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Tripods and Monopods

Lesson 4 from: FAST CLASS: Nature and Landscape Photography

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

4. Tripods and Monopods

Lesson Info

Tripods and Monopods

So let's get right into that thing that you don't like to deal with. Right that tripod. Do I really need to bring a trying? Are you sure I need to bring a tripod? Well, let's talk about tripods. Think about the shutter speeds that are available to you on your camera. 1/1000 of a second, maybe down to 30 seconds or more. If you decide I don't want to use a tripod, you are ruling out more than half the shutter speeds on your camera as faras options for you to use. So that is seriously closing. Ah, lot of doors for opportunity. And one of the things I said at the very beginning of this class is expanding your imagination of what is possible. And part of that is using your equipment to the greatest ability that it that it can dio. And part of that is utilizing shutter speeds all over the range and what's important to me in a tripod. Two things to start with, well, generally stable stability, of course, but I like a tripod that gets very tall because I like having a unique point of view, an...

d sometimes I'll stand up on Iraq. As you can see in this photo and I'm like This is where it's best This is where I would like to have the camera, and having a really tall tripod enables me to put the camera exactly where I want it, so that I can compose exactly the way I want it. The other thing and probably more important and definitely a lot easier to Dio is having a tripod that gets really low to the ground. My tripod actually goes much lower than it does in this particular photograph, but being able to get right down inches off the ground is a very good and necessary thing for a lot of different types of photography. Because if you're photographing flowers or other rocks and objects right there in the foreground, you need to get right down in front of it. Which means there's a lot of tripods that have bracing supports, and they have center columns that don't allow you to get more than about this slow off of the ground, and that is unacceptable in my opinion. Now, folks, I do want to warn you at any time that you are out in nature and landscape shooting pictures. If you do something foolish and I am there to photograph you, I will include you in my next slide show. So here at Death Valley luckily, the person actually escaped being in the shot here, I saw this person who had their tripods set up. And there is a problem with this tripod and there is actually numerous problems. Let me count the ways to start with. The center post is extended. This is a mono pod on top of a tripod. It is less stable in that position. Look at the size of the wall that this person is trying to shoot over. Do they really need the center post extended to the absolute maximum height possible? No, they don't. They did it for convenience sake because they bought two short of tripod and they're trying to make the the tripod in the camera more comfortable to use with. So this is the first No, no, on a tripod. Secondly, the whole tripod is just noticeably unlevel. It's kind of tilted. They didn't really balance it and level it according to the ground that it was on the leg. Supports on this one are a tale tell Sign of a cheap tripod. These very cheap tripods have leg supports because the legs air so incredibly flimsy. And this is what happens when you spend typically less than about 100 U. S. Dollars on a tripod. Next, this is actually a video head. It's not designed for still work, and it works perfectly fine for shooting basic horizontal shots. But when you shoot a vertical shot, it has a very, very small little tightening screw. That does not keep your camera very steady in that vertical position. And it's just a pain in the butt to use when shooting still photography. And then we have the dangling camera strap that's just ready to blow around in the land, which is gonna cause a lot of instability with that model pod on top of a tripod. And then finally, there's a crank for the center post, and this is another item that they put on a lot of cheap tripods. And I don't know if it's a gimmicky thing that people get excited about who look, it's got a little crank grain grain, Craig, and it's not that hard loosening up and go up and down the cranks. There are a few high end tripods that have really well designed solid metal construction for cranks, raising and more in him. But in general, it's not something one. It's just a very cheap, dry pot. It's poorly positioned, it's poorly set up. And finally, the last little thing on this. It's unattended. Where is this person just leaving your camera on a tripod extended that high. That unlevel is foolish, in my opinion. How do I work with my tripod? Well, here is Ah, photograph from a number of years ago when I was working on a project on Mount Rainier. I'm using a very small tripod because I had to hike up there. I spent the entire night on this mountaintop photographing Mount Rainier, and I put a rock. I built my kind of own little