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Posts tagged ‘tripod’

Up for Discussion: Travel Photography

As many of you know I have a trip planned next year to go to the United States.  I will be visiting Laura Macky on the west coast and then over to New York for a week.  I am really excited about this trip, but I don’t know what gear to take, how to take it, etc, so I was talking online with Robin one day, and I know he does a fair bit of this, so I asked if he would write something for us on how to go about getting your camera gear ready for a trip.  Robin, has written for me before, well part of a post, and he also has his own blog, photographybykent.

Travel Photography

Kent Tripod

What to take? What to leave behind? Unless you are attending an instructor-led workshop and have been given a list of what to bring, these two questions can drive a photographer nuts when preparing for a new and unfamiliar location.

This essay is the result of a very kind invitation from Leanne Cole to contribute a discussion topic for her blog. I was excited about the opportunity because I have been a fan of her work since I first discovered her blog. After a few exchanges about possible topics, she suggested travel photography, specifically the issue of deciding what equipment to take. That was perfect since I am wrestling with this very issue as I prepare for a journey to Antarctica in January next year.

I should introduce this piece by saying that anyone looking for a list of the top 10 essential items to carry on your next photo journey will not find it here. There are too many variables at play. Instead, I hope to suggest some ways to help fellow shooters define their own lists.

My own routine for deciding what to take has worked pretty well, but the prospect of writing this article motivated me to investigate how others handle this situation. An Internet search usually produces “The List” and, as one might suspect, there is wide variety in the lists of gear one must carry. For example, in looking at photographers who had been to Antarctica, one fellow said: “two camera bodies, each attached to a lens, polarizing filter, and no tripod.” The other said (basically): “Bring everything. It’s the trip of a lifetime.” And his list looked like he was opening a camera store.

Kent Yosemite

Include tools to find the right time at the right place

So back to the drawing board. In looking at my own approach and that of two photographer friends, I realized that our process was the same, but typically produced different results, depending on where we were going, how we were traveling, and what we wanted to photograph when we arrived. This is probably the same process every photographer follows in some way or another, although the degree of effort may vary. Putting this into a more formal set of guidelines, one could say that there are three important questions that one needs to address before leaving on a major photographic journey:

  1. What are your photographic objectives for the trip?
  2. What are the weight/volume restrictions associated with this trip?
  3. What are the on-site conditions that can affect your success?

I don’t want to get all philosophical here, but the first question deals with hope, while the other two deal with reality. Reality is usually addressed by identifying the problems for which you must find a solution. If you are successful in addressing the problems, you have a better chance of realizing your hopes.

For example, the question of one camera body or two. If one is traveling to New York City a single camera body can be OK because almost anything can be rented there should disaster strike. This is not the case, however, in a remote location such as Antarctica.

Some might be tempted to say here that since each photographer knows their personal answer to the first question we should get right down to the nuts and bolts of what to bring. Not so fast. You may think you know, but if you’ve never been to this place, how do you know what might be there waiting for your magic touch?

Kent Paris

Locals know where the best locations are.

In the old days, people would read travel books published by Fodor’s and the like to find out where to go and what to do. Today we read blogs, search Flickr and 500x for images of the general area, and pull out back issues of “Outdoor Photographer.” And let’s be clear about this. We’re not looking to duplicate the images created by others, we are gathering information about specific locations.

This, of course, is not necessary if you are gifted with incredible luck 24/7. But for most of us, educating ourselves about the destination increases the chances of coming back with some special images.

Kent Paris

Pre-trip research can pay off.

As your plans form, you should also be identifying potential obstacles. Chief among these are weight restrictions and to a lesser extent, constraints on equipment size such as a tripod. First, assess your strength and endurance compared to the physical requirements of the trip. Will you be on a “lung-buster” climb at 10,500 feet? Or just a short walk from a parking lot? And be aware that cities like New York City, Paris, and Washington may be at sea level and flat, but the miles can pile up quickly as you lug all that stuff from one shooting location to another. Know your abilities, both physical and photographic. One photographer told me: “The farther I have to walk, the less I carry. My minimum load is one camera, one lens, and a polarizing filter; no other gear, not even a camera bag.” Yet she comes back with amazing images.

