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The following post on using tripods in your photography was submitted by DPS reader Martin Gommel from the blog KWERFELDEIN.
Tripods are bulky and heavy. For some it often is just another object, that makes shooting in nature more difficult due to hauling them around. So the question arises, is the effort worth the cost?
Below I have outlined 6 situations where having a tripod with you will help you get great results.
With the increasing darkness it is difficult to shoot with a handheld camera at sunset. Sunlight decreases fast in the last moments before sunset and looking to your LCD at your results will prove that sharpness will no longer be achieved without a tripod. As these last minutes before and after the sun goes down are the most beautiful it is such a pity to see them and to know you’ve got no way to keep your camera still.
You can try boosting the ISO-level over 800 to give you a little more latitude – but in doing so you’ll lose image quality as the noise at high ISO rates becomes more noticeable.
If you would go out shooting with 100 photographers on a sunny afternoon my guess would be that only 10 would shoot with a tripod.
The reason is that we believe that in bright light we’ll not get any camera shake – even at small apertures. While this is true in many cases I can also say from my own experience that it can sometimes be a false conclusion to think this way.
Tripods are not only good for stopping camera shake.
In bright light the most important parts in landscapes are fully illuminated. However the brighter the light the more intense shadows can become and the more difficult it is to take a show that captures the detail in those areas of the shot.
One way around this is to consider taking mulitple exposures to get the best results of all the important parts. You can then combine your images later on your computer to get a great shot. Some cameras have this setting in their menu for you to make it easy – however never do it handheld as you’ll end up with multiple images that don’t align well.
Take a tripod – even at 2 pm and burning sun.
Some believe that you can shoot at 11pm with ISO boosted up to 3200 and aperture at f/2.8 and still shoot handheld. I have tried it and the outcome was perfectly (ugly).
Sure you can achieve an ‘artistic’ effect with this approach – but if you want to take some serious landscape photographs at night you can’t skip using a tripod.
The same thing applies when shooting long exposures of star trails, waterfalls etc. Sure you can balance your camera on a solid object – but in doing so you run the risk of dropping it or getting crooked images.
With an ND filter you are able to balance daylight and blur everything that is moving (water, clouds, flags etc.).
Depending upon the level of the added density and the lighting situation you will be forced to shoot longer exposures when using an ND filter.
Handheld ? No way. Shoot an image and look after that on your LCD – I promise you’ll crave for a tripod like never before. You know, ND filters and tripods are married. The filter is always faithful to the tripod – but the tripod sometimes goes shooting without the filter 😉 .
Shooting with a telephoto… can be dancing with the fire, because these lenses need a shorter shutter speed.
Without a tripod you are spoilt for choice : High-ISO merits (more noise) or a wider aperture (less depth of field).
The average aperture in landscape photographs is from f/8-11 so a tripod is the best thing you can choose when you’re shooting with a telephoto.
I just wanted to add this last point – because many landscape photographers love to shoot architecture too.
When you’re standing in an interesting architectural structure filled with lots of interesting lines and features to shoot you’ll generally not have any trouble ‘seeing’ – however when it comes to ‘shooting’ with your camera the light is generally not enough (unless it’s incredibly bright outside or there is some strong artificial light).
Once again – a tripod is what is needed to allow you to slow down your shutter speed, keep your aperture small enough to get good depth of field and not have to boost your ISO into noisy levels.