Tag Archives: tripod

Recommendation: Kirk Photo

This is the second blog posting in a row about equipment – it’s not going to turn into a pattern!  It’s just a little entry in order to recommend Kirk Photo’s tripod brackets.  I want to comment on both the brackets, and the good service I received from Kirk.

Bruce Percy and others have repeatedly raved about the ease of using an L-bracket on a camera, and a little while ago I bit the bullet and went for it (I paid for all of this before my most recent expenditure, in case you’re wondering!).  Having been out with the camera and my new L-bracket setup, it really is fantastically good – I can’t quite believe how straightforward it is to use and how incredibly stable it is, even though the camera is fairly substantial.

However, getting the right parts was not completely straightforward: I wanted this for my Mamiya 645ProTL medium format camera, and although I initially bought – on Kirk’s emailed recommendation! – the wrong part (the BL-645AF may fit a Mamiya 645AF/D but it does NOT fit a 645ProTL!), they were very apologetic and then incredibly helpful in identifying the right parts.  This went so far as getting me to measure parts of my camera to make sure the part they were now recommending really did fit.  I returned the incorrect L-bracket, and they then promptly sent me the new parts, with no additional postage charge.  I was very impressed by how efficient and helpful they were, so if you’re thinking of L-brackets, do check out Kirk – they seem like good products, and the staff are great!

For information: if you also have a Mamiya 645ProTL then you’ll need a PZ-34 body plate (ignore that it says it’s for an RB67, it fits perfectly!) and a QRLB-S quick release bracket.  For my Manfrotto 410 tripod head, I bought an SQRC-3271 quick release clamp for the L bracket to slot into.  Kirk do, of course, supply the Allen keys needed for attaching everything.

So… go Kirk Photo!

P.S. Each of the component names above links to the relevant part of the Kirk website, but here is the homepage in case they change those links.  Bear in mind that if these items are being posted to the UK, you’ll also need to pay import taxes before the post office will deliver your parcel.

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Composition and tripods

I went out photographing in Aberlady (East Lothian) with my friend Toni this weekend; she has recently started taking her photography much more seriously, but it was her first time using her new tripod (her husband had been complaining at her buying it several months ago and not using it… what we photographers have to put up with!).

Aberlady, East Lothian

Aberlady, East Lothian

It was all very interesting for me: whilst I think she has a very good understanding of composition, much of her photography happens when out and about with her two small children and so she doesn’t get much time to think and reflect about composing her images – this often just happens very quickly in order to keep up with her family, making sure the children don’t run off somewhere etc.  So being out in the evening on her own (well, with another adult who was also photographing) – with her new tripod – was quite unusual for her, and she found it hard not to constantly just pick up the camera/tripod and reframe from a position the tripod could never reach!  It made questions of composition very interesting for me, and she clearly has other ‘tripod issues’ to mine!

You can visit Toni’s Flickr pages here: The Thinner The Air.

Thoughts on keeping still

Until yesterday, a section on my Equipment page had the following text about tripods:

…I think tripods for day times are mostly a terrible nuisance and often even a hindrance for taking good photographs (at least for me: they restrict my movement and sometimes just make me lazy)… [and] when using a digital camera, the fast 35 or 50mm lenses and the VR feature on the 18-200mm lens enable fairly slow shutter speeds to be used (even in the evening) and so a tripod becomes less and less important for many things.

I had this on my site for a long time, but I now realise this is no longer really true – my understanding of the place of a tripod has changed. I am using my tripod more and more, including with the fast lenses mentioned above. It does slow me down somewhat, but that is a good thing. Particularly with digital cameras, I find I sometimes just shoot countless images and hope that one of them will be worth using. But often I just end up with a (metaphorical) pile of rather bland images, where the basic forms are ok (e.g. broadly decent lighting and composition etc.), but clearly little time and thought has been given to accurate composition, and few pointers to something interesting and stimulating in the image.

One of the very positive aspects of using a tripod correctly is that it makes me slow down and keep still for a little while, which means I compose much more carefully. This means I am more likely, in the stillness, to actively think about what I’m doing, and what I’m wanting to achieve. Slowing down therefore also induces a strong contemplative and thoughtful approach to my photography, making what I do much more deliberative.

When I say “using a tripod correctly”, what I mean is adjusting the tripod to be where I want it to actually be, especially in terms of height. Too often I see people (and I used to be one of them!) put their tripod up and then just keep it at eye level – but one of the great things about tripods is that one can have the camera at almost any level between eye level and the ground, and some of the most interesting images come from very low down, or waist height etc. So using a tripod correctly is essential.

And doing so allows, encourages even, a general slowing down and a more contemplative approach to emerge (accentuated as well through the use of film, which inhibits somewhat the ‘scatter gun’ approach to photography). I’m a strong believer in creating the frameworks within which certain things can happen, and this approach to tripods seems to fit that quite well. So I’ve now changed the text on my Equipment page to reflect this – and I’m relishing the ‘keeping still’ that comes with the careful use of a tripod, and taking time to make better images.