Choosing a Tripod

23 Sep 2014 05:47 pm
[syndicated profile] strobist_feed

For lighting photographers, the first thing to consider about a tripod is this: a tripod is your most powerful light.

That's because time (AKA shutter speed) is what we use to bring up the exposure in a large environment, which we then tweak/improve with judicious use of added flash. It is very difficult to light a large space, so just let the ambient do the heavy lifting and finish it off with your lighting genius.

And even when you are not lighting, you'll frequently need a tripod for a variety of reasons. And when you do, you want it to hold your camera still.

To that end, every photographer needs good sticks.

There are a couple of schools of thought about how to choose a good tripod. But no matter which way you go, the most important thing is this: don't waste your time and money on a piece-of-crap version. You'll just have to re-buy it later.

Ask any photographer who has been around long enough to make mistakes, and you'll probably hear tales of woe over misspent dollars in an attempt to save money on tripods. Alas, good tripods aren't cheap and cheap tripods aren't good.

I just had a direct experience with this problem on a recent series of assignments for, wherein we were traveling around the world shooting and filming in various cities. My (young) shooting partner saved some money by buying an inexpensive, "feature-ladened" tripod.

Actually, scratch that obfuscation. Let's name names. He bought a "Vanguard" Tripod, and it turned out to be a piece of crap. (Don't judge. It's a common mistake.) The Vanguard was wobbly up top, and very quickly, one of the legs would not grab and click into the open position.

(You had ONE JOB, Vanguard tripod…)

After much swearing on Andrew's part (and general uselessness on that of the tripod) he looked into repairing the probably-not-worth-fixing piece of gear. Though clearly defective—and still in warranty—Vanguard wanted Andrew to pay shipping both ways for the repair. Essentially, he'd be buying the cheap tripod again.


Look, don't do this. Just don't. Instead, do your research, ask around, buy a good tripod and be done with it.

To Start...

Independent of the factors listed below, here's my first advice: go for a name brand with a good reputation.

Manfrotto, Gitzo and Induro are good examples. None of them are cheap, but they are also likely to not let you down. They are supported by a great reputation and solid service, the same way your camera is supported by a good tripod.

Don't save money by buying a tripod that is spec'd to do less than you need it to do. That's another mistake. And you may find there is not a one-size-fits-all tripod for you. The optimal tripod for your big bird-watching rig might be overkill for your travel photography needs.

Similarly, a tripod designed for travel photography—even if a quality brand—might be way under-sized for your big lens work.

So like most shooters you'll probably end up with two tripods. One as a heavy-duty platform and one that is much more portable.

General Purpose Tripods

Your first tripod will probably be one that can do everything well, but maybe sacrifices extreme portability. And that's a good strategy.

Again, go with a good brand and buy enough support for your needs. If money is tight, rather than skimping on the brand I would suggest buying good quality, but buying used.

The 20-yr-old old metal (more on that variable below) Gitzo Reporter Performance pictured above is total, rock-solid support. It was bought used (eBay) reasonably and will last me the rest of my life and well into someone else's.

Used quality is a better choice than new crap. But if you have the money to spend, by all means take some time and test drive some new tripods in person. You'll quickly get a feel for the solidity and quality of the various options.

But go with a brand that has a good reputation. Or skimp, curse a little and get it right on round two.

Specialty Tripods

By specialty, we generally mean portability: small, light, reverse-folding, etc. This is the tripod you take with you when you travel, or when shooting smaller mirrorless cameras. Or both, obviously.

For extreme portability in addition to solid support at the mirrorless level, I like the MeFOTO Backpacker, ($139 - Amazon) seen above. It is not full-sized, as it only goes to about chest-height.

But—BUT—it reverse folds to a very compact 12.6", which makes it a total win for travel or backpacking (duh, the name) with mirrorless cameras. It is super-compact, and well-built. I used it with a Fuji X100s to make the photo of London's Big Ben, above.

