Tag Archives: Tripod

Essential gadgets for the everyday photographer

Essential gadgets for the photographer

A look at some essential gadgets for the photog…

Today’s article comes from: Jane Grates (Bio) from Sleeklens.com.

It is essential, and fun, to keep up-to-date with the latest trends. Gadgets occupy an important niche in our world of photography. In this article I look at the essential gadgets that are must-haves for the serious photographer.

essential gadgets for the photog

Look out for those essential gadgets…

SD Card holder

First, the basics. Lots of hardware to improve your performance as a photographer is wasted if you do not have enough space to store pictures. The storage issue can become a nuisance. Beat the problem and have many SD cards in order to prevent lack of drive space. This is particularly important for photographers who travel a lot.

Essential gadgets - The SD card holder.

Essential gadgets – The SD card holder.

Buying an SD card holder is a smart solution to the space problem. You can split your work over different SD cards to create a well organized library. Not only are you placing your work in a safe place, you are creating smart categories too.

A Tripod

A classic, the tripod is vital when dealing with heavy lenses or long exposure times. Night time photography is almost impossible without a tripod. The longer exposures are needed to capture low light levels.

A quality tripod is one of those essential gadgets we should all have. Look for one that suits the needs of your photo interests and for height and transportability. Higher quality tripods tend to be heavier, but this means they are less likely to blow over or vibrate in windy conditions.

xxx

A quality tripod is one of those essential gadgets we should all have.

Think how you will use your tripod. This will determine the price range. If you do your work mainly in a studio, or you are just starting your business, you can buy a simple model. If, on the other hand, you are a skilled photographer, you will want to buy a pricier, more adaptable one to last longer and endure the diverse conditions you may come across.

Lens Filters

You can create “filter effects” with post-production ‘presets’ in editing software. But you can skip a step by using on-camera filters. This will save incredible amounts of time in processing. Filters can help you avoid burned out images from strong sun if you use Polarized filters. The camera lens will react the way your eyes do when you use polarized sunglasses.

Polorising filter - one of the more essential gadgets.

Polarising filters help you deal with strong sunlight – one of the more essential gadgets.

Remember to buy a lens filter that fits your lens size. There are companion gadgets for filters. Step-up/down rings serve to create a perfect fit on lenses with non-standard formats or sizes. The latter are commonly seen on bridge cameras.

Remote shutter release

For long exposure times, or for portrait pictures including the photographer in the scene, remote shutter devices are handy tools. Simply grab your remote shutter release, place your camera on the tripod and let the action flow.

Remote shutter release - one of the essential gadgets.

Remote shutter release – one of the essential gadgets.

You can choose a remote shutter release from wired or wireless devices. I recommend buying a wired model, at times interference can be frustrating. Although, there are some very good models on the market recently. It is worth

Another remote shutter choice is a phone app. Not all camera models are supported. Some Canon and Nikon models are compatible with this feature. The apps are cheap, or free, saving some of your money. In fairness the latest remote shutters are not really expensive. Still, having a phone app will certainly guarantee that you won’t forget your remote shutter release wherever you go!

Weather cases

A common problem, as a photographer, is the sudden appearance of bad weather. It’s not good for using your camera! Don’t risk the investment you made in quality kit. Consider carrying a weather-safe case that fits your camera model, lenses and other accessories. Not only are you going to protect your beloved camera, but you can continue your shoot regardless of the conditions.

Protect your beloved camera from bad weather - use a camera case.

Protect your beloved camera from bad weather – use a camera case.

Weather sealed cameras can benefit from this protection too. Water seals deteriorate over time. Other attached accessories are not all water proof as well. Don’t risk your device without even thinking about it.

Smart phone lenses

If you are a photographer on the go, you probably own a smartphone. Up to date models have a good camera. It can be a limitless source of creativity. However, smartphones are limited compared to modern DSLR cameras. They rarely have full and true manual controls. They lack the proper control of ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed settings.

Smartphone add-on lenses open a new dimension for the photographer on the go.

Smartphone add-on lenses open a new dimension for the photographer on the go.

A cool way to fix this issue is smartphone lenses. They come in a wide range of prices and with various features. Common base models of add-on smartphone lenses can do things that smartphone camera lenses can’t do. For example, fish-eye effect, macro or telephoto and other effects. More complex models, like the latest Sony QX-10, completely reinvents the smartphone lens concept. It boosts the smartphone with a professional quality sensor packed with manual controls. Even if it seems to be pricey, the result won’t disappoint.

