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Nature and Landscape Photography

Lesson 7 of 27

Tripods and Monopods

John Greengo

Nature and Landscape Photography

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

7. Tripods and Monopods

Lesson Info

Tripods and Monopods

so let's get right into that thing that you don't like to deal with right that tripod do I really need to bring it to you suri I need to bring a tripod well let's talk about tripods think about the shutter speeds that are available teo on your camera a thousandth of a second maybe down to thirty seconds or more if you decide I don't want to use a tripod you are ruling out more than half the shutter speeds on your camera as faras options for you to use so that is seriously closing a lot of doors for opportunity and one of the things I said at the very beginning of this class is expanding your imagination of what is possible and part of that is using your equipment to the greatest ability that it that it can dio and part of that is utilizing shutter speeds all over the range and what's important to me in a tripod two things to start with well generally stable stability of course but I like a tripod that gets very tall because I like having a unique point of view and sometimes I'll stand ...

upon iraq as you can see in this photo and I'm like this is where it's best this is where I would like to have the camera and having a really tall tripod enables me to put the camera exactly where I want it so that I can compose exactly the way I want it the other thing and probably more important and definitely a lot easier to dio is having a tripod that gets really low to the ground my tripod actually goes much lower than it does in this particular photograph but being able to get right down inches off the ground is a very good and necessary thing for a lot of different types of photography because if you're photographing flowers or other rocks and objects right there in the foreground you need to get right down in front of it which means there's a lot of tripods that have bracing supports and they have center columns that don't allow you to get more than about this slow off of the ground and that is unacceptable in my opinion now folks I do want to warn you at any time that you are out in nature and landscape shooting pictures if you do something foolish and I am there to photograph you I will include you in my next light show so here at death valley luckily the person actually escaped being in the shot here I saw this person who had their tripod set up and there is a problem with this tripod and there is actually numerous problems let me count the ways to start with the center post is extended this is a mono pod on top of a tripod it is less stable in that position look at the size of the wall that this person is trying to shoot over do they really need the center post extended to the absolute maximum height possible no they don't they did it for convenience sake because they bought two short of tripod and they're trying to make the tripod and the camera more comfortable to use with so this is the first no no on a tripod secondly the whole tripod is just noticeably unlevel it's kind of tilted they didn't really balance it and level it according to the ground that it was on the legs supports on this one are a tale tell sign of a cheap tripod these very cheap tripods have legs supports because the legs air so credibly flimsy and this is what happens when you spend typically less than about one hundred us dollars on a tripod next this is actually a video head it's not designed for still work and it works perfectly fine for shooting basic horizontal shines but when you shoot a vertical shot it has a very very small little tightening screw that does not keep your camera very steady in that vertical position and it's just a pain in the but to use when shooting still photography and then we have the dangling camera strap that's just ready to blow around in the land which is going to cause a lot of instability with that model pod on top of a tripod and then finally there's a crank for the centre post and this is another item that they put on a lot of cheap tripods and I don't know if it's a gimmicky thing that people get excited about who look it's got a little crank crane crane crane crane and it's not that hard loosen it up and go up and down the kranks there are a few high end tripods that have really well designed solid metal construction for cranks raising and lowering him but in general it's not something one it's just a very cheap tripod it's poorly positioned it's poorly set up and finally the last little thing on this it's unattended where is this person just leaving your camera on a tripod extended that high that unlevel is foolish in my opinion how do I work with my tripod well here is a photograph from a number of years ago when I was working on a project on mount rainier I'm using a very small tripod because I had to hike up there I spent the entire night on this mountain top photographing mount rainier and I put a rock I built my kind of a little rope system so I could dangle and support weight from the tripod now a lot of tripods today have hooks from the center post that you could hang your camera bag or another sort of net or water bottle or a rock or something else to really keep it in place this was very important to me because I was doing some time time lapse photography and some star shots and I'll actually show you some pictures that I took I forget with section there in but I was shooting pictures over all night long and the camera needed to remain in exactly the same position there are two major brands of tripods that are very safe bets for good pieces of equipment man photo and get so either one of these I highly recommend they make a lot of good models what I like about them is that they often have replaceable components so that if you break something you don't just throw the whole thing away you could just replace that single part and so the man photo is what I kind of consider the blue collar worker they're rugged basic but they get the job done get so is a little bit more of a refined product I like it because it seems to be a little bit faster to work with on the legs and the way that they tighten and loses a little bit easier I think to get it open and close faster the get cells are often in carbon fiber the man photo are often carbon fiber or aluminum now I know some people are gonna wonder which tripod do you use well fact the matter is I have five tripods not counting tabletop tripods they don't all get used the same amount but I have small small medium