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Travel Photography

Lesson 10 of 32

Gear: Tripods

John Greengo

Travel Photography

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

10. Gear: Tripods


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:11:45
5 Travel Gear Duration:19:13
6 Health, Safety & Security Duration:11:09
7 Gear: General Advice Duration:06:20
8 Gear: Cameras Duration:15:56
9 Gear: Lenses Duration:12:48
10 Gear: Tripods Duration:15:44
11 Gear: Filters Duration:04:08
12 Gear: Camera Accessories Duration:13:33
13 Gear: Final Thoughts Duration:03:55
14 Camera Checks Duration:04:20
15 Technique: Camera Settings Duration:13:30
16 Advanced Techniques Duration:13:00
17 Workflow & Composition Ideas Duration:07:42
18 Scouting Duration:17:33
20 Locations: Opera House & Dumbo Duration:05:12
22 Details: Buildings Duration:05:15
23 Details: Pattern Duration:14:51
25 People: Street & Candid Duration:08:46
28 People: Environmental Portrait Duration:15:37
30 Wildlife Duration:08:44
31 Events Duration:08:19
32 End of the Road Duration:09:35

Lesson Info

Gear: Tripods

Alright, let's talk about some of those other gear accessories. And, yeah, this is for travel photography. These are very useful for regular photography, but I find it particularly useful for travel as well. So let's talk about tripods. I know that's kind of an evil word to a lot of people, but I do like to travel with a tripod in many cases, because it allows me versatility in what I get photos of. There's a lot of things that you can shoot handheld photos of, but if you wanna do certain types of photography, either low light work, or gray depth of field, it's gonna require a tripod of some sort. How do you deal with working in like a desert setting, or a place where your lens can get dirty, or covered in dust or something you don't want in there? Well, if you're in a dusty environment, I've seen people online, because I love going into forums and looking at things like, I would never change lenses. I bring one body, one lens, and another body, another lens, and I never switch. An...

