Stop being lazy and use a Tripod    

      The discussion on whether to use a tripod just keeps returning. One would think photographers doing scenics would realize the value. Oh well, after another time talking with some photographers about why they should, I thought I’d repost this.                                           

In his book, “Backcountry Journal, Reminiscences of a Wilderness Photographer,” Dave Bohn, mountain and wilderness photographer writes, “The trouble with photographers, and anyone else attempting anything creative, and in fact doing anything, is that they get addicted…(and)…I was addicted to the tripod as a necessity for the photography of large landscapes.”

I will admit that there are times when I lazily release the shutter after having aimed my camera at some interesting landscape without using a tripod. After which I usually step back and remind myself that if I really care about that subject and want the best quality enlargement, I should definitely stop being lazy and use my tripod.

This past week I picked up my tattered old copy of Bohn’s book and read for a while. I have had my copy since it was printed in 1974, and I like to reread a few pages every so often.

Photographers that know me are aware that I like using a tripod for landscape photography, and often heard me say, “ If you don’t like using a tripod it means you never have used a good one”.

Today it’s popular to spend extra money on “vibration reduction,” or “image stabilizing,” lenses with the notion that this technology allows one to do scenic photography without needing a tripod. Many modern photographers are of the belief that the difference between a blurry and a sharp enlargement is megapixels or vibration reduction lenses.

I disagree and say the difference is a good, stable tripod.

I’m not saying photographers shouldn’t get image stabilizing lenses. They are great to use in certain situations and conditions when a tripod might be in way of unexpected action. Nevertheless, using a good tripod that allows one to stand up straight, take time to analyze the scene, problem solve, compose, and contemplate, is an excellent experience. In addition, it keeps the camera from moving.

When I select a tripod I want one that extends above my head so I can use it on hills. I don’t like bending over to peer through my camera’s viewfinder. I prefer tripod legs that can be extended out horizontally when the ground is uneven. I don’t want a crank to raise the center column as that is just added weight, and becomes one more thing to get caught on things. I like a column lock so I can easily move it up or down.

I also want a sturdy-enough tripod that is capable of supporting my camera, and I am always amazed when someone buys a cheap, little tripod to hold his or her camera and lens, which are worth well over the thousand dollar plus mark.

The tripod head is another subject completely and my advice is get one that has a reasonable size ball surface and is lightweight. A tripod shouldn’t be so heavy that it’s a bother to carry up and down the hills and backwoods.

I suggest buying from people that have used, or at least can discuss, the tripods they sell. The department store outlets will allow you to bring it back if you aren’t satisfied, but I am sure they are not interested in paying for the damages to your camera and lens that crashed to the ground while using their flimsy bargain tripod.

In recent years more and more quality tripods have become available. All one needs to do is spend some time researching and checking reviews.

Just as photographers spend time researching selecting cameras and lenses, my advice is to also take the time choose a good tripod to go along with them.

3 responses to “Stop being lazy and use a Tripod    

  1. I have to admit that I bought a cheap chinese tripod… sorry. But to my defense I might say that it extends oer my head, the legs can be locked horizontally and well, it’s more stable than holding the camera by hand.

    And that’s more and more important as I realized that age does not help getting steadier hands and the silly rule of hand-held up to the inverse of the focal length is crap. Camera shake is a real thing, even at 1/1000 second!

    And I got a hat too….


  2. With the increasing advances of vibration reduction and image stabilization technology, one could argue that using a tripod (in optimal conditions) for landscape scenarios is somewhat mute. I disagree on the premise that it allows for contemplation (as you mentioned) by the said photographer and appreciation for the scene. Perhaps this way we may have less “crooked horizons” by those that acclaim to be professionals.


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