If you shoot full-sized DSLR, I would suggest stepping up to a MeFOTO GlobeTrotter. It is bigger, more stable, goes up to 64" in height and has a retractable center column while still keeping the reverse-fold design. Even still, it folds to just 16.1" long. ($209 - Amazon). As a bonus it converts to a monopod, which is nice.

You can spend an extra $160 on the GlobeTrotter and go carbon fiber, which saves you a pound. But for that price you can literally buy both and have $20 left over. Or $160 would get you a great, second general-purpose tripod used.

Speaking of...

Carbon Fiber or Metal?

Tough choice. Carbon fiber is more expensive—sometimes shockingly so. For instance, an Induro (carbon) CT-214 cost $400—for just the legs (no head). But you can get the same legs (an AT-214) in aluminum for $149.

Those are both great supports. And identical, except for the material used in the legs. But is the weight difference, at 3.3 vs. 4.4 lbs, worth that much to you? Or, perhaps will the size of the tripod itself be the limiting factor in your suitcase or backpack that outs it from travel for you?

If the carbon version really fits your total needs and you can afford the price tag, maybe that's cool. Or maybe you buy metal for big support and a MeFOTO for travel. You would save money (over $100 in this example) in the process.

And honestly, that's what I'd do.

Either way, the worst, worst, worst thing you can do is to throw money away on a crap tripod. Consider my lessoned learned (and that of literally millions of photographers before you) sufficient warning.

NEXT: Cases and Carts

A Quick Question...

22 Sep 2014 06:05 pm
miss_s_b: (Self: Innocent)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Poll #15952 Yoghurt
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 31

Licking the lid of the yoghurt pot is...

View Answers

... a necessary part of eating a yoghurt
23 (74.2%)

... disgusting
4 (12.9%)

13 (41.9%)

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[personal profile] princessofgeeks posting in [community profile] omnomnom
You guys, I was so proud of this, because I pretty much created this myself after reading a couple of online recipes about what to do with all these leftover cooked lentils I had in the freezer.

Read more... )
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Last night was Lyssa and Paul's 10th Wedding Anniversary at The Driver. Having the first set, I got to play the First Dance - the one that they weren't allowed to have at their original wedding reception.

Setlist )

Sweet and Sour Pork

21 Sep 2014 08:49 am
[syndicated profile] norecipes_feed

Posted by Marc

Sweet and Sour Pork Recipe

I once wrote a post about my feelings about sweet and sour pork. It’s never been one of my favorites, mostly because of all the additives (like corn syrup, food coloring and MSG) that go into the typical version of the dish. Bent on making it better, I came up with

The post Sweet and Sour Pork appeared first on No Recipes.

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Fig and Endive Salad

19 Sep 2014 04:05 pm
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Posted by Marc

Fig and Endive Salad

This simple autumn salad comes together in minutes and yet it presents well enough to serve for a dinner party. With sweet figs, salty ricotta salata, and a crisp bed of shredded endives dressed in a roasted almond vinaigrette there’s no shortage of flavors, textures and colors to keep senses stimulated. Head over to PBS […]

The post Fig and Endive Salad appeared first on No Recipes.

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Firstly, Calderdale Local Party has it's policy working group meeting to consider amendments to motions this Saturday. If you have an amendment to a motion that you need support for, email it through to me or Alisdair and we'll put it in front of PWG for consideration for our support.

The other thing that will happen at PWG is that we will consider our OWN amendments. There are several motions that I have an eye on for some minor tweaking (and probably some of the things I am thinking of will be accepted as drafting amendments by the submitters of the motion) but there is ONE motion in particular that I think has the potential to be as controversial as Floella Benjamin's motion on censoring the internet protecting children was.

Heartbreakingly, that is the Crime motion which has had Julian Huppert's name applied to it. After the farrago over DRIP I am less surprised than I might have been, but it's still depressing to see him put his name to something so chock full of sneaky legalese, hidden authoritarianism, and puritanical attitudes. My problems with this motion are so many and varied that I am actually considering doing a full speech against it, rather than trying to amend it. But what do YOU guys think I should do?

