Finding a Right Tripod For Landscape Photography

Finding a Right Tripod For Landscape PhotographyA good landscape photographer knows that the mostimportant piece of equipment (other than the camera itself) is a good tripod. Just like different lenses are built for different purposes, so are tripods. A photographer who travels and uses a tripod only occasionally will have differentrequirements than a photographer who photographs constantly in low light and difficult conditions. Here we are going to focus on things to consider specific to landscape photography.

Firstly, ergonomics. Landscape photography is often about waiting for long periods of time before the right conditions or lighting appear, so it is important to find a tripod that is comfortable for you. Before you buy, extend the legs of the tripod fully (but not the centre column) to see how far you will need to bend to look through the viewfinder. If after a few minutes your back starts to ache, then the tripod is too short. Not needing to extend the centre column is importantbecause doing this increases the chance of camera shake dramatically, so should be considered a last resort.

Secondly, check that the tripod is easy to operate. Extend and collapse it to ensure you can set up and take it down quickly and easily. This could be essential in the field. Pay particular attention to the head and locking mechanism on the legs. You should be able to manoeuvre the head easily and smoothly to get your camera into position without having to wrestle with it. There are several options for tripod heads, including ball heads or the traditional tilt and twist type. Ball heads are popular because they allow you to set the position using one locking mechanism, but it is a matter of personal choice so experiment with both and choose the one that suits you best. As for the legs, make sure these are easy to lock and unlock and there is no slipping when locked in place. One way to do this is with the tripod fully extended, press down firmly on the top and check that there is no slipping.

Lastly, the biggest factor in choosing a tripod is its weight. It must be able to support your camera and heaviest lens without any wobble. If you are using long exposures in low light conditions, any camera shake can destroy an image and make getting a large sized print impossible. Take your camera and longest lens into the store and mount thesetup onto a few different tripods. If there is any wobbling or bounce when you gently tap the end of the lens, then the tripod is not sturdy enough to support the lens.

Some other considerations when choosing a tripod are the availability of spare parts and the possibility of adding optional features. Tripods, like most camera gear, may need servicing from time to time, especially if they are being used in wet or windy conditions. One example of an optional feature is to add a hook to the bottom of the centre column that will allow you to hang something heavy like a camera bag or sack of stones from the tripod to increase its weight. Look for a tripod that either comes with a hook or allows one to be attached later on.