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June 18, 2015

Namibia Photo Tours 2016

There are a lot of very photogenic places on our planet, but a certain few stand head and shoulders above the rest. Areas where there are an abundance of remarkable and easily accessible photographic opportunities. Landscapes like Iceland, Patagonia and The Colombia River Gorge jump to mind. I’ve been lucky enough to have one such place within a day’s drive all my life; Namibia. My first two visits were when I was still in school and when photography played no role in my life. The first time I explored Namibia solely for photography was in 2010 and that was the first of many trips to come. In total, I’ve spent roughly 7 months photographing Namibia and the result is that I know Namibia’s photography hotspots better than most.

Deadvlei on a calm April morning.

Having some of the world’s most unique and inhospitable terrain makes Namibia a bucket list destination for any tourist and especially so for photographers. It also boasts the title of the world’s 2nd most sparsely populated country, which explains why the average distance between towns is 200km. If there’s one thing that Namibia has no shortage of, it is pristine wilderness.

Namibia doesn’t get much rain, but when it does rain, it’s an amazing sight to behold. The Namib Desert’s rain comes in billowing thunderclouds from the mountains East of the red sands, mostly from February to May. In normal amounts, the clouds guarantee dramatic sunsets and fields of grass. In abnormally dry years, it can turn the desert into a barren hell. In abnormally wet years it turns the desert into a wetland and it brings fierce thunderstorms to the dunes. I was lucky enough to witness such a year in 2011. The three years since have been quite dry, so a wet year is bound to make a return soon.

A magical sunset in the Namib Rand

The Photography

Namibia has great tourism infrastructure and all the destinations are very tourist-friendly, but thinking you can just pitch up and get great photographs everywhere is foolish. I have learnt from experience that each destination has its tricks of the trade for ensuring you get the shots. At some places you need to know which tree is the special one and at others you need to know which dune is worth climbing. At Sossusvlei you’ll watch sunrise from your car if you’re not staying in the right lodge and at Kolmanskop you need to know which rooms are right at what time of the day. When you only have two or three days at each location, you can’t afford to be in the wrong place at the right time or vice versa. When you attend a workshop with CapturEarth, we bring that experience to the table. We ensure that you stay at the right lodge, photograph the best subjects and that you’re set up and ready when the magic light comes.

Sunrise over the Fish River Canyon

I guided four Namibia tours in 2015 and have again optimised my recipe for 2016 to create the ultimate photographic trip to Namibia. Click here to download the full PDF Itinerary.

Intimate Namibia with CapturEarth | 6-19 April 2016 | ND$79000/ USD$6500 

  • Arrive Windhoek INTL Airport
  • Night 1 – Windhoek
  • Night 2 – Quiver Tree Forest
  • Nights 3+4 – Fish River Canyon
  • Nights 5+6 – Kolmanskop Ghost Town
  • Nights 7+8+9 – Sossusvlei
  • Nights 10+11+12 – Wolwedans
  • Night 13 – Windhoek
  • Depart Windhoek INTL Airport

Main Features  

  • Small group of only 9 people guided by two professional South African photographers. A guide to client ratio of 4.5:1 ensures that everyone will get sufficient personal attention.
  • Fully Inclusive – Only expensive liquors and airfare to and from Namibia excluded.
  • Luxurious and comfortable transport in Land Rover Discovery 4′s – only 3 passengers per vehicle.
  • Aerial Photography – Two hours of aerial photography from a helicopter at sunrise/sunset with the doors off.
  • Ideal Season – Late summer still offers the chance of clouds and grass, without the extreme heat of summer or all the tourists of winter.

If you have any questions about this tour, please feel free to contact me on or +27 76 279 2202


An aerial of the Sossusvlei Park

One of the many sand-filled rooms in the Kolmanskop ghost town.

May 19, 2015

Fstopgear – Photo Backpacks That Actually Work

Finding the perfect backpack to store and carry one’s beloved camera equipment in is as unending as the pursuit to find the perfect sunset and the perfect predator kill. As I have returned to Blyde River Canyon and Bloubergstrand around 50 times in pursuit of that perfect light, I have also purchased, sold and even discarded countless backpacks in pursuit of the perfect one. I have tried small, large, cheap, expensive, black, blue, local and international… but nothing ever offered a satisfactory all-round solution.

