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Landscape Photography

Lesson 4 of 27

Gear Bag

Marc Muench

Landscape Photography

Marc Muench

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Lesson Info

4. Gear Bag
What's in a landscape photographer's gear bag? What focal lengths are best for nature photography and landscapes? Learn what's typically in Marc's bag on a shoot, from the DSLR camera body, wide-angle lenses, and longer lenses to accessories like tripods, neutral density filters (ND filters), and polarizing filters. Then, learn what non-photo accessories are also helpful, like a headlamp.

Lesson Info

Gear Bag

I know there's a lot of different types of gear, but this is what I use right now. And the reason I wanted to bring it up after talking about finding your eye is that one of the conundrums or mysteries of photography, at least for me, has always been which lens should I bring on this trip or this shoot? And not only that, but it's which combination of lenses do I bring? As I mentioned, you want sometimes two lenses when you're trying to simplify. But that's really hard to do. It's really hard to take out a lens and not bring it. So what I've got here is what I typically bring on a trip when I'm going out where I might be hiking away from the truck or the camper or the car. That all fits in my bag. All right, so first things first. I use a Nikon D810, and I've used it for about two and a half years, I guess. Before that I photographed with a Canon, primarily. And before that it was something to do with film. It was not digital. So in addition to the Nikon D810, I have a few lenses. I ha...

