Let's talk a little bit about tripods. Alright, we've talked a little bit about them before. And we've talked about how they are necessary in a lot of situations to get our slower shutter speeds and our greater depth of field. And there's a lot of shutter speeds that you can just shoot handheld and that's fine, but all of those shutter speeds generally around a 30th of a second and slower is where you're gonna need your tripod. And you want a tripod that you like working with. And there's a variety of types of things that are important to me. One of the things is I need a tripod that gets up relatively tall. And that's not because I am a tall person. I thought the perfect tripod was one that I set up and would come up to eye level. And then I learned that the world is slightly different than the concrete floor of a camera store. That it has stairs and hills and things that you might want a little extra space to reach down. So you can actually see in the photo on the left, my tripod is ...
taller than me 'cuz it's reaching well below me and that's allowing me to shoot in different positions. On the right hand side, my tripod gets low to the ground. It actually gets even lower than you see here 'cuz the legs can be splayed out to an even lower position. And so I think getting down low is very important as well 'cuz that's very easy to do. Sometimes you wanna get down nice and low right above the water so that you can get a better reflection. I talked about not using the center post unless you absolutely need to use it. I've taken off the center post on my tripods because I don't use them and I would rather be able to get down nice and low to the ground. My tallest tripod that is a little bit heavy and I don't always bring with me, but I bring with me when I'm on car trips not too far from the car. From Seattle, there's this one shot of Seattle that I kinda like, but there's a lot of trees in front of the freeway where I wanna see more of those lights. And so I brought in my big tripod and I was able to shoot over a fence that I normally wasn't able to do with my standard tripod which opened up a new shot with less clutter in the foreground. And when I got it set up, I then realized you know what, there's another shot in here that I didn't have access to before because there was trees and bushes blocking it. But now that I have a tripod that's big enough, it's given me a better view point and low and behold there's another view point I can get to because I have a tripod that really allows me to get the camera exactly where I wanted to. And so when it comes to tripods, there's a lot of great tripods out there. Manfrotto and Gitzo are two of the major brands and I like these because they make good quality products and they have a lot of replaceable parts on them. And so if you break one little thing, you don't have to throw the whole tripod away. You can fix that item. And so, the Gitzo ones are ones that I prefer a little bit because they're a little bit easier to work with because of the twist type locks that they have on them. And so they are a bit more money, but tripods are a pretty long investment. They'll last many years, sometimes decades because the technology doesn't change too much. There was a big change, it was close to 20 years ago, when they came out with carbon fiber. And they've been making subtle improvements since then, but they don't change very much. I have three different tripods. Small, medium, and large. My favorite is my medium one. It's just the right size. And if you wanna know what the numbers are, it's the Gitzo GT2543L. And it's just a little bit taller than me when I put a head on it. And it handles the biggest lenses I have. It's nice to have even a bigger tripod from time to time, but for general purpose this is just a really sweet tripod for me. And I'm able to get those legs down really low. Now what I've done, you can kinda see over here on the right hand side, there's a little break point on this center post, I've taken off the entire center post and I just store that. Don't bring that with me. And I just leave this mounted on it right there. And that way I can get that whole tripod down to the ground six inches above the ground. And so I can shoot low very very easily. And even though I don't have the center post, I can still shoot a few inches above my eye level. There are a lot of different options when it comes to tripod heads. And so there are specially designed heads for video, for doing panoramic shooting. We had a question from somebody earlier in the class about shooting with a gimbal head. That's in the bottom left of the screen over there. And that's designed for putting like a three, four, five, 800 millimeter lens on there so that you can swivel it around, take your hands off of it, and it all just balances right there without flopping over. And so that's designed for panning and working with long lenses out in the field. The most practical lens for most people for basic photography is the ball head. It's the simplest design. It's got the least amount of weight and size on it. And so there's a lot of different options out there for these ball heads. Some of them have grips built into them. Whenever I see kind