Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Augment your DSLR and high-quality lenses with some key equipment that will help you take your photos to the next level
A ballhead is the most popular type for landscape photography because it lets you position the camera as you wish, then lock it there with a twist of a knob. Three-way pan-tilt heads let you control movement around three axes individually, but take longer to put the camera in position and are better suited for studio work. Bird-in-flight specialists like gimbal heads, which support the camera and supertele lens, but let you track quick- and erratically moving subjects, something you can't do with other head types.
The best ballheads operate smoothly, and securely lock the camera and lens into position with no creep. A large-diameter ball provides sturdier support. It's definitely better to get a ballhead that's too strong than one that's too weak. The Arca-Swiss Monoball Z1 (rodklukas.com) can support up to 130 pounds, and features an elliptical rather than a spherical ball to help counter the effects of gravity as you position a camera off-center. It also comes with an Arca-Swiss quick release, and uses the popular and versatile Arca-Swiss mounting plates. You attach the plate to the camera's tripod socket, then can quickly lock the plate (and camera) onto the head, or remove it for handheld shooting.
Serious macro photographers frequently use electronic flash to get a lively looking image or to bring the subject out from a busy background, but if you're capturing some motion, macro flash isn't an option. You'll need a continuous light source. A good still-and-video solution is an LED light. These lightweight LED arrays fit easily into your bag, they're simple to use, and they have rheostats that give you precise control over their output. Beyond macro and video, compact LEDs also make good tools for adding a little foreground fill light to a big landscape scene, and you even can use one for experimenting with light painting at night.
Litepanels (www.litepanels.com) offers a variety of LED lights that mount on the camera (or a light stand, or can be handheld) and put out cool, daylight-balanced light that's flicker-free at any frame rate or shutter angle. They can be powered by AA batteries or AC, and there's no color shift when dimmed from 100% power.
Technology has made it easy to create panoramas. Many Sony cameras have built-in Sweep Panorama modes, which automatically stitch a series of images together, and Photoshop's Photomerge feature enables you to stitch a series of individual frames together quickly while still giving you control. The key to making the best use of any postproduction stitching feature is to start with good individual frames. Using a panorama attachment on your ballhead takes it to the next level by incorporating considerable precision at the point of capture. The Really Right Stuff Pano Elements Package (reallyrightstuff.com) consists of a PCL-1 Panning Clamp and an MPR-CL II Nodal Slide. Used together, you'll be shooting on a level platform and rotating the camera around your lens' nodal point.
The microphones built into DSLRs and mirrorless digital cameras can pick up the sounds of the camera, and the audio quality isn't the best. A good way to avoid this problem is to use a portable audio recorder to record sound: You'll get better-quality sound, free of camera noise. The Zoom H6n Handy Recorder (www.zoom-na.com) features an interchangeable mic system, with up to six channels of simultaneous recording and over 20 hours of operation with 4 AA batteries. It delivers high-definition stereo audio up to 24-bit/96 kHz, and supports SDXC memory cards up to 128 GB. There's an optional hot-shoe mount to attach it to an HDSLR.
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