Forget cameras, lenses, filters, tripods etc. this week lets look at the other things every landscape photographer really needs...
1. A plan
Capturing stunning landscapes where all the elements have come together to create something special is all about being in the right place at the right time, that might occasionally happen by chance but the more preparation you put in the more often you'll get lucky. Good planning is especially important when visiting a new place for a dawn shoot. If you can go for a look around the day before to get a feel for the place and find your compositions, all the better, then on the day you're ready and waiting to get the shot when the light is right rather than still stumbling about in semi darkness setting up your tripod. If you don't have the time to visit beforehand you can piece together a good idea of the place by looking at other people's photos and using google maps (street view is very handy for finding parking places). You can also glean other useful information from the internet... weather, tides and the position of the sun . I have to admit, I'm yet to find a weather forecast that gets it right more than about 20% of the time, as there's only so many types of weather likely to occur at a particular time of year, I would have thought looking out of the window and guessing would get higher odds of success than 1 in 5! If you do have a recommendation for an online weather forecast please share it with us, it'll be welcome with open arms.
2. Sat nav
Occasionally you get the luxury of photographing somewhere that is just a few steps from a conveniently located car park but more often than not that new location you're planning on visiting will be tucked away in the middle of nowhere. Some places are hard enough to find in daylight so finding your way there for the first time in semi-darkness, bleary eyed from a 3am alarm call sounds a lot like hard work... it's also nice to see from the estimated time of arrival that you're going to be there on time to capture that perfect sunrise.
3. The right clothes
Ok, this an obvious one right? Even in relatively mild East Anglia standing on a North Sea beach waiting for the sun to come up in winter can get more than a trifle nippy and there's nothing guaranteed to kill your desire to take photos quicker than not being able to feel you extremities. The subject of outdoor clothing could fill several blogs on it's own so let's just pick one item for this list... gloves. Apart from your eyes fingers are probably the most useful body part for operating a camera and typically they are the first things to refuse to work properly in the cold. Gloves like these Extremities 'Sticky Thicky' gloves are thin enough for you to operate the camera without having to take them off and have sticky rubber lines on the palms and fingers making it easier to grip things. They're not going to keep you warm and toasty all day but you can easily fit a thicker pair over the top when you're not shooting.
You've got yourself to the 'right place' and you have the right gear but however much planning you've put in there's no guarantee that it'll be the 'right time'. In fact sometimes I'm convinced that, contrary to what the boy scouts would have you believe, being prepared just means something outside your control will go wrong. Sometimes you'll have to wait hours for the right conditions which may only last seconds, often you'll have to return more than once to get a decent shot but if you are patient, when the magic happens you'll be ready to get your picture and it'll all be worth it.
5. Travel towel
One of my favourite (and cheapest) things in my bag, is a massive ultra-thin microfibre towel which folds into a tiny mesh bag, weighs practically nothing and is brilliant at drying stuff. Very handy for drying off the camera (or yourself) on misty or rainy days and a life saver if your gear gets splashed by a wave.
6. Spare socks
No matter what you do, the sea will always manage to splash over the top of your wellies or your trousers will get soaked wading through long grass and drip into your walking boots. Stashing a nice dry pair of socks and some trainers in the car somewhere will mean that after squelching around in wet boots for hours at least you don't have to drive home with soggy feet.
Do you have any must-have gadgets or gizmos that live in your camera bag, join in the discussion here or on Facebook or Twitter.