Remember, the smartphone is a useful addition to the camera bag in its own right. Check out this post: Using tablets in photography.

Essential gadgets – more than just the camera… Photographer’s backpack

Like the tripod, photographers backpacks are a common classic. They provide storage for the camera, different lenses, as well as leaving room for other important items. Some are also designed to carry laptops, batteries, and much more. Avoid back packs that are not designed for photography. They can cause equipment damage. Specially designed packs let you carry equipment safely and help you pack efficiently.

Buy a good quality photographers bag to protect your equipment.

Buy a good quality photographers bag to protect your equipment.

Consider buying a weatherproof backpack regardless of price. Protecting your working equipment is a top priority. Photographic equipment is highly sensitive to poor climate conditions. Most good quality packs come with slip-over water protection.

Also, be aware of the maximum weight supported by the backpack. Don’t over load it (or you). Avoid misuse, which will shorten the life expectancy of the product. Protect it from wear, chemicals and dust.

Essential gadgets are those that suit your needs

You can find countless options for complimenting your photography and workflow. Most will depend on the kinds of photography you decide to focus on. In the end, it is up to you to find the best equipment that will enhance your day-to-day photography. Everyone has their own special “essential gadgets”… What are yours?

Feed your imagination…

Here are some more essential gadgets for photographers on Amazon.
Check out this Google search on essential gadgets for photographers!

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Beach views – ideas for a seaside photoshoot

Beach views are really worth planning out.

• Cornish Afternoon •
The great British beach experience is based on our long history of holidays by the sea. The beach views that come with it are worth pursuing too.
(Click image to view large).

Work up a great coastal vista shot.

Beach views can be magnificent and there is always something worth photographing. Sea makes a magical subject in almost any weather. In the right place the views can be magnificent. Here are a few ideas for you to help you get a great photo from your visit to the seaside.

Beach views :: great vista shots

Photographers should be aware of the opportunities for great vista shots. Here are three tips to help you get the shot and the right light…
1. Spotting a rugged coast: Scout out the maps near your destination. Most good maps will show contours and the coastal shape. If you are looking for interesting coastline check out the height of the land beside the sea. Cliffs and hills indicate harder, more resistant rocks. This helps build up a range of rugged landscapes. Also, the more jagged edges the map shows along the sea/beach line the more likely the coast will have an interesting viewpoint.

If you are looking for a place to try out, Google Maps is useful. The Google maps are not very good at showing contours or heights. But the jaggedness of a coast line is shown. If you convert the map to the Google “Earth” view you can get a satellite view of the coast. From that you can get quite a good idea of the terrain.

Google Earth - the satellite view provides a good idea of the type of coast.

• Whitsand Bay Cornwall •
The photo at the top of the page was taken from the position of the red dot. The view was taken along the rugged coast there. You can see from the Google Satellite view how rugged the coast is along there. It’s ideal for lots of different Beach views.


2. Beach views :: Checking out the light:
There are two times a day when the light is best for landscapes and vista shots. These are the Golden Hour just before sundown and the hour around sunrise. There is great light and low sun position at these times of the day. Why is low-sun position good? Because that causes long shadows to be cast off the rocks. Strong contrasts between the dark and light help define edges, shapes and form of the rocks and features. Shadows provide the defining depth in a picture too. Well defined shadows help the eye to see objects as more three dimensional.
• The Okta • The symbol for cloud cover on good weather maps.

• The Okta •
The symbol for cloud cover on good weather maps. A useful symbol to tell you the light conditions when checking for good beach views.
(Attribution: Wikipedia.org Beach views :: Oktas - cloud cover symbols | External link - opens new tab/page)


Of course we are not always able to take our photos at the best times of the day. So how do you check to see what the light will be like when you are there? Of course the starting point is the weather. Most good weather forecast web sites will tell you the amount of cloud cover. You can usually tell how much cloud cover is expected by the number of Oktas (or Octas) shown. The more cloud cover the more diffused the light will be. The actual types of clouds make a difference too – if they are dark and ominous they will make a great backdrop to your beach views. Seascapes really look great with heavy storm clouds. Make sure you have a tripod to hand. Dark clouds mean longer exposures.

