Mark Mullen Photography | Equipment

For my main landscape work I use a medium format digital system, based around a Leaf Aptus digital back. The sensor which captures the image is much bigger than that of a normal DSLR camera meaning the quality is superb. The back takes the form that a film back would meaning it can be attached to different cameras. I mainly use a Mamiya 645 AFDii which is a big SLR, the digital back attaches where film would normally go.

Because the back is modular it means I can use it on different camera systems and where time allows I use it on a Linhof Technikardan 23, a beautiful German made view camera, composition is done on a ground glass showing an upside down image, under a darkcloth. Nothing can be rushed, when I first started I was taking 35 minutes a shot but I have now got that down to 10 seconds or so. Everything is manual, there is no meter so I have to use a Gossen Variosix F2 meter to work out exposures, focussing is done by moving the lens in relation to the back on a set of bellows, then you have movements (front and rear standard, tilt, shift, rise and fall, swing), you have to cock the shutter by hand and stop the iris down before taking a shot. Once everything is ready I remove the ground glass (and put it somewhere safe, they are ruinously expensive!) and then set the digital back up, clip it in place, connect up the cables and then take the shot. It is a slow methodical way of working and doesn't often suit my tight schedules but when time allows it is very satisfying.

For quick jobs and travel I work with Canon digital SLR cameras, my main camera is a 5D Mark III which is Canon's newest full frame professional body. It captures 22 megapixel images which mean files can be printed at large sizes and still retain definition.

The main lenses I use are the Canon 17-40 F4, the Canon 24-105 F4 IS, Canon 135mm F2 and Canon 100-400 IS, all L series lenses which are also  weathersealed, a big plus when working in the United Kingdom. I also use the Canon 24mm TS-E, an unusual lens offering tilt and shift movements more usually seen on large format cameras. These movements open up a world of creative possibilities, from ensuring verticals in tall buildings don't converge, through to maximising depth of field without having to use tiny apertures which would degrade quality through diffraction.

I always shoot in Raw format which gives latitude to correct white balance, noise reduction etc. I use Noise Ninja noise reduction software which, together with the 5D Mkiii's full frame sensor means I can shoot at high ISO settings without worrying too much about noise. I import photos and do my raw conversions with the very powerful Capture One Pro by Phase One. Capture One is so good that I use it to do nearly all my editing but any more detailed editing is handled by the industry standard Adobe Photoshop. I try and do as much in camera as possible which leaves me more time in the field. My MacBook Pro is sufficiently powerful to use for this photo editing whilst remaining light enough to stow in a camera bag for editing whilst travelling. For work at home I have a tremendously powerful Mac Pro which is full of memory and runs a pair of Apple monitors meaning I can have an image open full screen on one monitor and all the tool palettes open on the other. I catalogue my photos in Phase One's excellent Media Pro digital photo management software which enables me to find the right file when I need it, I can sort by date, location, keyword, camera, it is really flexible.

One of the most important things in my kit is my filter system. I use neutral density graduated filters from Lee Filters, a British company who are known for making the highest quality optical filters, by hand. ND Grads allow me to balance a shot so that the sky isn't too bright, or the foreground too dark. I also use a Hitech reverse grad which is ideal for sunrises and sunsets. Polarisers are a useful addition which can enhance a blue sky and reduce reflection from water. For longer exposures I use the Lee Big Stopper, a 10 stop neutral density filter which is really useful for creating dramatic skies, silky water etc.

A sturdy tripod is an essential for landscape photography, my exposures sometimes run into minutes rather than fractions of a second. My choice is a Gitzo Explorer carbon fibre which can be used really low yet is tall enough for me to use without extending the centre column which would reduce stability. The legs can also be set to any angle, not just preset locks, this is ideal when on uneven ground, like in a stream or river. I use a Manfrotto 405 geared head which allows accurate adjustments to be made, important when photographing subjects like the sea where a wonky horizon looks awful. A Manfrotto 438 levelling base allows me to level up the tripod head, essential when shooting stitched panoramas. I also use a second tripod, a Gitzo Mountaineer 1127 Mk2 carbon fibre which is really lightweight for times when I am going to have to do a lot of walking. For travel and hiking I use an even smaller tripod, a Redged TSC-525K which is small enough and light enough to hike miles with and yet sturdy enough to even take my Mamiya.

I convert all my tripod heads to the Arca Swiss system of quick release plates, this is a universal system where many manufacturers make plates and clamps to suit the system. The main thing for me is that I can use a Kirk L Bracket which allows me to switch the camera from a landscape to portrait orientation without changing the composition other than the different format. The Manfrotto heads I use aren't natively Arca Swiss compatible so I use conversions from Hejnar which only take a few minutes to carry out but work really well.

Other essential gear I carry is a good pair of wellies and some waterproof clothing including gloves. I wear a Gitzo photographer's coat which has a whole raft of nice touches and enables me to carry loads of gear in my pockets, ideal for climbing around wet rocks and beaches. Sealskinz gloves keep my hands warm and dry yet provide enough feel to be able to operate camera controls. A headtorch is invaluable when setting up cameras and other equipment in the dark, when setting up for a sunrise for example. 

Of course none of this would matter if the colours in my photographs weren't accurately displayed. As such my equipment is colour calibrated. To calibrate my monitor and printer I use Colormunki Photo, a really clever piece of kit which makes sure that what I record on the camera is what I see on screen and is also what prints out, no matter what media I am printing onto. Photography is essentially capturing light and light comes in many different temperatures which our eyes do a sterling job of correcting for us but our cameras can't. As such I use a Colorchecker Passport to ensure the correct colour is recorded.

One of my newest, and most useful pieces of equipment is my landscape photography truck which allows me to get anywhere in the country, in any weather, and then live in comfort until the light is right.

Finally the most important element of kit is an understanding girlfriend who knows that a good sunset can't be missed, and that standing knee deep in a loch on a cold winter's morning makes sense to me even if it looks stupid! Thanks Vicky.