Thursday, March 11, 2010

When you travel, do you pack a tripod?

Traveling photographers are always facing decisions. What can we leave behind to maintain the airlines weight and height restrictions? A tripod is generally heavy and large, both enemies of the luggage limits. So when do you pack it, and when do you leave it at home?

Flying out of Cleveland Hopkins Airport on Continental Airlines, it seems that their curb check people are more lenient than many other airports when it comes to allowing slightly oversized camera cases or tripod cases to be checked without penalty. Unfortunately, on any given day, your experiences may vary.

Obviously, the type subject you are shooting may dictate that a tripod is a must (i.e. architectural photographers,) but for all the casual shooters out there, it’s much more of a case by case decision.

If you are doing macro photography of small things like insects and plants, the sharpness of your shots will absolutely benefit from the stability of a tripod. Those small objects accentuate any movement at all at the time of exposure.

If you plan to do any HDR (High Dynamic Range) type shots, a tripod will also improve your chances of capturing that stunning image you saw in your mind’s eye. Without a tripod you can use the “auto-align” feature available in most software, but the best method is always to rely on a tripod.

The other situation that always presents itself is whether or not you will be doing any photography outside after dusk. If so, a tripod will pay for itself time and time again. Those longer than normal exposures always result in unexpected gems that pay for the aggravation of hauling that awkward contraption around with you.

In the photo above, I had just been informed that there were going to be fireworks after the concert so I ran back to the truck to grab my tripod. Getting back just in time, I was able to capture some nice shots of the fireworks over the stage which would have been all shaky if I tried to hand-hold them.

It’s the classic “cost vs benefit” analysis that you wrestle with each time you go out. If possible, having a tripod with you is always the safest bet.

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