ve the Nikon 14 to 24, which is a great lens for night. That's the reason I bought it and use it. But it also is a wonderful wide-angle lens, and it's one of the sharpest. Many people, you look online and they've all been bragging about it. It's a very sharp lens. It has this big, bulbous front element, and so what I've done is I've put a filter holder on there that's made by, called WonderPana, and it basically holds these enormous filters, which I'll show you in a second. But it's the only way to accurately filter without vignetting this lens. So that's the wide angle. This is the other lens that I use instead of the wide-angle for a lot of daytime shots. And this is the 24 Tilt-Shift. Okay, and I talk a lot about how I'm going to use this later in the video coming up. But typically it's either/or in my bag. The other lens that's always in my bag is the 70 to 200, and I talk about how I use this as well in regards to compressing a landscape, oftentimes with people or different various subjects. So this one is the f/4 version, not the 2.8. It's plenty sharp, and I've found that I typically don't need that, and the 2.8 version that's the aperture is a lot larger and weighs considerably more. So this one's a lot easier to carry. I also have, I'll explain this in a minute, but that's a collar to mount to the rest of the camera tripods I use. Okay, so in addition to the D810 and a few of those lenses, what's in my waist pack is typically this lens, and this lens is a little 50, and it's, this particular one is a Zeiss 1.4, so it's very fast. And you can see that it's just a great little handy lens that doesn't weigh much, and it's extremely sharp, especially at f/5.6 or f/8, and I'll explain how I use that. But I also use this for very shallow, depth-of-field closeup shots. It's a wonderful portrait lens, also. But here's the beauty of this, is that these three lenses right here, the 70 to 200, the 50 and the 14 to is what I would bring pretty much everywhere now. So that covers my bases, and how I got to that was, and I'll talk about editing later, but as you look at the metadata in Lightroom, I brought a 28 to 300 lens out for about a year and a half, and I looked at the most common focal length of all the pictures I had taken with that lens, and sure enough, it was right around 50. So I didn't intend to do that, but it worked out real well. And I typically didn't use a 50 for years, so it was quite a revelation. But those are the three lenses most of the time that I use. This one occasionally for the daytime landscapes. In the belt pack I have something else. Usually I have a second camera, and my second camera I use for a couple different reasons, not necessarily as a backup for that one, because it's a different resolution, but for time lapses. For snaps, when I just want to go out and record pictures that I don't really want a 36 megapixel file of. So it's kind of a backup, but it also serves as a different fun camera. Right now it's the Sony A7S, and it's a mirrorless. I have a Nikon lens on there, but I also have a Sony lens that I use occasionally. And then I have a Metabones adapter to get that lens to work on this Sony camera. The reason I have this camera is I'll be having a blog post coming out, I think very soon, a few days, about my feelings about this camera in low light, and that's why I got it, because it's one of the best files you can create star pictures with, and so it operates a full-size sensor at 3200 ISO, some of the very beautiful, clean files. So less noise. And I want to shoot time lapses at night. And right after this I go to Norway, where we'll be looking for the Northern Lights. And somebody says that I can shoot live video with this camera of the Northern Lights. So that will be my experiment. What else is in here? This is the filters, and these are all made to go screw into this WonderPana head. And this is a polarizing filter. And then, in addition to the polarizing filter, I have two other ones. This is a 10 stop neutral density filter. And then I have, in addition to the 10 stop, I have a five stop. And that gives me the freedom to use ND's in most situations. And I'll talk about how I use them a little bit more later as well. So I have a polarizer and two ND's. Those are the primary filters that I carry. I do have a little packet of filters for the Sony. And that I put on the side of the pack right over here. And that's just a small packet of filters, and that's for the smaller diameter lenses. Same thing. A couple ND's and a polarizer. All right, so the bag. The bag is kind of interesting. It's really designed for wearing, so I'll do a really quick demo of why it's so important, but essentially this waist pack goes inside the bottom, and you'll see how cool it is. It's not made to use specifically when it's off, because you can see that the belt pack is a little hard to get in and out. But once it's on and you're out in the field taking pictures, you put the waist strap on, make sure you don't have too much breakfast, and this little clip here comes undone, so imagine you've got the camera set up, taking pictures, and you want to change lenses or filters. So then you just swivel this thing around, and now you've got all your other stuff right here. So it's a big help, especially when you're in wet, swampy areas or in the sand in the desert. It really does make a difference. So it's been a great pack. I love it. But again, if you're shooting out of a car, working out of a car, that's a perfect scenario how you can justify another piece of equipment. Get another bag for shooting out of the car. So what do I have? Some of the essentials I have to show you is I carry for the pano photography is this nodal slide. And this nodal slide, as well as the L-bracket on my camera and the multi-row pano device here, and the tripods is all made by a company called Really Right Stuff. It's my choice. It just works. My feeling is, is that all this, it's not as fun as the cameras and going places, but I've found that this stuff works real well, and you can see all the battle wounds from different places I've been. So anyways, that's in the side pocket. And I'm going to show you later how to use this nodal slide and the tilt shift lens. It's really a great combination. And then, all kinds of good things. This is a lens coat, and this is just in case it rains. But in Seattle you guys don't have that problem, so you don't need this. This is another great little feature by MindShift, which is the company that makes this. It's called a contact sheet, and it's just a little tarp. You can put it over your head, cover your bag, whatever. Just a little rain fly. So that's good, especially up in the rain forest. A couple other essentials on the top of the pack. Extra batteries. We have lens wipes that we give away on our trips. Sun block. Got to have that. Extra cards. Okay? I'll talk more about backing up in my workflow for keeping track of your files. But you want, just so you know, you want enough cards to take all your pictures on so you don't have to format them while you're on your shoot. That's the key. I've put little bands around the batteries that are charged, and when they're discharged I take it off. Because I've spent too many times sticking in a dead battery. That gets old. All right, and then another hidden flap. I have the tool that operates all the little Allen keys and sizes for this equipment here. You can get yourself a bunch of little Allen keys too, but the same company makes this tool that allows you to adjust all those different elements. And this is a space blanket, for those nights. Somehow you get caught out. And you never know. You might need this when you're just driving to work if you get snowed in, so it's a good thing to have around. It's an emergency space blanket. It's made of foil. You wrap yourself up in that, and it's almost as good as being in a comforter. The headlamp. A headlamp is great. The key to this is that you get the one with the red LED as well, and so sorry about pointing that in your face. And basically if you press it hard enough and long enough, it starts blinking and all kinds of fun stuff. But it also has a red LED. And the red LED is helpful if you're out at dark and you're operating your camera. You don't want to lose your night vision. And so that's what the red helps you maintain. So the tripods, kind of interesting. First of all, I have the big one here, and it's a lot taller than I am. And the reason for that is quite often there's a slope, and so the tripod needs to be this high. I love the stability of a bigger tripod. In addition, I have these spikes that are on this small one on all the time, even on the big one. So except for hardwood floors. Not a good place to use spikes. But anyways, the tripod is your best friend and it's your worst friend, and I'll talk a little bit about some tricks about using it, but essentially all this gear is made to kind of go together like erector set. And the beauty of it is that it's all quick releases, and so you can take this device off, which is a ball head, and then you could put this device on, which dovetails right in there. And then you're set up to shoot a multi-row panorama, which requires this as well. And I know it looks like a lot. But then you put the camera here, and I'll show you later how it works, but essentially it rotates