medium medium big big and I have a variety of uses my favorite tripod to use for basic landscape work is it gets so g twenty five forty two l this is a medium sized tripod and I don't know if you could tell my stature I'm not the tallest guy in the world and this is the first time I've ever bought a long version of anything not the big and tall type guy on this is a tripod designed for a big and tall guy it's a very tall tripodi gets up about this high and you might think well how can you see through the camera well I'm know I'm not always shooting pictures on a perfectly flat floor a lot of times I'm shooting on the side of a hill side and that leg needs to extend below my feet about a foot or maybe I'm standing on a rock in a shallow river and I need to extend those legs down into the ground now the camera comes down to my height and so the twenty five forty two alyssa really nice tripod it's four sections not too big pretty lightweight it's carbon fibre yes it is somewhat pricey but it is something that I'm gonna have for many many years I've had it for many many years I've taken it lots of different places and I expect to have it I mean there's not a lot of upgrades that you need to make when it comes tripods there was a big switch over when we went from aluminum two carbon fibre but after that we don't have upgrades every eight eighteen months like we do on the cameras and so it's an investment that will last you for quite some time cem purchasing advice if you have not purchased a tripod or well we're all going to buy another tripod at some point I guess get that quality it's going to last you for a long time the perfect height is a little taller than you if you line up your camera on the tripod and it's exactly at eye level when you're in the camera shop chances are when you get out of the field and your legs sink into the sand it's going to start feeling a little short and you want to have something to get up at least as tall as you carbon fiber is a great way to go teo ease those muscles on your back it's a little bit more pricey but I think you'll appreciate it on that long hike your tripod needs to be able to get very low to the ground because you're going to be shooting six inches off the ground it's better if you can get your camera right down really low now I know a lot of the tripods that have center post can be reversed and this is a solution for anyone who has one of those reversing the center post and getting the camera down low the thing that I don't like about it is that it takes a little bit more fiddling with the tripod in order to do that and I found when I'm shooting below and between the legs of the tripod I end up limiting where I can shoot because I'm shooting into the legs and I have to shoot between the legs and position in the tripod is a little bit more difficult than just one that gets right flat down to the ground and one of the things that I do it's just kind of a personal customization I right bicycles and I have cork hand grip on the hand grips of my bicycle and I found that they make a really comfortable handgrip on the tripod and this has been really nice both in very cold temperatures and in very hot temperatures it's just more comfortable grip on the grip so go to your bicycle shop and unfortunately you probably need to buy two packs because they only come for two handlebars left and right and you need three with your tripod c end up with an extra one in case one gets ripped or something like that but it's a great way to insulate your tripod just for comfort in hand holding and then finally I don't use tripod cases and straps I've tried him in the back in the past and they just end up being cumbersome and so when I go off for a hike I've gone for five and six mile hikes and further and I just put the camera on the tripod in my hand and I carry it for the most part there are times where I will put it in my backpack if I know if I'm going from point a to point b and it's highly unlikely that I'm going to shoot pictures going from point a to point b then I might pack it in my backpack but if I think that I might want to shoot pictures I'll just carry it in my hand that way it's like tripods right here it's pretty easy to set up and do the shot right here and now and so you want to encourage yourself to get get out there and get those shots and having that handy and ready is what encourages me to do it the tripod head is very important along with legs for in a way the most popular system are the ball heads and there's a lot of different ball heads it's very much a matter of personal choice and it's really helping some people defend the ball head that they have oh this is the best one in the world I don't like anything else and people get very very personal there's a lot of good ones out there the ones that I see most commonly used by a lot of the nature nature photographers out there is the kirk head and the really write stuff head these are really really high quality heads they're not cheap they're well made but they should last you many many years of good work they're very smooth and they locked very solidly into place now with these you are not screwing your camera and that's what you do on kind of the cheap tripods on these one you have camera plates these air plates that you attach onto the camera or the lens and the idea on this is that you can quickly attacks your camera to the tripod and quickly detach it without having to screw and unscrew every time you want to put it on and off the tripod with longer lenses there'll be a letter right on the lens and they plates for the camera bodies are specifically designed for individual cameras so that they don't twist so they they're called anti twist plates so you put him on and you don't have to worry about him slightly twisting off like you would under normal circumstances the these use a standard tripods system it's one of the most common systems in the photographic industry yes that's a strange term common photographic tools in the industry it's the ark a swiss system is just a little duck tail and it's easy to slide in or you can kind of put in the front end and put in the back and then tighten it in very simple and quick to work with and it's a very low profile on the body so if you want to hold your camera in the hate in your hands it doesn't have a big huge hunk and plate on it I remember my first quick release plate it's one that they don't use anymore it was from man photo and it was this a big octagon plate and when I write whatever you set your camera down on a table it would be at a forty five degree angle because it was so thick and big on the bottom