3. Sun position: If it is a sunny day you might find the sun position is important. If the sun is up high, cliffs can still be in shadow. It depends exactly where in the sky the sun is at the time you want to take photos. There are websites to help with that too. Check out The Photographers Ephemeris Beach views :: Get the light right with . This really useful website “is a map-centric sun and moon calculator: see how the light will fall on the land, be it day or night, for almost anywhere on earth”. There is a web-based version. But usefully, there are versions for your mobile phone too. You will be able to work out where the sun will be at any time of the day. This will help you work out how to fit your beach view shot into your day.

Putting depth into your beach views shot

The shadows you are able to capture will help your beach views appear to have depth. But a longer distance view, especially in mid-day daylight, will need to have other perspectives. Here are a few ideas for you to introduce a feeling of depth into your shots…

  • Overlaps: When you are looking down a long beach you often find features of the beach itself will overlap in your sight. Mounds of beach stones; sand dunes; different rock layers at beach level; cliff top undulations; variations in the cliff face itself and even local vegetation all help. The ways that these features relate to one-another in the scene give you clues to depth in the photo.
  • Contrasts in colour: The colour of the beach stones, rock, sand and even vegetation can often be used to show variation. As you shoot down the length of the beach these can help to show depth to the eye.
  • Texture variation: The cliffs, dunes, rocks and any seaweed revealed by a low tide provide great variations in texture. Look for ways to bring all these into the shot. Textures often come out by slightly underexposing the shot. That may make the scene look darker than it actually is, but it will bring out the light and dark aspects effectively.
  • Lines of perspective: Strong lines are not often associated with beach views. However there are some strong ones that people often miss. The sea line itself is a strong line. You can look down the length of the beach and use the surf or water line where it meets the beach. Looking down on the beach from cliffs you can use wave lines (see below). If you are on the beach itself you beach views are often enhanced by cliff top lines. Although they often undulate they perspective is still distinct against the sky. On the beach itself, fences and other man-made features (groynes, buildings, paths, roads, beach walls etc.) provide lots of points of perspective you can use.
  • Distant points: If you have something in the distance that your viewer knows to be large they have a distance perspective. In the picture at the top of the page you can see a cloud line. These tiny clouds in the distance give a perspective for the viewer. Other things can be large shops towns on the coast, and even buildings.
• Cornish beach view •

• Cornish beach view •
This view of the beach shown at the top of the page loses some perspective because the distances are reduced. The wave lines in the sea and the rock protruding from the cliffs gives back some of the perspective. The nearness of the grass close-up and smallness of the person and buildings also give depth to the shot.
(Click image to view large).

Check out other pictures of the location for your beach view

The most effective way to plan for your picture is to look up your destination and look for pictures done by other photographers. Try putting your intended location into Google Images. You will be able to pick out features in advance to help you give depth and perspective. You will also be able to see some good places to take shots. Here is the page for the bay where my pictures above were taken. You can see my shots are quite different from the others shown there. There is lots of scope to help you pick out some ideas.
Google Images: Beach views Whitsands Bay Cornwall Google Images: Beach views Whitsands Bay Cornwall | External link - opens new tab/page.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Panorama photography – an introduction

Panorama photography | Photokonnexion.com

• Panorama photography •
There are a few important essentials to think about.
(Image taken from the video)

Getting started is easy…

Panorama photography is a great way to extend your photography skills. To make a panorama you take a whole string of shots. Then later you match them up in software and “stitch” them together to make one long image. The photographic variables are all fixed. You take lots of photos. But, only have to set the camera up once. This means you can concentrate on the scene.

Examples of panorama photography on Google images xxxx | External link - opens new tab/page

The essentials of panorama photography

Like any aspect of photography you need to have some essentials. Your camera and a lens get you started. But a tripod will give you more consistent results. It provides you with a firm platform. One that you can use to line up all the shots. A tripod is recommended because hand holding the shots can leave you with a whole bunch of badly aligned frames. Panorama photography is all about getting the full range of a scene. If you miss bits or fail to get neat alignment the image will loose its continuity. The eye is drawn a way from the image to the imperfections of the stitching.

To use a tripod properly you should also use a good tripod head. Set the camera up to get the scene you want. In this composition phase you will need to sweep through the shot. Look through the viewfinder and pan around the full scene. Get the tilt of the camera right. Have a clear idea of your sweep. Then, fix your tripod head so the camera will sweep through an arc without moving up or down. It will only pan “left <---> right” as needed. In the video you will see him using a “pan and tilt” tripod head. Once the scene is selected the tilt aspect is fixed.

