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!

Triptych Photography 101

SC Boneyard

In photography, there are lots of crazy semantics to understand!  Everything from ISO’s and apertures, to shutters, diopters and f-stops, ASA’s and guide numbers are all part of the craft.  Heck, there’s even one called the “circle of confusion” – and you can quickly get lost in the sea of words and acronyms in photography. One that I can’t believe I’ve not talked about here before is a triptych!  It’s pretty simple actually when you break it down really though, so fear not.  Here’s your beginner’s guide to triptych photography!

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8 Rules for Shooting Fireworks

fireworks-4


Over the years I have put together a number of posts featuring fireworks imagery. But, I have never given a tutorial or how-to on best practices for shooting fireworks.  So,in light of the upcoming holiday, figured now would be as good a time as any to share some pointers on how to photograph fireworks.

The Rules for Shooting Fireworks

  1. The first step is to get there early – well before dusk.  If you want a good spot, you’ll need to be there in advance of the crowds and masses. This way you’ll get a nice field of view without people blocking your sight lines.
  2. Set up on a tripod!  This is almost an essential thing to do.  Even if you hate tripods and want to be mobile. The fact of the matter is that most really good shots of fireworks will require a longer exposure than anyone can handhold. Your lens needs to be open for a few seconds (in general my fireworks shots tend to be in the 3-5 second range) and no one can hand hold that long!
  3. Set your point of focus for your lens to infinity.  In general, fireworks are up far enough in the sky that setting it anywhere else will likely cause blurry fireworks.  This is true regardless of whether you want to include surrounding areas or not.
  4. Set your aperture to at least f8.0 if not higher so you can get enough depth of field. (I generally use f16)
  5. Turn off image stabilization (or vibration reduction) if your lens is so equipped.  IS (VR) attempts to counter hand shake. If your camera is on a tripod and there is no shake, the lens can tend to create shake where none exists.  Some lenses are smart enough, but as a general rule, it’s a good idea. An added side benefit for shooting fireworks is that this will also extend your batter life on your camera.
  6. Make sure any filters you use during day time are off.  I tend to have a UV filter on my wide angle lenses at all times.  I often use a circular polarizer for evening and morning sunrise/sunset imagery too.  Take these off for shooting fireworks as there’s no UV light at night (or polarized light to filter).
  7. I try to get most of my shots toward the beginning of a fireworks show.  Toward the end, the smoke from prior displays is hanging in the air. This makes the “pristine shots” more difficult to capture that don’t require a lot of clean-up.
  8. Finally, to make your shots different, make sure you include surrounding areas in your composition.  While a nice crisp fireworks plumage is always nice, these have been done literally millions of times and become boring quickly.  Consider adding the reflection of the fireworks from the water below (fireworks are often lit over water for safety reasons).

Sample shots from shooting fireworks:

Fireworks photography shooting sample 1
Fireworks photography shooting sample 1
Fireworks photography shooting sample 2
Fireworks photography shooting sample 2
Fireworks photography shooting sample 3
Fireworks photography shooting sample 3
Fireworks photography shooting sample 4
Fireworks photography shooting sample 4
Fireworks photography shooting sample 5
Fireworks photography shooting sample 5
Fireworks photography shooting sample 6
Fireworks photography shooting sample 6

Enjoy the holiday and happy shooting!