Friday, March 23, 2012

P33: using a tripod

This is one of those projects that seems to be both oddly placed and somewhat redundant.  As Project 33 out of 40, a tripod would either be or not be part of my working process by this stage of a landscape course.  Personally, I prefer not to use a tripod and for most of the this course have actively avoided using one other than when absolutely necessary, primarily night photography or when needing to be very precise about composition.  Indeed today when out shooting today I carried a tripod, a carbon fiber Manfrotto, but this was more about composition than steadiness.

I have a number of different tripods, from sturdy heavy duty aluminum studio tripods, through lighter weight but stiff carbon fibre, through to a super lightweight gorilla pod that I take on vacation.  However, it is the head not the tripod that makes the difference, again I have several.  I mostly vary between a precision head with tri-axis fine adjustment and using a ball head.  I use the former mostly for macro work, the latter for landscape.  The ball head is not too heavy and faster to adjust when out and about.  I have a number of quick release plates that attach to the camera or to directly to the lens bracket for telephotos.  However, I mostly use them indoors.

A better discussion at this point in the course might have been around balancing ISO with lens speed, investigating the practical limits of hand holding a camera and where the ISO noise limit kicks in.  A few years ago noise was noticeable at around ISO 400, now it is 800 on my 5D2, with my new Fuji X100, I am now up to around 1600.  The next generation of cameras are delivering clean images at 3200 or even 6400. I suspect we will see fewer and fewer tripods as time goes on.

Returning to my photographic practice.  Unless the weather is really overcast a tripod is not needed for stability.  Today I was shooting at ISO 100 or 200 and at f/11 easily able to maintain 1/200s to 1/400s.  With a 17mm or 24mm WA lens this is easily hand held and delivers good quality results.

In each of these cases I shot the handheld image above and then used the tripod for a follow up shot.  If I had not know the order of the shots I could not have told the difference.  My rationale for the tripod today was the fact that I was using a pair of tilt-shift lenses, much easier to adjust when static and the fact that I was interested in combining several shots into a single image for my next assignment preparation.

It is said that a tripod slows you down and leads to a more contemplative form of photography.  I don't agree, this is like saying that dragging a grand piano behind you makes you walk slower and take in the scenery better.  Contemplation is a state of mind, whether a photographer is slow or fast is a personal choice.  Some time ago I was very much in the benefits of tripods school, now I am not.  It is a pain to carry and brings unwanted attraction when working in a city.  I use one only when there is no other choice, adding several Kg to my back back only focuses my mind on my aching shoulders, not my image making.

No comments:

Post a Comment