Tripods Are Useful Tools

Sep 10, 2011

I learned two very important photography lessons during my recent vacation to the southwestern mountains of North Carolina. Today I will cover one of those lessons, and I'll get to the other one in a future post. As you might have guessed from this post's title, the first lesson involves a tripod.

In my previous outings to the various state parks here in North Carolina, I've never carried a tripod with me. On a bright sunny day, it's typically a tool I feel that I don't need; lots of light, a steady hand, and my camera's image stabilization feature help me out. On cloudy days, however, I inevitably end up with a load of blurred shots, especially when in a heavily forested area. On this particular trip to the mountains, I knew I would be shooting a number of waterfalls, so I was willing to haul my tripod down the trail with me.

Since I already had the tripod with me, I found that I used it for way more than the waterfall shots I had intended. Wow, what a difference it made! Instead of lots of blurred shots, the vast majority of my photos are keepers this time around, thanks to this handy tool. I've also learned a few things about the type of tripod I want in the future:

  1. It should be light
  2. It should have a ball head
  3. The adjustable leg locks should be sturdy

My current tripod is a tad bulky, and the multiple controls are a bother to work with. A multidimensional bubble level for my camera's hot shoe connector would also be useful.

In short, if you're planning a photo shoot in a forested area, or you're shooting on a cloudy day, make an effort to carry a tripod along with you. Your end results will justify the extra effort of lugging extra gear down the trail. As an added bonus, carrying a tripod will pique people's curiosity. I struck up more conversations with random people about photography on this trip than I've ever done previously. It's a lesson I'll remember for a long time.

4 Comments
Gary
11:21 AM on Sep 10, 2011
A monopod seems like a great compromise to me but I've never used either for photography.
Dustin
12:19 PM on Sep 10, 2011
A monopod is useful in some situations, but nothing beats the stability of a tripod. Monopods have a heavy use in sports photography to help our a good bit of the bulky weight of large telephoto lenses that are used. It definitely helps to stabilize your shot a bit. If you can lean it against something else that is fixed, you get a pretty good make-shift tripod (bi-pod I guess). I won't make any guesses about your second lesson, but I think I have some idea. We'll see if I'm right.
Jonah
1:49 PM on Sep 10, 2011
I've got a monopod, and they can indeed be a nice compromise. But as Dustin said, you still don't get near the stability that a tripod gets you. So many of my photos from my first day's outing are tack-sharp, and I couldn't be more pleased. Dustin: I'm interested to see what you think my next lesson is. Here's a hint: it has very little to do with this lesson.
kip
2:30 PM on Sep 10, 2011
They're also a necessity if you want to do a long exposure, or photograph in twilight. Long exposures of creeks/rivers/waterfalls/etc look very neat. (At least, I've seen other people's photos where this was true. Nearly every time I've tried this myself, however, there was too much light and it came out mostly white.)
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