Tripod Tips

The best way to avoid camera shake ruining your shots.

Gitzo Lightweight Series 1 Traveler Carbon Fiber Tripod with Center Ball Head

Gitzo Lightweight Series 1 Traveler Carbon Fiber Tripod with Center Ball Head

 

Regardless of your skill level there's nothing more annoying than finding yourself in a location filled with an amazing combination of elements and light to create the perfect landscape image only to end up creating a blurry image because you used a slow shutter speed and the fact that you shot it hand held. In situations like this you tripod becomes your best friend. The truth is, if you find yourself in low light or need to use a long exposure, all the best cameras and lenses in the world won't save you from a soft image. Even the most modern DSLRs with very high ISO capability will still produce some level of noise in your image if you bump the sensitivity to high. If you want the sharpest, highest quality images for shooting in low light conditions, then you will need a tripod.

Rigidity and carrying weight are going to be two of the key factors when choosing the best tripod for your needs. Your tripod should not only be able to support the weight of your camera and lens but hold it perfectly still. A flexing tripod will ruin that perfect landscape shot you countless spent hours setting up. Cheaper tripods with plastic heads and thin aluminium legs are generally too flexible to be used with anything heavier than a point and shoot or compact camera. To test your tripod's rigidity set up your tripod and press down on the top. If it flexes more than a few millimetres chances are it's probably not strong enough to support the full weight of your DSLR and lens.

“Rigidity mobility are important factors when choosing the best tripod for your needs.”

TYPES OF TRIPODS

Pocket Tripods

Specifically designed for small and compact cameras these mini tripods are perfect for table-top use or for positioning your camera for that self timer group or family photo. They are also small enough to easily fit in your jacket pocket or camera pouch. There are many types of pocket tripods, including some with extending legs, pan-tilt heads and even flexible legs. One of the most unique and versatile pocket tripod is the highly recommended Joby Gorillapod which can grasp onto just about any object or use as a tripod.

Budget Tripods

Simply put, a Budget Tripod is a cheap tripod costing less than $40. That being said there are some goods ones such as this Dolica AX620B100 62-Inch Proline Tripod, however many lack the rigidity to support a heavier camera and lens.

Travel Tripods

Travel Tripods are designed for general use where low weight and portability are key factors. Constructed of lightweight materials such as carbon fibre or aluminium, travel tripods are suitable for most types of cameras, from your basic point and shoot to your mid-range DSLR without a large telephoto lens.

Professional-Grade Tripods

Made from superior workmanship using high-tech materials such as carbon or basalt fibre, with magnesium alloy fittings a professional grade tripod offers the best rigidity and support for even the most heaviest DSLR and lens. They are however very expensive such as the Gitzo Lightweight Traveler Series 1 Carbon Fibre Tripod which costs over $900

Why you should consider buying the Fujifilm X-T3

There's no doubt that the Fujifulm X-T3 boasts an impressive specification in its new 26MP BSI CMOS X-Trans sensor, updated hybrid AF system with 425 phase-detect points and nearly 100% viewfinder coverage. Shooting continuously at 20 fps (e-shutter) or 11 fps (mechanical shutter) at foll resolution and capturing both DCI and UHD 4K video up to 60p this enthusiast SLR-style mirrorless camera offering an unparalleled balance of superb image quality and movie capability in a single package is not only a main contender in the mirrorless APS-C interchangeable lens camera market but also one you should definitely consider as your next piece of kit.

Guide price: $1,399.00

Buy on Amazon.com

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DAYTIME LONG EXPOSURE PHOTOGRAPHY

Give your daytime shots a twist with a long exposure.

Using a longer exposure means that moving objects such as clouds and water can take on a magical feel.

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I will agree the thought may seem absurd. Why would you ever want to use a longer exposure during the day given the abundance of ambient light perfect for using those high shutter speeds and a less chance of motion blur? Well, it's for ... want of a better expression, 'an artistic choice'. When you look at an image taken during the daytime some of the things you'll first notice is how sharp it is, free from camera shake, and how much everything is frozen in place.

