Tripod selection for Landscape Photography
With so many options, selecting a tripod can feel like a tedious task.
There's no doubt that a good, sturdy tripod is essential for landscape photography. Unlike many other genres, landscape photographers use a tripod for just about every image they take, and personally I only ever shoot without a tripod if I have made the mistake of leaving it home!
Choosing the right tripod for YOU is important. I use the Sirui W-2204 tripod with a K-20II Ball head. This is the perfect tripod for me because it is waterproof (I often set up in the water when photographing waterfalls etc), the easily removable centre column allows me to have my camera set in a sturdy position low to the ground, and the combination of fully adjustable leg angles & ball head make setting up on uneven/usually difficult areas quick and easy. It is large and sturdy enough to support my full frame DSLR and lens, but light enough to take hiking. This is the tripod for me, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is the tripod for you!
Many new photographers overlook the importance of a good tripod, sometimes it is an afterthought. After spending money on the camera and lenses, some people will go for the cheap tripod thinking it will do the job but they will soon regret that!
I did the same when starting out, so I'm writing this to help you learn from my mistakes!
Why is a tripod so important?
By having your camera on a sturdy tripod, you are able capture tack sharp images using a much slower shutter speed than possible handheld. A tripod is essential for photography in low light situations, long exposure photography (to capture water/cloud movement), and when photographing the night sky. Using a tripod will allow you to review and really fine-tune your compositions when out on location whilst simultaneously limiting, if not completely removing camera shake. This results in a much clearer photograph.
Features to look for in a tripod:
- Adjustable leg angles. A very helpful feature for setting up on uneven ground and getting a low angle whilst keeping the camera in as safe a position as possible.
- A Ball Head will allow you to level the camera quickly and easily, even if the tripod it's self is not completely level. This will make your job as a landscape photographer much easier. The combination of a ball head and adjustable leg angle will have you setting a tripod up in places you didn't think possible.
- Carbon fibre options to keep the weight down and increase portability. It does make a difference when travelling or hiking.
- Waterproof options (if applicable to you). I highly recommend considering a waterproof tripod if you enjoy photographing waterfalls/creeks and seascapes. You can put any tripod in the water of course, but over time the tripods that aren't designed to be submerged will fail (tried and tested by myself).
Other considerations: Size (and weight) of the tripod. Choose something that suits you and your existing camera equipment. If you use a mirrorless set up or other small, light weight cameras then of course you don't need to purchase the largest tripod on the market to keep your gear sturdy. You may get away with a travel tripod much easier than someone like myself using a full frame DSLR set up.
Cheap tripods are generally flimsy, unstable, and restrictive. They don't have much place in landscape photography.
A tripod was an afterthought when I first started out. I overlooked the importance and by purchasing a cheap tripod in the beginning, I ended up spending more in the long term. My first tripod only lasted about 8 months before becoming pretty well unusable. It was also very restrictive. My photography and creativity definitely improved after upgrading tripods.
I hope this will help you to make a more informed choice when choosing your next tripod, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions or would like help choosing the right one for you.