If your arm’s not broken, use both

I’m a two-handed photographer.

You’re thinking ALL photographers have two hands–but if that’s the case, why don’t they all use them?

I’ve spotted these one-winged shooters especially around popular scenic stops where everyone wants to capture a memory. You might call them shoot-and-run photographers. They might even still have a hand on the open car door, while the other one holds up a little point-and-shoot camera.

Nothing against those point-and-shoots. Most of them take fine photos, and even finer photos when the owner thoroughly understands the camera’s capabilities. I have one I really love and use often. But their size seems to encourage people to treat them too casually, to take less time with the photos than they might with a “good” camera.tripod

I figure if a scene is worth preserving, it’s worth doing well, and all it takes is a little two-handed attention.

That said, I have to convict myself. I do always use two hands, but there was a time when I turned my nose up at tripods. Too much bother, I told my photographer friends. Too cumbersome. I feel like a bear cub trying to fold lingerie.

Instead, I bragged about what steady hands I had, how an inhalation and held breath, elbows tucked close to my side, steadied me all I needed to get a good shot. Most often that was true, and still is. But there are some instances where a tripod is necessary if you want a shot for something other than a 3 x 5 print.

Moon shots, for instance. When it rises large and golden, flooding the sky with cool light, it’s hard to resist. If you’ve perused the wunderground.com weather site, and looked at the members’ photos posted there, just count the number of full-moon shots there are once a month. Even people who’ve taken them numerous times before can’t resist trying one more time.

But to have the moon look like anything more than a pin point in the sky, you need a long lens–and the longer they are, the more they magnify movement as well as distance. Steady-as-a-rock bravado won’t hold up to that. The moon will be fuzzy. You need to steady that camera the way only a tripod will do.

If you don’t have long lens, you can shoot with what you have–then crop and enlarge. But once again, that kind of enlarging will enlarge camera shake. You need that tripod.

For me, fall photos also demand a tripod. Panoramic shots are fine for hand-holding, but I prefer focusing on one leaf at a time. Leaves, hanging on those skinny little stems, are susceptible to the tiniest of little breezes. Even on days when you’d swear the air was still, a close-up of a beautiful leaf through the camera’s eye will reveal slight movements.

That problem is doubled when you take into account that one single leaf is small, and is probably well out of reach on a tall tree. In both those instances, you need that tripod.

If you’re still resisting, even though you have a tripod; if it mostly collects dust in your closet, here’s the challenge: take it with you AND USE IT the next half dozen times you try some nature photography. In that short a time, you’ll be wielding that tripod with ease. Even better than you can fold lingerie.

(This is, admittedly, a column I wrote for another site a couple years ago. Worth sharing again, I thought.)


About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
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2 Responses to If your arm’s not broken, use both

  1. blb1 says:

    I’m not sure I remember how to use my tripod. 🙂

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