Finding the best Tripod for Landscape Photography
For those who follow our articles regularly, you might have heard this before: The most important tool besides your creativity and camera is a solid tripod. By using a tripod you will be introduced to a bunch of new possibilities and your photography will be taken to the next level. So, how do you choose the right tripod for landscape photography? With all the options available, what is the right tripod for you? That’s what we are going to find out in this article.
Why use a tripod?
Why exactly is a tripod so important for landscape photographers? You’ve heard many times how valuable it is but many forget to mention why a solid tripod is considered one of the most essential tools.
By using a tripod you will be able to perform a variety of techniques that will improve your landscape photography. The main reason that landscape photographers rely on a solid tripod is the fact that you’re able to use a longer shutter speed and still capture razor sharp images.
While a tripod can be bulky and heavy to carry around it will be worth the extra effort in most scenarios. There are, of course, many varieties available on the market and some are lighter than others. However, lighter doesn’t necessarily mean better.
Heavy tripods are especially useful in windy locations, as they will most likely not be as impacted by the winds as a lightweight tripod. On the other hand, a heavy tripod might be useless to bring on long hikes and it might even be difficult to fit in a suitcase or carry-on when traveling. That means that there is not one tripod that is perfect for any given situation, rather you will need to particularly decide what is most important for you (or get more than one!).
Limitations with a tripod
Before we start clarifying your needs, let’s quickly look at the limitations you face by using a tripod. It can’t only be positives, right?
The truth is that as a landscape photographer I haven’t actually found more than one limitation with using a tripod (besides from the extra weight added in my backpack!) and I won’t classify it as a major limitation either.
Using a tripod for landscape photography might limit your creative vision at times. It’s easy to fall into a habit of keeping the tripod at the same level all the time and forgetting to explore new perspectives. Try walking around with the camera handheld and explore different angles and perspectives rather than always having it mounted on the tripod. You can then mount the camera onto the tripod when you’ve found the perspective you wish to use.
What to consider when purchasing a tripod for landscape photography
There are many elements that should be considered when choosing a tripod for landscape photography. Going straight to the local electronic shop and buying a $20 tripod would definitely be the easiest but I strongly advise you not to do so as I can guarantee that you will regret it shortly. Also, in the long run, it will be more expensive to use this type of low-quality gear as you will need to replace it more often.
As mentioned earlier, you will need to decide what is most important for you; Price? Flexibility? Weight? Quality? By answering some of these questions, or at least having a general idea about them, it will be easier to find the right tripod for you.
Weight of the tripod
Weight is an incredibly sensitive matter for outdoor photographers and, especially, those who put in long hikes to reach their destinations. Backpacks are already heavy when carrying a camera, lenses and accessories. Adding food, camping gear and other necessities for hiking, the backpack can at times get uncomfortably heavy and the last thing you want is to have another couple of kilos attached to it. That’s why carefully selecting the equipment is important. An additional couple of kilos might not be an option and finding something lightweight will be a priority.
Lightweight doesn’t mean low quality, though. The tripod should still be sturdy enough to be stable in windy conditions even though it is lighter. Such tripods are often a bit more pricey and are marketed towards professional photographers, or those willing to spend a lot of money on the best gear.
Carbon tripods are lighter than regular aluminum tripods but they are equally solid, if not more. The price, however, is less inviting. If you’re just getting started with photography, a high-end carbon tripod might not be necessary yet.
If you’re not that much of a hiker but you still go to destinations with harsh conditions, weight is still important but this time on the other side of the scale. Let’s say you’re photographing a beach on the Lofoten Islands in Norway. Weather in such places can be extremely challenging and winds are often uncomfortably strong. Using a cheap and low-quality tripod in such a scenario is more or less useless as the tripod will be vibrating in the wind, leading to unsharp images.
In that case, you need a heavy and solid tripod that won’t blow away in the strong winds.
Short vs. Tall
The length of the tripod is perhaps less discussed but it still is an important topic for choosing the right tripod for landscape photography.
A tall tripod is not essential in most situations BUT every now and then you will come across a scenario where it will be of great benefit. In certain cases, you either need to get your camera extra high, or you need to unlock the legs and place them far apart to get the perspective you aim for.
On the other hand, a tripod that can get close to the ground is just as valued among landscape photographers. Achieving ultra-low perspectives has become popular and the results can be great. To do this, however, you must have a tripod that is able to be laid almost flat to the ground.
Let’s make one thing clear: When talking about a short tripod I don’t mean as short as a Gorrilapod but short as in standard length tripods.
So ask yourself this: What’s most important for me? To get a low perspective or to have a tall tripod? For some these are equally important and luckily there are good tripods out there that allow you to get low and also stand tall.
Best Tripods for Landscape Photography
Choosing the right tripod for landscape photography isn’t always an easy task but making the correct decision is important. Having a quality tripod is what can be the difference between getting the shot and missing the shot. Here’s a list of tripods that will be optimal in various settings.
Best tripods for hiking & travel
A lightweight tripod is essential for hikers & travelers. Weight is often an issue either it’s in the backpack for hiking or when you’re traveling. Therefore both weight and size play an important role when choosing the right tripod. Even though you want to have a lightweight tripod, that is also short when folded, it still needs to be able to carry your camera gear. This is less of a problem for those using a compact camera or certain mirrorless systems but for those with a larger DSLR you want to be sure that the tripod can support your camera.
Best tripods for rough conditions
When photographing in rough conditions on locations such as the Lofoten Islands or Patagonia, you want a tripod that is solid and sturdy enough to withstand the heavy winds. The price for this type of tripods is less welcoming than the travel tripods. Compared to a travel tripod you might not need a tripod as solid as these for the majority of your images but they will be the difference between getting the shot and not when you’re in tough conditions.
Good luck with finding your next tripod and if you have any questions please let me know in the comments!