Now if that's the look you're going for then that's fine, but lets consider how the world changes when you try taking an image at night. Have you ever noticed how much things are a bit more surreal at night when your shutter speed drops to seconds or even minutes to make an exposure. Those longer exposure times mean that moving objects such as clouds, water, people or cars taken on a magical feel. Including some of that feel to your daytime shot can not only be fun but can elevate your image from a standard capture to something wildly creative and engaging to the viewer.

So how do you take control of the daylight to achieve the shutter speeds required for this effect? Well, you'll need a few pieces of kit. It goes without saying that first you'll need your camera and your favorite lens. For this kind of work as a Canon shooter I use a Canon EF-S 10-22mm F3.5-4.5 USM or a Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0L USM. However if you've got a full frame camera then a Canon EF 16-35mm F4L IS USM / Canon EF 24-70mm F4L IS USM is also a great setup.

Because you're dealing with deliberately long exposures there is no question you're going to need a tripod to keep your camera perfectly still. The shutter speeds you may encounter will require that you use a remote shutter release or setting your camera to a 2 second timer mode to avoid any camera movement. Last and certainly not least is a neutral density filter. Without this bit of kit, the long exposures you require just can't happen.

A neutral density filter is simply put, sunglasses for your camera lens. It filters out a certain amount of light that passes through your lens to your camera sensor. Much like the glass you'll see in a welder's mask which I will say some photographers have actually used as an ND filter.

The Canon EF 24-70mm F4L IS USM is a great lens for most shooting conditions. However If you find you need a wider field of view then something in the Canon EF 16-35mm F4L IS USM or APS-C Canon EF-S 10-22mm F3.5-4.5 USM shown below is what you'll need.

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Canon EF 24-70mm f/4.0L IS USM Standard Zoom Lens

 
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Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens

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Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM SLR Lens

 
 

Manufactures like Lee, Cokin and Formatt Hitech offer a wide range of rectangular filters and filter holders.

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Lee Filters 100mm Big Stopper 3.0 Neutral Density Filter (10-stops)

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LEE Filters 100 x 100mm Little Stopper 1.8 Neutral Density Filter

 

Screw in filters can be cheaper however by going that route you'll be restricted to buying ones that will fit the diameter of each lens you're using.

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Breakthrough Photography 95mm X4 10-Stop ND Filter

 

A sturdy tripod is essential for long exposure photography to avoid any possibility of camera shake.

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Manfrotto Befree Advanced

 

A good cable release or one of the more advanced intravalometers often used for creating time lapses is also a useful tool to control your camera remotely when shooting longer exposures.

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Neewer Timer Remote

 

There are many types of ND filters. There are the versions that are flat rectangular pieces of plastic/glass that slide into place within a holder that screw to the front of your lens via an adapter ring. Then there are the circular screw-on types of various sizes for different lenses.

Essentially, they also come in a range of optical densities. A standard ND2 (1-stop) filter will only let in 50 percent of available light, whereas a ND4 (2-stop) filter will only let in 25 percent, an ND8 (3-stop) lets in 12.5 percent, while a ND16 (4-stop) filter blocks out 25percent and so on. For long exposures during the daylight you'll typically need a ND1024 filter otherwise known as a 10-stop filter which allows 0.098 percent of available light to enter the lens and reach the sensor.

As you would have guessed cost for these filters vary too. A 10-stop filter by Lee, for example is in the range of $129 but you will also need to purchase the filter holder kit as well for about $100. A single screw-in type filter, depending in the lens size that it has to fit can cost as much as up to $229. These filters can be quite pricey but they are worth their weight in gold.

