A tripod is a important investment. It is critical for the nature photographer. We shoot near sunrise and sunset when the light is low. We carry long lenses and heavy gear and travel long distances with them.
There are two types of tripods light cheap tripods and one that work. Most people buy two or three tripods before they buy the one that fits their needs. This is much more expensive than buying a good tripod in the first place. You should also get a good tripod head incorporating a quick release system and quick release plates
Most tripods are poorly designed and poor quality. They are too short, flimsy and difficult to use. Many do not permit photography at a low level.
Tripods help you keep sharp photos. Hand holding a camera will not have near the image quality of using a steady tripod.
If you take long exposures, shoot at night, and use a long lens a tripod is critical.
I use a tripod for almost ever photo I take. One exception would be photographing from a boat. If you are in a boat the tripod may magnify vibrations and result in unsharp photos. Some places do not allow tripods.
There are several choices how do you decide is best for you? There is no tripod that is perfect for each situation. There are several variables.
How much do you want to spend?
How much weight can you carry?
What kind of images do you shoot?
I use two different tripods. One is heavier than the other one. I use this tripod when there is a possibility of using a long lens. If I am hiking a long distance with just a wide angle lens I use my lighter tripod.
Here is what you want in a tripod
1.) Make sure your tripod at least reaches your eye level when fully extended (without Centerpost).
2.) Centerpost? I want a tripod with NO Centerpost. I want a tripod that the legs can splay out so it is flat to the ground. I want to be able to get ground level to insects, flowers, mushrooms, reptiles and amphibians. The Centerpost just get in the way. Also many people extend the centerpost instead of raising the lens. This is less sturdy. Many manufacturers have centerposts that can flip upside down or move horizontally. I don’t recommend that also if you do a lot of ground photography that is a pain.
3.) What materials is it made out of ? Some tripods are made of aluminum which works fine. Carbon Fiber or basalt is better but more expensive. They are lighter and stronger and more rigid.
4.) Do you want 3 or 4 Section Legs?
4 section legs are smaller when compacted. There are three locking joins per legs.
3 Section Legs do not collapse is small as a 4 section but are much faster to setup. There is two locking joints per legs which is a little sturdier. Make sure you measure to see if a three section will fit in your suitcase.
I definitely prefer a three since it is faster. If I am setting up to photograph a wolf running thru a field seconds count so the quicker the better The manufactures’ website will have the specs on the collapsed size of the tripod.
5.) The longer the lens the heavier the tripod you need. Make sure if you plan on buying a lens in the future that your tripod will support it.
A good tripod can be a lifetime investment. It is a necessity not an accessory. It will improve your photography dramatically.
If you are looking for a great place to purchase one.
I recommend Hunts Photo and Video they have a great selection and prices.
I would recommend this store they ship all over the country. If you decide to order from them ask for Gary Farber or Alan Samiljan, at 781-662-8822
They have special rates for my participants and readers of this blog please mention John Slonina (pronounced Slow Nina)
Please note I do not get anything from the sale but Hunt's does sponsor me.
John Slonina is a professional nature photographer. He leads the instructional photo tours to some of North America's most beautiful and wild places. Explore the best places at the best time for an unforgettable experience. Some of the national parks that he leads photo tours and workshops includes Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Katmai, Mt Rainier, Olympic, Great Smoky Mountains, Kenai Fjords, Mt Rainier, Olympic, Canyonlands, Arches, Everglades, Big Cypress Preserve, Shenandoah, Lake Clark, Everglades, Big Cypress and Acadia.
Phone (508) 736-1167