Over the years I’ve learned some hard lessons when it comes to landscape photography and the obligatory use of a tripod. Love them or loath them, tripods are an essential piece of kit for landscape photography. With these 5 simple tips I hope to help you love your tripod and improve your photography experience.
1 – How to shoot vertical with your tripod
When you need to shoot a vertical image you’ll find it much more comfortable to tilt your camera to the left (counter clockwise) when using a ball head. If you tilt it to the right (counter clockwise) you’ll discover that things get really cramped, especially if you want to get your camera low to the ground and you can’t physically fit your arm in the space you’ve got left.
Most cameras also have the battery compartment under the hand grip on the right side so when you need to change batteries you’ll find it much easier if your camera is tilted to the left (counter clockwise). If you look at the image above you’ll notice all of the camera controls are easily accessible on the top of the camera.
2 – Don’t force it
I often see my beginner students trying to use brute strength to reposition the camera on their ball head tripod. The result will eventually be a broken ball head, and on one extreme occasion I actually watched the camera pop out of the clip and plummet to its untimely death.
So if you need to reposition your camera simply loosen one of the locking mechanisms on the ball head, reposition it, and then tighten the locking mechanism. You’ve paid for all of that engineering, you might as well use it.
3 – Let go of the tripod
Sounds obvious right? I’ve been shooting professionally for a few years and yet I still occasionally do this. It makes sense to hold on to your tripod when shooting in gale force winds. But in most circumstances you won’t need to do that and you’ll capture much sharper images without the vibration of your hands touching the tripod.
The purpose of a tripod is to keep your camera perfectly still so that you capture a beautifully sharp image. Touching it defeats the purpose – so hands off!
4 – Make sure everything is locked down tight
A common problem with tripods is that the screw which attaches the clip mount to the ball head can often work itself loose. Be sure to always carry the correct hex key for those rare but vitally important moments when you’ll need it.
I also recommend that you make sure that all of the other locking mechanisms on your tripod are firmly locked down. If there’s even the slightest amount of play in any of these you’ll have problems later during post-processing if your images don’t line up and you planned on blending multiple exposures.
Check that the legs lock securely as well – the screws may need to be tightened from time to time. Sometimes the legs work themselves loose and can slowly close in on themselves causing movement during your exposure, or worse – the entire tripod to collapse.
5 – Empty the water out of the tripod legs
If you do a lot of shooting in rivers, lakes, and oceans, you’ll discover that your telescopic tripod legs magically suck in and store water. To avoid a surprise drowning of your camera, be sure to remove the camera before you pick up the tripod and tip it upside down as water from the legs will pour out of the top of the tripod – all over your precious camera.
It’s also a good idea to do this before putting the tripod back in your car, tent, or camera bag. The last thing you want is a soggy tent.
Want more tripod tips?
I’ve got more tips where these came from so please let me know if you’d like to see more. If you’ve got your own tips to add please post a comment and let me know what tripod lessons you’ve learned the hard way.