Aug 19, 2009

Monthly Photo Tip - August 2009

Besides cameras and lenses, a tripod is one of the most important investments for a nature photographer. High quality nature photographs are rarely achieved when hand holding your camera. A tripod is essential for low light during the morning, evening and twilight, for shooting wildlife, for macros and for experimenting with impressionistic photography. It not only steadies your shooting equipment for maximum image quality, it also will help you discover the world of photography. You are more likely to step back, think and compose the photograph. You will ask yourself: do I have a straight horizon, do I have sufficient depth of field or shall I open up the aperture setting to minimize depth of field, are there distracting elements in the foreground or background of my composition, do I even have a composition?

I personally prefer a ball-and-socket head with quick release for easy and fast adjustments. My tripod has no center column and the legs spread independently for setup on uneven terrain. The tripod collapses to almost ground level allowing me to explore ground level objects and shooting from different angles and perspectives. It is not too heavy for the longer photo excursions and trips I often pursue in the national and state parks of New England.

As an alternative, I sometimes bring a bean bag that allows me an easy, inexpensive setup at even lower levels then possible with a tripod. I also use it on rocks or positioning a telephoto lens on the hood or the roof of my car. Ready to go bean bags can be found at local photo dealers. You also can fill up your own 1 or 2 gallon size bag or freezer bag with dried beans. Add beans until the bag is nearly full but still flexible. Remove the air, zip up and you are ready to shoot.