(reposted Feb 2015)
I was afraid of my tripod when I first got it. In fact I didn’t use it for several months because of that. I don’t really know why I was afraid of it, something to do with the fact it was a piece of hardware I had never used before and wondering where and how I should use it.
Then I went for a photowalk in a forest late last year and took some truly awful handheld shots of trees and plants and stuff. They looked fine until I viewed at 100% and then I saw how unsteady my handholding appeared to be. So I knew I had to use my tripod to get the sharp images I wanted to.
Since then I have been out at least half a dozen times with my camera and tripod, sometimes by myself and sometimes with company, and now it lives in my car all the time, ready to go on another trip 🙂
Here is how I learned to love my tripod:
– get it out in a safe controlled environment and set it up (I used my living room and then play with it a bit to get to know how it works
– experiment with leg distances against how tall you are – I know if I let out the top legs mostly fully and the next set down a bit less than that, its almost exactly my kneeling height
– take it with you wherever you go with your camera
– set it up so that the point of the triangle is underneath the lens (if you have it towards you it gets in the way and you will either trip over it or tip the whole lot over)
– when setting it up on sand or dirt or other loose media, push it well down so it has a stable base – keep an eye on your bubble
– use the stabilising bubble on the base to make sure that the legs are stable – less likely to have an accidental tip over
– hang your bag off the hook on the bottom of the central column – adds more stability, keeps the bag out of the way
– tripods make good walking sticks in difficult terrain
– if you have a longer lens that has a space for a tripod ring mount – use it, it will be more stable and take sharper images
Here are the most important things I learned using my tripod
– if you are tracking a moving subject MAKE SURE YOU TIGHTEN THE KNOB BEFORE LETTING GO OF THE CAMERA – instant heart attack as your camera flops forward and down!!!!
– put your release plate knob on the other side of the head tightening knob/lever (I accidentally released my camera a couple of times when trying to do it by feel)
– put the tightening knob/lever on the left side of the camera – that way you can move it while holding and shooting with the right hand – where the shutter button seems to be.
Other tips I have heard about but not used myself:
– portable sand bags to pack around the legs for added stability in difficult terrain
– some people advise the sandbags or a hand to rest on the top of a really long lens
– you can extend the legs but keep them together and use like a monopod