by Harry Flashman
Is a tripod necessary?
One of the hallmarks of the enthusiastic amateur is a tripod. A proper
tripod, and not one of those flimsy aluminium tripods which are the
hallmarks of the amateur who doesn’t know any better.
Now, with DSLR’s that have image stabilization and all the electronic bells
and whistles (smartphones too), there are those who will say that tripods
are now not needed. Wrong! Tripods are here to stay for a long time yet.
The reason that everyone needs a tripod is that by having one, this three
legged device will open up completely new avenues in photography and let you
produce new and different images that are otherwise way beyond your reach,
despite the iPhone!
So what can you do with a tripod that you can’t do without? The most obvious
is time exposure shots. The whole secret of time exposure is to keep the
camera still, and you can’t do that by holding your breath, leaning against
a tree and gripping tightly and praying to the electronic god of image
stabilization, let me assure you.
Time exposures include twilight photography and night photography and opens
up a whole new range of pictures and effects. Just the simple expedient of
being able to keep the camera steady while you shoot 30 second or longer
exposures will result in some great photographs. Try taking a shot just
after sunset, for example. Set the camera on f11 and give it 30 seconds. You
will be very pleased with the results.
Did you know that the very best landscapes during daylight hours are also
best taken on a tripod? To get the huge range of depth of field necessary
for these shots, you will end up with slow shutter speeds. Too slow to hand
hold, so the tripod ensures there’s no blurring. Those flowing milky, misty
waterfalls are also best taken with a tripod as again a very slow shutter
speed is required to capture that effect.
Even nature shots are done best with this piece of equipment. You can set up
the camera and then leave it, so that the birds, prowling predators etc.,
etc., can get used to its presence, and then with a cable or remote shutter
release (or even the remote from your iPhone), you can get the nature photos
of a lifetime.
Another type of shot that needs a tripod is the panorama. A compilation of
images which when placed together form a wide angle view of any scene. This
can only be done with the use of a tripod.
When shooting still life images, a tripod makes these shots a breeze. You
can set up the shot and then make minute adjustments while looking through
the viewfinder. Again you can use a slow shutter speed to be able to use
very small apertures (around f22) to get the very fine detail into the shot.
What should you look for and what should you spend? There are several items
in the specifications on any tripod you buy. The first is that it is heavy
with strong legs when extended fully. The “locks” on the legs must also be
secure. Another item is that the actual swivel head incorporates a spirit
level, so that you can ensure the top swivels in a true horizontal arc. The
tripod head should also have calibrations, so you can swing it a definite
number of degrees. A removable “shoe” is also a good item, as you can then
position the camera on the tripod, but also remove the camera to take other
shots but then replace it in exactly the same position. The legs should be
able to be spread out widely so that you can get the camera very close to
the ground, and finally, if you can get one, see if the central tripod shaft
can be removed and turned upside down, as this can get your camera
completely at ground level and also immediately above an object placed on
How much will this cost? Expect to spend a minimum of 6,000 baht. My own
Manfrotto cost a lot more than that, but with now 25 years of faithful
service, it has been a bargain!
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