I am a great believer in reusing and recycling. Our planets resources are finite and I believe that we have a responsibility not to make waste. This sits nicely with my mildly frugal attitude towards photography. I don’t believe that the best photography can only be taken with the latests camera with the most expensive, newest lens.
My tripod died. It was a good quality but 30-years old Slik. I bought it, second-hand, for a song. I really liked it. It was easy to use and the tilt-and-pan head on it would lock into place with absolute solidity. I could mount my camera in portrait mode with a long lens attached and it would not rotate on the quick-release mount, a big issue with cheap tripods.
The best thing about it was the weight. It was not so heavy that I would break my back carrying it, but it was heavy enough that it would not blow over. Northumberland has one of the highest average wind speeds in Britain. I remember when I first moved here and taking photos using a lightweight tripod just catching it before it toppled over in the wind with my camera on top.
I searched online for a replacement part. I found lots of bits from other similar tripods that had been dismantled, but not the bit I was looking for. The failing part must have been the weakest component.
Fortune must have been smiling on me that day. My lovely wife, Johanna, phoned me up. She had gone to meet a friend in another town and they had perused a charity shop together. She phoned me. “Are Manfrotto tripods any good?”
The tripod came without a head. My initial thought was to mount the Slik tilt and pan head from the old tripod. But, the screw-mounts were different sizes. The head had a ¼” female thread while the Manfrotto tripod had a larger 3/8” male screw. I bought a converter to fit the two together, but also bought a budget ball-head mount to try.
I took them on my first field test this morning and was really pleased with how they worked. The tripod was quick to adjust, stable and sturdy, and allows for very low-angle shooting. The head too was easy to manipulate and to lock in position.
These first shots were before sunrise. All shot 1/15 second a few minutes apart. (For those who are eagle-eyed, the clock on the tower has stopped!) The sky at dawn is filled with birds here and these blur with the long exposure time. For these types of shot I usually set the shutter speed to several seconds so the birds disappear altogether, but I wanted to capture their movement.
The sky gradually became more orange as the sun neared the horizon.
I walked farther along the river from the marina and got down to the water’s edge. For the quarter of an hour before sunrise, the light became much more subtle and a slight mist helped mute the colours. I ended up with a completely different set of photos.
This first one I chose to use the horizon to bisect the image across the centre to exaggerate the symmetry of the sky and its reflection. I find square crops really cry out for symmetrical images and so cut away some of the left hand side of the picture, which contained a bright orange buoy that I found distracting.
The reflection of the cloud makes good foreground interest in the shot and I find the loose line of the clouds and their reflection draw my eye to the wreck in the middle of the water.
Not all landscaped need foreground interest though. Turning the camera to by 90° to face Warkworth I grabbed this shot. It’s often worth looking away from a sunrise or sunset because the light in the opposite direction can be quite special.
The soft pastels of the sunrise-lit mist against the icy blue of the sky were what made this picture for me. Do you agree that it doesn’t need anything in the foreground?