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The Case For a Tripod

I’ve never been a big user of tripods. I have nothing against using them and in fact I own several of them. I use a tripod mostly around the studio when shooting still life and products. But when I’m shooting out of the studio, I rarely take one along. I like the lightweight freedom and try to minimize the amount of gear that I carry. And I am not very patient trying to set up for a shot. When traveling by airplane a tripod is just not very convenient.


That being said, I found a tripod very helpful on my most recent outing.

To be completely truthful, I didn’t use a conventional tripod. Instead I carried a Joby Gorillapod.

The Gorillapod is a very lightweight flexible stand. It has a 1/4″x20 screw for mounting to your camera’s tripod socket. Its legs are jointed and bendable to provide a stable platform even when rested on uneven surfaces.

I carried a Gorillapod with me while exploring Antelope Canyon in northern Arizona. These are slot canyons formed from sandstone and carved by wind and water over millions of years. What is thrilling about these formations is that light filters it way from above through narrow passages creating amazingly colorful visuals as you hike through the passageways.


During daylight, the canyon is dimly lit yet remains easily and comfortably walkable. Photographically, there is enough light in some areas to shoot handheld. However to capture images of some of the more dimly lit rock faces, you’ll need to use longer exposure times e.g. 1/2 second or longer. Not many of us can handhold at these slower shutter speeds.

Knowing this ahead of time, I mounted one of my cameras on the Gorillapod. As you can see from its short legs, when placed on the ground it’s not convenient to use unless you’re kneeling down. In the canyon, the rocks are the perfect surface on which to rest this mini tripod.

For much of the tour, I’m looking upwards towards the light entering the canyon from above. To capture a long exposure, I twisted the legs to conform with the contour of an adjacent rock surface to make a “rock steady” platform. I used this technique for exposures up to two full seconds.

If you too are a non-tripod guy like me, you might find it useful during one of these outings to include a very portable tripod. There are several brands of portable steadying devices. You can find out more about the one I used at Joby Gorillapod

If you’re interested in visiting these amazing slot canyons located near Page, Arizona, you’ll want to book a tour with one of the five Navajo owned companies. I chose an extended photo tour 2-1/2 hours instead of the normal 1-1/2 hour tours. I booked through Antelope Canyon Tours and our tour guide Rosie was splendid in pointing out many of the colorful formations and giving us photo shooting tips.



Written by: Arnie Lee







Traveling Light

05th February 2011

A Vote for the Backpack Camera Case

Here in Michigan, it’s been bitterly cold with plenty of snow. A blizzard earlier this week closed virtually all of the schools and municipal services and curtailed most of the business at retail stores as well. So it shouldn’t be surprising that I’m looking forward to a few days away from the blustery northern winter to shoot birds in the warmth and sun of the Everglades.

Since most of my expeditions last only four or five days at a time, when flying I travel light. By carefully selecting the appropriate equipment for a given assignment, it all fits snugly into my backpack camera case. This along with my trusty rollerboard suitcase means that I rarely have to check my luggage for an airline flight, saving me the trouble of waiting at the baggage claim.

To photograph the birds, I decided on the Canon 7D. Its excellent autofocus system works well with the long 100-400 telephoto. While it doesn’t have the resolution of the 5D MkII, it’s smaller and lighter and also accepts the 10-22mm lens, one of my favorites. I’ll bring along the 2X TeleExtender in case I need the extra reach.

For a second camera, I’m taking the new Sony Alpha 55. I’ve already put it through six weeks of testing and will use this assignment to complete my review of a very innovative camera. I’m also toting the waterproof Olympus 6020. It may come in handy in Florida’s watery environment.