anytime you grabbed it it just pinched your hand everywhere and it's nice to have the sleekest smallest grip possible and if I had my way I would have cannon and nikon make cameras with this built in and the closest I've come is fuji who has an ad on grip that has the ark a swiss played on it so if you have the fuji xy one xy two or the next one they make a grip that goes right on the camera that's got it built basically right in and I love that I wish more manufacturers would do it now we're gonna have plates on the camera body but we're also gonna have him on some of the longer telephoto lenses in this picture the camera is not in a good stable position there's too much weight out in front of the body it's not stable if you have a lens that has a tripod collar on it that is where you want to be mounting it and this is something that you will find on lindsay is generally two hundred millimeters and above although there's a lot of them that go out from say one hundred two three hundred that do not have this is it's a feature of kind of hiring cameras and so if you have a tripod collar you I absolutely want to use it there are some lenses there so long you actually use a tripod for the lens and a second tripod for the camera body and it's very tricky to set up and it's extremely tricky to change position at that point with two of them going vertical shooting with this telephoto lands getting your camera dropped off to the side is not the most stable place to have your camera using the tripod collar you're able to rotate the camera and not only is it in a better position the lens doesn't move and so when you compose your image and you say you know what I'd like a vertical of this you really don't have to move the camera around if you don't have that tripod color then you gotta move the camera and try pot a little bit off to the side and you've got to raise the center post or you got to move the tripod up a little bit because the lens has changed position and it's really changed your composition if you want to do this with standard or wide angle lenses you need something called an l bracket l bracket because it reaches around the side of the camera and this allows you to mount the camera on the bottom for the normal horizontal position but then you can also mounted vertically once again the lens stays in virtually the same position the head is in a very stable position and this is the way that you're going to get the most ability out of the camera shooting vertical and I got the l bracket when I got my tilt shift lynn because I knew I was going to be shooting a lot of verticals and I really like it I don't like the fact that it's kind of big it adds a little bit more weight to the camera makes it a little bit harder to fit in the bag and to be honest with you going to morocco and I'm not going to be shooting that many verticals as I did with my tell chef lands and so I'm going to bring just a standard one just along the bottom that's a little bit lighter weight and so there's some compromises that you have to make when you're trying to go very very low wait but if you're really trying to do it right that l bracket is a very nice system when you are using these tripods getting your camera level is very important one of the simple fairly cheap options that we all have is a bubble level and you can plug this into your hot shoe and you khun judge whether you are level or got it a little bit of a tilted horizon I'll be honest I don't use this much anymore because my current crop of cameras now have an electronic system built in with the press of a button one of my custom functions I've set up in my camera gives me an elektronik level which tells me if I'm level or not and you might be saying john is there something wrong with you can't you tell if that horizon line is straight well sometimes I'm looking through a camera like this and it's really hard to judge when you're tilted at a big angle as to whether it's level or not and any time you take a picture that is unlevel you're going to have to crop that and you're going to be losing pixels and you're going to be losing and throwing away data and that's one of the things that we don't want to do in nature photography okay I know there's a number of you they were kind of wondering what about mono pots because that's almost like a tripod but that's a lot less weight and it's less balkan it's a lot easier quicker to use well mano pods are very good in my opinion for supporting heavy equipment if you ever watch a football game on tv you'll see a bunch of photographers on the sidelines using model pots because they have this big lens that weighs about ten pounds and they need to sit there for about the next three hours and shoot with it in position and that would be very hard to shoot for three hours like that so it's a great way of supporting it but they can quickly move it out of the way if they need teo and so that's one of the best uses of this is for sports photography wildlife photography with a big lands now the mono pod does indeed help stabilize the whole system how much does it help well you can judge yourself but I did my own test and I will share my results with you I first did a handhold test with the normal lands if I shoot a sixty of a second faster I will get chart photos and I can get sharp photos down to a fifteenth of a second but it's not very consistent I may or I may not get it I'm gonna have to shoot a lot of pictures next I used the mono pod and what it did is it allowed me to shoot it one shutter speeds slower to maybe get sharp pictures because it's still moving it's still moving forward backwards and side to side we've only reduced the up and down movement and considering the size of the mono pod versus the tri applied how much better is a tripod than a model okay it's got three times as many legs but it is infinitely sharper because we can now get sharp pictures at any shutter speed and so I don't use model pods for nature photography at all I'll use it for big lenses will use it for wildlife and I'll use it for sports there are a number of other techniques for trying to stabilize the camera but right now nothing competes with the tripod and with carbon fiber fairly lightweight tripods out there there's not a really good excuse for you not to bring one out there to get those shots because it's going to really allow for a lot of shots that you wouldn't be ableto handhold now something that I have been very happy with is the new stabilization technique technology nikon calls there's vibration reduction different companies go with different names just has a little hint if you have one