Monopods can Make Music

Waterfalls

So often, photos that inspire you are ones taken from new angles, or from angles that you can’t normally get to, or think to get to.  Monopods are great tools in this regard…you can extend a monopod up over your head for more of an aerial perspective, or even turn it upside down to get an angle that might be otherwise pretty awkward or uncomfortable to get into just to get a unique shot.  I love my monopod!

While the good money will always add features and functions that don’t exist on lower end models, I do think that even the most basic of monopods can be useful – to the degree that even going with a Wal-mart brand or generic named vendor can be a sound investment.  If you are talking about just getting to a place you can’t get to on your own (or even with a tripod), the difference between aluminum and carbon fiber on a monopod doesn’t have as much impact here in my opinion.

Now if you are going for the stability factor, yes, a sturdier monopod would likely yield better results, but how much better do you expect from a single-legged support mechanism?  Seriously – even with your own two feet, you can get pretty steady with your shots if you use a good holding technique, tucking your arms in, leaning on a wall or tree, and going between breaths (or shooting between heartbeats as my former Drill Sergeant said in the Army.)  How is one foot going to get you more stability than two feet?  On it’s own, not much, so I don’t sweat much over the vendor here…

Check out these aerial and low angle shots I got with just a Wal-mart tripod and some creative thinking:

Tail Lights

This shot was taken with my monopod and the camera braced against a streetlight.  EXIF Data:  ISO 800 22mm f/22 4 second exposure

Waterfalls

I shot this waterfall with the camera upsidedown and me holding the foot of my monopod while the camera was as close as I felt comfortable putting it close to the base of the waterfall.  EXIF Data:  ISO 100 21mm f/11 2.5 second exposure

Boats at Sunset

This serene harbor was shot with the monopod, and the camera braced up against a tack shop.  EXIF data:  ISO 100 18mm f/11 5 second exposure

Downtown Denver

The Denver Art Museum, shot near midnight.  The camera again, was upside down (I rotated it in post), and I held the foot of the monopod to get this low view.  EXIF Data:  ISO 100 33mm f/8 8 second exposure (it’s a tad blurry when you zoom in…)

Denver Photo Walk

This was done when I was shooting with my good friend Tim Tonge as we scouted routes for a photo walk.  I liked this one so much it made it’s way into my eBook as a photo tip.  Again, camera against the ground, upside down, me holding the foot.  EXIF Data:  ISO 800 10mm f/8 1/125th Exposure (note the exposure time here – I could have hand held this, but not at as low an angle as this was..the monopod made the shot!)

The Reward

Here, the monopod was collapsed all the way down to one extension so the camera was just above my beer.  The monopod itself was braced against the table, and I nudged the beer and coaster in until I got this composition.  EXIF Data:  ISO 800 20mm f/2.8 1/30th of a second exposure time

*****

Have you tried a monopod?  The results may surprise you!

Eight Ways to Awesome Photos

Blurry Shot

One of the worst moments in photography is when you get things back on the computer from a shoot to see that dreaded blur instead of an awesome photo (or awesome photos)!  If only you had been able to stabilize the camera more.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been confidant enough in my own abilities to think “I can hand hold that shot”.

Blurry Shot

The truth of the matter is, most of us can’t!  So, avoid the blur whenever possible When trying to capture images where light is low, a sense of movement is desired, or any other scenario where shutter speeds drop perilously low, getting that camera stable is critical!  Here are eight ways to make that happen:

1.  Use a Tripod – Shots taken with tripods are inherently more stable than their handheld counterparts.  Nothing stabilizes things like an inanimate object!

2.  Use a Monopod – With the tripod police out in force more and more, they are being allowed less and less in a number of areas.  If a tripod isn’t permitted, a monopod may be an alternative worth considering.

3.  Use Your Surroundings – Okay, so the tripod wasn’t allowed, the monopod you forgot, but there’s still a chance to catch that shot.  The answer lies in using your surroundings.  Brace the camera against a tree, a fencepost, a car, or whatever is available.  They key is to make your camera stationary.

4.  Bump the ISO – As much as I try to avoid increasing ISO, the newer cameras available do a great job of smoothing, and even then, software post production options are also pretty advanced at cleanup afterward.  So, if you have to, go ahead and bump the ISO settings to shoot fast and still retain exposure accuracy.

Fireworks

5. Hold that Camera – I know some shooters who claim to be able to hand hold as slow as 1/30th of a second, and one of their “secrets” is a secure grip on the camera.  Make sure you’re holding your camera right and not flapping your arms out beside you, all fingers around the edges (like a camera phone), and you can get better shots.

6.  Shoot between Breaths – Yup, you can shoot between breaths.  It’s key to remember not to hold your breath, but rather inhale slowly, exhale slowly, and that momentary gap between breaths is a moment when your body rhythms are not moving at all, heartbeat included!

7.  Slide that Finger – No, not that one!  Your shutter finger is what I am talking about.  So many people tend to jab the shutter, but that pushes the camera and can introduce movement.  Make it a slow slide with increasing pressure, almost as if the shutter release is an afterthought.

8.  Watch Your Feet – Standing with your feet together like a ballerina is never a good idea when shooting.  Your center of gravity rises, and you are unstable.  When you are unstable, so is your camera.  The same holds in the opposite extreme, so keep your feet about shoulder width apart when shooting.

Pacific Sunset

If you like these tips, keep in mind, there’s 90 more tips just like these in my eBook Combo Kit where you get both 49 Photo Tips, Volumes I and II:

There are, of course, other tools and methods to help make your photos better, but these 8 ways to add stability are just a primer to get you on the right track to making the most of your time behind the lens!  Know of any other ways to help stabilize a shot?  Anything I missed or that particularly speaks to you and your own techniques?  Sound off in the comments or via email!

Five Elements of Control: #5 Composition

20160308_175946

You knew it had to come back to composition, right?  I know, everyone is screaming by now “But Jason, you’ve talked about the Rule of Thirds until the cows literally came home!”  Truth be told though, most people think about composition positioning with their subject matter.  It’s true that subjects are ideally placed on a hot spot or along one of the grid lines in the ROT grid. But you can break the rules too, ya know!  I say, put anything you want on a grid spot.  Or don’t have a specific point of interest!  Make the subject of your photo the space! Negative space, as previously mentioned, can be a powerful thing! Read more