So do you just screw on your filter and point your camera at the scene you want to capture an that's it? Well not exactly. For starters if you look through your viewfinder or if you prefer Live-View with the filter on then you're not going to see much. In fact you'll be pretty much staring at black image. Metering a scene with your 10-stop filter attached will cause some problems too. The best method is to work out your composition and expose for the scene before you attach your filter to the lens.

Start by composing the scene how you want it, with the ISO, aperture setting and shutter speed required dialed in for the final shot. Then make a test exposure and check your histogram to ensure the image isn't overexposed. At this point you'll want to make a note of the shutter-speed without your 10-stop filter attached.

Now there's a bit of calculation here but nothing you'll need to worry about. Let's say after setting up your scene your camera's exposure meter is telling you that using an ISO of 100 and aperture of f/11 you need a shutter-speed of 1/15 of a second to gain the technically correct exposure. You now have to slow your shutter-speed down by 10-stops. This means by adding our 10-stop filter our shutter-speed now has to be altered to 60 seconds to achieve the correct exposure.

If you're like me and not much of a math whiz, there are several apps for your iOS or Android phone that can easily calculate the correct setting according to the density of the filter used. Check out the Lee Filters Exposure app or NiSi Filters Australia.

One thing to be aware of when using a ND filter is the color cast. Even the most optically perfect ND filter can suffer from some form of color shift when using a 6-stop or higher filter. The most common issue I've experienced a magenta color cast caused by infrared light still passing through the filter. For the best results you should always shoot in RAW mode and at your camera's lowest ISO setting.

As always, experimentation with various shutter-speeds is key. Be on the lookout for some familiar daytime moving objects (cars, bicycles, clouds, water, or people) that could look quite surreal if captured with a long shutter-speed. This exposure technique has been employed by many professionals to magically empty city landscapes filled with cars and people by using very strong ND filters. Now that you know it's up to you and your imagination to take control of your creativity and give your daytime shots a twist with some long exposures.

Your Next Camera

Some interesting cameras to consider

Whether you're just someone who likes to take photos on holidays or an enthusiast landscape photographer, your choice of camera will be fairly specific. Of course, when looking for a new camera, budget will have a major role to play. It is always suggested that you try to get the best camera you can afford without breaking the bank. That being said, it is a good idea to get something that you can grow into as you develop as a photographer. By investing in a basic camera with limited manual controls, you will quickly outgrow it and soon be looking for a new camera; and although you may not at first need all the fancy technology and features that are offered with certain cameras, once you start to find new and creative ways of taking photos that may very well change. With that in mind, I have carefully put together a selection of some varied and interesting cameras from both ends of the scale which will hopefully spawn your interests and point you in the right direction.


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Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

30 megapixels | 3.2″ screen | Full frame sensor

Buy on Amazon.com



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Nikon D850

45 megapixels | 3.2″ screen | Full frame sensor

Buy on Amazon.com



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Nikon D500

21 megapixels | 3.2″ screen | APS-C sensor

Buy on Amazon.com



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Canon EOS 7D Mark II

20 megapixels | 3″ screen | APS-C sensor

Buy on Amazon.com




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Fuji X-T3

26 megapixels | 3″ screen | APS-C sensor

Buy on Amazon.com


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Panasonic Lumix DC-TS7

Travel camera 20 megapixels | 3″ screen | 28 – 128 mm (4.6×)

Buy on Amazon.com



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Pentax K-1 Mark II

36 megapixels | 3.2″ screen | Full frame sensor

Buy on Amazon.com

If you would like to purchase any of the items shown on this page, please use the affiliate links to Amazon to help support me. This blog page is a long term project that I will continue to expand with time. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Choosing the right lens - Make sure your next lens is the right one one for the job.

A camera is only as good as lens you have attached to it, and only if that lens is right for the job at hand. Imagine setting your camera in front of an amazing landscape that stretches far off in every direction. You would need a wide angle lens with a short focal length capable of capturing all that grandeur and spectacle. If all you have is a telephoto, then that lens is going to limit the kind of image you could take there. You could also find yourself in a field of sunflowers, wanting to get an extreme close-up of the morning dew on those beautiful yellow flowers. But all you have in your bag is a standard lens with a minimum focusing distance that puts the dew-covered bluebell so small in the frame that it just doesn't work as a good image. After choosing the right camera for you, your next port of call is a choice of lens.