rope system so I could dangle and support weight from the tripod. Now, a lot of tripods today have hooks from the center post that you could hang your camera bag or another sort of net, or a water bottle or a rock or something else to really keep it in place. This was very important to me because I was doing some time lapse photography and some star shots, and I'll actually show you some pictures that I took. I forget what section there in, but I was shooting pictures over all night long, and the camera needed to remain in exactly the same position. There are two major brands of tripods that are very safe bets for good pieces of equipment, man photo and get. So either one of these, I highly recommend they make a lot of good models. What I like about them is that they often have replaceable components so that if you break something you don't just throw the whole thing away. You could just replace that single part. And so the man photo is what I kind of considered the blue collar worker there. Rugged basic. But they get the job done, get so is a little bit more of a refined product. I like it cause it seems to be a little bit faster toe work with on the legs and the way that they tighten and loosen its a little bit easier, I think, to get it open and closed faster. The get cells are often in carbon fiber. The man photo are often carbon fiber or aluminum. Now I know some people are gonna wander. Which tripod do you use? Well, fact. The matter is, I have five tripods, not counting tabletop tripods. They don't all get used the same amount. But I have small, small, medium, medium, medium, big, big. And I have a variety of uses. My favorite tripod to use for basic landscape work is it gets so g t 25. l This is a medium sized tripod, and I don't know if you can tell my stature. I'm not the tallest guy in the world, and this is the first time I've ever bought a long version of anything, Not the big and tall it type guy on This is a tripod designed for a big and tall guy. It's a very tall tripod. He gets up about this high, and you might think, Well, how can you see through the camera? Well, I'm no, I'm not always shooting pictures on a perfectly flat floor. Ah, lot of times I'm shooting on the side of a hill side and that leg needs to extend below my feet about a foot. Or maybe I'm standing on a rock in a shallow river, and I need to extend those legs down into the ground. Now the camera comes down to my height. And so the 25. 42 L. A. Is a really nice dry pot. It's four sections, not too big, pretty lightweight. It's carbon fiber. Yes, it is somewhat pricey, but it is something that I'm gonna have for many, many years. I've had it for many, many years. I've taken it lots of different places, and I expect to have it. I mean, there's not a lot of upgrades that you need to make when it comes tripods. There was a big switch over when we went from aluminum to carbon fiber, but after that, we don't have upgrades every 18 months like we do on the cameras. And so it's an investment that will last you for quite some time. Some purchasing advice. If you have not purchased a tripod or well, we're all gonna buy another tripod at some point, I guess. Get that quality. It's gonna last you for a long time. The perfect height is a little taller than you. If you line up your camera on the tripod it, and it's exactly at eye level. When you're in the camera shop. Chances are when you get out of the field and your legs sink into the sand, it's going to start feeling a little short, and you want to have something to get up at least as tall as you. Carbon fiber is a great way to go to ease those muscles on your back. It's a little bit more pricey, but I think you'll appreciate it on that long hike. Your tripod needs to be able to get very low to the ground because you're gonna be shooting six inches off the ground. It's better if you can get your camera right down really low. Now I know a lot of the tripods that have center post can be reversed, and this is a solution for anyone who has one of those reversing the center post and getting the camera down low. The thing that I don't like about it is that it takes a little bit more fiddling with the tripod in order to do that, and I found when I'm shooting below and between the legs of the tripod, I end up limiting where I can shoot because I'm shooting into the legs and I have to shoot between the legs and position in the tripod is a little bit more difficult than just one that gets right flat down to the ground and one of the things that I do. It's just kind of a personal customization. I ride bicycles and I have cork hand grip on the hand grips on my bicycle, and I found that they make a really comfortable handgrip on the tripod. And this has been really nice, both in very cold temperatures and in very hot temperatures. It's just a more comfortable grip on the grips of Go to your bicycle shop, and unfortunately, you probably need to buy two packs because they only come for to handle bars left and right, and you need three with your tripod so you end up with an extra one in case one gets ripped or something like that. But it's a great way to insulate your tripod just