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Friday, October 1, 2004

Better, Stronger, Sharper

Discover how a tripod produces sharper pictures and better, bigger prints

The ballhead typically has one tension screw that frees the head to move in virtually any direction. Rather than depending on two different controls, the camera itself is moved to its position and locked down by increasing tension. Many outdoor and sports photographers prefer this style of head because it has a fast means of changing orientation. Remember to increase the tension before releasing the camera, however.

Using A Tripod
As with any photographic tool, it takes practice to use it effectively. Don't make the mistake I made early on, thinking that a tripod is a tripod is a tripod. I quickly discovered that wasn't the case when I took a new tripod out into the field and struggled to set it up for a shot in waning light. Don't wait until the last minute to figure out how the various controls of your tripod work. You'll save yourself a good amount of grief.

Where you place your tripod is crucial. Before handling your tripod, look at the scene you're intending to photograph for the best possible position. It's easy to fall into the bad habit of placing the tripod in a location that's convenient, but may not be the ideal place for the best photograph. Carefully evaluate the scene first to reduce the chance that you'll let the tripod dictate its location.

Then, you want the tripod's feet—whether rubberized or spiked—to have solid footing. This is particularly necessary when you're positioning your tripod on uneven terrain. Make sure that the legs are properly locked down and press down on the top of the tripod to ensure it's secure. Follow these steps each time you change the height or position of your tripod.

Even with the camera on a tripod, it's important to have a gentle hand. Depressing the shutter release button too abruptly can create vibration, which defeats the stability promised by the tripod. Press halfway down to lock focus and then gently depress the button all the way down to take the shot. You also may want to consider the use of a remote trigger release to eliminate the possibility of your own body producing unwanted vibration. This is beneficial for close-up work, with its challenge of a very limited depth of field.

There have been many photographers before me who stressed the necessity of a tripod. For better or worse, I came to learn this as a result of looking at my own enlargements. Now, when I view my photographs, I'm so pleased that I joined the fold of avid tripod users. The crisp beauty of the prints silences all arguments against using a tripod.



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