Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tripods – Who needs them?


If you have been capturing nature or landscape photography for any period of time, I am sure you have encountered the admonition to use a tripod. Generally the arguments for using a tripod are:

  1. It slows you down and makes you think about the composition and framing (what you include in the frame) more carefully.
  2. You will get sharper and more stable images (no hand shake, etc.)

While both of these statments are true, I would like to come at it from a little different perspective. You probably paid a few $$$ for a nice camera and lenses. If you really want to be able to fully use what you paid for, you need a tripod (more $$$). Why do I say that?  Do you…

  1. Want to really use the full range of f-stops on your camera as your personal vision requires? You need a tripod. If you want a nice bokeh in the background but want the tip of the stamen of the flower in sharp focus, you need a tripod so you can get that focus dead on. Or maybe you want everything sharp from front to back when the sun is not full and bright -you need a tripod so you can go to f16+ and not get blur due to shake.
  2. Want to use those slower shutter speeds to maximum advantage? You need a tripod. Do you like the look of a still calm ocean or a soft flowing waterfall? Then you need a tripod to let you shoot those long exposures.
  3. Want to get the crisp sharp images your expensive telephoto can provide? You need a tripod. Even with image stabilization you are typically limited on the shutter speed/f-stop combination you can use without some loss of sharpness. The more you zoom in, the more you need that tripod.
  4. Want to create images with a wide dynamic range? You need a tripod. If you want to participate in the world of HDR photography, you really need a tripod to make sure all those multiple exposure shots are perfectly aligned. While software can help a lot with the alignment, it isn’t perfect and the edges may not be clean as you enlarge the image.

But maybe you say a tripod cramps your style. To that I would say two things. One, not being able to fully use your camera’s capabilities should be cramping your style. Two, take that camera off the tripod when you are deciding how to compose the image. Walk all around, move in, move out, up and down. Once you find the shot, set up the tripod and capture the image.

Blog image: This shot of a pier in the ocean required a very long exposure, 20 sec, plus great depth of field, f22. Something you just can’t do without something like a tripod.