for comfort in hand holding. And then finally, I don't use a tripod cases and straps. I've tried him in the back in the past, and they just end up being cumbersome and so when I go off for a hike I've gone for five and six mile hikes and further and I just put the camera of the tripod in my hand and I carry it For the most part, there are times where I will put it in my backpack. If I know if I'm going from point A to point B and it's highly unlikely that I'm going to shoot pictures going from Point A to point B, then I might pack it in my backpack. But if I think that I might want to shoot pictures, I'll just carry it in my hand. That way it's like, well, tripods right here. It's pretty easy to set up and do the shot right here and now and so you want to encourage yourself to get get out there and get those shots and having that handy and ready is what encourages me to do it. The tripod head is very important along with legs foreign away. The most popular system are the ball heads and there's a lot of different ball heads. It's very much a matter of personal choice and it's funny how some people defend the ball head that they have. Oh, this is the best one in the world. I don't like anything else and people get very, very personal. There's a lot of good ones out there, the ones that I see most commonly used by a lot of the nature. But nature photographers out there is the Kirk head and the really right stuff head. These are really, really high quality heads. They're not cheap. They're well made. But they should last you many, many years of good work there very smooth, and they lock very solidly into place. Now with these, you are not screwing your camera, and that's what you do on kind of the cheap tripods on these when you have camera plates, these air plates that you attach onto the camera or the lens, and the idea on this is that you can quickly attach your camera to the tripod and quickly detach it without having to screw and unscrew. Every time you want toe, put it on and off the tripod with longer lenses. There'll be a lens plate on the lens, and they plates for the camera. Bodies are specifically designed for individual cameras so that they don't twist. So they they're called anti twist plates, so you can put him on, and you don't have to worry about him slightly twisting off like you would under normal circumstances. Now we're gonna have plates on the camera body, but we're also gonna have him on some of the longer telephoto lenses in this picture. The camera is not in his good, stable position. There's too much weight out in front of the body. It's not stable. If you have a lens that has a tripod collar on it, that is where you want to be mounting it. And this is something that you will find on lenses, generally 200 millimeters and above. Although there is a lot of them that go out from, say, 100 to 300 that do not have. This is It's a feature of kind of higher in cameras, and so if you have a tripod collar, you absolutely want to use it. There are some lenses there so long you actually use a tripod for the lens and a second tripod for the camera body, and it's very tricky to set up, and it's extremely tricky to change position at that point, with two of them going vertical shooting with this telephoto lens. Getting your camera dropped off to the side is not the most stable place toe. Have your camera using the tripod collar, you're able to rotate the camera. And not only is it in a better position, the lens doesn't move. And so when you compose your image and you say, you know what, I'd like a vertical of this. You really don't have to move the camera around. If you don't have that tripod color, then you gotta move the camera and tripod a little bit off to the side, and then you got to raise the center post. Or you gotta move the tripod up a little bit because the lens has changed position and it's really changed your composition. If you want to do this with standard or wide angle lenses, you need something called an L bracket L bracket because it reaches around the side of the camera, and this allows you to mount the camera on the bottom for the normal horizontal position, but that you can also mount it vertically. Once again, the lens stays in virtually the same position. The head is in a very stable position, and this is the way that you're going to get the most stability out of the camera shooting vertical. And I got the L bracket when I got my tilt shift lens because I knew I was gonna be shooting a lot of verticals, and I really like it. I don't like the fact that it's kind of big. It adds a little bit more weight to the camera, makes it a little bit harder to fit in the bag. And to be honest with you, I'm going to Morocco and I'm not gonna be shooting that many verticals as I did with my tilt shift lens. And so I'm gonna bring just a standard one just along the bottom. That's a little bit lighter weight. And so there's some compromises that you have to make when you're trying to go very, very lightweight. But if you're really trying to do it right, that L bracket is is a very nice system. When you are using these tripods, getting your camera level is very important. One