Notably lenses can be divided into two main categories: zoom lenses which have a variable focal length; and prime lenses, which have a fixed focal length. Zoom lenses have the advantage of being more versatile, so having just a couple of lenses you can easily cover a wide range of focal lengths, but they also have several disadvantages. They are heavier than prime lenses, the optical quality is usually not quite as good as prime lenses, and they usually have a slower (smaller) maximum aperture. Prime lenses, on the other hand, are lighter and generally of better optical quality, however you have to carry more of them in your bag if you want to cover a range of focal lengths. That being said both types of lenses are available in a huge range of sizes and prices, from cheap standard 50mm lenses to ultra-fast telephoto zooms costing over $25,000.

There is actually relatively little difference in cost-per-focal length between zooms and primes; both vary widely depending on quality, focal length and maximum aperture, without both popular and premium varieties of both types.

Some photographers prefer the convenience of zoom lenses, others prefer the superior performance of prime lenses, while others prefer to use a mixture of prime and zoom lenses depending on the circumstances.


TYPE OF LENSES

Pancake lens

Typical focal length

Wide, Normal, Telephoto

As suggested by it's name, a pancake lens is a very flat prime lens. It is shorter than it is wide and it is very small and light. Used with DSLR and Micro Four Thirds cameras they are primarily used by photographers who prefer a small and light camera/lens system. Relative to their miniature size, they can produce some good images

Standard Zoom

Typical focal length:

28-80mm (full-frame equivalent)

This is undoubtedly one of the most common focal length, suitable for everything from landscapes to portraits. Most camera systems will include a couple of lenses within this focal length range, usually a cheaper, and included as a kit lens with a new camera, and a premium quality lens often costing a lot more.

Ultra-wide zoom

Typical focal length:

16-35mm (full-frame equivalent)

Ultra-wide zoom lenses are mostly used for landscape photography. They are more specialized than standard zooms, and for this reason are generally more expensive.

Macro lens

Typical focal length:

50-100mm (full-frame equivalent)

A true macro lens will be able to record an image at a 1:1 scale on the image sensor or medium it was shot on at it's closest focusing distance allowing the lens to fill the frame and reveal amazing detail on very small objects.

Medium telephoto zoom

Typical focal length:

80-300mm (full-frame equivalent)

The medium telephoto zoom is generally useful for amateur wildlife, sports photography, and portraits at the shorter end of its focal length range. Telephoto zooms have a smaller effective aperture than standard zooms.

Specialist lenses

Typical focal length:

400-1200mm (full-frame equivalent)

Specialist lenses are largely used by professionals and advanced enthusiasts. These include both zoom and prime ultra-fast telephoto lenses used by sports and wildlife photographers.

CONVERSION FACTORS

Since most digital SLR and CSC cameras use sensors that are noticeably smaller than a frame of 35mm film, when using lenses designed for older film cameras the field of view is reduced by a certain amount. This has the effect of increasing the apparent focal length, so what had previously been a wide-angle lens now becomes closer to a standard view lens.

This "crop factor" or "conversion factor" is an key consideration when buying a lens. To convert the focal length of a digital SLR lens to the equivalent focal length for a 35mm camera, it must be multiplied by the conversion factor.

For APS-C cameras this is approximately 1.6 on Canon bodies, so a standard 18-55mm zoom lens, as supplied with many DSLRs, is roughly equivalent to 28-88mm, close to a standard zoom on 35mm cameras. If one were to user that 28-88mm lens on a DSLR it would be the equivalent to a 44-140mm zoom.

Four-Thirds systems have a conversion factor of approximately 2:1, so a standard zoom for these systems is usually 14-42mm, which again is roughly equivalent to the 28-80mm full-frame standard.


