To Pod or Not to Pod

On Sunday I took my tripod and a bag of lenses up Rock Island Valley again to make some black and white photos in peace. I didn’t feel like going up the same road again, so I crossed the footbridge seen in my previous post and went up into the hills.
   I tried making photos of the bridge and path before moving on, but it was a tripod-unfriendly environment. The ground was very uneven and to either side of the path was thick foliage and many thorny bushes. They frustrated my attempts to get the composition I wanted so I gave up and climbed the hill.

Tomb Steles

About fifty metres or so from the bridge is a grave site. There is a single tomb and then a line of these stelae along the side of the grounds.  There was no problem setting up the tripod, but I didn’t get a satisfactory composition. In this photo I could use the hill as a dark background, but from any other angle the sky showed up as a bright distraction between the trees. Maybe I’ll go back later with more patience and try to work the busy background into the composition.

Tombs

A hundred or more metres on from the first tomb is a group of three graves. There was a bit of muttering and cursing about the tripod because I had to stand on sloped earth to make this photo and the legs were not cooperating. I’ve made good photos of these tombs in the past, but I couldn’t seem to do anything with the place on Sunday’s trip.

Saranggol Walking Trail

As an aside, I hope you are looking at these photos on a decent monitor. They have lots of contrast on my home computer, but appear very washed out on the old monitor I have on my office desk.
   The sign says, “Saranggol Walking Trail”. (‘Saranggol’ means ‘Love Valley”). This is odd, because Rock Island Valley is on the maps but Love Valley is not. The Love Valley Walking Trail is not even in a valley. It goes along the tops of hills. The only mention of the walking path I could find on the Internet was on an old website that said the walking trail is named after the many ‘couple graves’ to be found on the hills. I’ve been all around the valley and the hills and I don’t recall any ‘couple’ graves at all. Many of them are on their own or in groups of three and four. Maybe there is information in the Chinese character grave inscriptions that I’m missing. In any case, Love Valley is not an official name for the area.

Path and Fields

On my way back home I made this photo, which I had failed to do earlier because of the tripod and maybe my lack of patience. I didn’t want to use the tripod, but I did want a wide depth of field, so I set the aperture to f16 and turned the ISO up to 1600. This high setting also gave me a high enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake. It only took me a minute or two to make this photo and be on my way.

Never Looked Better

Some people look better behind cameras rather than in front of them. Making a picture of myself in the apartment elevator is a habit from film photography. It uses up the last or second last frame on the roll and records which camera the film was in. Not necessary with a digital camera, but a habit is a habit.

I learned several things on my little walk along the hills. One, I need to practise being more patient. Photography is supposed to be my way of neatly organising a chaotic world and relaxing, not cursing aluminium legs and bushes. Two, landscape photography is difficult and I need much practice and study. I thought that black and white landscapes would be easier than colour landscapes because there are fewer things like white balance to worry about, but this is not the case. Brown leaves and grey tree trunks can be easily distinguished in colour, but in black and white they look more or less the same. Filters help, but only for some things. I need to practise seeing in black and white again. Three, image quality on the D810 is very impressive even at high ISO settings. I did some quick tests on my walk at ISO 64, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, and 12800. High ISO noise can be quite awful in colour photographs, but in black and white it’s not objectionable and looks like film grain. Sort of. I haven’t tried more rigorous tests or printed any results, but at the moment I think that going up to 1600 or 3200 is no problem at all. 6400 is not bad in a pinch and 12800 would be fine for snapshots.  On my next walkabout I might save myself a bit of weight and hassle by leaving the tripod at home. Or leaving it in my bag until absolutely necessary. But perhaps I should do some print tests of the high ISOs first . . . .

Despite a bit of annoyance with the tripod now and then, I had a pleasant couple of hours in the woods. I met a few hikers who said hello and a little old lady with a walking stick who seemed to get up the slopes more easily than I did. I should follow her around to get in shape.

6 thoughts on “To Pod or Not to Pod”

  1. A nice sets of B&W's Marcus. I go for no-pod any day. Or at least mostly that's what I do. I just can't get bothered carrying that thing around, but I have been known regretting the decision a few times it has to be added. I really like your two snaps of the walking path. They sort of speak to me in a language I understand if looking away from the fact that what the sign says could just as well have been written in Korean or something for all I know. And that last one directly into the elevator mirror is just a classic! I have never fell into that habit, but I might have to try it once or twice. It looks great!

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  2. Marcus – I habitually carry a tripod and can honestly say there's a couple of things can help.Firstly something like a Gitzo, where you can set the legs at different angles – it makes a massive difference and is very easy and intuitive when you get used to it.Secondly, a really solid ball head with QR plate. It was years before I could afford my Arca, but nowadays I'd not use anything else unless I had to (there's an erratum to this)Thirdly – a carbon fibre tripod – it's like nght and day compared to an aluminium one – a seriously good investment.Fourthly . . the erratum . . when you really can't be arsed, but feel you might need some extra support . . .the Leica Table Top Tripod (or similar) – add a small Leitz ballhead and you have a versatile and stable platform – mine holds a Hasselblad comfortably. You can also attach it to the camera and angle it with the camera to your eye so that it is acting as a chest brace – sounds weird but isn't.Nice pics btw!

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  3. Thanks for the tips. I have two tripods that I use. One is a Manfrotto Element tripod that is light and folds up nicely to fit a regular backback. It's also eye height once the camera is attached. I replaced the included ballhead with a Markins . . . something. I've got a quick release plate specially designed for the D810 and I have a plate that fits any camera. My other setup is a very large carbon fibre Manfrotto tripod with the Manfrotto Junior 410 3-way head. That's a hard thing to carry around and I usually don't. It was great when I had a vehicle but not much fun now. Both of these tripods have legs that can be adjusted to different angles. Very useful.The chest brace is an interesting idea. I just looked up the Leica tabletop online. Wow! They wants a bit of money for it . . . .

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  4. The only time I use a tripod is when I'm working either indoors or out of the back of the car, either with the Hasselblad or the Sinar 4×5. It's hard enough to carry me and a camera around outside, to be honest, but I know that's just me ;)One of our club members had a good suggestion for when a tripod isn't around or isn't carryable…a beanie bag can make for a good support and means your expensive camera isn't going to get scratched on a rock or rough surface. Plus you can fix it so that you can angle the camera up or down if required. Sounded good to me, anyway – especially if you can lock the mirror up and even use a short cable release.The forest walk looks great – always a good place to have a camera with you, I say. And the mirror one – well, again, always worth a shot – it proves you're real if nothing else 😉

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  5. I don't remember who said, \”Anything more than 100 feet from the car is unphotogenic.\” One of those guys who used large format in the early twentieth century, anyway.I've read about the beanie bag support. Someone suggested rolling down your car window and placing it there. Gets you a bit of height.

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