of the simple, fairly cheap options that we all have is a bubble level, and you can plug this into your hot shoe and you can judge whether you are level or got a little bit of a tilted horizon. I'll be honest. I don't use this much anymore because my current crop of cameras now have an electronic system built in with the press of a button. One of my custom functions I've set up in my camera gives me an electronic level, which tells me if I'm level or not, and you might be saying, John, is there something wrong with you? Can't you tell that Horizon line is straight? Well, sometimes I'm looking through a camera like this, and it's really hard to judge when you're tilted at a big angle as to whether it's level or not. And any time you take a picture that is unlevel, you're gonna have to crop that and you're gonna be losing pixels and you're gonna be losing and throwing away data. And that's one of the things that we don't want to do in nature photography. Okay, I know there's a number of you. They were kind of wondering, What about Monta Pods? Because that's almost like a tripod, but that's a lot less weight in It's less Balkan. It's a lot easier, quicker to use. Well, Monta pods are very good, in my opinion, for supporting heavy equipment. If you ever watch a football game on TV, you'll see a bunch of photographers on the sidelines using model pots because they have this big lens that weighs about £10 and they need to sit there for about the next three hours and shoot with it in position. And that would be very hard to shoot for three hours like that. So it's a great way of supporting it, but they can quickly move it out of the way if they need to. And so that's one of the best uses of this is for sports photography. Wildlife photography with a big lance. Now the mono pod does indeed help stabilize the whole system. How much does it help? Well, you can judge yourself, but I did my own test, and I will share my results with you. I first did a handhold test with a normal lens. If I shoot it 1/60 of a second faster, I will get sharp photos and I can get sharp photos down to 1/15 of a second but it's not very consistent. I may or I may not get it. I'm gonna have to shoot a lot of pictures. Next I use the mon applied, and what it did is it allowed me to shoot it one shutter speed slower to maybe get sharp pictures because it's still moving. It's still moving forward, backwards and side to side. We've only reduced the up and down movement. And considering the size of the mono pod versus the tripod, how much better is a tripod than a model pod? Okay, it's got three times as many legs, but it is infinitely sharper because we can now get sharp pictures at any shutter speed. And so I don't use model pods for nature photography at all. I'll use it for big lenses, will use it for wildlife, and I'll use it for sports. There are a number of other techniques for trying to stabilize the camera, but right now nothing competes with the tripod and with carbon fiber fairly lightweight tripods out there, there's not a really good excuse for you not to bring one out there to get those shots, because it's going to really allow for a lot of shots that you wouldn't be ableto handhold. Now, something that I have been very happy with is the new stabilization tech technology Nikon calls. There's vibration reduction. Different companies go with different names, just does a little hint. If you have one of their lenses that has this, they have a normal and an active position. The normal position is, um, well, normal. Okay, uh, the active position. What's different about that is that if he is, if you are moving, if you are on a moving platform like you're in a plane, you're in a train, you're on a car, something like that that has mechanical movement. It adjust for a slightly different frequency of vibrations and will do a better job of stabilizing. With these lenses, you should turn the VR off if you were on a tripod. And the reason is is that in the lens there are a couple of special lens elements that are working on a pitch and yaw system, and so they're moving whenever year moving, and it's counterbalancing your movement. And when you're on a tripod and everything is perfectly steady, that sort of system should be turned off. If you leave it turned on. It's possible that those lenses might move around a little bit and cause of learning. This canon has the image stabilization system, and some of their lenses will have a 12 and three section on Lee. A few other high end lenses have this. The mode one is for normal hand held photography. They have a second mode that detects which direction you are holding the camera and adjust for panning because when you are panning from side to side, if you're gonna be, I wouldn't normally do this in nature photography. But if you're gonna be panning following an animal or a car or a person, you don't want it fixing this side to side direction. You just wanted fixing the top direction. And so they have a special mode for that. And then they have one on a few of their high end lenses. That is mode three for panning, but the image stabilization Onley occurs during the exposure. So