Using the tripod and head means you will get an aligned sweep through your scene. This makes it easy to line up (stitch) the pictures together later. The fixed camera angles helps make alignment easy. But fixing the other settings also helps get consistent results.

Settings for the shots

There are some things that make panoramic photography easy. To get the best effect make each shot simple. Each should have settings the same as its neighbour. Wide variations of settings between shots make colours, brightness, tone and even focus create bad matches. The joins between images will show where the settings change. This disturbs the flow of the eye through the image. Here is a list of steps you go through to set up the camera – and why.

Focal length: As with the other critical settings set focal length to a fixed position. You should switch your auto-focus to manual so the focus does not change in each shot. Then, manually focus into the scene at a place that will give you good sharpness and depth. Then this should be left unchanged throughout the panorama photography sequence.

The exposure dial: Auto exposure settings change as you pan across different light levels. To avoid each frame being a different exposure use the “M”, or manual setting. Set up the exposure for the first shot. Then, keep that exposure setting through the the entire string of images. This means you will need to fix the settings for the full range of shots.

Aperture: Panorama photography is mainly about wide sweeping scenes. Landscapes are ideal. To make the scene realistic it is best to have sharpness right through the scene. Picking F11 is a good option for that. Practice your panorama photography with that F-stop to start. Once you have the techniques you can get more creative later.

Shutter speed: Hold the shutter speed fixed too. Your shutter speed depends on how you set your ISO, and the aperture too. However, don’t just think about the first frame. Study the entire scene. Is there going to be any variations in light intensity across all the shots? You want all the shots to have a similar exposure level. So do some test readings or shots with your camera light meter. Work out how much the scene varies. Avoid big light variation. It will make consistent exposure levels difficult. Look for even light across the scene. Then, find a shutter speed that will work well for all the shots.

ISO: As with the other settings, you want to hold the ISO. Choose a setting which suits the scene and ambient light overall. Fix it for all the shots.

White balance: RAW or *.jpg this is one time you MUST set the white balance to a fixed setting. If you use auto-white balance you will NOT be able to match the frames later. While white balance is generally quite stable, a colour cast from one bright reflection can significantly change the colour. That would not matter too much on one image. But it will if you have to try to match ten images each with a different white balance. That will end up giving your panorama photography a patchwork effect. Choose a white balance setting and stick with it for all the shots.

Getting the shots

Panorama photography calls on more than just scene composition and settings. Also critical is “overlap”. You want to join the images so they match. That means overlapping them in a way that allows a good join.

The skill is in picking features in your landscape you can use in the matching process. I like to use patterns or textures where possible. In the software you are going to line up each image with its neighbour. Those patterns or textures allow you to make a join look seamless. So, as you go through the scene make a mental note of where you want the join to be. Rotate the camera on the tripod for each shot. Make enough overlap each side of the frame for those points to line up. This is clarified more in the video at the end.

Landscape or portrait shots can be used for panorama photography. All the pictures need to be taken in one or the other. If you use landscape format the panorama will be very long and thin. If you use portrait format the stitched image will not be so thin. But you will need to take more shots to get the whole scene. You might choose differently for each scene. It is your choice. These choices are a key skill in panorama photography. Think carefully about your composition.

Panorama photography video tutorial

Most of the above are explained in the context of the shot sequence in this video. Panorama photography is great fun, but it does require a little thinking ahead and planning your sequence. The video should help you to fix the method and settings in your head.
What Digital Camera

Stitching the image together

There are two basic methods of stitching the final image. Again this is one of the main skills in panorama photography. You can do the work manually in an image editor. This work can be a lengthy and detailed process. Each image needs to be lined up by the patterns or textures you chose on the image as the overlaps. Then you might need to clone the images together. Bit by bit and image by image you can build up your final sequence. If you enjoy detailed image editing it is very rewarding.

The second method of joining the images is to use stitching software. There are lots of different applications available. Which one you use is a matter of personal choice. Some image editors have panorama photography stitching built in. For more advanced users there is also specialist software. These applications are available with a range of functions and prices. You should do some experiments and research to pick your preferred software.

