a great companion: tripod

Although, nearly all cameras nowadays are equipped with  shake reducing mechanisms called Image Stabilizer, Vibration Reduction or something similar, you’ll come to a point where you still have to use a tripod.

Maybe, you want to use extended exposure times for creative aspects or for not to adjust the ISO to get images without (much) noise. For night-time photography or during the blue hour a tripod is essential. Other use-cases are still life and macro photography. Especially in macro photography you need a tripod because of the extremely small field of depth when having only a short distance between your lens and your subject.

You know, as a long time follower, I don’t do much macro or still life photography, but much landscape, which includes long-time exposures and night photography. Thus, I’m focusing on ‘my’ kind of photography a little bit more here in the post.

My first tripod was a Cullman. I don’t know the exactly name anymore. It’s middle pillar was moved up and down by a cograil and gear-wheel controlled by an outside crank.

My second one was a Vanguard Alta+ 203 AP (2nd from the right in the image above)

My third one was a cheap Walimex, a giveaway from a photo magazine as a bait for testing the magazine. (the one on the right) So, I didn’t ever used it for photography purposes.

Now, I own a tripod called Brian, made by the British brand 3LT (3 legged thing), for nearly four years. (2nd from the left)

The Cullman was lightweight, kind of mid-sized and not very flexible to use. The legs were locked by screw closures, as well as the middle pillar. The middle pillar had a crank level to move the pillar up and down with a gear-wheel. Although, the legs were thin aluminium, many parts were made of plastic. And, like all plastics, it became older and sensitive for breaking. Just like mine.

As I needed an instant replacement, I bought the Vanguard. It seemed to me a fitting one. It came with a tray, was bigger then my Cullman, a 3-way head, a quick-mount plate (fits nowhere else, not even for other Vanguards) and had switches to lock the legs (great, but also a weak point when the plastic becomes older) . But, after a short while I missed some things.

Most importantly, it wasn’t big enough in my opinion (I’m quite tall). Next, I had problems coming close to the ground, turning the middle-pillar upside-down is in my opinion quite unpractical. And, when I noticed the problem with the head: the head is mounted directly on the middle pillar, without an option to change it. Thus, I had to look for a new tripod instead of repairing it. 😦

On our Iceland trip I was able to check out several tripods from the other guys. Some were way to small or to heavy. Others were too expensive and others had IMHO a to complicated head (revolver head). When I came back, I checked many brands (company sites), Amazon offers and googled a lot. Fortunately, in September of that year it was Photokina time and I checked many booths. One of the booths was run by 3LT, a quite new British company. I was fascinated by their solution: a small, lightweight carbon fibre tripod with an interchangeable ball-head. The head comes with a standardised ARCA-Swiss® compatible plate. Despite it has legs with 4 elements, it’s quite sturdy. Although, 4 elements are naturally weaker than 3 elements. It’s really a great companion. Although, the Vanguard was quite ok and I was satisfied most of the time. But, it wasn’t able to carry my camera anymore, without tilting its head unintentionally. The head screw is worn-out after 5 1/2 years. So, I was looking for a replacement. The other argument against it, it’s not high enough for me and you can’t change the head.

I own the 3LT Brian for 3,5 years. Until now, I used it on sandy beaches, in surf areas of sandy beaches, during cold winter nights of northern Norway and with heavy gear (~6 kg) while photographing cranes and deers.

Considering the wight of your gear is important for the ball-head and the burden for the legs, especially for the connections between the single elements. The more elements the legs have, the thinner they are and thus the weaker they are. You can fight that problem when choosing thicker (and longer) legs with fewer elements.

The other problem is the material. Carbon is much lighter than aluminium, but it’s more fragile in the cold. So, check the technical data and compare it with the proposed conditions of usage.

When it comes to talk about the height, often the length of middle pillar is calculated into the height by the manufacturer. But, you shouldn’t do this. As the middle pillar is a single pillar, it easily transports even slightest movements and the result is a blurry image. The camera on top of the tripod offers its space to be attacked by the wind, so that even slight wind or even the moving mirror is able to be the source for such movements. Instead, choose the hight of your tripod without counting the length of the middle pillar. When possible, take 3 elements instead of 4 or even more. Choose the legs with the thicker diameter in advance to the thinner ones.