Chasing, "The Perfect Light".

As landscape photographers one of the things we often find ourselves obsessed about is chasing the light. And while this mindset can allow us to create some of the most amazing images it can also become a crutch limiting both our creativity and the images we images we produce.

Learning to appreciate the subtle transitions in texture as the light moves across the landscape not only not only allows us to better enjoy our time spent in the vast outdoors but also nurture greater opportunities to express ourselves more creatively.

Your Expectations can also create limitations

When I first began my journey as a landscape photographer, I was obsessed with creating images only when there was a burning sunrise or sunset. I would constantly check my weather apps daily hoping for conditions that would show promise of amazing colour and perfect clouds. And although every now and then I was blessed with the perfect conditions to make an amazing image I was often met with utter failure in less than ideal conditions forced to walk away unable to create the image I had hoped.

The expectation of ‘the perfect light’, can greatly limit our opportunities in the field

As a landscape photographer the expectation of, 'the perfect light' can create two possibilities; one you either head out to your location hoping for the perfect conditions only to be disheartened when the light doesn't take shape as you'd hoped or two, consult your 'trusty' weather app and if it doesn't forecast the conditions you hope for you stay indoors and watch TV. If you're thinking that option two seems the more practical approach the truth is neither mindset will help you become a better photographer. For myself, the expectation of, 'the perfect light' has been something which as all too often served as a disappointment limited my creativity and a landscape photographer and ultimately in the images I created.

When we commit our landscape photography to shooting in, ‘the perfect light’, we not only limit our vast opportunities to become more versatile photographers but also to shorten the time spent in the field experiencing the landscapes to find and refine our compositions.

Get out early & stay out late

If you're the type of landscape photographer who likes to shoot 15 minutes before and after sunrise or sunset, I urge you to consider shooting a bit longer. Try getting to your location a couple of hours earlier to find a composition you really like and continue shooting until the light has faded.

By doing this you'll not only be able to discover amazing compositions but also gain a better understanding of how the light interacts with the key elements within the landscape. Arriving to the location 10 or 15 minutes before sunrise or sunset is never going to allow you to find compelling compositions to make a great image.

There's never enough time

Any landscape photographer who has a full time job then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. If you fall into that category then you have to ask yourself, "Do I want to create a body of images from several locations?" Or, "Do I want to create a body of work for my portfolio?"

Spending more time in any landscape allows you to better experience the scene as the light moves across the landscape. If you've never experienced it you'd be surprised just how much the light can change within the space of an hour before and sunrise to sunset often creating a soft yet moody atmosphere emphasizing the foreground and mid-ground elements of your composition.


Take the Challenge


Challenge yourself by spending more time in the landscape. I guarantee that you'll not only be able to find that compelling composition to create a stunning image but other compositions to open up opportunities to create other images you otherwise would have walked past.


Try not to fall into the trap of chasing, 'the perfect light'. If the forecast shows less than ideal conditions get out anyway. It doesn't matter if it's several hours before or after sunset, take time to explore the landscape.

How else are you going to find a compelling composition?


When shooting seascapes don't be afraid to take your camera hand held and get close to the waves. Shooting a wide vista? Try using your telephoto lens to pick out areas within the landscape you find interesting. Spend time looking for light and shadow (contrast) within the landscape and don't forget to include a human element in the frame to show scale. Use that 10-Second Timer and get yourself in the shot (you'll need a tripod for this). And when you cant find anything that strikes your interest, look at your feet. Take 100 steps from the point your standing and look down. I guarantee you'll find something to make a great abstract image.

Now get out there and Happy Shooting :)

My Gear

My Landscape Photography Gear

Canon 7D - A stunning DSLR offering great image quality and dynamic range.

Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM - An amazing well constructed lens with the optical quality of an L series wide zoom in a prosumer barrel.