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Snowflakes – a source of mystery and wonder

Snowflakes are intricate and beautiful.

• Snowflake crystal •
Snowflakes are intricate and beautiful. They are a source of interest to scientist – but photographers can make amazing pictures with them.
Image taken from SnowCrystals.com External link - opens new tab/page

Snowflakes are amazing!

Close up pictures of snowflakes show how intricate and beautiful they can be. And there are an infinite variety of them too. Here are a few ideas…

Some history about snowflakes

The perfect six-sided snowflake exists, but is not the only sort. Early snowflake pictures were taken by farmers’ son, Wilson “snowflake” Bentley  External link - opens new tab/page (February 9, 1865 – December 23, 1931) from Vermont. Aged 15 he was captivated by snowflakes. It started with looking down a microscope. But in 1885 he began experiments with a camera too. After struggling with the early camera technology he began to make some progress. During his life he made thousands of photos of snowflakes. His work still dominate our ideas today. In particular he was the first to claim snowflakes are unique and six sided. His pictures are also some of the best too.

Snowflake photographs by Wilson "snowflake" Bentley

• Snowflake Photographs by Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley •
Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley was famous for his snowflake photographs. Nearly a century after his death we are still using the images.

Research has shown how diverse snowflakes can be. They are not all perfect, regular shapes either. In fact according to “New Scientist  External link - opens new tab/page” (a weekly publication, UK) there are many types. The various forms are created under different conditions…

  • -2°C = Simple hexagons and star shapes
  • -5°C to -10°C columns
  • -15°C Six sided crystals (dendrites) form again
  • -22°C onward… complex plates and columns form again

Here is detailed morphology diagram for snowflakes Morphology Diagram for snowflakes - External link - opens new tab/page. It shows the relationship between the snowflakes’ type and temperature/humidity.

Snowflakes go through a range of temperature, humidity and other changes while falling. They have a unique and sometimes violent history. They clash together. They may ball-up with other flakes. It’s common for them to have multiple crystals joined in one flake. They may circulate in the clouds for long periods. They may also melt and refreeze before descending to the ground. It is not a surprise they are all so different. There is a great infographic on SnowCrystals.com External link - opens new tab/page showing snow crystal growth and the no-two-alike idea.

Capturing snowflakes on camera

You can’t easily photograph snowflakes on the ground. The overall white in a snow mass makes it difficult to distinguish individual flakes. The small size makes them a challenge too. The best approach to snowflakes is two-fold.

  • Use a macro lens or macro extension tubes.
  • Use a clean (new) long hair artists paint brush. Sable hair is best. Use a small black velvet cloth (about 500mm x 500mm) to see the snowflakes.

The aim with these is simple. Tease out individual snowflakes onto a black background. Then get in close with the lens. If you are working with a macro lens help yourself out and use a tripod.

The snowflakes themselves are easily destroyed. The trick is to use the artists brush to lift snowflakes onto the velvet. The brush and velvet have hairs that support the snowflake without damage. Be as gentle as you can to preserve its delicate nature of the crystal.

Sadly tiny ice crystals tend to go grey when on a black background surface. When shot on a dark background they are best converted to monochrome. This helps to increase the contrast and definition of the crystal.

To show the beauty of the refracted light use a well-lit background. If you can, place the snowflake onto a glass slide delicately lifting it off the velvet. You can buy Blank Slides – Microscope accessories External link - opens new tab/pageBuy microscope slides for your snowflake photos. from various places. Make sure you have left the slides to cool down to the snow temperature or the snow will melt on it.

Be sure to keep your cloth, brush and slides cold and dry. Make sure your breath is not directed at the snowflake. Even slightly raised temperature or humidity will affect the snowflake while you are trying to photograph it. More than once I have had them dissolve in front of my eyes.

If you are using an actual microscope, or if you are using a glass slide try to get some backlighting. To get the best refractive results try light at different angles on the snowflake. The best results are not necessarily when the light is directly from below. The angled light tends to create contrasts on the snowflakes. This brings out light and dark as well as some aesthetic colourations from refraction through the crystal.

For your interest here is an amazing camera-microscope…

Celestron Dual Purpose Amoeba Digital Microscope – Blue External link - opens new tab/page
This an affordable and well reviewed digital microscope. It will do detailed images direct from your computer. It’s a photography tool which provides an opportunity to develop your macro skills. Hours of fun too!

