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Better Travel Pics Tip No.1 - Tripods

Silk Sunrise, Shoal Bay Port Stephens Australia
Tripods are essential to get beautiful silky smooth water, like this.


Tripods are an essential tool for any landscape photography and are the one tool I would recommend you buy if you don't already have one.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a tripod is a three-legged device or stand used to support a camera or telescope.

Why do you really need to use a tripod when taking a good landscape?

The answer is simple. When shooting a landscape, you typically need a slower exposure to get a great shot especially when you are working on the either end of the day.

If you are shooting sunrise, sunset, in a forest, a waterfall or just generally low light conditions, in order to get a slow exposure, your gear should be placed on a tripod.

So what is a slow exposure?

A slow exposure is relative to your lens focal length, but for the sake of keeping it simple let’s just say that anything below 1/125th of a second is slow. 1/125th of a second will show up as “125” on most cameras. Slower speeds include 60, 30, 15, 8, 4, 2, 1”, 2”, 4”. Note the “ as in 2” denotes seconds, so 2” is a two second exposure.

Why is a slow exposure important?

The main reason for slow exposures is to get correct exposure in low light conditions.

Secondly, slow exposures give a magical feel to water. From waterfalls to surf and the glassy surface of a lake, a slow exposure can give the impression of movement in a still image.

Using a tripod helps us get a nice sharp image by avoiding camera shake. Even a small amount of shake can result in a blurry image.

You don’t necessarily need to spend big bucks for a tripod. To give you a comparison, I have four tripods. They are:

1. Brian - Three-Legged Thing (around AU$700)

The one that I carry and use every day is called Brian from the Three-Legged Thing. This tripod is made from carbon-fiber and it’s very compact. The reason why I love this tripod is because it is very sturdy and light. I can take it anywhere with me.

2. Manfrotto 190XB (around AU$350)

This is a very common tripod. More people, especially camera enthusiasts, have a tripod from this brand. It’s made from aluminium and also sturdy. However, this tripod is a little heavier compared to the Brian.

It’s also not that very compact, so it will not fit in your hand luggage if ever you decide to bring it for traveling. You have to either carry it or place it in a bigger bag when you want to take photos when you travel.

3. Inca (under AU$50)

I also have another tripod which you can buy at a department store or camera shop. The brand is from Inca and you can buy this (or similar) for around $20 - $50 at most department stores.

Since it’s a bit easy on the pocket, it’s also a little less sturdy than the others mentioned above. But the truth is, an Inca could work just as well for you (if your gear is not too heavy).

4. IPhone or Smartphone Tripod (under AU$20)

Now, if you don’t own a camera yet or prefer shooting using your phone, there’s also a little tripod for it. It’s smaller compared to an ordinary tripod but this is very helpful when you’re shooting a video or taking a photo. One thing that I like about this tripod is that it’s very light, compact and easy to carry. You can even place it in your pocket if you’ve got your hands full.

So, do you really need a tripod? The answer is yes.

Do you need a $700 tripod? NO.

Your tripod should be something that works well for you. It should be something you can happily carry around, especially when you’re traveling. It should also be light and sturdy enough to handle the weight of your camera. One thing that you also need to consider is that your tripod should be within your eye height when extended.

Smartphone Tip
The head on most selfie sticks actually screws off and has the same ¼ inch screw mount as standard tripod plates. Screw the selfie stick head to your tripod plate (even better a spare plate) so you can mount your phone on a tripod.

f you need a tripod and are not sure what to buy I recently did a review on the Manfrotto Befree after my friend Kelly brought hers along on a shoot we did together. The Befree is a compact, sturdy, surprisingly small tripod under $250. In fact it holds it's own against my $700+ tripod.

Thank you



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