As we South Africans are so used to being…I was in the dark about a young photo backpack manufacturer that had been making waves on other continents; Fstopgear. After finding out about this exciting new brand, I spent a few really late nights trawling over every single associated and independent blog article I could find and my research left me very excited. I couldn’t find a single article that mentioned more than one minor irritation or imperfection. To put things into perspective; most people can mention at least one fundamental flaw about their camera bag. Some can name a few such flaws and it’s always paired with countless smaller problems. Every piece of information I could find on Fstop bags was completely void of the usually endless complaints about camera backpacks. In my good fortune, the timelines coincided for my pursuit of the perfect backpack and my plans to launch an online store dedicated to the very best of photographic equipment

Many mails and discussions followed and in October 2014, a courier delivered two gigantic boxes; LANDSCAPEGEAR.CO.ZA’s first Fstopgear stock. I had a Magoebaskloof workshop coming up and I needed to pack the usual two bodies, four lenses, Lee Filter system, ton of accessories, snacks, water and a jacket. The natural choice was the Satori EXP with XL ICU, which is the largest option available in their product range.

Note – this article focuses on my first experiences with the Fstop system. For a good explanation on what makes the Fstop system fundamentally different from everything else on the market, visit this article.

My Fstop Satori with XL ICU packed with D810, D800e, 14-24mm, 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, Lee Filters and accessories. A camera with a lens attached wastes an immense amount of space and if packed with bodies and lenses detached, one can fit substantially more.

Upon initially repacking everything from my old bag to the new one, there were a few things that struck me.

  • The first was the volume of the bag, which was a good 25-35% less than the previous bag, despite carrying the same amount of equipment.

  • A more compact design makes it feel a lot more balanced and stable than any other bag I’ve owned.

  • The back and top access keeps things simpler and offers a large space for ‘other stuff’.

  • The pack keeps its shape remarkably well even when heavily loaded. Most other bags sag, which ruins weight distribution, placing a lot of strain on a particular area of one’s back.

  • The shoulder- and hip belts aren’t particularly wide or thick, but it is by FAR the most comfortable backpack I’ve ever shouldered.

  • I can go on and on, but I think I make my point.

I was still hesitant about how much better these backpacks could be than the previous flagships from Tamrac, Lowepro and Clikelite I’ve owned, so I decided to put it to a serious test. I substituted my dedicated Deuter 65+10 Aircontact hiking backpack with the 62L Fstop Satori for a ten day hike in the Drakensberg. This is something that I would NEVER have considered with another backpack, but all the shining reviews combined with my own impressions instilled enough confidence to try it. I really couldn’t throw it in a deeper end for an initial test run. The small pro ICU was the perfect choice, as I needed far more ‘other stuff’ than camera gear. It (Small Pro ICU) is just large enough to accommodate what one wants on a hike; one body, 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, spare batteries, memory cards and a polariser.

The Satori shown with most of what had to fit in it.

The inside with the ICU shown with a Jetboil for scale. I have very large hands, so don't rely on them for scale.

With all clothing except my jackets added.

With most of the food added.

With all the food packed

Top panel of the main compartment closed and the top compartment shown with toiletries, medicine, solar charger and car key attached to the clip.

Important note – I had a porter during the hike that carried my sleeping bag, mattress and pillow. The camera equipment I took along weighed about 10kg, I had slightly more than 1kg of food per day (another 10kg) and then all the other items shown in the first image above. Without the items that the porter took, my pack weighed 26kg, which is damn heavy. If I added the portered items, it would have been more than 30kg and with a full hydration bladder close to 35kg. It becomes a very heavy load to have on your back when covering 10km per day for 10 consecutive days at an average altitude of 3000masl.

The pack was certainly overloaded, but still very comfortable. I’m not going to delve into the details of the hike; I’ll rather just jump straight to the conclusion.

