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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tripod - to carry or not to carry

...that is the question. Well not the only one, but one that I'm often asked. I think if there's any one photo accessory that can improve your photographs a million percent it's the humble tripod. So as a way of showing you why I think they're so important I thought it might be fun to post a few photos over the next little while that I could not have possibly taken without a tripod.

Hopefully by the time we're finished you'll either be rushing out to buy one for yourself or dusting off the one sitting in the bottom of the cupboard. I'll also try and give you some hints about what to look for in a tripod purchase.

Before we talk about what kind of a tripod let's talk about lugging the damn thing around. The first thing I would say is - make sure you find a comfortable way to do it. I sling mine over one shoulder with a strap, one end of which goes around the base of the tripod head, the other around the bottom of the legs. I can also sling it over my back Robin Hood quiver of arrows style. Either which way it's out of the way and if I don't need it it just sits there and I can still shoot freely. If your tripod is annoying to carry you'll leave it in the hotel room and you might as well not have one. So get a strap for it or stick it in a case that can go over your shoulder.

Enough yabbering, let's look at some pictures!

On my very last night in Sapporo on my last trip to Japan I ditched the wife and kids and headed into the Susukino district of town. This is the fabled entertainment quarter, filled with pubs, clubs and nightlife of every variety.

I was spending the night in a capsule hotel for a magazine assignment and decided to spend the evening photographing the surrounding area. I had my Lowepro Mini-Trekker with camera gear and my trusty Manfrotto tripod slung over my shoulder and off I went.

The photo above was taken in a little alleyway called Ramen Yokocho. Ramen is a famous Japanese noodle dish and Sapporo is home to this little alley crammed with Ramen restaurants. People come from all over the world to sample the different flavours. I had just had dinner in this little restaurant and stepped outside to photograph the entrance.

It was very dark and the shutter speed would have been way too slow to handhold. So that was one reason to put the camera on the tripod. The other reason was that I wanted some blurred movement in the restaurant patron as he came out the door. When you handhold a camera you limit yourself to reasonably fast shutter speeds. When you put the camera on the tripod you can really slow things down and get a lot of creative blur happening.

The other thing I find about using the tripod is that you can set yourself up in a position and wait for interesting things to happen. People realise you're photographing so you don't look suspicious, and if you're using a remote cable release you can actually take the photo without people realising, so they don't appear self-conscious in the photo.

Come back tomorrow and I'll have another tripod photo for you.


Megan from Imaginif said...

Hi Paul. I'm a fellow Cairns blogger. Just wanted to let you know that I've added you to my Cairns Bloggers blogroll. I am about to launch a Cairns Bloggers Carnivals and I would love you to include some of your blogs. As it gets closer to the time of launch, I'll let you know what's happening.

Paul Dymond said...

Hi there Megan,

a Cairns Blogger Carnival! Sounds like a bit of fun. Keep me posted and I'd love to be involved.