and takes pictures overlapping, and then you take another row by changing the angle and take another row of pictures. So that's what that's for. That's to create a file that you can make a print from the size of this wall, in case you want to do that. So all this stuff, like I said, comes down and comes into parts. I think a practical-sized tripod, though, if you don't want to purchase the bigger ones, there's all kinds of manufacturers that make just the legs and that are more than adequate and are less money. So you can get legs. But the key here is this system right here that locks the camera into the tripod. So if anything, I highly recommend a system that gives you the ability to not only mount your tripod or your camera on the tripod like so, but then, without changing the composition, pull the camera off and change it to vertical so that you don't have to change the tripod legs. That's really the best part of all this. All right, so I think that covers most of the equipment. You can see I've really tried to narrow things down over the years. I have a few other lenses, a few other pieces of equipment. Don't forget your beanie, because it gets cold out. And really, I think the most important part is, I'm going to talk about this later, is learning how to use all this. All right? So, I would actually love to ask a few questions, if you don't mind, about gear. We had a lot coming in. Thank you for asking, guys. If you don't know, you can ask questions for Mark, and I will ask them for you as we get the opportunity and as we have time. There's an "ask" button. If you click it, it's right above the video player. It just says, "ask." It will open up a new column and you can ask your questions there. First thing though, we ask you to scroll through the other questions that have already been asked, and see if someone else has already asked a question that's similar to the one that you want to know the answer to. If you do, click the blue up arrow. It's on each question. And that's a vote for it, and that tells me, then I see those numbers, and I see, okay, these are the ones that more people want to know the answer to so I can ask the questions that will help the most people. So go ahead and do that as we are going throughout this entire workshop. For now, though, a couple questions. First of all, people wondering about kind of inclement weather. We have Terry PHD, who wants to know, says, "With most cameras, they have a low temperature range "of around 32 in taking pictures. "How do you overcoming this limitation "in your winter shots?" And then we had Tom Gibson and two others who wanted to know about rain gear. So I'd love for you to just in general to go over talking about specifically rain and really cold weather. Anything that you do differently, different gear you might bring, or just precautions you might take. So really cold weather, you have to test the camera. Because I know I've had, I've experienced camera manufacturers come up with camera bodies that don't really work in cold temperatures. So, you know, you can look on the internet to find out whether that camera body works at that temperature or not, but in the end, the best thing to do is go out and try it. One other problem in the cold is the batteries. And so a simple thing you can do is have your extra battery, rather than in your pack, stick it inside your pocket next to your chest, where it's warmer. I've even had times where I bring the hand warmers, and if I think the camera's not operating because it's cold, you stick hand warmers around it in a bag, especially while you're sleeping or at night. If you're in a lodge, don't worry about it. The other thing is, is that if you're out for hours, this lens, the front element, can fog up and get crystals on it, and so there's a couple different options there. You can actually buy little battery-operated fans, and they hook onto the tripod, and that's if you really want to go that far, you can. People use them for time lapses. The other thing is, is that you can buy a band that goes around the lens, and it's actually like a heater. So same thing, bunch of batteries, you just plug that in and it keeps the lens elements warm. Really, the biggest problem I've had with digital cameras in the cold is probably my fingers. And so that's usually what stops operating. So I have this device right here, which is a wireless remote, and I have a little remote that I stick in my pocket, so once I get the settings dialed in, then I can trigger the camera from that. But yeah, essentially the cold, you have to test your body. Look it up online and make sure. Actually the D810, I haven't even been in the minus temperatures yet, so it will be something new to find out. Love that. And then rain? Just kind of a water protection. Somebody else I saw also was asking about salt water. Salt water. Salt water's great. Basically you just buy a new camera. No, I've had cameras doused in salt water, and instantly you want to take something damp with fresh water and just pat it down, because that salt is what's going to get into the electronics and kill the camera. So pat it down with some fresh water. How much fresh water and water can these take? It's manufacturer-dependent. It varies. But I've seen these things completely drenched, and really, they kept operating just fine, but what happened was fog develops on the inside of the camera. So they can only take so much, even though they're weather sealed. The camera that I used prior to this was a Micro Four Thirds Olympus, and that thing you can actually dunk in the water and pull out and it still works. But not all cameras are made to dunk in the water. So for rain, there are times when it's raining real hard, and I think I pulled out the lens coat. This is just a great little feature that goes over your camera body and gives you access to the camera underneath this pouch. So you can see it would just slide over the top of the camera, and with the Velcro on the bottom, you can stick your hand up under it, operate all the buttons, and then keep the camera dry for the majority of the time. It might get a few drops when you put the camera back in the bag. But the lens coat works real well. Wonderful. All right, got a couple more here, really quick. And then I know we've got a lot more to get to in this segment. But first of all, you did mention your Micro Four Thirds. Tiny Paws and three other people all wanted to know what your opinions are on Micro Four Thirds in general for landscape photography. They're incredible. The quality has improved dramatically. There's lens choice availability is spectacular. If you look at the Olympus E-M I think is the one I used for quite a while, and then Panasonic has a GH4, and there are others. That size camera, really it's the sensor size that's smaller, and so when you have that smaller sensor size, your lenses go down to something about this size, and the weight goes way down. So all of this range of focal length can be reduced to something that fits in this belt pack. And that's the beauty of it. You give up resolution. So you're not going to get as much resolution. Aside from resolution, there's only one other factor with the Micro Four Thirds, and that is the ability to capture motion. So there's an electronic shutter, or a viewfinder, and that viewfinder will actually preview a black screen in between each shot. And so you don't have a live view of whatever action's going on. And in that scenario, it's a little bit debilitating. I've practiced it many times, and you can get around it. Let's see, one other just, kind of, a General Tao and two others and then a lot of other questions along the same lines. What lens do you recommend to someone starting in landscapes? This is obviously a fairly expensive hobby, or a fairly expensive profession if that's what you're doing. But for someone who's just getting started, what do you recommend as a starter lens, maybe even a starter body as well? It's a good question. I think a wide zoom. So if you're looking at something that's on a standard, full-sized sensor, you would go with something around a 28 millimeter, maybe 24 to 35 or 50, somewhere right in there. Because that's really, for landscape, that's going to capture a lot of those wide scenes. And then it's going to give you the ability to get close to things with a tighter focal length. If you can, if it's affordable, then get something that focuses close. And one of my favorite lenses in the Nikon line was the 28-300, because it allowed you to focus at about 12 inches. So now you had this incredible 300 millimeter lens, not the sharpest tool in the shed, but it was great to have 300 and 28 in the same lens, and be able to focus it like a macro. So some of those things are helpful, like macro, a wide zoom, those are key I'd say. And then, as far as a body, I would start with anything you can afford. It's not about the resolution when you're starting. The only thing that really matters is if you make up your mind that you want to become a night photographer, then it does matter, because some of these camera bodies aren't as good at night as others. In fact, they don't even work. So if you just want to do night, then you're going to have to spend a little more money or get someone to donate you one, or borrow one. Other than that though, the best one you can get your hands on.