what you see in the viewfinder is what's happening with the lens without any stabilization. And then what it does is it throws on the stabilization just at the last minute and some people who are doing panning action shots. I prefer that system. So that's kind of a personal choice on your part. But like Nikon, you want to turn that I s off when you're putting it on a tripod. It's the safest thing to do to make sure that you're getting sharp pictures when you take your tripod out in the field. One of the tips I'll pick this up from Art Wolf will give him credit for this one is he extends the lower section of his legs a few inches, and this is because you're constantly sticking those legs and all sorts of weird places in water and mud, and you don't want to get that mud and gunk up into the larger kind of, uh, knuckles of the tripod. Normally, you want to try to extend the largest section because that's where you're gonna have the base best ability. But I always kind of get those feet out there so I can feel free to put the tripod anywhere it is necessary. So as far as using the tripods and things that you want to be sure of is to fully lock the legs. I've seen a number of people who have their tripods set up, and it's Luli starts to slide down one side because they forgot to lock up the leg properly. Next turn. That stabilization office I just mentioned Settle the legs. Okay. What I mean by this is that when you just set your tripod down, there's a good chance that you're on dirt or leaves or sand or who knows what. And what you need to do is just kind of tapped down and let it settle into the ground because you want to make sure that you are on solid ground and you're not sitting on a twig. And I know sometimes I kind of have to twist it from side to side to clear away the the brush in order to get down to the solid ground because you want to be on something solid when you're shooting block the wind. So if I have a steady wind, let's just imagine that this table is a tripod and the wind is coming over here rather than standing here and letting the wind hit the side of my camera. I'm gonna come over here and block the wind as I fire the trigger of release on the camera, trying to create a little drafting position for the camera to be in because any sort of movement's gonna come up in blurriness, which means I gotta delete the picture. So you have to do whatever you can. And the other thing I make sure to dio is I stand still and that's because a lot of times the ground that you're standing on is dirt, which is very close to the feet of your tripod. And so, if you're kind of bouncing around, that could be causing movement in the dirt. This depends on the type of environment you're in, of course. But you know, when I get going, click And I'm not gonna move around. I'm not gonna cause any airflow around it. I want it to be as sharp as it possibly could be if you are going to use a tripod. Very handy device is a remote shutter release. This is gonna allow you to trigger the shutter without touching the camera. Remember, we're trying to keep the camera as steady as possible. You don't want to be pressing down on the shutter release when it's right about to take a picture because it takes a few seconds for that motion of you touching the camera. There were those vibrations to settle out, so one of the options is getting a cable release, and there's many different models out there You need to check. What are the correct ones for your camera? It might be a wireless. It might be accorded one that's basic or one that has a lot of extra features on this is gonna allow you to shoot vibration free. Some of these allow you to program the camera or to lock the shutter open form or than the 30 seconds that most cameras have is their maximum shutter speed. So if you want to leave your camera open for two minutes, you just click the shutter and you push it forward and you let it sit. And so that is a very nice thing to be able to dio. We'll have to be honest with you. I I own a couple of these, and I use them from time to time, but I often use a little cheater shortcut, which is I use the two second self time around my camera. So with my camera on my tripod, I turn my camera into the two second mode. I pressed the shutter release. I get my hands off, and in that 1st 2nd or so the vibrations settle out. And that's kind of a nice thing to have, because then you don't have a cable hanging around the camera, and it's nice and simple. You have to buy anything. And so I'll usually carry one of these in case there's something I'm trying to time like. I've tried to time waves hitting a certain rock or a shoreline, and that's a little hard to time with the two second delay. And so having that instantaneous reaction is nice to have in some areas. But in many cases you can just use the two second self timer. Take a look on your camera because virtually every camera that I know of on the market today has a two or a three second delay on the timer

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Light Keynote
Focus Keynote
Equipment Keynote
Subject Keynote
Timing Keynote
Composition Keynote
Exposure Keynote