of their lenses that has this they have a normal and an active position the normal position is well normal okay thie active position what's different about that is that if he is if you are moving if you are on a moving platform like you're in a plane you're in a train you're on a car something like that that has mechanical movement it adjust for a slightly different frequency of vibrations and we'll do a better job of stabilizing with these lenses you should turn the v r off if you were on a trip and the reason is is that in the lens there are a couple of special lens elements that are working on a pitch in your system and so they're moving whenever you're moving and it's counterbalancing your movement and when you're on a tripod and everything is perfectly steady that sort of system should be turned off if you leave it turned on it's possible that those lenses might move around a little bit and cause of learning this cannon has the image stabilization system and some of their lenses will have a one two and three section on ly a few other high end lenses have this the mod one is for normal handheld photography they have a second mode that detects which direction you are holding the camera and adjust for panning because when you are panning from side to side if you're going to be you wouldn't normally do this in nature photography but if you're going to be panning following an animal or a car or a person you don't want it fixing this side to side direction you just wanted fixing the top direction and so they have a special mode for that and then they have one on a few of their high end lenses that is mowed three for panning but the image stabilization on ly occurs during the exposure so what you see in the viewfinder is what's happening with the lens without any stabilization and then when it does is it throws on the stabilisation just a the last minute and some people who are doing panning action shots I prefer that system so that's kind of a personal choice on your part but like nikon you want to turn that I s off when you were putting it on a tripod it's the safest thing to do to make sure that you're getting sharp pictures when you take your tripod out in the field one of the tips I'll pick this up from art wolfe will give him credit for this one is he extends the lower section of his legs a few inches and this is because you're constantly sticking those legs and all sorts of weird places in water and mud and you don't want to get that mud and gunk up into the larger kind of knuckles of the tripod normally you want to try too extend the largest section because that's where you're gonna have the base fest ability but I always kind of get those feet out there so I can feel free to put the tripod anywhere it is necessary so as far as using the tripods and things that you want to be sure of is to fully locked the legs I've seen a number of people who have their tripod set up and it's slough lee starts to slide down one side because they forgot to lock up the leg properly next turn that stabilization office I just mentioned settle the legs okay what I mean by this is that when you just set your tripod down there's a good chance that you're on dirt or leaves or sand or who knows what and what you need to do is just kind of tap down and let it settle into the ground because you want to make sure that you are on solid ground and you're not sitting on a twig and I know sometimes I kind of have to twist it from side to side to clear away the the brush in order to get down to the solid ground because you want to be on something solid when you're shooting block the wind so if I have a steady wind let's just imagine that this table is a tripod and the wind is coming over here rather than standing here and letting the wind hit the side of my camera I'm going to come over here and block the wind as I fire the trigger release on the camera trying to create a little drafting position for the camera to be in because any sort of movement is going to come up in blurriness which means I gotta delete the picture so you have to do whatever you can and the other thing I make sure to dio is I stand still and that's because a lot of times the ground that you're standing on is dirt which is very close to the feet of your tripod and so if you're kind of bouncing around that could be causing movement in the dirt this depends on the type of environment you're in of course but you know when I get going click and I'm not going to move around I'm not going to cause any air flow around it I want it to be as sharp as it possibly could be if you are going to use a tripod very handy device is a remote chatter release this's going toe allow you to trigger the shutter without touching the camera remember we're trying to keep the camera as steady as possible you don't want to be pressing down on the shutter release when it's right about to take a picture because it takes a few seconds for that motion of you touching the camera over those vibrations to settle out so one of the options is getting the cable release and there's many different models out there you need to check what are the correct ones for your camera it might be a wireless it might be accorded one that's basic or one that has a lot of extra features on it this is gonna allow you to shoot vibration free some of these allow you to program the camera or to lock the shutter open form or than the thirty seconds that most cameras have is their maximum shutter speed so if you want to leave your camera open for two minutes you just click the shutter and you push it forward and you let it sit and so that is a very nice thing to be able to dio then I'll have to be honest with you I own a couple of these and I use them from time to time but I often use a little cheater shortcut which is I used the two second self timer on my camera so with my camera on my tripod I turned my camera into the two second mode I pressed the shutter release I get my hands off and in that first second or so the vibrations settle out and that's kind of a nice thing to have because then you don't have a cable hanging around the camera and it's nice and simple you have to buy anything and so I'll usually carry one of these in case there's something I'm trying to time like I've tried to time waves hitting a certain rock or a shoreline and that's a little hard to time with the two second delay and so having that instantaneous reaction is nice to have in some areas but in many cases you can just use the two second self timer take a look on your camera because virtually every camera that I know of on the market today has a two or a three second delay on the timer