This is my check list for you to consider:

  • material (carbon, aluminium, wood)
  • padding (also for carrying the tripod during winter)
  • head (2- or 3-way head or a ball-head)
  • quick-mount plate
  • weight
  • packed size (travel!)
  • lowermost height
  • size without using the middle pillar
  • option to use the middle pillar in reverse position to come lower to the ground
  • stability under load (the weight of your camera and the lens plus a security addition)
  • do they deliver it with a tray?
  • time for setting the tripod up or pot it away
  • screw closures or switch locks for the legs
  • spikes and / or rubber feet

My recent trip to Scotland gave me the opportunity, to test a Rollei tripod. (the left one in the image above). It’s as heavy as my 3LT Brian. It reaches the same height, but its legs have only 3 instead of 4 elements. And, while the legs of my Brian are folded over the head, the Rollei is folded in the traditional way. So, the packed size is much bigger!!

In the gallery below, you can see the Rollei, the 3LT, the Vanguard and a cheap Walimex. Don’t consider buying such a cheap one. I even won’t use it for a smart-phone or a compact camera. (I sometime use it for a flash.)

As every tripod has its pros and cons, you have to balance your own requirements and your budget.

I’d vote for:

  • low weight and size because of traveling
  • a ball-head for flexibility and ease of use
  • a removable camera plate, preferably a ARCA-Swiss® compatible one
  • a total hight that brings the viewfinder on your eye-level for convenience and health of your back and neck
  • replaceable middle-pillar for working near the ground with ease
  • a bag for carrying the tripod and its accessory
  • rubber feet are a necessity
  • spikes are not a necessity in my opinion, but it’s fine having them
  • no cograil for the middle pillar, it’s too sensitive
  • screw system for legs and pillar are less comfortable than clips, but they won’t get worn-out that easy

When you’re about to buy a tripod, I’d recommend making a list first. Write down your requirements in relation to your field of photography. Check the total wight of the heaviest gear you would use on the tripod and add 50% for security reasons. Next, go to a fair or a large store and try out the available gear. Ask for the maximum weight, the tripod can carry. Wiggle on a leg while the camera is mounted on the tripod. How does it feel? Does it feel sturdy enough? Make some notes for each tripod you checked. Try to meet some other photographers and talk with them. But, do your own decision. Don’t relay on others decisions. They might have different requirements. 🙂

Btw. there’s one more option: the monopod –  On this, I’ll do another post soon 🙂

Take care!

 

 

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Throwback Thursday: editing cranes with Luminar 2018 Jupiter!

Recently, I got a review version of the upcoming version “Luminar 2018″ V. 1.2.0 Jupiter. for a short time.

Upgrade was as easy as usual: simply drawing the app in my Applications folder. I had the feeling, the software start doesn’t need as long as before. The interface seemed familiar without any noticeable changes. All presets seemed to be still available. Also, the workflow is the same.

So, I took some of my images for my crane trip last fall and developed them from raw again.

(click on the image to enlarge it)
APS-C, 800mm (~1200mm), f8, ISO 400, 1/6400s

(click on the image to enlarge)
35mm, 155mm, ISO 800, f7.1, 1/500s

(click on the image to enlarge)
APS-C, 800mm (~1200mm), ISO 3200, f5.6, 1/125s

I was quite impressed by the results when comparing the outcome with the one from last fall using Luminar V. 1.0.0: more details, better results in the mid-tones and much better noise-reduction. The noise reduction is so good now, than I’m considering deleting the old app “Noiseless CK”.

For me, a good noise reduction is crucial. When doing wildlife photography, I have to use high ISO settings because I want very short shutter speeds for getting sharp images. You know the apertures triangle: ISO, shutter speed and aperture. As I usually have to use long focal lenses, which are not so fast as shorter focal lenses because of physical limitations. Additionally, the longer a lens, the smaller the field of depth is. This brings in another level of light shortage.