  • I had substantially less back and shoulder pain than with the Deuter.

  • Why the hell don’t hiking packs have back panel access? This made it so easy to remove something from any depth within the bag without having to unpack the whole damn thing. Getting camera gear out is as easy as taking the pack off, opening the rear panel and getting what I need. No muss, no fuss. Most hiking packs only have top access, so you have to unpack and repack everything above the item you need.

  • It was easier to pack and unpack every day, it has better dedicated pouches than the Dueter, the hydration system works better, it has better attachment straps and points, more comfortable hip and shoulder belts and the list really goes on an on.

  • Whenever we arrived at our camping spot for the night, it took me 2 minutes to remove anything not critical to the shoot from the backpack and I’d be ready to go scout for sunset. When I only had to walk a short distance I could simply take the ICU in one hand and tripod in the other.

  • At a starting weight of almost 30kg with a full hydration bladder, it was definitely overloaded. The best part is that after ten days of being manhandled in the mud and rocks, it didn’t have a single loose thread or mark that I couldn’t wipe off with a wet cloth.

The satori near the top of the amphitheater. Having back panel access to a hiking backpack makes life so much easier.

For a photographic backpack to totally outperform a dedicated hiking pack from one of the world’s top brands is nothing short of amazing. It testifies to all the praise for the brand and their dedication to produce the world’s best photo backpacks. It is now 6 months since that hike and my Satori has been to Iceland, Patagonia and Namibia and it still doesn’t have a loose thread or any mark I can’t simply wipe off. In 2013 I did Patagonia’s 4-hour Laguna Torre hike with a Tamrac Expedition Pro 7 and the back- and shoulder pain really spoiled the hike. I did it this year with the Satori and I barely knew I was carrying a heavy backpack.

Anyway, let me come to a close on the hiking, because very few photographers ever go on a multi-day hike. The fact that this backpack outperforms one of the best dedicated hiking products on the market carries a powerful message about how much it can do for any photographer. It makes packing easier, shooting easier and it especially makes travelling with your gear easier. Most of all, you’ll be content with the product you bought and you can shift your focus from shopping to shooting.

It will do what good photo gear is supposed to do; make you forget about all the hard work that goes into getting the shot and allow you the comfort and time to get the shot.

A snow covered Satori at Godafoss in Iceland.

LANDSCAPEGEAR.CO.ZA is the leading retailer of Fstopgear products in South Africa. Click through to view the available products.

  • 09 July 2015 – Fstopgear has done an exciting overhaul of their product line up, which holds the following in store. 

  • Satori, Loka and Guru retired. The Loka UL and Tilopa have only received minor updates. 

  • The new range, in order of size – Lotus, Ajna, Tilopa, Sukha, Shinn

  • LANDSCAPEGEAR.CO.ZA will be receiving all models in 4 different colours – Aloe, Malibu Blue, Anthracite (black) and Nasturtium (orange). 

  • Ultra-Light models now include a new Guru UL and the female-dedicated Kashmir UL. LANDSCAPEGEAR.CO.ZA will be receiving stock of all. 

  • New stock will arrive in several shipments during July, August and September. Subscribe to the newsletter to stay up to date.


April 7, 2015

Graduated ND Filters for Landscape Photography

Filters have always been, and will always be, an essential part of landscape photography. Photoshop enthusiasts may beg to differ, but the soaring demand for these products over the past few years proves otherwise. You can, to a great extent, get away with not using filters, but simply ask yourself this; do you prefer spending time in nature or behind the computer? If you answered nature, then you need to look at getting filters.

The primary reason for using a filter system is that the sky is usually brighter than the land, especially in dramatic sunset light. Graduated ND filters are dark on the top half and transparent on the bottom half. When the dark part is positioned over the sky of an image, it ‘reduces’ the amount of light allowed through and this results in a darkened exposure of the sky. This concept is displayed as simply as possible in the image below. On the left it shows the effect with no filter while on the right it shows the effect using the filter. Pretty awesome.

