I was jotting down some ideas for a new book and decided to write a short blog post with some tips I use to improve my success using tripods in outdoor photography.
Perhaps you’ve already heard these but maybe even one of them will be new to you. I hope so and hope that they help.
Tip Number One: Seasoned outdoor photographers realize that the tripod, no matter how sturdy, is the most likely piece of gear to break. It’s a good idea to buy a few spare parts like screws and tripod feet and have them in your gadget bag for emergency repairs.
Tip Number Two: Three-way pan-tilt heads don’t allow for quick changes and the pistol grip type of heads don’t offer enough support.
Tip Number Three: Get in the habit of tightening and checking all the tripod and head knobs in exactly the same order every time you set up and break down your tripod. Practice setting it up and mounting a camera to it during times when you haven’t been shooting for a while. Above all, carry your tripod everywhere you go with your camera. No matter how stable, how solid, or how perfect your tripod, it can’t help you if you don’t bring it along.
Tip Number Four: Place the knob of your quick release clamp on the opposite side of your tripod collar. This helps prevent an accidental loosening of the clamp when what you really meant to do was loosen the collar. Be sure to practice loosening the collar and switching between horizontal and vertical until it’s second nature.
Tip Number Five: In a best-case scenario, you may want to have more than one tripod. (You have more than one lens don’t you?) Have one tripod that you use exclusively for outdoor photography and a second for general photography, and you will never have an excuse for not having properly stabilized lenses.
Tip Number Six: You want a tripod that gets low enough so you can lie on your stomach to look through the viewfinder. If the lowest your tripod will go still requires you to get on your knees, then it doesn’t go low enough.
Tip Number Seven: Quick release plates made by companies like Really Right Stuff, Kirk, and Wimberley are well made and reliable. Some offer extra options, including the ability to attach flash brackets and other accessories. This isn’t the area to scrimp. It’s just plain smart to own a good, sturdy, and reliable quick release system. If you’ve just spent $5,000, or even $500, on a new lens, this extra expense is cheap insurance.
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