d I was like, wow, I was just in Africa and I switched lenses like 100 times in a day. You just be careful about the times and the places that you are doing it. The worst case, I was in the Sahara desert, and the wind was just ... (blowing) Sand everywhere. I went back to the vehicle that we were traveling in. Closed the doors. Switched the lenses, and then went back out and shot. In some cases it's just turning your back to the wind. I've been working maybe more with DSLRs than with mirrorless, although I work with both, and the DSLR's do have an advantage, because they have a mirror, and they have the shutter curtain closed in front of it, so they're a little bit more protective of it. But I do not fear changing lenses in bad environments, because I would rather have the right lens and capture the moment, and clone out a couple of dust specs later on, than not get the shot. I think that's the better choice for me. We did have a question come in from online that was from PhotoMaker, and PhotoMaker said, my phone battery drains a ton. How do you keep your phone charge when you're out and about all day, while traveling, or camping, or what have you? So, do you always have a little something extra? Well, we are gonna be getting to the charging section coming up, and I do have certain philosophies on charging. I have noticed when I'm traveling, I don't use the phone a lot, because I have my cameras right there, but I have noticed a lot of people who use phones a lot, are hooked up to the external batteries, and there's a number of different external batteries that they have, because they can't get through a single day on a single charge. And so there's a number of those that are available, and I don't have any recommendations off the top of my head, but I do know they're out there, because you're not the first person to encounter this. Absolutely, especially with mobile filmmaking, and those additional things that take up a lot of memory. Any other questions in the studio? Yeah, back row. Yeah, I just recently started using an intervalometer with my photography, and it's opened up a whole new door of possibilities for shots I can get. Are there any interesting uses that you've found for intervalometers that might not be obvious to the beginning travel photographer? Ooh. Yeah, intervalometry can be a lot of fun, and any time you find something moving, I don't have it in this class here, but I ran across in Mongolia a river starting. It was a dry river bed, and water was starting to flow through it, and so that was the perfect instance of using an intervalometer. We were able to go down to where it was coming, and show it filling up the river. Not that that's a common occurrence that you get, but you just need to open your mindset to anything that moves. Clouds, people, cars. Anything that moves is a potential for doing it. But finding a good location, where you can sit and watch your camera for a period of time, and so, maybe choosing the restaurant that has the slightly more expensive menu, but has a rooftop view that you could attach your camera to the railing, and shoot an entire time lapse while you're eating dinner, makes that slightly more expensive dinner worthwhile. Great. I think we're good to go, John. Okay. So we were talking about tripods, and the first thing we wanna talk about is trying to avoid using the tripod. How much can we get away with not using the tripod? And so one of the things that we're trying to do as photographers, is to take nice, sharp photos. And so let's talk about how to maximize the sharpness, kind of from a technical standpoint, in the settings of your camera. So, we have apertures, shutter speeds, and ISOs. And, if I wanna take a sharp photo, make sure this is working here. There we go. You're generally gonna want to have the lowest numbered ISO that your camera has available. For many cameras, that's 100. Next up, we're gonna wanna set a shutter speed that we can comfortably handhold the camera. For most people it's a 60th of a second. I like to go one extra for safety, at 125th of a second. The sharpest aperture with a given lens, is towards the middle of the lens somewhere. Not wide open, not closed down. F8 would be very sharp place to shoot a photo. Let's take a look at the light meter, and see where the light meter says. Says three, ooh, more than three stops underexposed. This happens a lot in photography. We need to let in some more light. How can we do this if we don't have, or if we do have a tripod, we'll do that one first. If we have a tripod, I would say, well, the aperture's good, the ISO's good, let's just move the shutter speed down, because the tripod will hold the camera steady, and we can get essentially a technically perfect photo, at these settings right here. Now, if we had chosen to come out here without a tripod, we're gonna need to make some accommodations. Alright, so let's imagine doing this without a tripod. Well, what's the first thing we have to change? Well, we can't shoot at a quarter second anymore. And, sidenote folks, we're not talking about stabilization right now. Just forget about that, okay? So, we need a faster shutter speed. How fast? I would prefer 125th, but I'll take a 60th of a second. Now how many stops did we lose? Look at this. We were at a quarter second, and we moved up one, two, three, four. So we lost four stops of light that we need to get back, using the other mechanisms around us. And so what I would probably do, is go over to the aperture, and open it up a couple of stops there. Now, we're just two stops away from a correct exposure, and the only other thing to do, because I've done my work with the shutter speed, I've maxed out the aperture, is I'm gonna have to bump the ISO up to 400. Now, this photo at ISO 400 versus 100, and at F4 compared to F8, I'll be honest with you, it's not the biggest deal in the world. But, I always like to try to teach best practices. What will get you the best results, and try to follow that as best you can. And so this is gonna be fine. It's gonna be a good shot, but when you really dig into the details, the previous shot, shot with a tripod, a little different aperture setting, lower ISO, is gonna be a higher quality shot, and that's why we wanna bring the tripods, when and where they are appropriate to bring. So, you need to know how low can you go handheld, before you start to need to bring out the tripod, and that is the reciprocal rule. And that's the minimum shutter speed you wanna be at, for handholding a camera. And it's basically the minimum shutter speed is equal to one over the focal length of the lens. And I know this looks like a lot of gobbledygook text if it's the first time you've seen it, but it's pretty simple. What's the lens on your camera? 