Class Description


  • Capture great shots of landscapes and nature
  • Confidently shoot in manual mode
  • Fine-tune your eye for composition
  • Master light for landscape photography
  • Work with HDR and panoramas
  • Perfect your images with post-processing in Lightroom


Turn a spark of passion for the outdoors into beautiful landscape photography in this start-to-finish course. From gear and exposure to light and post-processing, master the landscape photography workflow with veteran artist Marc Muench. End the frustration of being unable to capture the raw beauty of nature and capture inspiring awe-inducing views on camera.

With both live instruction and on-site photography tutorials, you'll master both the technical and creative necessities for capturing better landscape images. After the adventure, learn to perfect the scene using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to crop, color and fine-tune those images. In addition, you'll tackle advanced techniques including HDR and panoramas.


  • Beginners ready to get off auto mode
  • Intermediate photographers looking to improve
  • Photographers ready to tackle landscape photography as a new genre

SOFTWARE USED: Adobe Lightroom CC 2015, Adobe Photoshop CC 2015


As a third-generation photographer, Marc Muench has spent nearly 30 years working as a landscape and sports photographer. His work has appeared on the cover of publications like Time, National Geographic, Traveler, Outside, Sierra Magazine and more. In addition to shooting, he leads photography workshops around the world. He teaches with a mix of technical and creative details and personal insight.


