For the last three years I have been learning the very basics of photography, as can no doubt be seen in many of the shots I have displayed here in days past. I‘ve taken countless sunset shots that could have been dramatically improved by simple compositional changes. Many “landscape” shots could have been much better if I’d known some pretty basic rules concerning the so-called golden hours at dawn and dusk.
However, my main sticking points have been a basic lack of understanding of some of the most important, yet easily overlooked, accessories and their applications.
The most important accessory I have overlooked is the tripod – until recently.
I recently purchased two things which altered my perceptions about shooting. The first, purchased about 6 months ago, was The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby. The second, bought after reading about the importance of a tripod (in the book), and after reading some recommendations on the Canon Digital Photography Forums, was a Bogen/Manfrotto 3021BPRO tripod with a 488RC2 Ball Head.
These two things have virtually revolutionized the way I have been shooting. Especially at night. Yes, I‘ve known that I needed a tripod, and yes, I’ve used a tripod before. But what I was missing before and has since been corrected, was the tantamount importance of having and using a tripod, even in situations in which I thought I didn‘t need one. In fact, there are now almost no situations in which I don’t use a tripod.
Previous tripods had always been cheapos. Tripods that invariably lacked either stability or simply weren‘t up to the task of supporting my camera’s weight. What you trade in cost you lose in either weight or stability, and I was buying tripods which were both lightweight and cheap. Light and cheap just isn‘t a working combination for tripods.
You can have it light, you can have it cheap, and you can have it stable, but you can only pick two of those. Light and cheap = unstable. Light and stable = expensive. Stable and cheap = heavy.
As an owner of the 3021, I can be assured that my pictures are the images I intended while also knowing that I have a platform that is stable enough to trust with my camera operating in a totally hands-off manner. Previous tripods have always left me thinking that I would soon see my camera crashing to the ground if I pulled my hands too far from a “safe” distance. Now I can shoot an exposure that is several minutes long and walk away to have a conversation with a passerby.
And believe me, on a military base in the middle of Iraq, there are plenty of curious passers-by who wonder why you are out taking pictures with such a “complicated” setup.