Kent Monarchs in Mexico

Monarch Migration: Weight matters at 11,000 feet.

A more obvious hurdle is the airline segment of the journey. Know the luggage rules before you leave. Items that are expensive, fragile, and essential should be taken as carry-on luggage. You can place less important items in checked baggage and in some cases you may want to consider advance shipping.

Be sure to consider all aspects of getting around while on location. For example, safari expeditions usually involve a vehicle that has room for your gear, but a raft going down the Colorado River is another matter entirely (a dry bag is needed here).

Kent West Virginia

Planning for the weather is critical

Another way to come at this problem is to review the recent history of your actual shooting practices rather than what you typically pack. For example, one photographer pointed out that while he has several camera bodies and about a dozen lenses, in actual practice he uses the same body and two lenses 90 percent of the time. And of those two lenses, one accounts for 60 percent. “I’m not sure I could live without a tripod,” he said, “but I could do all right with a single body, that one lens, a polarizing filter, and a tripod.”

Finally, one should always ask fellow photographers what they take when going to your destination and why they take it. To that end, I hope readers will weigh in with their thoughts. I’d especially love to hear any suggestions about Antarctica and I believe Leanne is planning to visit New York City next year so ideas about the Big Apple also would be appreciated.

Kent Empire State Building

I hope you will join me in thanking Robin for this wonderful post. Don’t forget to go to Robin’s blog, photographybykent, I believe his planning a companion post soon, so keep a look out for it.  Thanks Robin. He has some more images for you now.


Weekend Wanderings – Dockland Sunset

My photography friend who comes out with me often has had some problems with her foot, and we haven’t been able to go out much.  Though I dragged her to the Docklands the other night to take photos of the sun setting behind the Bolte Bridge.  I had thought it might be possible to get a nice one, as the weather the next day was predicted to be nice, warm, but nice.  So I picked her up and in we went.

docklands-20140313-2180This is what we saw when we first got in there.  Not very promising.  Most of you know what my luck is like for getting sunrises and sunsets, I don’t get them very often.  I think both of us had that in mind.  There were lots of clouds for a sunset, but were they too thick, so to speak.  When the sun went down behind those bottom clouds, it was blocked out and you couldn’t see it.  I thought, well that’s it then, no sunset.  Then we started noticing things like this.

docklands-20140313-2357I thought it was a good sign, so we kept looking, and then eventually.

docklands-20140313-2452-5hpmThere it was, the sunset we were hoping for.  Ribbons of fire across the sky.  We were both very happy.

We went to a spot that was sort of in the middle, so you could take photos all around you.  Popular spot, quite a few other photographers joined us as well. We stayed there for about an hour and a half.  I didn’t really move, just had my tripod in the same place.  It was an interesting thing to do.  I usually move heaps, but not this time.  I did turn the head on the tripod and took other photos around me.

I have done some HDRs with Photomatix Pro, but I have also done some of the images with just the single one.  You can tell in the gallery which ones are HDR because in the file name for each one will have “hpm” in it.  I have also done some where the images are very similar, one is a HDR and the other not.  I wanted to compare the two.  In some cases I think the HDR worked well, and in others not.

Here is the gallery for you.  I hope you are enjoying your weekend and managing to go out and take lots of photos.

Playing with Escalators

The other day when I went into Southern Cross Train Station to take photos I knew that I would play around a lot more with some of the images.  The images I showed you were just single images with a bit of quick editing done through Camera Raw.  There was so much contrast in the images that it was hard to show the station to its best potential.

After watching how Trey Ratcliff does his HDR images on KelbyOne I decided that I would have to apply some of what he does to his images and see what I could come up with.

I did start by doing a HDR, but it isn’t all the HDR image, and have done many other things to it as well.  It is my first attempt at doing something like this, and I’m not disappointed.  I think if you go back to the original image that I showed you on Sunday, I think I have improved it.  The question is have I done that much to it?