Poll #15928 F13 Conference motion on Crime
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 10

In response to the bloody awful Crime motion, Jennie should:

Speak against the motion at conference
7 (70.0%)

try to get lots of amendments submitted
7 (70.0%)

do a line-by-line fisking of the thing on her blog
7 (70.0%)

despair at the damn thing being accepted in it's current form
3 (30.0%)

none of the above
0 (0.0%)

ETA: I should say that I am not against SOME of the proposals in this motion, and that's what makes it so frustrating. I'd really love to vote for some of them. But there's not enough there for me to want to support the motion as a whole.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Liberal)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
There does appear to be a huge amount of confusion about this in various parts of the internet, so I'm going to break it down into almost patronising component parts.

What Free Speech is:

Free Speech means that you are free to say whatever you like, and so is everybody else.
Free Speech only works if everyone has it. If one person is free to say what they like but others are prevented from doing so then it's not really free.

What Free Speech isn't:

Free Speech means that you are free to say whatever you like: it does not mean that anyone else has to listen.
Free speech means that you are free to say whatever you like: it does not mean that anybody else has to give you a platform for your speech. Example: Internet forums and blog comment sections can have whatever moderation rules they like and this does not infringe upon your right to free speech in the slightest. You are perfectly free to go and set up your own website; nobody else's website has to give you room.
Free Speech does NOT mean that you are free to say whatever you like without there being any consequences. Example: If you say something racist, it is perfectly reasonable for people to conclude that you are racist. This is not them "shutting down debate" or repressing you. This is also where legal restrictions on free speech cut in. You are free to break those laws: but you must expect there to be consequences. If the laws are unjust then that is something to campaign about.
Free Speech does NOT mean that you are free to say whatever you like and once you have said it that is the end of the matter and nobody is allowed to argue with you. Example: If you make a factual error, nobody is infringing upon your right to free speech or your right to hold an erroneous opinion by telling you that you have made a factual error. They are merely engaging in their own right to free speech by telling you this.

The Basic Thing To Remember is:

Freedom of speech cuts both ways; it only works if everyone has it. You are free to speak, but others are free to respond. Then you can respond to them in turn. And then we have conversation. Or possibly debate. Or possibly bloody great blazing row.

Previous Posts in This Series:

Coming Soon (not necessarily in this order):

  • The Liberal approach to Education, and why Education is fundamental to Liberalism
  • Non-Conformity, and why celebrating it rather than just tolerating it matters to Liberals
  • Why Liberalism is Intrinsically feminist, anti-racist, pro-LGBT+-rights, etc.
  • The Liberal Approach to the Elimination of Poverty
  • The Rule of Law, or why Liberalism is not Anarchism
  • Bodily Autonomy and Consent: not just about sex.
  • Weatherwaxian Liberalism: "Treating People As Things" as a Root of Social Evil
  • Solving The UNIT Dating Controversy: or why Liberalism Appeals to Geeks and Why Most of Us Are Obsessed With Scifi

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Posted by Marc

Matsutake Gohan (Pine Mushroom Rice) Recipe

In Japan, the seasons play a central role in determining the flavors and colors of the food. While greenhouses and modern transportation networks allow “seasonal” produce to be had all year round, there’s an irresistible draw to the fleeting seasonality of ingredients. That’s why there’s still a great emphasis placed on the seasons. Matsutake mushrooms […]

The post Matsutake Gohan (Pine Mushroom Rice) appeared first on No Recipes.

Household maintenance

17 Sep 2014 10:16 am
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[personal profile] nou

My Sugru arrived today, which put me in a mind to think about small household repairs.

The absolute best way I've found to not procrastinate about sewing repairs is to keep a threaded needle next to the place where I sit to get dressed in the morning. If I see a small hole, I can fix it straight away in less than 30 seconds, which stops it becoming a big hole.

(I wondered if this was too obvious to be worth mentioning, but I only figured it out a couple of years ago, and I'm nearly 40 and have been sewing since I was small, so.)

