There’s a lot to like about a tripod

Making Pictures with John Enman there's a lot to like about a tripod

This past week I talked about tripods with a fellow that had just ordered one online. When I asked about it the only description I could get was his statement, “Oh, it costs $500.00 and is carbon fiber”.  So, for him and for readers new to tripods, here is much of the substance of an article from 2007.

In his book, “Backcountry Journal, Reminiscences of a Wilderness Photographer”, mountain and wilderness photographer, Dave Bohn, wrote that, “The trouble with photographers, and anyone else attempting anything creative, and in fact doing anything, is that they get addicted…(and)…I was addicted to the tripod as a necessity for the photography of large landscapes.”  I suppose that I echo his sentiment, however I don’t think the word “addiction” applies to my use of a tripod. I sometimes stop my car, get out with my camera and lazily make an exposure.  Please understand that I am pragmatic in my approach to photography, so that if I am shakily handholding my camera and releasing the shutter and I realize if I really care about the picture, then I will have better success getting an enlargement of the image if I return to the car and get my tripod. So for me addiction isn’t really the right term, and “good sense” would be better.

I have said that, “ if you don’t like using a tripod it means you never have used a good one”, and I stand by that statement. In today’s market it is very acceptable to spend extra money on “vibration reduction” or “image stabilizing” lenses in the belief that this technology will allow the photographer to do photography without the use of a tripod.  I say that isn’t going to happen. The difference between a blurry and a sharp enlargement isn’t megapixels or vibration reduction lenses; it is a good stable tripod. I don’t mean to say we shouldn’t get image stabilizing lenses, as they are great to have and use in certain situations and conditions when you can’t use a tripod and must use slower shutter speeds, but using a good tripod that allows you to stand up straight and take your time to analyze, problem solve, compose, and contemplate is an excellent experience.

When I select a tripod I want one that will extend above my head so I can use it on hills. I don’t like bending over to peer through my camera’s viewfinder. Photographers have said they don’t mind doing that, and my response is, “Why would you want to?”   I also want tripod legs that can extend out horizontally because the ground surface is often uneven.  I don’t want a crank to raise the center column because that just adds weight, is inconvenient, and becomes one more thing to get caught on things and break. I prefer a column lock that turns to lock and unlock when I need to adjust it up or down to move the camera.  An important feature on the tripod I select is that it must have a standard thread mount that will allow me to attach whatever tripod head I want. The subject of tripod heads is another subject completely and my advice is get one with a reasonable size ball surface and lightweight.  I want a tripod that isn’t very heavy so it isn’t a bother to carry as I walk up and down the hills around my home in Pritchard. I also want a sturdy tripod that is up to supporting my camera. I am always amazed when someone will buy a cheap tripod to hold his or her $1000-plus camera and lens.

In recent years more and more quality tripods have become available and are worth owning and using.  Wood or graphite construction is at the high and expensive end of the scale.  Companies like Reis and Gitzo sell wonderful tripods for more money than many

beginning photographers can scrape together. But I am quite satisfied with the current affordably priced aluminum tripods from Giottos, Slik, and Manfroto.  There are many others brands available, and all you need to do is spend some time researching to find one that suits you.  Be careful of the bargain tripods at the big box outlets (or online). I suggest buying from people that have used, or at least researched the tripods they sell.

There are some big department stores that will allow you to bring it back if you aren’t satisfied, but I am sure they won’t pay for the damage to your camera and lens that crashed to the ground on their bargain tripod.

Hopefully you spent time selecting your digital camera and lenses, and my advice is to take the time to research the purchase of a good tripod to go along with them.

These are my thoughts this week. Contact me at www.enmanscamera.com or emcam@telus.net. Stop by Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops. And if you want an experienced photographer please call me at 250 371 3069. I also sell an interesting selection of used photographic equipment.