One of the biggest obstacles I had was that because I really didn’t want to use my tripod too much there, I had to hand hold.  It is quite a dark space, which then meant I had to turn up the ISO, so in the dark areas there is noise.  So it meant that I couldn’t do much with those.  I think I need to suck it up and just use the tripod.  Or go somewhere like that and take photos like scouting a place, then plan on going back to get shots that you think will really work, use the tripod to get the possible exposure.

The other problem I had on Sunday was that we did leave the station and went out and took some photos, but I completely forgot about my ISO.  Now those images are going to be grainy as well.  I need to get myself a little checklist.  I am always forgetting things like that.


Weekend Wanderings – How I Take Night Photos 11 Days Before Christmas

Recently I have been getting some comments from people who are unsure about night photography.  Seems some people are not sure how to take night photos, so I asked one of them, Laura Macky, if she would like me to do a post on taking photos at night, and she said yes.  So hopefully I can help explain it.

Let’s start with the equipment that you need if you want to do them properly, or expertly.  I will also tell you ways to get around some of these after this.

LeanneCole-citynight-20131208-4228The above image, I showed it yesterday, so please excuse the double up.  Is an image that show perfectly how to take a night photo, and the circumstances under which most night photos are taken.  The focus of the image was the tree, having people around didn’t matter, so time didn’t matter.  I could take as long as I needed to get the shot.

My camera was set up on the tripod, and as I wanted the best exposure possible my ISO was right done to 100.  I usually always have my camera set on Aperture Priority, so I had my aperture set on 7.1, and according to my camera, I needed a shutter speed of 6 seconds, which is why the camera had to be on a tripod.  The long shutter speed is why the people seem like ghosts.

I know I am going to get people telling me I should have the camera on manual, but you know what, I rarely do.  If I can get away with aperture priority or shutter priority, then I go for it.  I know there are times when you have to put it on manual, and I used to find my old camera had to be put onto that when I got a shutter speed of more than a couple of seconds, but so far the D800 has proved to be a real trouper that way.

It is also advisable to use a remote shutter release, so you avoid camera shake when you press down the shutter button.  I have to admit, I don’t always use one, I have got a lot better at just pressing the button and not getting that camera shake, though, if I can and I have it with me, I always use it.  Better to be safe.


The above image was taken with a very long shutter speed, around 25 seconds, aperture f/11 and the ISO would have been 100 or thereabouts.  The slower the better to get the water to look smoother and to get the colours reflected in the water.

LeanneCole-townhall-20131129-0245When I was taking these the camera was on the tripod again, it was up high, so I had  a wireless remote shutter release on the camera, the trigger in my hand.  Time was a lot more important in these photos.  I couldn’t have long shutter speeds because then the lights would all blend into one another, I needed a faster shutter speed.

To achieve this, I set the ISO onto 4000, I was also curious to see how the camera would go with a ISO that high.  Again, the camera was on Aperture Priority, and the aperture was f/8.  I have looked at the properties of the image and the shutter speed was 1/5 of a second.  So fast enough for this show, but still too slow to hand hold the camera.

One thing to remember when you go up ISO is that you start to introduce noise or what used to be referred to as grain to your images, so you really want to use lower shutter speeds when you can.  It isn’t always possible though, so it can be a trade off at times.

LeanneCole-city-20131129-0234This image was done with me hand holding the camera.  These were the last photos I took for the night, and it was a last minute thing.  I had the 50mm lens on the camera, and decided to just see what I could get.  So the camera wasn’t on the tripod, which meant I needed a faster shutter speed.  I usually tell my students that they should always get something faster than 1/60 of a second, but I know myself I can go a little slower.  The ISO has to be turned up high enough to get a good shutter speed, my aperture was f/6.3, I could have turned it down more, but didn’t.  My ISO ended up being 4000.