Have you got any handy hints for household maintenance?

Seriously Flavoured Salt

17 Sep 2014 08:36 am
[syndicated profile] kayotickitchen_feed

Posted by Kay

Seriously Flavored SaltSeriously flavoured salt: why, oh, why didn’t I think of this sooner? I can almost see you frown. I know that adding dried herbs or other spices to salt has been done for eons. No rocket science there. A good flavoured salt is a perfect way to finish and liven up any kind of dish. But I own a dehydrator, darn it! I can do better than that. I just...
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Canon EOS Rebel SL1. Bring it!

17 Sep 2014 01:00 am
[syndicated profile] mattbites_feed

Posted by Matt


When you are a photographer, people ask questions. Who do you photograph? What do you photograph? What camera do you use? What camera should I buy?  My answers are usually always the same: Chefs, Authors, Celebs, Everyday People. Food. Phase One, Canon, Sigma. And lastly, anything Canon.

The conversation then goes like this: But I don’t need anything fancy, I don’t even know how to use it and I just want something simple to photograph my family/kids/friends/vacations.

And still I say Canon.

Having been a Canon user for so long, I always feel confident pointing them in that direction, telling them to start with a dSLR from the starter’s section. It’ll do what you want, you’ll be able to learn and grow, and you’ll love the images. But when my colleague Christopher emailed and asked if I’d give the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 a spin, I thought why not? I’m always telling people to use it, shouldn’t I get my hands on it and try it, too?

So I did!

Never one to be mired down with deep technical facts (although I really should!), I look for quality, ease-of-use, resolution, image quality, and how it suits the user. These are the factors I always consider. But would this little tiny camera work for me? I decided to take it for a spin!

First things first: I’m not one to read manuals. I know, SORRY SORRY SORRY! I just don’t have the patience, which explains why I’m the guy with all those extra Ikea parts laying around after assembly. Oops! I wanted to see how similar the menus and operation of the SL1 are to other Canon models so I hit the ground running!  But first I removed the 18-55 kit lens that ships with the camera. I am not a fan of that lens at all. Granted, putting a Canon 5omm f/1.2L lens on this little body made it look funny (see above), but this way I knew I could remove any lens issues from the equation and really evaluate the camera’s sensor on its own. Well, at least that’s what I think I’m doing :)

My verdict? I love this little thing! It’s small, accessible, and makes me feel like I’m using a Canon. The touch screen is nice, and I’m rather happy with the images. I did not try out the video feature, maybe next time. But I’m happy to confidently recommend this camera to anyone starting out who wants something small with great quality. It’s just lovely.

Let’s look at some images, shall we?


This Kalanchoe beharensis in our backyard strikes an imposing stance, and I wanted to see how the blue ceramic planter would look against the corten steel fence.


I have a thing for 6pm, lens flare, my backyard. As usual, the SL1  didn’t disappoint me with this it-could-sorta-be-difficult-to-expose-for-shot.


Caesalpinia pulcherrima from the front yard. Also known as Mexican Bird Of Paradise, it’s from the pea family. Makes the most beautiful arrangements, too! Shooting this wide open let me blur out the background and make it all prettypretty.



Fountain in the yard, side light. I was thrilled that the SL1 managed to hold detail in the lights and the darks simultaneously.


I took it to Las Vegas, and it was nice to not have a a big giant camera to lug around!


It does well in low light, like most Canons do. In post I had to open up the shadows just a wee bit. I took this photo before cocktail time at Mandarin Oriental, which is good because drunk.


MOZen Bistro, Mandarin Oriental for breakfast.


Congee at Mandarin Oriental. Let me get this off my chest, please: IT IS MY FAVORITE HOTEL IN LAS VEGAS. It’s the only way I can bribe Adam to go to Las Vegas. It’s truly an amazing property with phenomenal service and I get to have congree every single morning. Win win all around.


Beautiful delicate touches in the rooms like petals in a bowl. Lovely.


