There’s no doubt that as a landscape photographer you need to invest in a tripod. Sure, you might not always use it and there are scenarios where it’s better to leave it behind but having it available is going to open several doors and introduce you to a whole new world of photography.
I’ve previously talked about how to photograph without a tripod and the benefits of leaving it at home but that doesn’t mean you don’t need one. The truth is that most photographers always have their tripod nearby, even if they don’t plan to use it and here’s why:
Capture Sharper Images Without Sacrificing Image Quality
Image quality is something most of us focus on. That’s why we invest in the best lenses and cameras but what’s the point if we then lower the quality by not using the ideal settings?
A tripod can come in handy when it’s too dark to use a quick shutter speed without adjusting the ISO. Rather than bumping the ISO up to 800 or more (which has a negative impact with most cameras), you can use the tripod to keep the ISO low lengthen the exposure time instead.
The challenge with not using a tripod is that you’ll need to increase the ISO in order to maintain a shutter speed that is quick enough to capture the image hand-held. This can be easy to forget and you might end up with a blurry image. With the camera mounted on a tripod, you don’t have to worry about it; you can use a slower shutter speed and maintain a low ISO.
Long Exposure Photography
This brings us to the next benefit of having a tripod: the possibility of capturing long exposures.
Using a slower shutter speed opens the doors to a whole new world of landscape photography. While it might not suit all situations, there’s certainly an abundance of scenarios where it can transform a boring picture into a stunning picture.
By using various Neutral Density Filters, you’re able to lengthen the exposure time, even up to several minutes or more, to create the “dragged sky” and “milky water” effects.
Such techniques are nearly impossible to do well without a tripod; it’s simply not possible to hold the camera steady for several seconds (or minutes) and still capture a sharp image.
Include Yourself in the Images
Adding a person in the frame to add depth or a sense of scale can be quite beneficial to some compositions. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it can give interest to otherwise standard pictures. But what do you do when you’re traveling by yourself and there’s nobody there to step into the frame or take the picture for you?
The answer is quite simple: mount the camera on a tripod, put the camera on interval shooting (or use a remote shutter release) and run into place. That might sound silly but the results can be astonishing.
A tip when photographing yourself is to walk back and forth a few times as you take images. This will make you look more natural rather than making an obvious pose. It’s a great way of adding a sense of adventure to the photograph.
You might not always use the tripod but it’s a tool that you should have close by. Even on the longest hikes, I make sure that I pack a tripod as I know I might encounter scenarios where it will be essential to capture the best possible image.
I recommend purchasing a sturdy and high-quality tripod but you don’t need the biggest and heaviest one. It depends on your images and surroundings but make sure to find a tripod that suits your needs the best. For example, a lightweight tripod isn’t ideal for photographing seascapes and in rough conditions but it is perfect for taking with you on longer treks.
Top image by Peter Lundquist