Jeff McPheeters

This was my first class with Creative Live and also my first exposure to landscape photographer Marc Meunch. I've been a photographer for many years, an educator in science and technical fields for more than two decades, and a lifelong learner of the craft of making photographs. I am pretty picky when it comes to educational resources and when it involves recommending something that I want to reflect my own standards of excellence. That said, I came with an open mind, with some expectation that I would learn a few tricks, but also with the understanding that after spending thousands of hours in books and online courses as well as direct workshop and tutorials from a range of photographer workshops, Adobe training, KelbyOne and other professional organizations, that some of what I'd hear would be stuff I'd already known. My first impression was positive, as I think Creative Live did a good job explaining the purpose, intent, and scope of the workshop, as well as giving me a good idea of the speaker's credentials. As the session begin on Day 1, I was immediately impressed with the quality of the technical aspects of the live feed. It was like I was there. The sound quality was outstanding. The video streamed effortlessly and I only have wireless access to the Internet. I'm not on high speed wired cable. The bandwidth can fluctuate, yet it worked extremely well. The speaker, Marc Meunch, was relaxed, engaging, professional, and possessed such a comprehensive and deep understanding of the topic that I felt extremely lucky to have been told about this workshop. I don't think I've ever been able to watch someone who was so masterful in their presentation, so thorough in their organization and outline, so enthusiastic about their work, so passionate about the craft of landscape portraiture, or so articulate and engaging with the audience; at least in the realm of Photography. I'd jump at any chance to listen to Marc Meunch again; and especially to attend one of his outdoor workshops. One of the unique aspects of this workshop was that Marc uses some video clips from his outdoor workshops to illustrate what he's talking about in the classroom. Very effective. And the slides he chooses to share are effective and easy to understand. It's very inspiring to watch Marc present ideas and illustrate them through his own work, showing before and after and alternate compositions to demonstrate the point he's making. Day 1 was so good that before it was over I'd already purchased the two day workshop. I was that certain it was worth the cost. Frankly, I'm not sure I'd find a class like this for under $100/day. This is a pretty good deal. Day 2 was equal in usefulness and inspiration as Day 1. The discussion of gear selection and scouting techniques along with the introduction to his Lightroom and Photoshop workflow was very helpful and would be especially apropos to someone getting more serious about their landscape work but not very experienced with Lightroom or Photoshop, even perhaps a little intimidated by the prospect of needing to learn those two software giants, because Marc shows the power and easy of learning them. I was pleased I was able to attend and even more pleased I can watch these over and over and study points I didn't quite grasp the first time through. I highly recommend this course. The viewer will be inspired and encouraged as a result. Marc doesn't make it look easy; rather he makes landscape photography look fun and exciting and worthy of the effort and time to find ones own style and vision, clearly imparting the practical how-to's to aid each person in their own journey to make it more enjoyable and satisfying.

a Creativelive Student

I don't like writing reviews. Seems like everyone just wants to hear that everything was... awesome. So, let me try to be specific about what I liked: I thought that the concept of the creative trinity was brilliant. I thought that Marc's presentation on composition was the best I've ever seen. His ideas on having a theme for shooting was inspiring because it was simple. He also had some great tips on light. The other thing I appreciated about Marc's presentation was the wide variety of locations shown and his knowledge of them. I also am always interested to learn more about the people that have inspired presenters. Sometimes, it feel like CL classes are aimed at the lowest experience levels. But, as someone else said in review... there is always a nugget or two and review is beneficial. I wish Marc was more animated. He's obviously very self contained and reflective -- gotta be who you are, right? I have purchased Marc's class, the Shive class, and Art Wolf's class. All have had different benefits. I wish they would do others and take complexity up a notch -- specifically, helping others understand the planning necessary... how they find reliable contacts to guide them and what those things cost. How they are transporting all the gear they carry. More specific information on permits, camping gear, dealing with adverse conditions, etc. And, more information on how they get different images of frequently photographed locations.


I happend to stumble upon the course by an email. I clicked on it and realized that Mark had come to my town (Sitka,Alaska) to do a trip with my good friend. So I thought I'd watch a bit. After awhile I realized this is good, way good. So I shot a lot of that day just eating it up. The director would come on every bit and say there was a show price. I thought well I'll just watch. Then on the second day he did some things that the announcer said he had never seen. I thought the same thing. So I bought. I have been shooting for 40 years and I still LOVE to learn. A noted psychologist said "We are happiest when we are learning" and I couldn't agree more. Thank you Creative Live for offering these courses. I live on an Island in Southeast Alaska with 14 miles of road. BUT I can be a front row student with some of the best teachers in the world. Thank You! Also a Huge thank you to Mark. It takes a ton of time to do this, and Im sure you get tired of the same questions again and again, but it truly changes the lives of us who love this type of life.