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM - A lens I have wanted for a while and one of Canon’s best wide angle lens. Great image quality, very affordable and useful when emphasizing those interesting foregrounds.

Canon 70-200L F/4 (None IS) - An affordable and awesome L series lens.

Manfrotto XPRO Magnesium Ball Head with Two Ivation Replacement Quick Release Plates for the RC2 Rapid Connect Adapter - Offering an excellent shooting platform this ball head has become my go to when out and about creating landscape images.

Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 055 Aluminium 3-Section Tripod with Horizontal Column (Black) - An extremely rigid tripod without the need for extra weight to keep it steady on a windy day.

Filters - I use a wide range of Formatt Hitech graduated ND and ND filters with my 100mm Holder along with a 105 mm circular polarizer for my Threaded Ring. Second to none I have found Formatt Hitech filters to be best quality filters with little to no colour cast.

Lowepro S&F Filter Pouch 100 - The perfect pouch for keeping my filter holder and all my filters safe.

Lowepro Fastpack 250 DSLR Camera Backpack - An excellent camera bag for carrying a lot of equipment.

Post Production Work & Editing

My Photography Monitor – I use ViewSonic VP2768 PRO 27" 1440p Monitor with 100% sRGB Rec 709 14-bit 3D LUT and Color Calibration for Photography and Graphic Design as it gives a far more accurate representation of how my images will look in print.

LaCie Rugged Mini USB 3.0 / USB 2.0 2TB External Hard Drive – This holds all of my media and Lightroom Catalogs. This allows me to seamlessly switch from my MacBook to desktop without the hassle of having to sync folders or re-edit images.

Adobe Photoshop – There's not much I can say about this amazing piece of software.

Adobe Lightroom – Used primarily to edit and organise my library of images.

Tips for Buying Your First Digital Camera

My tips for buying a digital camera is simply about knowing what you want to do with it and which features you need. Have you ever wondered how the pro photographers take fantastic pictures? Is it because master photographers own the best cameras that are usually high-priced and too complex to use for the average person or hobby photographer? Well considering that today's technology have a variety of digital cameras to choose from that can take take high quality photos and can be purchased for an affordable price I think not. First of all, think what you’ll be using the camera for, and which features you think are necessary for the photos you plan on taking. Someone who would use their digital camera for taking  holiday pictures might be comfortable with a simple point and shoot camera that is full automatic and takes care of the background work, such as where to focus, what aperture setting to use and white balance. However for a photographer who likes having more control over his/her shot would generally prefer a more advance camera with more options in its features. Therefore when buying a new camera you might want to ask yourself the following questions:

What will I use the camera for mostly?

How much can i spend?

Which features would I need?

How many (megapixels)is good enough?

Which special brand should I consider, and why is that model better than the other? (Don’t forget to compare everything)

When you've made your decision and purchased your new digital camera it's important that you learn how to maintain it in good condition. Clean your lens on a regular basis and especially before shooting. A dirty lens can result in a blurred and unusable image. Always use a recommended lends cleaning solution and  a cloth (microfiber cloths work best). Using unsuitable materials could severely damage the front element of your lens and render it useless. Understanding how the focus mechanism on your camera works can help you taking better pictures. Almost every digital camera has an auto focus option which works when you press the shutter button halfway down and hold it. Use this feature to lock the focus on your subject and then recompose the shot before you press the shutter fully and take the picture. Using this tip this will allow you to let your main target remain in focus.

Another excellent technique for taking great pictures is to follow the rule of thirds (it's actually more like a guideline) that helps create a satisfying balance between the our main subject and the supporting elements picture. To apply this rule, first separate your screen into 6 sections. This can be done by simply dividing your frame into 3 horizontal and 3 vertical lined equally spaced. Most cameras will have have this feature in live view and can be activated by selecting the grid view. Basically the aim is to place your main subject of the picture close to one of these focal lines. This would  give your picture a finer balance and generally make it more pleasing to look at.