You might not know it, but this was photographed in their rather dark spa, shot at ISO 800 and still manageable.


Don’t want none unless you got buns, hun. I took the camera to the studio for some fun!

(notice how I truncated the above sentence to remove anaconda? MY MOTHER READS THIS BLOG, Y’ALL)



Those famous hands adjust avocados.


Behind the scenes of a taco shoot for Gaby. I was happy how the SL1 handles color, but of course I wasn’t surprised!



Pasta! Color!


Happy to have detail in the shadows, and nice punchy highlights everywhere else.


The prop table! Thank you, Alicia!


And the final shot for Gaby, a big dip situation! The Rebel really performs well!

And don’t forget to BringIt! Upload your shots and share your Canon images with the world. I’m having a great time viewing the galleries, so much fantastic stuff there!


Thanks to Canon and Christopher! Disclosure: Canon provided the EOS Rebel SL1 on loan, I was not compensated for this post. All images adjusted for color, contrast, and resized for web. Photographed in manual mode, various settings, always raw. Edited in Photoshop. #Canon #BringIt

On Reminders of Mortality

16 Sep 2014 04:39 pm
miss_s_b: (Britishness: Tea)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
I got the train into Bradford to go to work today. I get the train into work a lot. Sometimes it's late, and I gripe. Sometimes it's full, and I gripe about that too, especially if it's a smelly ancient Pacer. Sometimes it's empty, and the seats are nice, and I get a table to myself. Sometimes I get the sexy driver with the long hair and beard*. Sometimes I have chats with @NorthernRailOrg on twitter**.

Today is the first time I have ever been on a train that hit a person.

Bradford Interchange's platforms are all bay platforms, so I usually try to sit as close to the driver's cab as possible, to minimise the number of people I have to squeeze past when I get off the train. Today I was sitting at the nearest table to the drivers' cab. I was playing a game on my phone, and intermittently glancing at twitter and email. There had been a lot of emails in the morning because of an administrative error causing problems for one of my members who is attending Lib Dem Conference next month. I was checking to see if things were getting sorted out. I wasn't really paying attention to the train. The train just was.

Then there was a noise like crump and the train jerked. I think I swore. I looked across at the two girls sitting at the table across the aisle from me and was about to say what the hell was THAT? when a human body described a graceful arc past the window we were all three looking at.

Suddenly talking seemed a bit pointless.

The train pulled up and stopped for a while then took us in to Bradford. I texted someone I knew was in Bradford, because I needed a friendly face. As I got off the train I tried not to look at the dent on the front of it, but I couldn't help myself. It wasn't that big a dent, really. Not for a human life. There was a dead pigeon too, stuck to the rubbery bit which I don't know the name of on the front of the train.

The person I texted met me at the entrance to BDI and gave me copious hugs. They were very necessary hugs. He's a good hugger anyway, but today those hugs were especially appreciated. When you've witnessed a thing like that, any form of human contact is good, just to confirm that you're still alive and that people care about you.

And then I went to work. Because you've got to carry on, haven't you?

I have since heard that the incident was a fatality. I hope that the person who was hit is at rest, and that their family are coping, and that the driver of the train is OK, because Cthulhu knows that's got to be a horrible thing to happen to you at work.

I have the urge to contact everybody that I love and tell them all that I love them and how valuable they are to me, but that's impractical and they'd probably just call me a soppy bugger anyway.

I'll say one more thing. The next time I am umming and ahing about doing something, and the person who has asked me to do it says to me Oh go on, you could get hit by a train/bus tomorrow... I'm going to have some pretty mixed feelings about that. Life is short, and should be grabbed with both hands; this is an idea I am fully on board with, and today has renewed my determination to do just that. But every time someone says that now, I am going to see a train window, and a horizontal human body curving past it in slow motion...

*Not that I have a crush on a train driver. Nope. Not me O:-)
**often enough that I can usually tell when Tim or Lindsay is the one manning the twitter account, because those two are the ones I talk to most often.

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