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Monday, October 24, 2011
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Q&A 1: Purchasing a Trip...

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Developing a Tripod Workflow
By Kerry Drager
I use a tripod for every landscape scene - to achieve the best in image quality and to fine-tune my compositions. But that doesn't mean I break out the tripod immediately upon seeing a subject I like. After making the effort to expand the tripod legs and lock the camera in place, it's verrrrry tempting to stay put, without fully exploring the subject. That's not the artistic approach!
Instead, the tripod set-up should come near the end of the creative process, not the beginning! Let me explain my tripod "workflow":
When I come across a promising landscape scene, I set the tripod aside (assuming there's a safe place). Then, with camera in hand, I'll wander around in search of the best viewpoint, the right lens focal length, etc. Only when I've lined up the approximate shot do I grab the tripod, attach the camera, and frame the composition just the way I envisioned it.

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Welcome to the 548th issue of SnapShot!

Yes, it's true: BetterPhoto is having a monster pre-Halloween sale!! Now through Friday (Oct. 28th), save $50 off ANY BetterPhoto online course. The sale applies to both 8-week classes and 4-week classes. NOTE: Be sure to enter Save50 into the "Gift Card Code" field on the Checkout page. ... In this issue of SnapShot, don't miss the Featured Blog ("How to Photograph Great Silhouettes"), plus the ad about Jim Miotke's and my new book (The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography). ... That's it for now. Have fun with your photography!    Kerry Drager   Newsletter Editor

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Updates From BetterPhoto

Creating mood and drama by photographing a silhouette isn't as challenging as you might think! That's the word from BetterPhoto instructor Deborah Sandidge, who shares her vision and photography in a new blog. Here are some recent courses added to the 4-week online school schedule: These excellent courses have just returned to the 4-week school listings:Reminder: Get $50 off any course - this week only! Just input Save50 into the "Gift Card" field on the Checkout page.

Photo Q&A

1: Purchasing a Tripod
I am in the market for a tripod. Can anyone recommend a decent and affordable one? Is there a go-to online store where photographers love to shop? I've gone to the local photography store and the rep there showed me what was available. It was nice (I believe titanium) that could be purchased with a second piece that rotates the camera in all angles. Price tag for both is $400. I have no idea if this is priced well or not. I'm just starting out. I do not want the cheapest but want something mid-grade quality for long term, if this is possible. Thanks in advance.
- shannon whit
Look at Adorama, Calumet, and B&H websites for prices and different brands. Manfrotto, Gitzo, and Slik are good and popular brands.
But also you need to determine what you'll be using it for. If all you plan on doing is using it so you can include yourself in family photos, than you may not even need one that's made of metal.
Titanium is lightweight, but more expensive than aluminum, and you can find a very good, sturdy made from aluminum. So somebody who wouldn't be carrying a tripod around on hikes wouldn't really need one made from titanium.
- Gregory LaGrange
Hi Shannon,
You really need to go to a camera store and look at the tripods and see how you like them. Some have twist tightened legs, others are flip lock and then ballheads are also something you need to handle and see what fits you.
I have a cheaper but sturdy Manfrotto 3021 Tripod w/322RC2 Pistol grip head that I use for indoor portrait shoots and a Manfrotto 676B monopod w/Manfrotto 3229 head (great for Zoo/Aquarium and tight places) and last but not least is the one I carry everywhere - the Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 Carbon Fiber Tripod and Manfrotto 468MGRC2 Magnesium Hydrostatic Ballhead.
I do a lot of hiking and carbon fiber is light and sturdy, and I have 4-section legs that collapse down that fit well on my backpacks.
Be sure to check out Really Right Stuff ballheads and Gitzo tripods as well.
As Greg said, B&H and Adorama are priced right, have great return policies and are trusted by pro photographers. I have bought a tripod from Amazon as well when I knew the model I wanted.
Hope this helps.
- Carlton Ward
Gregory and Carlton, thank you so much for your responses. I truly appreciate it. Manfrotto is the brand the gentleman at Pitman Photo showed me. He showed me carbon fiber and aluminum. I'm pleased to know that you mentioned that same brand and material. I've heard of B&H and will look at them as well as the others. One of my lens is a Canon 4.5-5.6 100-400L IS USM. I need something for my 15-year-old's basketball games as well as trips to the zoo and fun shots on Miami Beach as this is a heavy lens. Thanks again for your input!!
- shannon whit
Hi Shannon,
The 100-400mm is one of my oldest and favorite L lenses. Turn IS "OFF" when shooting from a tripod and keep your shutter speed up above 1/400 if possible if you are shooting at 400mm.
My 100-400 is very sharp though a bit of a light hog so I often have to set my ISO a bit higher. This lens also works well with a monopod and I can keep IS "ON" with the monopod.
If I had the $$ right now, I would go for a Gitzo carbon-fiber tripod and Really Right Stuff ballhead but that will have to wait til after I get a 180mm macro lens :)
Here is a pic with my 100-400 (handheld) at a local Zoo.
- Carlton WardSee Sample Photo - Parrot

A tripod would be too clumsy to work well trying to shoot basketball from the stands unless you plan on forgoing getting tight shots of individuals and frame the whole half court as the picture.
You can get tripods very basic or with stuff like pistol grip that Carlton mentioned, reversible center post. Two things that I would recommend that should get is a tripod that is at least as tall as you are fully extended, and at least a quick release plate. If any that do have a quick release plate are more expensive than you want to go, than at least get one that's as tall as you are.
There are other things like bubble levels, multi-position legs that allow the legs to be splayed almost horizontally, rubberized feet. Ball heads are good for doing minor adjustments when shooting macro, close-ups, but it's something you can do without. It takes away having those two handles for horizontal and vertical tilt being in the way, which they sometimes can be. But a good ball head can be expensive, and putting the price of that on top of the price of a good tripod might be more than you want.
But look around online at different ones and come back here with any other questions.
- Gregory LaGrange
A monopod would serve you better in basketball and sometimes that is too restrictive. Don't skimp on a tripod or it will be a dusty accessory. Get a decent one and you will be more likely to use it.
- Randy  A. Myers
I agree with Randy that for shooting basketball - a monopod would be better. Don't get the one I mentioned earlier as it is a little to lightweight for using with the 100-400 lens but even the sturdier ones are priced about the same. You will definitely want to mount the lens to the monopod and this is where Greg's mention of quick release plates come in handy. The three tripods/monopod I mentioned before all use the same plates.
This is another reason for making a selection for the long haul. For me to switch over to the Really Right Stuff ballhead means I will have to buy additional plates as I keep plates mounted on my 70-200mm f/2.8 & 100-400mm lenses and then one on the bottom of my 5D MkII and the 40D. Four plates isn't really necessary but I am often shooting in fast-paced environments and I like being able to release the lens/camera from the ballhead and grabbing the next one from the bag without having to screw off/on the plate.
Love in Light.
- Carlton Ward
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