60? Okay. You need a 60th of a second or faster. So, the way this looks with different lenses. Your 50 millimeter lens, well that's pretty close to 60, so we'll just call it 60. You got a big telephoto zoom, 100 to 400? Well it depends on where the zoom is set. 100, 200, 400. And it's gonna be in that 125 to 500 range. Ultra wide lens, you could get down to a 15th of a second. And so, you wanna be at those shutter speeds or faster for handheld work. Now, technology has changed, and we have stabilization built into a lot of different cameras and lenses these days, and so there's a lot of companies that have lens based stabilization units that do an extremely good job of stabilizing the camera for a few stops of light. There are many cameras that now have stabilization built in on the sensor. This is convenient, because you get it with all your lenses. The ones on the lenses tend to be a little bit better. Not that much better, but a little bit better on a per case basis. And so having something that you can work with is definitely a benefit. If you're in a situation where you're shooting handheld, with a 50 millimeter lens, at a quarter of a second, it's not gonna work out. You just, we're not steady enough to hold that picture in that case. And so, you really need to be up around a 60th of a second, if you wanna get a sharp photo. Now, if you have stabilization that can help you out, one, two, three stops, four stops lower, you can shoot this with stabilization at a quarter of a second, and the lens, or the camera stabilization, will compensate for your movement, and you can shoot in this situation without a tripod. And so stabilization is definitely a big help for the traveling photographer. One quick note is that you are supposed to turn off the stabilization when you put it on a tripod. And so, just keep that as a note. Let's talk about tripods real quick. The bane of my existence is cheap tripods. Oh, I hate cheap tripods. You know, the really cheap one that they kind of push on you at the camera store at the last minute? And that's because they're either unstable, they're too small, they have these braces where they're inflexible and you can't get them low to the ground, and so, I just don't know really of a great tripod, other than a tabletop tripod, that is really low in price. One of my favorite tabletop tripods is this Really Right Stuff one that gets down low, very low to the ground, and is very sturdy. Could handle a DSLR, and a 70 to 200, 2.8 lens. They make a really nice head. It's not the cheapest one on the world, but it is definitely a very nice little tripod there. And so, I would use this in places where tripods are officially not allowed. Tabletop tripods, they kind of don't care about. I haven't been stopped for using a tabletop tripod. But in New York, at the library here, I was able to put the tripod on one of the railings there, to work with. In New York at Grand Central Station, you can't just setup tripods in there, but there's a perfect little platform, little tabletop tripod, and you're totally fine. Nobody cares about it. In Istanbul, Turkey, they have a cistern in there. No tripods allowed. It was like a $600 permit for a tripod. And there it was just absolutely insane. Little tabletop tripod, they don't care about that. They just worried about somebody with a big tripod. So on top of those tripods, you need a head, and generally the most all-purpose head is the ball head. There's a lot of other fancy, special purpose ones, and there's a lot of great ones out there of different sizes. Everyone's always wondering, what's a good travel tripod? And I'm gonna give you three recommendations at three very different price points. So, the Slik Sprint Pro II is one of these cheap tripods, but of the cheap ones, it's one of the better ones in my opinion. You want a little better quality, the MeFOTO RoadTrip will get you definitely a better quality piece of equipment. And if you want the best of everything, the Gitzo 1545T, and these numbers change every few years as they get new models, is my favorite one that I have taken on to many, many different continents and trips, because it's just basically the perfect tripod. But, it is a little bit expensive. And then I put a Really Right Stuff ball head on the top of it. Now, I wanted to compare how are these different, and what are you getting, and what's the big difference between these? And so, each of them has something kind of unique about it. And so, things that are important with a tripod, is the weight, and height, and how small it is, and so forth. And if we look at the inexpensive model here, the big caveat in my mind is that the maximum load, which is basically how well built is this? It's not rated for very much equipment. And when you get it out, it's gonna feel a little on the chintzy side. And so it's not something I would wanna put a lot of heavy equipment in high winds, for instance. Next up, the RoadTrip model. Very good, well-built model, but the thing is, is that it's a little bit on the short side for most people. And so, you'll see what this means here in just a moment. I'm gonna do a demo here. Now the Gitzo is pretty much exactly what I would design if I could design from scratch a good travel tripod. Big problem there is obviously it's a hugely expensive tripod. Pretty ridiculous spending $1,000 on a tripod, unless it's something that you really love, and you're gonna be using for years, and years, and years, which is what happens with the tripods that I use. And so, I wanted to show you what my favorite tripod looks like, and I've made a quick modification in this, is I've used the short center post in this. And so I cannot reverse it, which is one of the advantages of these reversible ones, which is nice, it gets smaller, and so when I pack mine up to go to and from the location, I just take this off, and pack these separately. And then assembly is pretty quick. But I love the fact that I can hold this with just one hand, and there's a great hand grip, so if I wanna walk around, that kind of gets tiring, but right here it's nice. And so the height of a tripod is really important. These have very nice leg locks, so they setup very quickly. And if somebody had a stopwatch, they can time me. I think I did that in about 10 seconds. And the beauty is, is the camera is right here. Right where I need it. Ideally, I would like it up here, in case I might need it, but this is a pretty comfortable place to shoot in. And if you were to set this where a lot of cheap tripods are, because they don't have the right mechanisms, they can't get as tall, they're like this. And so, yeah, okay, this looks good. And you know, this is a really comfortable position to keep for about 45 minutes, as you're waiting for that sun- oh man, oh gotta get back down here. And so, having that little extra height makes all the difference in the world. And, with the way that I have this setup right now, I can't go any higher than this, but I can get it down really low to the ground, which I think is more beneficial than going up really high, and so, in case you're also wondering, I don't know if you can get a close shot of this, but I've put bicycle cork hand tape on this, because it makes it more comfortable to hold. It's nice, a little bit of cushion, and it's better in hot weather, and in cold weather. So that is cork bicycle hand grip tape. A lot of different brands out there will do that. And so, that's what I think is a fantastic tripod. Some people have questions about monopods, because monopods can be helpful as well, and what they are most helpful for is supporting heavy equipment, so that it's in a ready to use position at any time. It does steady the camera, but not by that much, and so I wanted to do my own test. So, I did a handheld test, and then I used a monopod, and I wanted to see if I was getting sharp or blurry photos. And you can see what happens with handheld. You need that 60th of a second with a normal lens, and then you might be able to get something sharp, maybe not. If you use a monopod, it helps out a little bit, but not that much. And if you consider the size of a monopod to the size of a tripod, and how many sharp photos you can get with a tripod, you get a bigger bang for the buck with a tripod, and so monopods are fine for heavy equipment. Let's say a bird photographer that has a big, heavy lens that they wanna keep it in position for a long period of time.