of a high end photo tour workshop going, it seems like pretty much everyone has either Really Right Stuff or Kirk brand heads on their tripods. These are some smaller independent companies that have some very dedicated machinists and engineers designing these things really well. And so these are definitely a bit more money, but they're types of things that will last decades if you take care of them. Now one of the things you'll find if you start using the tripod is screwing your camera onto the tripod and off every time you need it can be a time consuming hassle. And so the quick release plate allows you to mount a camera onto a tripod and off of it very very quickly. So if you're going on and off the tripod very quickly, the plate allows you to slide it in there and lock it in quickly. There are plates that you can put on the body, plates that you can put on lenses if they have tripod mounts. And one of the most common systems out there is the Arca-Swiss plate system. And so it has a standard size system. And so there's a lot of different companies that make these types of devices. And so over here on the gadget table, let's take a look. I have one tripod that just has your standard screw mount. So I'll just take a camera and I'll screw it into here. That's not my favorite one any more. I like this one. And this one has the Arca-Swiss plate, not plate but head on here, clamp system. So I can clamp a plate in here. And so I'll mount one of these on the bottom of my camera and then I will just slide it in here and lock it in like this. And you do have to be careful because one quarter turn and not paying attention and it falls out. But if you're paying attention, it's not gonna have a problem. And on some devices, you can buy big L brackets. I'll talk about these in a moment. You can have little stoppers in here. So once you put it in here, let's put it in here, and if you loosen it up a little bit, it'll stop if you go too far. So if you tilt this too far, it will just stop in there. I don't like using those 'cuz I'm paying attention and so I can slide it in and out very very easy. And that way you can get on and off a tripod in seconds, very quick. And you can move things around very easily. And so here we can see those plates on the lens mount and the bottom of the camera. This is a bad setup for a camera. If you use telephoto lenses, the problem is is that there's so much weight out in front it's gonna cause it to dip. And those of you who have tried using a tripod know exactly what you need to do. Alright, that's what I want to focus on. So I'm gonna point the camera up here and it's gonna droop down there before it stops. And that's no fun. And so what you wanna do is you wanna get the center of gravity in the right spot and that sometimes means using a tripod collar on your lens. As I mentioned before, sometimes they're not supplied. It's something that you'll see mostly on telephoto lenses. And so in this case, if I wanna shoot vertical, I just rotate the camera. Now if I wanna do that without the plate, the whole camera needs to come over to the side and that changes the positioning of the camera quite a bit. It might mean you have to raise the camera up two or three inches and move it over three or four inches. And so by doing this, it throws the camera weight off a little bit to the side, but it really changes your point of view and your composition. And so if you're trying to take a similar horizontal and vertical, you gotta completely reposition the camera. Now if you wanna do that while shooting with normal and wide angle lenses, you need an L bracket. I'm not sure why they call it an L bracket, but they do. And so you mount this on the side of your camera. You can mount it in there for normal, horizontal shots. And then if you wanna shoot vertical, you're gonna need to just go out, flip it, turn it, and then you can shoot vertical keeping that lens directly over the center post. And these come in a couple different forms. Mainly in the sense that they're either dedicated to a particular camera. So I have one here that is specifically designed for the Canon 5D Mark IV. It's got little grooves in here so that when I put it on there, it doesn't twist in any way. And this one gets to be a little bit on the expensive side. But I also got one of these 'cuz I tend to have a variety of cameras. And this is just a generic one. And this is one that you can mount on virtually any camera. It doesn't quite as snuggly and quite as perfectly, but it's something that I can mount on any camera and it sells for about a third the price. Now I did buy one of these from a really cheap knockoff Chinese company of some sort. And it was just a bit too low a quality. And this is a pretty nice one. And this comes from, I believe, 3 Legged Thing. It sells for about $50. They announced it and I remember there was all this talk in the chat rooms about it because they says, ah I can buy a cheap knockoff one for 10 bucks. And $50 is way too much money. I think $50 is cheap for something like that that could last you decades. It's well built and it works well on all the cameras that I've tried. If you're trying to get a level horizon or a building straight, there are bubble