Masterful shots

One of the acknowledged masters of the art of shooting snowflakes is Kenneth G. Libbrecht External link - opens new tab/page. He’s a professor of physics who researches crystal growth. He also runs the SnowCrystals.com External link - opens new tab/page website. There are wonderful resources on the site including a “how to guide” External link - opens new tab/page and many hints about photography and equipment. There are some wonderful galleries of images External link - opens new tab/page. There is also a section on how to grow your own snowflakes. Although, the latter was a bit more complex than I think I would go… but who knows. People in this field seem to get obsessive about it. Snowflakes are extraordinarily beautiful.

Two other sources of snowflake inspiration…

Official Snowflake Bentley Web Site. This site houses the Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley photographic collection.
For a huge range of inspiring snowflakes images check out this search page on Google: Snowflakes photography  External link - opens new tab/page

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Buy a good tripod – nothing beats it

Good tripod as an all-rounder - Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod

A quality, versatile and robust tripod – the Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod External link - opens new tab/page is unbeatable as an all-rounder. Buy a good tripod – you will not regret it!

Can you recommend a good tripod?

Nothing beats a good tripod. Most people forget about them until they have struggled for a long time. Then they buy a cheap one. Later they have to think again. Well, I suggest you buy a good tripod now and save yourself strife down the line! I have recommend a good buy at the page end.

Why buy a good tripod?

Too many people I have taught and worked with have told me tales of three legged woes. Everyone thinks that to make your DSLR camera stable all you need is three legs. This is simply not true. Quality is just as important. You need a good tripod. Here are some reasons to go for a quality purchase from the start…

 Good Tripod  Cheap and cheerful
 Solid and stable  Limited by poor engineering
 Reliable fittings  Fittings regularly break
 Quality paint  Poor or no paint – highly reflective aluminium
 Quality footings seal the legs to stop dirt getting in  Legs left unsealed let dirt in and grit quickly wears the joints
Strong enough for all DSLRs and a big lens Wobbly with anything larger than a bridge camera
 Top platform precisely engineered – no movement and good fitting for the camera  Wobbly platform, poor clip, loose fitting. Screws sometimes damage the camera
Quality joints on legs for long life and stable grip Leg joints quickly wear and become wobbly with poor materials
 Multiple leg positions to allow adjustment on uneven ground  One leg position
 Fully adjustable top column to allow multiple positions.  One wobbly top column
 Legs can be adjusted to many wide angles  One angle for legs
 Reversible – so you can get your camera near the ground  Not reversible
 Proper hand grips  No hand grips
 Interchangeable head fitting  No head fitting – or low quality flip up quick release

There are other reasons to buy a good tripod, but you get the idea. Nearly every aspect of camera stability is reduced to keep the price down. I am not one to advocate gear lust or spending money where it is not worth it. However, I have come across each of the design and quality flaws above. From personal choice and experience it’s clear only the best is good enough when making your camera stable.

Adaptability

While a quality tripod is great, you normally need to buy a good head too. Cheap tripods usually without them, or have poor quality ones. A good tripod head is an investment for life. Inter-changeable heads are very useful. I have five heads for different purposes: for macro work; small cameras; panoramas; and one for precise adjustment. My most versatile head I use every day for general purpose work. The Manfrotto 322RC2 Heavy Duty Grip Ball Head External link - opens new tab/page is precise robust, reliable, versatile and has never let me down.

So which tripod do you recommend?

I recommend…

Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod External link - opens new tab/page

This is a robust, and well designed unit with strong legs. It comes as a legs and platform – ready for your inter-changeable head. The black paint is hard wearing and will not create odd light effects. The two comfortable hand grips are essential in cold weather. The legs and centre column are adaptable to a wide range of angles and heights.

 
The Manfrotto 055XPROB is a great tripod and would make a wonderful present for a DSLR owner. It is on special offer on Amazon. Buy one now. External link - opens new tab/page

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Dirt kills kit – protect your equipment

Tripod With Bags • Dirt and grit is a camera killer. Prevent it from getting into your kit

• Tripod with protective bags •
Dirt and grit is a camera killer. Prevent it from getting into your kit.

Dirty photography gear will stop working.

It is surprising how much dirt will get into your gear. It’s a kit killer, damaging everything. You can prevent it with care. You will save a big expense down the line too.