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Beautiful landscapes are all around us – they are a joy to experience, but a challenge to capture in a single photo. In Nature and Landscape Photography, you’ll learn the essential tools and techniques for taking photographs that reflect the splendor of landscapes and the captivating details of nature.

In this class, award-winning photographer John Greengo will use illustrations, animations, and photographs of destinations from around the world to teach you the thought process behind great nature photography. You’ll learn which gear is suited to the environment you want to shoot and how to plan for ideal light and composition. John will help you master exposure and focus so you get a better shot in camera and improve your edits by taking you through hands-on photo critiques.

From complicated cameras to challenging environments, several obstacles stand in the way of you taking a photograph that reflects the landscape as you see it. This class will help you take nature and landscape photographs that reflect your unique perspective.

This course is part of the landscape tutorials series. 

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Composition Keynote

Equipment Keynote

Exposure Keynote

Focus Keynote

Light Keynote

Subject Keynote

Timing Keynote

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Thomas Hamlin

Most of nature's beauty has been photographed by lots of people over the years. However, nothing compares to actually visiting famous places, buildings, mountains, etc. and taking your own photographs. John Greengo provides the necessary equipment information, photographic principles, and techniques in a manner which inspires you to put in the extra effort to take the best nature photographs that you can with the gear that you have. His unique illustrations, actual real life photographs, and easily understood explanations are top notch. I highly recommend this outstanding course. I have several of John Greengo's photography courses, and I highly recommend them all. His vast experience with film and digital photography, gained through traveling and working with some well known photographers, gives his courses a unique perspective.

a Creativelive Student

I love this course, John. It is one of my all time favorites. First of all I loved your effort scale. I knew as soon as you went through the scale that you are a guy that I want to listen to. To me, the effort part IS the fun part of photography. When you asked the question about one wish ... the first thing that came to my mind was that I wish I had more time for photography. I like the technology, but I do not wish for any special powers. To me, that would take the challenge away. Photography is wonderful because every subject challenges the photographer to get the angle right, the light right, the settings right ... I love that challenge. I think you do too, John, and that is why this course is so special. The attention you pay to every detail comes from the drive you have to meet the challenges with every thing you've got. That is why your class is so special. Your work ethic is exceptional. SandraNightski

a Creativelive Student

While delving more thoroughly into Nature and Landscape photography in a smaller format, John Greengo provides us with an amazing companion to his outstanding courses Fundamentals Of Digital Photography and Travel Photography. Here he gives us another necessary treatise to study before packing our gear and heading out in a car, a plane, a boat (or just for a long hike), and it’s as entertaining as the others. Thank you again John Greengo and Creative Live for these expert and brilliantly illustrated programs. I just hope you keep finding more subjects to photograph and provide the instructions for.