I have found that people who start taking photos often forget about ISO, they will say I used the aperture I wanted, but I kept getting dark photos, what was I doing wrong?  I say, did you turn your ISO up, and they look at me with that look that says, I can’t believe I forgot about it.  The three most important things to use when taking photos, your exposure triangle, ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed, they all have to work together.

So to take great photos at night you need a camera that will allow you to have some control over ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed.  You should also use a tripod and remote shutter release.  So what happens when you don’t have those?

If you don’t have a tripod then find a solid surface to put your camera on, a car, a fence post, a bench, anything that stays still.  It will give you the same results as a tripod, except, you may not be able to manipulate and get the image you want.  A tripod you can adjust the head of it to get the composition you want.

If you don’t have a remote shutter release then you can use the inbuilt timer that is in most cameras.  You can set it to go off in 2 seconds and then you stop camera shake that way.  I have done this on some occassions.

So I hope that helps those of you who want to do some night Christmas photos and are unsure how to go about it.  This is how I do it.

I have some more photos of Flinders Street Station as well.

Please note all images have been taken for the City of Melbourne and they have exclusive use of them.

Singular Images

More from the rocks at Lorne today.  I didn’t get up early again, but have some of the images from yesterday mornings session.  I thought I would show some images that aren’t HDR images.  They are single images that have been processed in Photoshop.  I also got quite a few requests to share how I did the images.

24mm, 2 secs,f14, ISO100

24mm, 2 secs,f14, ISO100

You should recognise this from yesterday, though this is just one image, the second image in the bracketed shots.

I have put the exif information under the image, so you can see what it was shot at.  I use aperture priority when I shoot most of the time.  I also had the camera on a tripod and I was using a Neutral Density Filter.  I knew I would have to use whatever I could to slow down the shutter speed.

24mm, 2 secs, f14, ISO100

24mm, 2 secs, f14, ISO100

24mm, 0.4secs, f14, ISO100

24mm, 0.4secs, f14, ISO100

I mentioned yesterday that I did some with waves, you can’t see them that well, but they are there in the distance.  The processing with HDR lost the waves, so it made sense to do it as a single image.

24mm, 1.3 secs, f25, ISO100

24mm, 1.3 secs, f25, ISO100

As the sun came up, it was getting harder to get that soft water blur, so I upped the aperture, or rather closed it down to f25, and I added my polariser on the lens as well.

24mm, 2.5 secs, f25, ISO100

24mm, 2.5 secs, f25, ISO100

This image was taken in practically the same place as the previous one.  I do love the way the light hits the rocks and the wet rock look.  The textures in the rocks are so amazing as well.

I hope this has answered the questions that people wanted to know about how I photographed these images.  I hope you will all go out and try it yourself, if you can, if you are inclined to and if you love water images.  Good Luck.


It is time to acknowledge all the people who have nominated me for awards again. I am sorry if I have missed any.  I really did leave this for far too long, though I have a new system in place and it should be much easier next time and people won’t get lost.

The following people have nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger Award


The next blogs have nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award

Peculiarities and Reticences




Dot knows! (elleturner4)

Nomination for the Genuine Blogger Award

Just Ramblin’

Also the Liebster Award

The Harrises of Chicago


Some nominations for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award




Photo Girl Travels

Pairodox Farm


A Drip of Truth






Ajaytao 2010

The One Lovely Blog Award

Musings of a FlutterbyBear

The Sunshine Award, which we have had plenty of recently.

Looking Inward with Lily

 A nomination for an award I haven’t seen before, the Shine On Award


The Illuminating Blogger Award



Most Influential Blogs of 2012

Life in Minutes

Amanda from wannabephotographer87 also invited me to have coffee, an interesting idea.

Thank you to each and everyone for the awards.  I feel incredibly honoured and loved.

Photography with Three Legs

Detail of Death 1When I first purchased my tripod, almost twenty years ago, I had no idea what I was buying, in that I had done no research, but Vanbars, a photographic shop in Carlton had some on special, they looked good, so I bought one.  I was lucky.  Really lucky.  I have never regretted that purchase and even now, I still think it is a good tripod.  It has always done what I wanted and has been a fantastic tripod.