Dirt is preventable

There is no doubt your equipment will get dirt on it. Even simple shoots can get close to dirt. Out side it’s almost certain that dust and will get on your kit. In Summer photogs use cameras on beaches, in fields and many other dusty environments. What should you do to protect your kit?

Observation is the key. Keep an eye open for anything dusty around you. Be particular about sand and grit. If you get those in your camera you will suffer a huge clean up problem. Sand and small dirt particles will get under the focus rings on your lens, under the lens cap and possibly into your camera body. There are two key points.

First, think about your environment. Small particles hide even in very clean places. There are some particular things which you should look out for around you. This post has more details: 10 Tips for Saving Your Camera

Secondly, pay attention to your clothes and other equipment. Yes, that’s right. The biggest danger to your camera is transference. Your clothes, shoes and other equipment collect dirt particles.

Transference – The secret route for dirt

I first noticed this problem when changing a lens in the boot (trunk) of my car. I put a lens down on my coat to put on another one. As I put it down a cloud of dust puffed out from under the coat. The dust caught in the sun as it drifted out. It occurred to me that all sorts of outdoor items go in the car boot. It is a dusty place. When I swept the carpet I found all sorts of particles. These came from boots, coats, ordinary clothes and other equipment. If you have pets the problem is much worse.

Looking more closely I also discovered my tripod was a source of grit. After shooting on a beach I had just put it back in its bag. There was lots of dirt and grit in that bag. Looking more closely, sand and dirt had got into the legs of my tripod too. Where I had clamped them shut the sand had left scratches and damage on the paintwork. When I shook the tripod I could hear dirt rattling inside.

After that I looked for ways to keep the tripod feet clean. The result can be seen in the picture above. Where dirt or grit is found I use a rubber band and plastic bag on each leg. Before putting the tripod away I simply remove the bags. I dispose of them sensibly. Nothing is transferred into the camera kit.

Camera kit is delicate

Most of our equipment can be damaged by dirt. The hidden routes to getting it into our camera are all around us. Try to change lenses and store your equipment in clean and cleanable places. Try to find ways dirt can be transferred into your bags and storage places. Find simple ways to eliminate it. In the long run it is cheaper and more convenient to protect than to pay for repairs.

Research photography cleaning equipment.  External link - opens new tab/page to Research photography cleaning equipment..

Recommended cleaning tool
Dirt on your camera, or worse, on your digital sensor? You need this tool. An efficient blower, the stream of air will clear dirt and grit from damageable places. Use it to clear dirt from the camera sensor and to blow out dust . It is an indispensable tool for the keen photographer. Giottos Rocket Air Blower – Black.  External link - opens new tab/page

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Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is editor of Photokonnexion. He has professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers.
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By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+.

Tripod myths – why are amateurs tripod shy?

Me and my tripod - reflected in paintwork - tripod myths

• Me and my tripod – reflected in paintwork – tripod myths •
I use a tripod most days in some pretty tight situations. They are
quick, effective and give great results!
[Image by Damon Guy • Click to view large]

Tripods improve your results – fact!

Tripod myths can be heard regularly. Actually they make life a lot easier and faster. So, why are amateurs tripod shy? Why buy cheap? Why is simplicity apparently so difficult for tripod starters? Read on…

What are the tripod myths?

Over the years I have heard all the excuses. Here are some things I have heard…

  • I’ll miss the moment!
  • Tripods are too much bother.
  • I can shoot great shots hand-held.
  • It slows me up.
  • I like to walk the scene…
  • They are cumbersome, get in the way and heavy.
  • It’s not possible or easy to use it all the time.

I am sure there are other issues. But let’s look at these in detail.

Tripod myths: Missing the moment?

Every photographer gets lucky sometimes. They happen to point the camera pointing right and, snap, they got it.

Let’s be honest. How many times does that lucky capture happen? “Journalists?”, I hear you say? Actually, they rarely get lucky either. Photo-journalists train in preparation, planning and investigation. Being there and aware when the event happens is not an accident. They get the story time and time again.

If you plan for your tripod you will get the shot too. You won’t miss the shot getting your DSLR out either.

Forethought and planning are good photographic habits. Cultivate and develop these skills. You get the shot, and it’ll be sharper. If you are going to shoot, do it properly. Have both camera and tripod ready. Don’t be a victim of tripod myths, be in control of your photography.