ND stands for ‘neutral density’, which describes the secondary purpose of the filter. This means that it shouldn’t affect the colour of the light passing through it. In other words, the colours captured by the camera should be true to the scene photographed. This is the great challenge for manufacturers of ND filters and some are more successful than others. The colour issue, as well as the overall quality of the product should be your primary consideration when deciding which brand to buy. This isn’t much of a decision though, as Lee stands head and shoulders above the rest.

I’m writing this article based on 7 years of experience with graduated filter systems. I started with one of the cheap brands, which felt and performed like a toy from a lucky packet. I then upgraded to one of the middle-tier brands and those were quickly discarded for a basic Lee kit. I immediately fell in love with it and before long I invested in a full Lee kit, which has assisted me in getting so many of my very best images over the years. The people behind the product are extremely passionate, precise and true to their product. Each graduated filter is handmade to the most exacting standards, using only the very best materials.

Interesting fact – Lee Filters employs only women in parts of the manufacturing process where colour factors are critical, because men are more susceptible to colour inaccuracies and are the only sex that can be colour blind.

The System

The main part of the Lee filter system is ND graduated filters, but it includes a lot more than just this. This article will deal with everything that LANDSCAPEGEAR offers from this manufacturer, as briefly and informatively as possible.

We only stock the 100mm system, designed for use with 35mm DSLR camera systems. If you want the Sevenfive system for smaller cameras or the SW150 system for the Nikon 14-24mm or Canon 17mm TS, please get in touch via the contact page.

Adapter Ring

The filters are flat sheets of resin or glass, meaning it can’t screw into the lens like a polarizer or UV filter. The filter slides into a holder, which clips on to a ring and said ring screws into the lens like a UV filter. This is called the adapter ring and there are two types (normal and wide angle), available in different sizes. The only difference between the normal and wide is that the wide-angle ring has a sunken thread. This allows the filter holder to be closer to the camera body, making it less likely to pick up the filter holder in the frame when shooting with a wide lens. The sunken thread is clearly displayed below. In all cases I advise that you purchase a wide ring, but a normal ring is fine for lenses longer than 70mm.

A normal and wide angle adapter ring, showing the sunken thread of the wide ring.


Filter Holder

The filter holder simply clips onto the ring with the use of a tensioned spring mechanism. It sits snugly, yet still loose enough to be easily rotated. Unlike most other holders, which are single pieces of moulded cheap plastic, the Lee holders are an assembly of high quality plastic and brass pieces. It can be customised for various needs and thanks to this, there is only one model of the holder. You can either buy it in the foundation kit or as part of the DSLR starter kit. What exactly to buy is explained further in this article.

The Filters

If you browse through a Lee catalogue, you might be shocked at the number of filters available. This is because they offer every single colour of the rainbow as part of a product range that originated in the film days. Twenty years ago you had to use a filter to give the sky a slight colour tint, but nowadays you can just set a colour and drag an opaque gradient in Lightroom. As stated before; you don’t want the filter to change the colour of the scene, so we’re only interested in neutral density filters.

Graduated Neutral Density filters (Grads)

Graduated ND filters are available in soft and hard, which determines the distance of the transition between the dark part and the transparent part. Hard grad filters are typically for scenes with a straight and uniform horizon, like the sea. Soft grad filters are typically for scenes with a less uniform horizon, like landscapes with hills or mountains. Both hard and soft filters are available in different densities, because light is dynamic and different scenes require a different amount of ‘darkening’ of the sky. LANDSCAPEGEAR.CO.ZA offers hard and soft grads in densities of 0.3(1 stop), 0.6(2 stops) and 0.9(3 stops). You can either buy the graduated ND filters individually or as a hard or soft set. The sets offers a better per filter price.

