Rick Hobbs Photography
Using a tripod can improve your photography
During a recent photography workshop I was asked, "What single piece of equipment or accessory can improve my photography the most?"
Whatever the brand of camera equipment or media you use to record an image, everyone's photography can improve dramatically once they begin to use a tripod and develop good technique. In fact, tripods are an important tool for quality nature photography.
While my tripod is certainly not the most expensive piece of camera gear I own, it is the most important, and it is the one I use the most often. While I may take advantage of several different lenses, filters or other accessories, I am always using my tripod or some type of camera support.
Mt. Rundle, Banff, Canada
How can using a tripod improve your photography?
Roaring Fork Area, Gatlinburg, TN
4. You can improve your creativity.
When photographing a stream on an overcast day, put your camera on a tripod and create a beautiful milky scene shooting at about 1/2 sec. to 1 sec. at f/22.
5. You can get more out of the experience.
When using a tripod it slows you down. If I am going to spend the time to setup a tripod, I am going to spend the time necessary to make sure I get the best photograph I can make. The result is that you get to spend more time enjoying the area. Making a great photograph is nice, however, it is the experience that matters most.
6. You can have more photo opportunities.
When you are photographing in an area for a while, why hold onto a heavy camera body and lens when you can let it sit on the tripod. I find that when I am not tired from holding my camera gear I am more likely to keep looking for other photographs in the area. This usually translates into more photo opportunities and adds value to the time I have already invested.
Badlands National Park, SD
What should you consider when purchasing a tripod? I am not going to suggest a specific tripod for you because everyone's needs are different; however, these questions should help you find the right tripod for you.
Shooting Star, Yellowstone N. P., WY
4. Is the center post on the tripod too long?
You want to find a tripod that has a short center post. I suggest you do not ever try to use the center post to "get a little taller". The tripod becomes less stable as you raise the center column. So extend your tripod legs instead. A tripod with a short center post will allow you to open the independent tripod legs all the way and get your tripod close to the ground.
I prefer using a tripod
that does not have a center post at all, this is usually the case on
the high end tripods from Gitzo for example.
This question is important for determining the weight and strength of the tripod. You have to find a balance between how much support do you need and how much are you willing to carry into the field. If you shoot a large, fast, heavy, telephoto lens for your wildlife, you need to make sure the tripod can support that weight. However, if you do a lot of hiking with your tripod you will want something you can carry all day.
Be sure to consider how you plan to use the tripod before making a purchase so you end up with a solution that meets the needs for your type of photography.
6. What kind of head should my tripod have?
There are many different tripod heads available and it comes down to what equipment you plan on putting on it and your personal preferences. If you are planning on photographing wildlife with a large telephoto lens I highly recommend getting a Wimberley head. Otherwise, there are several good ball heads that work fine for supporting any of your other equipment and they will also give you the flexibility you need.
7. Does the tripod have a quick release system?
A quick release system allows you to "quickly" mount a camera body and lens to a tripod. You can attach a quick release plate to either the camera body or the lens if it has a tripod collar. Once this is done you can easily mount and remove your photography gear from the tripod.
I have a quick release plate for each of my camera bodies and one for each of my lenses with a tripod collar. This way I do not have to take the quick release plate off of one piece of equipment to put it on another. When I get an opportunity to photograph a subject, I can quickly mount my equipment on the tripod and I am ready to go.
Rocks underwater in Lake McDonald, MT
What else should I know about a tripod?
In summary, a tripod is the one piece of photo equipment that can dramatically improve your photography. Hopefully the benefits I have mentioned will give you a reason to get a tripod if you do not have one. If you have a tripod and do not use it regularly, it is time to take it into the field and put it to work.
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