Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Camera Tripods... Who Needs Them!



Wondering what type of camera tripod to purchase can be confusing.  Many newcomers are often lost on the subject of tripods altogether.  They know they need one, but don't know exactly what kind or why.  Some fail to realize that with landscapes and commercial applications, the tripod is the single most important piece of equipment they will need for sharp well-composed photographs. 

                                 4 section Tripods                ©MarkJansen
One of the seldom-realized reasons you need one for landscapes is that they help you slow down your process as you're setting it up.  This act alone, let's you think about your compositions a little bit longer before taking the shot.  Another one is that if you ever plan on printing your photographs large, a tripod will help with increased sharpness, especially during longer and multiple exposures used in HDR photography.


This brings me to the vast array of tripods available to us.  They come priced for every budget. Make sure yours is solid and steady regardless of price, this is the most important factor.  They come in all types and materials, from aluminum to carbon fiber. What type of Head to use?  The Head is the device that let's you adjust your cameras position. 
I suggest a Ball Head for landscapes and most other types of still photography.  One with as few adjusting knobs as possible. Stay away from Panning types with fluid heads; they are designed for video.

All tripods basically do the same thing.  They keep your camera body steady. It should do this at any conceivable angle and position you can think of, high or low, simply and quickly.  Take time to learn how your tripod works before heading out on any shooting event. Play with it in all positions. Don't be the person the breaks open the new box on location. You don't want to spend your valuable time trying to figure it out.


 
 I’ve been slugging around one tripod or another for years.  I started with some heavy models and then moved to the lighter ones made with more modern materials. They are expensive, but worth it when it spends a lot of its life on your back.  I basically have a few requirements for my tripods.  I always opt for the 4 legs section models.  They are great for easy packing in carry on baggage with the head removed. 


Twist lock or clamps on the legs. I have both types and they do a fine job. Some swear by twist locks. They work great for packing tight and when bushwhacking, they don't get hung up in as much as lever lock models. I also like the levers for quick deployment. They're slightly faster than twist locks.  You can also see visually if the legs are secured. The levers will be flipped open slightly if they're not. Twist types have no visual reference.  When a great landscape develops before your eyes fast, fusing around with twist locks may take critical seconds than lever lock types do to deploy. 


Getting low, down and dirty with your tripod.  Keep it simple. I stick to a simple medium sized Ball head. Most I see people with are overkill. The top smaller size brands will hold all the weight of most Digital SLRS with a lens. I also suggest a simple plate for your camera body.  I prefer the universal Dove Tail Arca Swiss Plate with optional L bracket options for quick vertical and horizontal positioning.  Also, try to loose that long and useless center Column. Some tripods have a way to do this without cutting it, some don’t. It seemed like a shame, but I cut mine and never looked back.  The shorter column will get low to the ground and open your wide-angle lenses to a whole new world!   It will limit your tripods height a bit. But if your not getting low, you’re missing a lot of composition options. Hope this helps, now get out there and start shooting. More here>  http://goo.gl/kF5CZZ
                                                                                                                   By Mark Jansen  
                

www.jansenphptphotoexpedtions.com                                           ©MarkJansenPhotograpy.com             

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2 comments:

photographers Seattle said...

Hi
Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog post

Dennis Wisinski said...

I've had a flip lock mechanism crack (on an admittedly cheap tripod), rendering the tripod useless. Hard to imagine the same thing happening with a twist lock. But your observation of not being able to visually ascertain that the twist lock is indeed locked is valid -- more than once I thought I had sufficiently tightened them only to find that I hadn't.

Thanks for the informative post. The part about getting a lighter tripod resonates with us old guys!