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BACK TO BASICS: Tripods, Monopods and Cable Releases

Of all the equipment available to photographers, in my opinion, the tripod is one of the most important. After I purchased my first camera and lens, it was the next item on my list.

The primary function of a tripod is to provide stability for the camera. And because of the time it takes to set up, you are forced to slow down. You will find yourself taking more time with composition to eliminate unwanted or distracting elements from the scene. And to experiment with exposure, depth of field and ultimately achieving a sharper image.

Though not as sturdy as a tripod, a monopod will provide an increase in stability versus hand-held, in those situations where it is not practical to set up a tripod. I find myself pulling out my monopod at a crowded location, such as at a sporting event, car show or flower show.

Tripods and monopods come in all styles and materials. Aluminum, carbon fiber and wood are the most common. Prices range from $25.00 to as much as you would like to spend. Cost is dependent on the type of material, weight and features. I’ve been using my one Bogen 3021 tripod for twenty-plus years, so I can say with confidence, it was a worthwhile investment.

Another accessory I find handy is a cable release. I use it whenever my camera is mounted to a tripod, due to the slower shutter speeds I am shooting and to avoid camera movement caused by pressing the shutter release with my finger. I use an electronic cable release, but you can use the self-timer built into the camera as a substitute, although it is less convenient.

One of my rules of photography is to never go on a shoot without a tripod, or at least a monopod. But I don’t always follow my own rules. There is nothing more frustrating to be in the field and realize you forgot your pod. Makes me wish I had stuck a big red sign on my dashboard that reads “Did you bring your tripod today?”

On those occasions when I find myself pod-less, I have turned myself into a human-pod. I squat down, tuck my elbows in, hold my breath and fire away. Only problem is, sometimes I lose the feeling in my legs and standing up is a real challenge. So, my recommendation to you is: always remember your pod. Or go make yourself a really big red sign to put on your dashboard. Right now. I’ll do it if you’ll do it…

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