If you have a fast or an image stabilized lens mounted on a DSLR that can shoot at high ISO without noise becoming an issue, does this mean you won’t need a tripod? Some photographers say shoot with a tripod, as the tripod will slow you down and make you think more about your composition. Other photographers suggest not using a tripod to enable you to be more spontaneous. I have tried both methods, both have worked and failed for me.
What should dictate the use of a tripod? For starters, the amount of available light. If it’s dark you will probably need a tripod. However, if you have a fast lens and a camera that can go to higher ISO without generating unacceptable noise levels then you might be able to get by without a tripod under certain conditions. If you’re in a big city where there are large amounts of ambient light, might enable you to handhold the camera.
Here is an example of a hand held night shot I took with my Lumix DMC-LX3. The LX3 is very light and it’s easy to hold the camera steady. If you’re using a DSLR with a lens, the weight of the system might call for some type of support. There is also the Gorillapod that will let you secure your camera to a stable object. I have never used a Gorillapod but there might be circumstances where it could prove helpful.
My LX3 has a fast lens (2.8) and built-in image stabilization. I made this capture from my car while driving down the street. If you are shooting landscapes I think a tripod can help you produce the sharpest image possible, allowing you to use a lower ISO but if the available light is strong there is no need for a tripod. This photo I took in Brian Head, Utah was made without a tripod.
I will never forget the time I was shooting at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. I didn’t have a tripod with me. The sand dunes were magnificent and then the sun started to set. As the sunlight changed so did the colors, producing the most magnificent shifting colors I have ever seen. I began shooting in a frenzy because the light was fading fast I did not have a tripod! I was using a film camera and did not have the luxury of being able to change the film’s ISO. A tripod would have enabled me to take my time. In the end I got some good shots but I know others got away. Today I travel with a monopod and tripod in my car. It’s also easy to strap my monopod or tripod to the underside of my camera bag and I don’t even know its there.