Who Needs A Tripod Anyway?

Every Serious Landscape Photographer
by Nick Jenkins Mai 05 2017

Your day is planned for a landscape shoot. The location is selected, the weather looks promising. Camera batteries charged, memory cards ready and good to go. Tripod? No, it's too cumbersome and heavy. You decide to leave it home. WRONG!

Why? Well, I have jotted below my own reasons for making sure the tripod always comes with me on trips like this. They are all pretty well 'kicking myself for not bringing it' reasons too.

1. Compositional Aid - the tripod slows me down. It stops me being too impulsive and simply pointing and shooting at a scene I think might work, and then moving on. There can be a temptation to secure as many 'good' landscapes as possible when out on a shoot, and this involves rushing around, looking at everything and yet seeing nothing.

So how does the tripod slow me down? By the time I have taken the tripod out of the bag, extended the legs and put it up where I think it can do most use my whole tempo has slowed and is starting to guide me to scenes that might work well. I am now becoming more in tune with what's around me.

Also, I can shoot at differing heights, angles and directions - and the fact that I have now secured the camera to the tripod allows me this facility more readily. I am NOT rushing, and am considering more carefully what looks good, and what looks better. 

2. Compositional Comparisons - occasionally I might wish to take a series of shots at different exposures, with and without filters or perhaps different white balance settings. The fact that the camera is securely locked onto the tripod means that each composition is identical and therefore the light levels remain constant. I haven't accidentally raised the camera and included more bright sky for example. When I then process the shots I know I am comparing like with like.

3. Compositional Sharpness - ah! This is maybe the biggest reason I use a tripod. Whilst that camera is firmly attached to the tripod it isn't going anywhere. Movement is eliminated completely. I am able to make adjustments to the camera and know that as long as it is steady the outcome should be shots that are front to back sharp (obviously where I want them to be sharp). I can shoot, tripod mounted, at low ISO's to maintain optimal image quality and it matters not how long the shot will take as the camera isn't going anywhere! 

I shoot waterfalls quite often and seek to show the water flowing. Not a mushy, over-exposed flow but what I call 'spun glass'. Generally exposures range from 1/10 second to several seconds, depending on light levels. Try hand holding a camera for that!

I have shot Auroras over Iceland, each shot needing about 30 seconds’ exposure time. Try that without a tripod!

Who needs a tripod anyway? I do. They make an enormous contribution to a sharp, well considered, well composed image. And when you take it with you I am convinced that you, too, will agree.

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