Class Description

Are you going on a once in a lifetime trip and want to have photos that you can share with friends and family? Do the decisions of what to bring, where to shoot, and what to capture feel overwhelming? Travel photography can feel challenging, time consuming, and expensive. But with the right tools you can plan and prioritize to come home with images that you treasure.

Join photographer, educator and author John Greengo, who has photographed all over the world, as he guides you through all of the steps that you need to capture the photos that you want during your travels. This class will offer different plans of what to bring, and how to create a realistic agenda based on your priorities, whether it’s documenting your trip, telling a story through photographs, or simply capturing great images.

John will teach you:

  • What gear to pack based on your goals.
  • How to create a media storage plan and workflow while traveling.
  • Best practices on how to find and scout the best locations to photograph.
  • How to approach locals and build trust before taking their portraits.
  • Camera techniques and settings for different shooting scenarios.
  • Different types of travel photos, such as The Walk Away, The T-Shot, and Environmental Portrait.
  • What to do with your photos once you’ve returned home.

Don’t let the challenges of travel photography keep you from capturing images that will provide you with lifelong memories. Join John Greengo to learn the best techniques, tools, and technology to capture great photos no matter you limitations in time, money and resources.



As usual John has been an awesome instructor. He is so energetic and fun. I love taking his courses and this was no different. I absolutely loved it. I have learned so much by taking his courses. Thanks John for all you do to help us beginners out.

Melissa Maxwell

So inspiring! This class is so comprehensive and I look forward to applying all of Greengo's tips. He is a wonderful instructor and the example photos are breathtaking.

a Creativelive Student

John Greengo was fresh, exciting and entertaining. He was extremely well prepared for this class, and I loved hearing little nuggets from such a seasoned travel photographer. The course provided great content and ideas I can take with me on my next trip!