The foun­da­tions for sharp land­scapes are a sturdy tri­pod and solid head

Digital Photograper - - Techniques -

The most ef­fec­tive way to im­prove sharp­ness is also the sim­plest: mount your cam­era on a tri­pod. Choos­ing the right tri­pod and head is a sur­pris­ingly dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion, how­ever, as there is a huge num­ber of man­u­fac­tur­ers and mod­els to choose from.

It’s im­por­tant to choose a tri­pod that is sturdy and has a use­ful max­i­mum height (there will be oc­ca­sions when you will want to shoot above head height), as well as the abil­ity to be set up low to the ground for more dra­matic per­spec­tives. Apart from this, the ba­sic choices to be made are the ma­te­rial it’s made from, the num­ber of leg sec­tions and whether or not it has a cen­tre col­umn.

Tripods are usu­ally made from ei­ther alu­minium or car­bon fi­bre. Car­bon fi­bre is more ex­pen­sive, but con­sid­er­ably lighter, which is an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion as land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy of­ten in­volves long hikes. Car­bon fi­bre is also more sta­ble from the point of view that it ab­sorbs vi­bra­tions bet­ter. For greater sta­bil­ity, look for a model that has a hook at the bot­tom, so you can hang a weight off it in windy con­di­tions.

When it comes to cen­tre columns, tripods with­out them are, in the­ory, more sta­ble, but a cen­tre col­umn adds flex­i­bil­ity and has little prac­ti­cal im­pact on sta­bil­ity. More im­por­tant is the num­ber of leg sec­tions – too many will cer­tainly add to the ‘wob­bli­ness’ of a tri­pod. Many land­scap­ers favour three-sec­tion tripods, but four is prob­a­bly ac­cept­able and means the tri­pod will fold up smaller.

The tri­pod head is as im­por­tant as the legs. There are ba­si­cally three types of head: ball heads, three-way pan-and-tilt heads and geared heads. Ball heads tend to have a greater strength-to-weight ra­tio; choose one with fric­tion con­trol, as this makes small ad­just­ments eas­ier. Many land­scape spe­cial­ists pre­fer geared heads, how­ever, as these en­able you to make very fine ad­just­ments to com­po­si­tions.

Which­ever type you choose, make sure it has a good pay­load; ideally, at least dou­ble the weight of your heav­i­est cam­era/lens com­bi­na­tion, as the cam­era will at times be set up off-cen­tre and the in­creased torque will af­fect sta­bil­ity.

Right TRI­POD HEIGHT a tri­pod that can be set up low to the ground en­ables you to com­pose dra­matic images that place em­pha­sis on the fore­ground

left LOW LIGHT Many land­scapes are shot in low light, which means us­ing a tri­pod is the only way to guar­an­tee a sharp im­age

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