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"Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph." – Matt Hardy

  

"I think a photography class should be a requirement in all educational programs because it makes you see the world rather than just look at it."  -  Author Unknown

 

"A man’s heart away from nature becomes hard; lack of respect for growing, living things soon leads to a lack of respect for humans too."  – Luther Standing Bear

 

"Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow."Imogen Cunningham

 

"Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."  - Ansel Adams

 

"When you follow your bliss….doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else."  - Joseph Campbell

 

"You can outdistance that which is running after you, but not what is running inside you." – Rwandan Proverb

 

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

"Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."  -  Pablo Picasso

 

"We have been taught to believe that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic."  -  Susan Jeffers

 

"Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous.  That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor."  -  Paul Hawken

 

"Satisfaction of one's curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life."  -  Linus Pauling

Thursday
Dec012011

Article -- How to Choose a Tripod

Ask any professional photographer the one piece of equipment they love (and detest) the most. More times than not the answer will be his tripod. It is often a love/hate relationship between a photographer and his most steady friend. A tripod is the one thing a photographer needs more than anything else to make great photos, but some days the cumbersomeness of a tripod can be the bane of his existence. However, tripod technology is making great strides and there are many acceptable choices for photographers these days. 

The Tripod as a System

Unless a tripod comes with the exact combination of leg and head options that a photographer is looking for, it is best not purchase a tripod ‘kit’. It is preferable to purchase the legs and the head separately so as to get both a quality head and quality legs, each with the photographer’s desired features that make the most sense for how he approaches photography. Below is some information to keep in mind when evaluating tripod features.

Tripod Legs - Stability

First and foremost a tripod should be stable, and with greater stability comes added weight. When evaluating a tripod, there is always a trade off between weight and sturdiness. The heavier the tripod the more sturdy it is. The lighter the tripod the more likely the photographer is to actually carry it. Carbon Fiber and Aluminum are the two most common materials. Carbon fiber is the lighter of the two. Just think about how the tripod will be used the most. 

If a photographer is into outdoor photography that entails hiking, he will likely choose carbon fiber if he wants the tripod to actually make it back to the car. If a photographer generally never shoots too far away from his car, then the added weight of a heavier tripod may not make that much difference.   

The number of leg sections in a tripod also make a difference. Normally tripods are made with 3 or 4 leg sections. The fewer sections the more stable. However, for those photographers who are taller in stature, a 3-section tripod may not be an option as the 4-section legs tend to extend to a taller height. 

When researching tripods make absolutely sure to consider the height of the extended tripod without the center column extended. Extending the center column essentially makes an expensive tripod into an unsteady monopod. In other words, get a tripod that that extends to the appropriate height without the center column included in the calculation. 

Tripod Leg Movement

All three legs on the tripod should be able to move independently. This means there is no connecting apparatus halfway down the tripod that slides out and keeps the legs in only one position. An appropriate tripod will have an independent locking system. This is a lock on each individual leg that allows you to move one or all of the legs independently and separately of each other.

Tripod Leg Angle

Try to get a tripod whose legs will move outward as closely to 90 degrees as possible. The higher the legs will flip up, the closer to the ground the camera can get. This is important for subjects low on the ground and for macro photography.  If the camera has a center column, make sure it is removable or 90 degree flexibility will mean nothing since a non-removable column will prohibit the camera from getting close to the ground.

Tripod Head Types

Two of the most common types of tripod heads are the Pan and Tilt head and the Ball head. Each of these heads has its own feel. Which type a photographer may choose is often a matter of which one works best for the way he shoots and which one make the photographer the most comfortable.

Pan & Tilt Ball Heads

These heads work either on 2 or 3 different planes of movement or axis points (up and down; right to left; diagonally) and have a handle for each plane of movement. They can be great for precision, but they can be very bulky and confusing depending on how many handles there are to adjust the positions.

Geared Heads – these are a type of pan and tilt head. These heads have the same movement as the general pan and tilt, but they also have gears on the lever that allow for very minute as well as overall head adjustment. They can be used for work requiring a high degree of attention to detail.

Ball Heads

Ball heads come with varying features and come in various prices ranges. Common brands are Arca-Swiss, Kirk Enterprises and Really Right Stuff. The most versatile ball heads have three knobs for adjustment. The main knob releases the grip to allow full movement of the head. The second knob is a tension knob which allows you to dial in the amount of tension the head applies to the ball so as to allow a looser or tighter movement. The third knob releases the panning mechanism which allows the head to twist around on the horizontal plane. They are very compact and easy to carry, but a ball head does have a slight learning curve associated with its use and some can be a bit heavy.

The Pistol Grip is a type of ball head but it has a much larger handle that protrudes to one side. You work it as if you are squeezing a pistol trigger. While the trigger is squeezed, the locking mechanism is released and the head can be moved into any position. Then just release the ‘trigger’ to lock the head into the place. These heads are flexible, but the pistol protrusion can get in the way and limit some movement. Pistol grip heads also tend to lack a tension control knob as well. 

Quick Release System

Always a good feature, this allows the photographer to quickly slap the camera body on the tripod or to whip it off in a hurry.  Without the quick release system a photographer would have to literally screw the tripod thread into the base of the camera every time he wanted to mount or remove the camera. 

There are a number of quick release systems out there, but the most recommend are the heads with a quick release plate or L-bracket system. Really Right Stuff, Wimberley, Arca-Swiss or Kirk Enterprises are some of the best. These heads are all based on the Arca-Swiss system, and many of the components are interchangeable between the brands.

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