I’m not going to lie, I do want to replace it now, but not for the reasons you would think.  To extend the legs it has things that screw in and out, and as I get older my hands can’t cope with the tightening anymore.  I have trouble with tendinitis in my From the Bottomhands, so I put the tripod up and one leg will start sinking because I didn’t tighten it up enough.  Annoying, but that is really the only reason why I want to replace it.

I have a Manfrotto tripod with a 190 base and 141RC head.  The head can be a bit annoying, but I have got used to it.  It is a great tripod for many people, but now that I am looking for a new one, there are some questions that I find myself asking, and I think you could benefit from those questions.

What sort of photography will you do that will mean you need a tripod?

I take photos of landscapes and architecture, in all different light.  I want to be able to use the lowest ISO possible, and the best way to achieve that is to use a tripod.  I don’t want camera shake, so again, best to use a tripod. I also do a lot of still life photograph and I need a sturdy tripod for that.

A friend had her beautiful camera on an unstable tripod, a gust of wind blew it over and her camera ended up in a mud puddle.  Luckily it still worked but it scared her a lot.  You don’t want your tripod doing that.  You want it sturdy enough that the wind won’t matter, or you can hang a weight on it to give it more weight.

Will I be carrying the tripod around much?

Yes, I will be.  I need a tripod that is heavy enough that the wind won’t blow it over, but also light enough that I am happy carrying for hours on end at times.

Rocks Laid DownHow tall do you want the tripod to go?

At least as tall as me.  I have a friend who is tall, and she has bought a tripod that when it is fully extended it is much shorter than she is.  She finds it hard to use because it make it so it is hard to look through the camera.  So the tripod should be at least your height.  I have heard of people saying that you should get them as high as possible, I wouldn’t do that, I don’t want to carry a step ladder with me, so chances are I will rarely put it up higher than my eye level.  The one I have now, when the legs are fully extended is pretty much that height, though it does have a section the middle that can be extended up as well.

Zooming InI should point out, I am short, 5 foot 2, so I don’t need a tall tripod.

Do I want aluminium or carbon fibre?

I have seen the carbon fibre ones, and I have to say, I know I want one of them.  They are strong and lighter than the alloy ones.  Though, I am wondering if it is the head that you place on them that makes the different.

How much do you want to pay for it?

That is going to be the thing that will determine what you get.  There is no point Flinders at Twilight 4wanting some amazing tripod, that your budget can’t handle.  I have no budget right now, but I am looking at a Manfrotto tripod, but I do have to consider what else is out there.  I have seen other brands here, but they don’t match up.

So to conclude, think very carefully about what you would like to use the tripod for, how much weight you want to carry, how tall you are and what your budget is.

PLEASE NOTE: All the photos in this post were taken using my tripod.

On another note, the River Muse article will not be up until Friday apparently, so I will put another link to it when it is up.

Field Trip – On Our Way Home

We stopped, as I’ve told you, at Anglesea so we could get a closer look at the fence.  I showed two images of it on Sunday.  I took many more, as I said, and I’m going to show you those today.

This was the back of it.  I thought I would show a lot more details of it today.

The bolts holding it together were rusting away, which is not surprising considering everything rusts near the ocean.  The fence thing is very strange.  I love the fence posts, but how long it will last with the tide constantly bashing it remains to be seen.

Here is a close shot of the bolt and you can see the rust permeating the wood.  Beautiful colour.  The wood, the bolt and the rust are really interesting together.

I love this image, it is one of my favourites.  The sun wasn’t out, but it looks really bright. I also think the pole on the end is very interesting.  What happened to it?  I can only imagine that it is a victim of where it is.  You can see the rail that goes along the back has been broken off as well.

I decided to do the image in black and white as well.

I find this one just sparkles.  I can’t decide between the two, which one I like the most.  You might have to decide for me.

Which one do you like the best?


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