levels that you used to have to buy and that's not very necessary these days 'cuz a lot of cameras will have built in camera levels. Need to take a look in your camera's features and custom menus to see if this is something that you can turn on. And that'll help tell you if you're getting the horizon right. Now I've used a bunch of these and I will tell ya, they're very handy and they're very nearly perfectly accurate. Nearly perfectly accurate. And so if it says you're a little bit off, but you really think you're on, you might wanna go with your own gut feeling on it. It gets you pretty darn close. Now there are these things called monopods. One third of a tripod. And the idea with the monopod is it supports heavy equipment and it does steady the camera. It will allow you to shoot with slower shutter speeds, potentially in the lower light. But the main reason I see using a monopod is you've got a bunch of equipment and you just don't wanna hold it here for a long period of time. A perfect scenario would be whale watching. Alright, let's have your big old 300, 500 millimeter lens ready and something could happen in the next two hours. And having that camera ready not something that's on your shoulders that you have to hold up. It's very easy to stay ready as opposed to a lens that you have to be right there holding. And so if you have heavy equipment or any equipment that you wanna have in position, this is a nice thing to have. But generally, one of the questions somebody had in here that I always get is well, how good is this versus hand holding versus a tripod. So I ran a test and I did hand holding with a normal lens. And I came across pretty expected results. Everything below 1/60 of a second was marginal in quality and once I got down to 1/8 of a second, I never could hold it steady. And this is without stabilization. And then when I used a monopod, I was surprised at how little it helped me out. It helped me out a little bit in some cases. And so it was mainly there for supporting heavy weight. Now, when you think about the size of a monopod versus a tripod, I think the tripod gives you a much bigger bang for the buck. If you were willing to bring a monopod, just bring two more sticks with you and have a full on tripod so that you can get really sharp photos at all the different shutter speeds. Alright, so when using a tripod, one of the things that I do is I don't set it up. I just take my camera out and I figure out where I want to be and I'm like, does this look right? And then when I find I'm like yeah this is the spot. If there's dirt, I'll put an X in the ground. If not, I'll remember what flower or rock or grass is there and then I'll go get my camera, put it on the tripod. I'm like, where's my spot. Okay, here's my spot. And then I'll, where will, how high was it? Rather than setting your camera up, going no that's not right, let me lower all the legs, no that's not right, let me raise the legs up. And so just figure out, figure it out handheld first. You may need to extend the lower sections first. If you're working out in the wild, there could dirt and mud and things like that. You don't want that getting caught up in the knuckles and the joints of your tripod. That can cause problems. Try not to use the center post unless you absolutely need it. Make sure the legs are fully locked. If you find a leg drooping, that means you didn't fully lock the legs. And you're gonna wanna turn the stabilization off in most all cases if you're camera is truly steady. And make sure those legs are settled. You know, like on this dirt environment you see in this photograph here, you set it down and it's just gonna be on a clump of rocks. Settle it in there. Get it nice and tight in there. And if the wind is blowing, stand in a way so that you are blocking the wind from hitting the camera. So long as you're not standing in the way of the lens and the shot that you're taking. But I'll stand off to the side and try to prevent the wind from buffeting and hitting the side of my camera if it's really blowing. And finally, stand still. The ground that you are standing on is really close. And maybe it's cold and you're just like, oh that's cold and why is this shot blurry. It's because you're jumping up on the ground that your tripod is on. Now, it won't happen when you're on good solid rock and cement and so forth, but if you have dirt or grass around that could be moving the tripod, even the air of you moving back and forth can cause the tripod to move. There's a lot of things that can cause blurriness.
As a photographer, you will need to master the technical basics of the camera and form an understanding of the kind of equipment you need. The Fundamentals of Digital Photography will also teach something even more important (and crucial for success) - how to bring your creative vision to fruition.
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- How to bring together the elements of manual mode to create an evocative image: shutter speed, aperture, and image composition.
- How to choose the right gear, and develop efficient workflow.
- How to recognize and take advantage of beautiful natural light.
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