Too much bother? One of the tripod myths that is just silly

What can be too much bother about getting a sharp, properly framed image? Loading a tripod is no more trouble than putting your camera in the car. It takes only 15 seconds to set up. The tripod will also give you time and scope to take a great shot. It holds your camera for lens changes and while scouting the next shot. Bother? Not really.

Bothered people think tripods are hard work. Do they realise how much the picture is improved? Attention to detail over your shots is what makes excellent images. Taking a quick snap may be no bother. Its unlikely to yield a great image either. This is one of the tripod myths that does not stand up!

Tripod myths: Great hand held shots

There are lots of situations where great light and a steady hand can get a sharp result. Congratulations. The time and effort you put into your photography is paying off. However, of all the situations I take pictures in, only about a third can be hand held. High ISO might help. More likely digital Noise would spoil the image. Better to take a longer exposure and use, say, ISO100. Quality is important.

Tripod myths will limit you to one third of your potential as a photog. It makes you a limited photographer. Tripods extend your shooting time, flexibility and quality of image.

Tripod myths: It slows me up

Yes, finally, a fact! Tripods make you think about your photograph. Perhaps not one of the tripod myths, more of a tripod mistake.

Since digital cameras became common I see a lot of machine-gun photography. A keen photog arrives, sprays off a hundred shots… Then, off they go. Wow.

Spend the first few minutes considering options. Proceed with a plan and with care. Cover all the shots you need. Sometimes you will get new ideas. Great, get more shots.

Once, at an aircraft museum with a keen photographer I was alone in minutes. My friend shot out of sight. We met up later. He had over 1000 pictures. He was elated. I had less than seventy shots. “Ah!”, he said. “You should’ve left the tripod at home!”

Later that week things turned around. He had eleven fair shots and one really good one. He had spent hours and hours in post-processing and missed lots of sleep. My more careful approach paid off. I had more than 40 quality images. As he looked at them he kept saying, “I took a picture of that too, but it didn’t come out”. And, “How did you get that one to look so good?”. My care, quality and composition paid off. The tripod helped me think about my photography and take care. I only spent about two hours in post-processing too. Most on simple tweaks. I had plenty of time for other shoots that week.

One question… Who was really slowed up here?

Tripod myths: Working the scene

One of my regular jobs involves 15 – 20 finished pictures of a scene. Picture order and camera height is important. We often work in low light. Space is restricted at many sites. We are not allowed to do any post-processing.

This is fast work. In 15 minutes I make up to 35 shots at a high enough standard to meet the needs of a court case.

Does a tripod hold me up or prevent me working the scene? Does it prevent my shots? On the contrary. I could not do the job without it. I would have to take many more shots. My shots would be less flexible. I would not achieve court-ready sharpness and detail. Without a tripod I could not work the scene properly.

Tripod myths: Cumbersome, heavy, intrusive?

Sometimes. A tripod can be badly adapted for what you are doing. So, if you are going to do something a lot, buy the right tripod. Travel a lot? Get a light one. Work on beaches a lot? Choose sealed feet to keep the sand out. Working special scenes? Get a special tripod. General photography? Buy general.

If you have the wrong equipment you can rightly claim it’s no good! So, buy the right equipment for the job. Make sure you get a quality piece of equipment. You spend thousands on your camera and lenses, so there is little point in spending only ten on your tripod. Quality workmanship and materials are important to producing quality images. You would not accept less with your camera so why with your tripod? This is one of the tripod myths that does stand up – if you have the wrong equipment. Get it right and you have a friend for life.

Sometimes ya gotta go with the flow…

I am not saying tripods are everything. In fact there are many situations where they are not suitable or you can’t use them. Also, we all enjoy the freedom and creativity of hand-held shots sometimes. If we fall prey to tripod myths we will never get past auto settings and bright daylight shots.

All I am saying is, don’t limit yourself. Get past the tripod myths. Buy a tripod and make sure you know how to use it. Your photography will improve if you use it a lot. Use it only a little and you’ll pay a penalty.

Why not look at some of the options now…

General tripods for DSLRs  External link - opens new tab/page
Manfrotto – Quality tripods for committed photographers  External link - opens new tab/page.

Also check out this post and recommendation…
Buy a good tripod – nothing beats it
Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod Legs Only – Black External link - opens new tab/page

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Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is managing editor of Photokonnexion.com with professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is also an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers who are just starting out.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+