When I'm out on my daily afternoon 15K training run that takes me through the local neighbourhoods, lovely Beacon Hill park, and down along the scenic ocean front, here in Victoria, British Columbia, I see lots of people taking photographs. Many have the small P&S snapshot type camera, others have mid-range DSLR's, and some are even sporting the longer zoom lenses with hood attached.
What I rarely see is people using a tripod.
I once read (in a magazine some years ago) that even serious photographers often don't bother to take a tripod along with them whilst out shooting in public places, and from what I've recently observed over the past several months this still seems to be the case today.
Maybe it's the hassle of lugging it around, the fact that it draws attention to the shooter, or just plain laziness, I don't know - but weighing in at only a mere 6 lbs in total, my Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod and 410 geared head combo accompany me on every single shoot.
Why?, simply because using a tripod allows me to take shots that I could never even attempt hand held, and overall, improves my photography by (at least) a whopping 25%. The benefits always greatly outweigh the extra piece of equipment to carry, and besides, even tiny school kids have more stuff crammed into their backpacks these days (ie: lunch, books, drink, pencils, laptop, cell-phone, etc) so there's really no excuse for anyone to leave it behind, in my opinion.
A tripod not only enables one to use a higher f/stop number (ie: f/16, f/22) for a much greater "depth of field" (DOF), or a slow shutter speed when doing a long exposure shot, etc - it also gives the photographer the opportunity to completely relax, take a step back, re-assess the scene, and then comfortably fine-tune adjust any setting, compositonal aspect, and/or perspective that may be required.
This especially applies to flower photography where one needs to capture a lot of "critical detail" throughout the full range of a relatively deep bloom or plant, like a large rose, rhododendron, dahlia or peony for example. For macro, focus stacking, HDR, panorama shots, or any other subject matter that require a meticulous, precision type approach - a tripod is absolutely essential.
My photo of this Cardoon (Cynara Cardunculus) here simply would not have been possible without a tripod using the 'aperture-priority' mode set at f/22 combined with a shutter speed of 0.3 seconds. Even with VR (which may provide a 3 stop advantaqe) the obtained subject depth would not be available handheld at a desired base ISO setting of 100 or 200 for optimal results. Click on the image to view the full size web photograph with much greater detail, etc.
In short, it allows the photographer to obtain the best potential outcome, using the most relevant and applicable settings, for the specific task at hand. Plus, it also lets one slow down and breathe, which in turn, ultimately creates a much better working, artistic, environment, and a far more enjoyable shooting experience.
Let's look at this scanario in another way just for a moment.
IF you were a serious, competitive runner and someone recommended a piece of (legal) equipment that was absolutely guaranteed to improve both your training times and race results by a huge 25% margin...would you really have to think twice about using it every time? I very much doubt it.
Well, a tripod is that piece of kit in the photography world.
So, there you have it - go buy yourself a decent tripod and use it as much as possible.
You will be glad that you did.
© Kev Vincent Photography. Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved.