Five ways to blow £2,000 improving your landscape photography...

With the release today of the NEW Canon 6DMKII it got me thinking, if you have a cool £2k burning a hole in your photographic pocket what's the best way to invest it in your image making progression & enjoyment as a landscape photographer? Here's a few options...

1. Buy a Canon 6D MKII

As a Canon 6D (original) owner I have been conscious that my poor old boy might be superseded at any given moment. In fact, when I bought mine for just under £1,000 (thanks Cashback offer!) a couple of years ago it already occurred to me that I was buying something that would soon be replaced, BUT I had the money, I 'needed' a better camera and I bought it and have been very happy since, it's a very capable bit of kit, even in a culpable pair of hands.

So, the obvious question is - in the hubbub of promotion and advertising, should I blow my sadly imaginary £2k on the new model, ahead of any other investment?

The Verdict:

Boasting an improved sensor based on the newest Canon design this 6D MKII 'should' possibly give me more detail and more dynamic range and quality. I will never know this without buying it though, and that's a bit of a problem. I could possibly hire one for a few days but it always feels like money you could have invested in buying. Will it improve my compositions? Will it enthuse my creative juices and expand my artistic vision? No, is the blunt answer but we mustn't be too harsh, the kit needs to be good enough to help us realise and execute our aesthetic vision.

The new 6D MKII also has an ISO to 102,400 (expanded) so when I get booked to shoot that series of gigs in a cave with candle lighting I should be ready to rock...I won't hold my breath, we all know that once you go past around 6400 things start getting a bit sketchy. It also features a 45 point AF system - as someone who only ever uses the central point, and actually more often than not I use manual focus, I really can't get excited about this for landscape & outdoor photography. I'm not shooting birds, or formula 1, and on the odd occasion I've had to do commercial shoots with people I've found the 6D to be perfectly capable as it is.

The final main tech change (at a glance) is the articulated screen. I must admit on occasion, when in a tight or uncomfortable spot and I'm precariously balanced on a rock by the sea or similar I could find this useful, also when shooting video it can be preferential - but it's not a deal breaker.

2. Go on a Workshop or Tour

Depending on who you go with I reckon £2k could get you a 4-6 day workshop to a fairly interesting location. Just looking around briefly it could take you to:

  • New York (Light & Land): Charlie Waite & Paul Sanders (sadly fully booked for 2017!)
  • Isle of Harris (Bruce Percy): Mentoring workshop (also fully booked for 2017!)
  • Tuscany (David Clapp): At £1,649 you've got some spare spending money!
  • South Africa (Alex Nail): Get off the beaten track and have an adventure!

These are just some quick examples but all are in great locations, and most importantly are with experienced photographers and leaders, whether you're looking for classic landscapes, cityscapes or a slice of adventure. There are many options out there so do explore!

It always amazes me that this niche world we operate in is so accessible. I've used the analogy before but imagine being into football and being able to go on a training course with Messi or Ronaldo for 5 days with a handful of other people and it costs under £2k - mind blowingly impossible!!

The Verdict:

I've been on a handful of workshops in my time, some more useful than others. But, on all of them I learned something, perhaps some technical development, or a new approach to 'seeing' or indeed useful post processing tips. Whatever it is you will learn something, plus you get to see a new location and meet some other like minded folk. What value on just indulging in photography for a few days - priceless! (well actually it's a few hundred quid as a minimum).

It may depend on your experience level, or if you really enjoy and admire the work of one photographer. Why not meet them and see how they work and let them give you some help. Even if you are very experienced there's always something new to know.

3. Take a 1-2-1 or Portfolio Review

Slightly different to taking a workshop here. I'm talking about either a day or two in a 1-2-1 situation (of which you could probably afford a few different options), or perhaps submitting your portfolio to a range of photographers for some critiquing, or taking a closer look (sorry about the picture below!)


The Verdict:

This is a different vibe to a workshop where you will be in a group environment, this has its pros & cons. With your £2k you could probably organise some one or two day sessions with two or three different photographers. Let's say two for arguments sake once you add in travel and food etc.

Although you would have less days out than on a workshop you'd probably get as much, or more individual help and focus. This short sharp burst of assistance could really open your eyes to new techniques, different ways to approach image making, or mastering some technical element you've struggled with. Don't be afraid to really invest in yourself and get expert assistance!

The other option is submitting your work to few different photographers for portfolio reviews. The worry with this is showing 5 or 6 people may lead to some broad comments that could leave you without focus, or you may see common threads in the critique which could easily point you in the right direction...something to consider at least. You could send one and save most of your ££!

4. Travel

Let's say you're feeling pretty assured, you may already have a good grasp of what you're trying to do with your photography or you just enjoy the escapism and don't want to be in a group. I reckon for £2k you could have a pretty great time traveling yourself and making a strong collection of images:

Here's a sample itinerary to stimulate the mind:

  • Plane from London to Scotland (£99)
  • 5 nights in The Highlands (£600-£700
  • Plane from Scotland to Venice (£149)
  • 3 nights in Venice (£500-£600
  • Train to Tuscany (£40)
  • 2 nights in Tuscany (£250)
  • Flight back to London (£175)

The Verdict:

Depending on your travel tastes and style this may or may not be (a) possible and (b) float your boat, but you get the idea. You could go off piste a bit more and try some less 'classic' locations. I know my friend and colleague from The Togcast (Photography Podcast) Paul Sanders has been exploring Albania & Romania for example. You could also get over to South America and back (just!) so the world is your oyster!

I personally find that traveling alone is when I'm at my best photographically. With a very loose itinerary it's even better, just allowing me to find locations, re-visit them and just imbibe the atmosphere and get to know somewhere. Check out this portfolio I made in Scotland with a £250 film camera! Perhaps even try shooting some candid portraits of the locals, or just sit on a mountain for 6hrs watching the light, it's up to you and you probably have a decent enough camera to catch it all already. You may also find this total immersion does wonders for your creative eye.

5. Alternative Equipment - Go Retro!

Ok, so this is a bit of a twist on No.1 but I'll try and make a valid argument for it below. Pictured is a Hasselblad 500 series film camera, used by some of the masters of photography, your £2k could buy you a Hasselblad 500CC with 2 or 3 lenses and leave you enough spare dosh for a roll of film or two and some processing. That's a Swedish made top end body (revered by many) + lenses for the price of a mass produced digital body only.


The Verdict:

So how would this help your development? For a start it would make you slow down and appreciate the value of each image. When it costs a few quid per shot (after taking into account film/development/scanning) you soon start to cut down on wasted shots and take a little extra time over each composition and asking yourself "is this really a great shot?" before you hit that shutter (oh and what a sexy shutter the Hasselblad has by the way - kerchunk!!).

With a good scan you can blow 26.2 MegaPixels out of the water for re-production purposes and can anything really beat that authentic film look? Perhaps the fact you're slowing down and becoming more selective may also improve your eye and own self-critiquing before the shutter is released, knowing when not to shoot is as important as knowing when to shoot here.

However, it's still a piece of kit - and pieces of kit only produce when you are somewhere, so perhaps only go for this option if you've got your travel or workshop already booked ;)


The Summary

You've got to do what feels best for you! First off, ask yourself if you get out enough and if you do then check out what gear you have and if you feel it's really holding you back or affecting your image making chances negatively - if so, explore those new cameras!

If, like many, your main challenge is actually getting out enough or indeed wanting to really improve your art then perhaps you could consider the other options.

The final option is to give me your £2k and I'll happily spend it for you!