Some of the other new features are:

  • higher speed during import and processing
  • automatic distortion correction
  • improved Demosaicing and green balance
  • support of DCP profiles (Mac)
  • higher speed when importing raw images (Mac)
  • the functionality of the Windows version is adapted to the Mac version by adding support for batch processing, free transformation, rotation and mirroring

Luminar 2018 Jupiter comes as a free upgrade for all current users of Luminar 2018. Users having a previous version of Luminar are eligible for upgrading on a reduced rate. For those of you, not having Luminar already, might consider giving it a try. There’s a free evaluation version available for download for MacOS and for Windows.

When using this code “SOLANER” you can save some money and get your perks anyway 😃.

Take care!

Monochrome Madness 4-43

 

 

This is my contribution to Monochrome Madness organized by Leanne Cole. Look at here site on Wednesday (Australian time), to see many more monochrome images created by many other talented photographers from all over the world.

I’d also encourage you to participate. The conditions are  published in each of her Monochrome Madness posts.

Take care!

Monochrome Madness 4-37

This week, I have more than one image for you. I’ve assembled a “Best of 2017 in monochrome” for you. Just like I’ve proposed last Thursday, when I showed my “Best of 2017” to you.

The images aren’t arranged in any particular order. Some of them were already published here in one of my weekly posts focussing on monochrome images. Others were unpublished until now.

Surprisingly, most of these images were taken in Zingst (8 out of the 10).

You know, I was twice in Zingst last year. In May I was attending the Umweltfotofestival and in October I was part of an bird excursion. The two images in the second row were my contribution to the festival exhibition and the right one, was acknowledged as one of the “Best of Festival” in the category “landscape”

 

This is my contribution to Monochrome Madness organized by Leanne Cole. Look at here site on Thursday (Australian time), to see many more monochrome images created by many other talented photographers from all over the world.

I’d also encourage you to participate. The conditions are  published in each of her Monochrome Madness posts.

Take care!

Throwback Thursday: 2017

During the last years I have put together a collection of the best 10 photos of the respective year at the turn of the year. Now, I’m continuing that tradition. 🙂

My yearbook consists of about 90 color images and 19 monochrome images. 13 of these are printed as a big wall calendar. So, I could simply pick 10 out of that 13 🙂 But, I didn’t. Instead, I looked through all of the developed images from 2017 again and picked my best ones, because I don’t have to follow a certain theme or common sense.

My top monochrome images will follow on Monday 🙂

Take care!

Review: Aurora HDR 2018

For a few days the latest version of Aurora HDR from MacPhun is available. This new version is not only for Mac, it’s also for Windows. I got a review version for testing.

Yesterday, while out with my photographers roundtable, I visited a former coal mining building, now a museum. That mining buildings are notable because of its wonderful architecture made from brick-stones. The mine was open from 1899 – 1955.

Most of the time I was inside the machinery hall, a very modern building for that time, but with an unusual architecture style for a mine. Many parts inside reminded me to the movie “Metropolis” by Fritz Lang from 1927.

Being inside a quite dark building on a dark and rainy day gave me the opportunity to take some images by using bracketing. That is a technique where you’re taking one image just the way the light meter says, but two (or more) additional images with exposure correction (+ and – i.e. 1 or 2 EV) to develop them later with HDR or DRI software like Aurora HDR. Often HDR or DRI images have over-saturated bonbon colours, which I don’t like. So, you don’t see many of them here in my blog.

While the user interface of Aurora HDR did not change much and the preset sections are also still available, I won’t waste too much time on these parts. Have a look at my last review.

I want to focus on the new results and an unexpected feature I discovered: distortion control. The export results are much better in quality, than in the original version. I like the resulting colours more and the results don’t have so much noise in it. The auto-alignment feature works quit good. But ist’s still better to have exact aligned images by taking them with a tripod instead of free-hand. The distortion control feature is nice. I’m using DxO Viewpoint for distortion control. The results are great. Compared to Viewpoint, Aurora is too complicated. Here they have some work to do.

When you own some other tools from MacPhun, you can use them as plugins inside Aurora HDR and vice versa. They are also available as plugins inside Photoshop.

