry.
The simple fact is, you’ve probably never going to be able to have exactly the right gear with you, so you might as well pack the gear you like the most and just work with that. If you miss one shot, there will surely be others you’ll get with the gear you decided to take.