Tripods. Underutilized and unappreciated.

I’m probably like most of us when it comes to tripods.  I have one.  It’s not always with me when I’m shooting, and sometimes, I’m not quite sure where it is.

Actually, I might be a little worse than some, as I actually have two tripods.  One is an absolute monster that could probably hold up the corner of a small building.  The other is a sturdy but compact unit that fits inside of a carry-on suitcase.  And, neither of them gets used as much as they should.

In reviewing and selecting images for the Frog’s launch, I came across more photos than I wanted to that were great.  At least until they were examined at 100% they were great.  Most of them were dawn or dusk shots, or at slow shutter speed shots where I wanted to emphasize the motion of something, most often water.

In wasn’t that I didn’t have a tripod in most cases.  It was that I was simply too lazy to use a tripod.  Or, I didn’t take the time to go back and get it out of my vehicle.  Or, I didn’t want to carry it.  Or, well, you get the point.  Coulda.  Woulda.  Shoulda.  Didn’t.

Where that reality really sunk in was during the review of some (almost but not quite) absolutely phenomenal images of the Niagara River just above the American Falls.  If all anyone ever wanted was a 3”x5” print (Remember those?  You’re dating yourself if you do…) or a 4”x6” print, I would have made them available.  The reality is that not many of us – me included – would want those shots in those sizes.  So, they will languish in obscurity on my hard drive until someone invents a program to fix them (there’s an opportunity for some code guru, as I’m not the only one out there with slightly fuzzy shots).

Somewhere out there, someone is saying “well, why didn’t you use a vibration reduction or optically stabilized lens for those shots of the Niagara River?”  Well smartypants, I did…. And, in trying to really emphasize the fluidity of the flowing water, I managed to go so low with my shutter speed that the water looks great – but the foliage in the background is just a wee tiny little bit fuzzy. 

So, the moral of this week’s story is simple.

Get a tripod for your landscape, scenic, and “special effects” shots.  Make sure it will hold your camera and heaviest lens combination.  Get the best you can afford – it doesn’t have to be carbon fiber, it just needs to be sturdy.  But don’t be like me – USE IT! 

If your camera can use a remote release or a cable release, use that too!  If your camera can’t use a remote or candle release, use your self-timer to avoid camera shake.  If all else fails, then use your finger.  Slowly and gently….

And, if you are using a vibration reduction or optically stabilized lens, don’t forget to turn off that function when you’re using a tripod.  Really.  Yes, I’m serious.  Read the instructions if you don’t believe me.

And me?

I’ll be practicing what I’m preaching after this post.  I don’t know when I’ll get a chance at a do-over at the Niagara River again.  But, I do know how to avoid the same problem in the future. 

I just need to remember my tripod…