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Nobody enjoys carrying a heavy tripod around all day. Whether it’s in a busy city, or on a long arduous hike, tripods can be a real inconvenience, and yet they are one of the most essential pieces of equipment for any travel or landscape photographer.
Here are 7 reasons why a tripod is a travel photographer’s best friend:
It’s no secret that photographing early morning or late afternoon offers the best light, and this soft light that appears gives a beautiful look and feel to photos. It also means you will often be photographing when you will be unable to hold the camera with your hands due to the low light conditions. Therefore, the only way you will be able to capture sharp images, that avoid camera shake, is to use a tripod.
If photographing at dawn and dusk is tough enough, then photographing at night without a tripod is impossible. Don’t be under the assumption that you can raise your ISO to be able to achieve a fast enough shutter speed; you simply would not be able to capture a photograph sharp enough or have an acceptable levels of noise for professional or personal use.
Even during the day when the sun is at its brightest, you may find yourself wishing you had your tripod. For example, if you are photographing any body of water such as a waterfall, the sea, or even a fountain, and you want to capture the smooth look of the water, you will need to use neutral density filters. This will mean that you are essentially limiting the amount of light that enters the camera, and as a result you will need to use a slower shutter speed (long exposures).
One of the biggest advantages of a tripod is that it allows you to take photos at interesting angles, and shoot from positions that you may not be able to otherwise. For example, being able to set your camera at a very low level near the ground with a tripod, means that it is held much steadier, and you don’t have to get yourself wet or dirty. Alternatively, if you are looking to capture the photo at a higher height a tripod is also handy.
I was recently photographing near a small river in a forest in the South West of England. As I was walking down to the river bank, my foot slipped on a rock covered with moss, and the only thing that stopped me falling straight into the river was my tripod, which happened to be extended, and I used it to regain my balance. This particular river was fairly shallow and slow flowing and therefore wasn’t life threatening, however, my camera and I would have been very wet, with a cold one hour walk back to the car. You never know how or when a tripod could become useful, beyond just holding your camera.
One of the great things about using a tripod is that it means you are not connected to your camera by having to hold it. As a result you may find that you actually spend more time looking at the scene and analyzing, it rather than just trying to take photos. This often leads to being able to pre-visualize an even better photo, and actually setting the scene, for example, by waiting for the clouds to change or someone to walk into the photo.
Every now and again you will be in a situation where you will need to use your flash at a different position to the usual mounted to the top of your camera. This is when you need to light a subject from a different angle, rather than straight on. In these situations, a tripod of some kind is essential to hold your flash in position.
Tripods are an unwelcome, additional weight to carry, and ultimately you need to weigh the benefits of carrying one versus not doing so. But if you want to capture the best possible photos, in the best possible light, while keeping them sharp and low in noise, then sometimes a tripod is a must.
Do you carry and use your tripod? Share your thoughts below.