View Full Version : Landscapes on a sunny day...should I use a tripod?

Matt Green
21-04-10, 19:39
Recently I've been trying to get to grips with the manual mode on my camera, my first mistake (i think!!) was using a wide open aperture and fast shutter speed in the belief a faster shutter speed would result in a sharper image...however most pics showed a blury background so now I'm experimenting with less aperture and slightly slower shutter speeds to bring out more detail in the background, my question is if I'm using slower shutter speeds do i need to use a tripod even on a sunny day or moderate lighting?

Or have I got all this wrong?


21-04-10, 20:05
Bear in mind that a blurry background is a very desirable effect in portraiture.

The slowest speed with which you can shoot hand-held is roughly the reciprocal of the focal length. So with a 28mm wide-angle you can go down to 1/30th of a second but with a 100mm tele it's only 1/100th of a second or so.

Also, you don't need to use really really small apertures - most lenses have optimum sharpness at middle aperture (f4-f11). If you're doing landscapes I'm assuming you're using a wide-angle which means that a) you have lots of DoF anyway and b) you can use a fairly slow shutter speed hand-held.

Personally I have never needed to use a tripod, it's far too bulky to justify carrying around. Of course using one can only improve the quality and they are also helpful for checking that horizons and verticals are properly aligned.

21-04-10, 20:56
Alex has given you the 'rule of thumb' for shutter speeds to ensure minimum camera shake. The other thing is to stand in a stable position with feet about shoulder width apart one leg a little in front of the other and slightly side on, the left hand (assuming you are right handed) has the elbow tucked into the body for support with the hand supporting the lens at the balance point from underneath. The camera is pressed up to the head for more support with the right arm again in tight against the body and the right hand holds the camera. Then squeeze the shutter, don't jab it. Pretend it is a rifle and you are a marksman at long range, use breath control as well if necessary. By the way you don't have to necessarily shoot landscapes with a wide angle lens, I often use a telephoto zoom to pick out parts of the landscape. Do not be afraid with a DSLR to up the ISO a bit, say ISO 400 or even 800, to give you the required shutter speed and aperture for sharp shots with the DOF you want as there will be little noise at that sort of ISO.

22-04-10, 12:27
great advice.....:) helped me a little thank you.

22-04-10, 17:16
Concur with what Mike said, a camera is a precision instrument, no excuse wielding it like a Stone Age club rather than like a sniper rifle.

22-04-10, 17:28
Should you use a tripod? It's entirely up to you. The rule of thumb for shutter speed that Alex describes is correct for film cameras or full frame dSLR. For dSLRs with smaller sensors such as your Nikon, the rule of thumb should be adjusted by the crop factor of the sensor (I'm not going to argue about this, if anyone disagrees then search the forum for a very good explanation of why this is so). Given this adjustment for a 28mm lens, the normal figure would be 1/30th but this becomes 30x1.5=roughly 1/50th on your camera. If you have some form of image stabilisation then you should be able to get about 2 stops better than this.

However, this is only a rule of thumb, some people are much better at hand holding than others. Mrs. Y has been known to get acceptable results at 1/15th second with a 200mm lens, on a 1.5x crop factor camera with no image stabilisation!

Personally, I think if you're serious about landscape photography then this discussion should not be happening. Apart from giving you complete freedom w.r.t. shutter speed and ISO, using a tripod slows your thought process down, makes you think, gives you time to really see what is there in the viewfinder. It makes you frame the shot up with a more considered opinion, makes you work at getting the composition right, or at least a lot better.

Using a tripod will make you a better photographer regardless of the shutter speed you end up using. It stops you "snapping" and makes you take photographs.


22-04-10, 18:40
Matt, I agree with Duncan - a tripod gives you more time to think and compose - I nearly always used one in my film days and forgot about it in my early DSLR days - Now I'm back to using one all the time for landscape.

Don Hoey
24-04-10, 19:45
I agree with Duncan's comment on increasing shutter speed to by 1.5 factor for a smaller sensor. That is still not good enough for me nowadays though. Mike mentioned it but my Marksmans badge is now in the bin. So I regularly use a monopod when travelling light and I am not expecting to use really slow shutter speeds.


24-04-10, 21:22
Those monopod/walking sticks do have there uses! I have a Gitzo one.

25-04-10, 17:42
I would never shoot a landscape I really liked without a tripod, I sometimes shoot a handheld snapshot of a scene for a record shot and if I like the looks of it I will set up my tripod and do it properly. Most landscapes shots require good framing and maximum depth of field, for that reason I very rarely use less than f11, usually f16; I let the shutter speed take care of itself.


Twombly Red
25-04-10, 19:45
Sometimes a day of wandering around and firing off hand held shots is good for going home and seeing the rough potential of each shot to go back another day under certain conditions to shoot it properly with a tripod, etc.

The problem is bothering to go back! ;)