Do you really need a tripod?
I could finish this week’s column by answering the “Do you really need a
tripod?” by just writing one word - “YES!” However, the editor expects another
699 before he gives the page a tick and ready for printing, so here we go.
Mini-tripod for the camera
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
Having said all that, one of the hallmarks of the rankest
amateur photographer can also be a tripod. One of those light flimsy devices
that are designed to fall over with the first mild breeze. I am all for tripods,
but get a decent one (though a mini-tripod for tabletops can be small and
lightweight to fit in the bag).
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, let me assure you.
Twilight photography and night photography 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
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. 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
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 etc can get used
to its presence, and then with a cable or remote shutter release 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
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 tripod shaft can be removed and turned upside
down, as this can get your camera completely at ground level and immediately
above an object placed on the ground.
How much will this cost? Expect to spend a minimum of 6000 baht. My own
Manfrotto cost a lot more than that, let me assure you, but with now 20 years of
faithful service, it has been a bargain!