Soft Grad Set

Hard Grad Set

Solid Neutral Density Filters (Solids)

Solid ND filters are darkened across the entire surface and are also available in various densities. The purpose of these filters is simply to achieve longer shutter speeds. LANDSCAPEGEAR.CO.ZA offers 0.6, 0.9, 1.8 and 3.0 stop solid ND filters. The latter two are of course better known as the Little Stopper and Big Stopper filters. The 0.6 and 0.9 Solid ND filters are indispensible when shooting seascapes. When the sun is still out, there is usually still too much light for a nice slow shutter speed to blur the waves. Add a solid ND to your filter arrangement and you’ll be able to create those beautiful, softly blurred waves. The stoppers are considered super-ND filters as they increase the required exposure time substantially. These are great for really long exposures to blur clouds, water or to remove traffic or people from bustling cityscape scenes.

The Super ND filters have a special seal on the back to prevent light leakage during the exposure.

Achieving a 1 second exposure time in bright sunlight, as in this image, would be impossible without a solid ND filter.

Achieving a 1 second exposure time in bright sunlight, as in this image, would be impossible without a solid ND filter.


A classic long exposure image taken with the Big Stopper.

A classic long exposure image taken with the Big Stopper.


There are plenty of accessories that aid in the use of the filters. Some are simply niceties, while others are a must have. Read below to see what we offer.

Filter Wallet

The Lee filter wallet is an album with 10 velvet sleeves. It has a durable outer cover and a zip to keep out dust and dirt. Once you own more than 2 or 3 filters, this is an essential item for keeping your filters safe and organised.

Solid ND filter tin

These tins are great for keeping your big stopper or little stopper safe and easy to reach. These tins have been included with the Stopper filters since Feb 2014, so if you purchased yours before then you won’t have one. Big-Stopper-tin-open

Ring Caps

When you’re on a shooting trip it can be tiring to attach and detach the adapter ring every time you take out the camera to shoot. These simple plastic caps fit over the adapter ring to protect the lens and allow you to leave the adapter ring attached when you pack away your gear.

The simple but useful adapter ring caps.

Wide Angle Lens Hood

The lens hood is an accessory that holds great benefit for advanced landscape shooters. The most dramatic shot is usually when composing so that the sun is just outside of the frame. This creates problematic flare because there is sunlight falling directly on the lens, even though the sun isn’t in the frame. This problem can be solved by holding an object at just the right angle so that it casts a shadow over the lens, but isn’t visible in the frame. This solution is however impractical, takes a lot of effort and distracts the photographer from focusing on the things that matter. The wide-angle lens hood is like a modern day bellows, which can be extended and shaped to keep the lens in shade. It also blocks and absorbs stray light, which improves colour and contrast. Simply adjust it to the right angle and you can focus on the composition and settings instead of waving a hand around the lens like an idiot.

The lens hood attaches to the front of a normal holder, so that you can still add a solid ND or grad ND between the lens and the hood. There is a holder included with the hood, which is a great extra. You can remove or add filter slots, depending on the width of your wide-angle lens is. The wider it is, the quicker you will pick up the edges of the hood in the frame, in which case it’s better to remove one slot.

A specialist item for preventing lens flare, the wide angle lens hood.


Brass Spring Clip

You should never turn, screw or rotate the brass pin on the holder. Simply pull it back, slide the holder over the ring and release it to snap in place. If you screw it, then you are disassembling it. Once unscrewed, the tensioned spring will make the pin jump and if you’re in a field or on a beach, it will probably be gone. If this has happened to you before, you can use this to replace the spring clip assembly.

Brass Spring Clip Assembly


What to Buy?

The ideal with Lee Filters is to have everything, but that will put you back a pretty penny. If you feel that you have the necessary knowledge to decide what you need, head to the Lee product page over on LANDSCAPEGEAR.CO.ZA.  If not, keep reading.

LANDSCAPEGEAR.CO.ZA has put together four different combinations, ranging from the very basic to the very comprehensive, in order of price. This will help you choose a combination of products that suit your requirements and budget.

This post is the second of the five-part guide to buying the right Lee Filters. Part one explains the system and parts 2-5 explain the different purchase combinations. Each article is linked below.

Choosing the Right Lee Gear 

Lee Filters Option 1 – Beginner

Lee Filters Option 2 – Beginner Plus

Lee Filters Option 3 – Master

Lee Filters Option 4 – Advanced

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