I’m back …

2 beach chairs in the setting sun on the green beach of Friedrichskoog in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

… from the North Sea.

Sitting sun-kissed, mosquito-bitten, cooled down from rain while cycling and quite relaxed. That’s how I’m back to my desk at home. Most of the laundry is already done, fridge is full again and the pile of mail is worked through. During the last two weeks I was on vacation. Our vacation home was on the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein, the most northern state of Germany bordering south to Denmark. Schleswig-Holstein has two coasts: the North Sea to the west and the Baltic Sea to the east.

Fortunately, I scheduled my blog posts in advance as usual. It was our first vacation home without WiFi for very long time. I forgot to double-check the availability of WiFi in the vacation home while booking. To make it even worse, we were in a region with extremely bad coverage with mobile internet. Only few spots were usable to check emails or social media. The allowed data volume is consumed very quick under these circumstances. Even the local restaurants didn’t offer WiFi to their guests.

We were in the area called Friedrichskoog (a Koog named after King Frederick of Denmark, when it was created more the 150 years ago), a part of the grater area Dithmarschen. Dithmarschen is well known as being a source of vegetables and geese. We saw many, many fields growing different kinds of cabbage, carrots, chard, leek, onions, strawberries, potatoes, wheat and rye. While the rangers in the bordering state Lower-Saxon rise cows for producing milk, you can find here huge herds of sheep instead of cows (despite there are also cows here). Especially along the coast sheep are literally on every dike. I already wrote about the dike sheep and how near you can come to them in a past post. Although, that sheep were on the dikes in East-Frisia, which is part of Lower-Saxon. But, here’s the same – only the herds are bigger and there are more dikes. Btw. Dithmarschen is part of North-Frisia 🙂 wich is part of the state Schleswig-Holstein.

You might ask, why does Schleswig-Holstein have more dikes than Lower-Saxon? That’s because the locals tried to wrest additional land from the sea. You know, the North Sea consists of mudflats. During low tide the sea ground falls (nearly) dry, while high tide or flood the area is below the water again. This moving water brings silt and lays it down, where the streams are weak. So, people have started to put up rows of wooden piles in the mudflats called Lahnung (sing. / pl. Lahnungen). They are meant to give the mud some extra room get laid down. Over time, new areas of land were gained from the sea and parted by a new dike from the sea. This is called a Koog. The technique is quite similar to the Polder in the Netherlands. Because of the growing of the Koogs, there are some dikes one after another, just as the land grew. Nowadays, the still set up Lahnungen to gain new land (and save the dikes!!), but they don’t build new dikes anymore to part them from the sea. The new gained areas are left open to the sea as Salzwiesen (pl. salt meadows). Very special plants grow here. It’s also a breeding area for many sea-birds. And it’s a huge resting area during the biannual bird-migration in spring and fall. Thus, the salt-meadows are parts of the national park „Wattenmeer“ and thus under protection.

As usual, we picked our vacation home near the beach to be able to have an evening walk after diner alone the sea. It’s great to watch the sinking sun, the expanse of the sea (or the mudflat during low tide 🙂 ). Here we have that certain view, too. But the beach is different compared to other beaches. We have had to cross (climb up some stairs) the dike and walk down to the sea limit without having to cross sand or pebbles. We even does not need to climb over rocks. Here, the beach is green. It’s covered with grass. A strange experience. It looks like a lake or so, but not like being at the sea. It doesn’t make any difference. It’s the salty odour, the sound of the birds, the rolling waves and so on.

This land is quite flat. The highest points beside buildings are usually the dikes. This, and laying between two seas make the state the perfect land for producing electric power from wind. So, alone in the area Friedrichskoog, a small part of Dithmarschen, you can find over 90 wind farms with a total of  205 mega-watts, as I read in a local publication dedicated for the tourists.

It’s also a region ideal for biking. Fortunately, there were bikes in our vacation home included, so we didn’t have had to rent some. So, we rode around to see more of the environment. We also made a few trips to other towns nearby. That’s more to tell later :). I also was on the hunt for birds with my camera.

Stay tuned and see, what’s coming next 🙂

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