Why the Gorillapod needs improvement

Gorillapods 

Joby flamboyantly markets the Gorillapod SLR Zoom to “serious photographers”.  Will it hold up to the promise of freeing us from our tripods or is it just another useless gadget cluttering our bag?

Let me give you the answer right now. The Gorillapod SLR Zoom is not stiff enough and therefore, sags a bit, making very long exposures difficult, if not impossible.

The Manfrotto 190XPROB and the 190CXPRO3 Tripods

…are the best value for your money.

Me with pods 

The 190XPROB Tripod legs together with any Bogen Manfrotto Tripod Head are an affordable, versatile and easy to use combination. It is my tripod of choice for all my needs.

I like this Tripod so much, that we upgraded Dani to the same one for our last Christmas trip. It makes a big difference to have a professional tripod that just works the way you would expect it to.

Exposing California’s photo secrets

Ye Olde ManDuring the last month, I have only published a relatively small number of articles. If you have come to appreciate a steady diet of tutorials and photography related articles, I have good news for you. I am back full force, starting next week.

Introducing my new project

One of the reasons I took things a bit slower is a new project I am working on. I have come to realize that I have spent a great deal of time in California and built up a wealth of knowledge about anything and everything worth photographing. That is why I decided to start a new blog:

California Photo Scout

On the photo scout website I will publish short articles about all the places in California that are worth photographing, how to photograph them, how to find your way around, what equipment you will need, what the best time is for photography and other tips.

It is a blog geared for photographers, photo enthusiasts and tourists with a passion for picture taking. If you ever plan to come to California or if you live here, you will find great value in this blog.

Why not here?

My first priority is this website here. I have built a strong reader base and I love this website. I love interacting with you and I love getting emails every day giving me great feedback.

It is my primary outlet to communicate and help with photographic advice.

However, there are literally hundreds of places I have seen in California and I found that it would litter this website with too much information, so I decided to create a new website.

What is next?

I have many ideas for tutorials and plenty of reviews to write to keep you busy reading and me busy writing furiously. I have become much more efficient and better organized than when I first started blogging, making it possible for me to support this new project despite the many things I do.

I love the discussion on the Rebel XSI Review post and I hope there will be more.  Please do not hesitate to comment or contact me directly if you have an important question on your mind. There is no stupid question, just stupid answers. So keep it coming and don't forget to visit the Photo Scout sometimes.

Thanks

Andre

Comparing tripod heads

Learn which tripod head is best for you.

Comparing Tripod Heads

Tripod heads are critical to a photographer’s success. When it counts to get the shot, you want to rely on the right head without breaking the bank.

I find that the Bogen Manfrotto line of Tripods and Heads offers the best value and easiest to use Tripod Legs and Head combinations. In this article, I will compare three different types of heads.

Manfrotto 322RC2 Horizontal Grip Action Ball Head with RC2 Rapid Connect Plate

The 322RC2 has quickly become my favorite. Although it is expensive, you are getting your money’s worth in functionality and usefulness. The revolver head design lets you compose quickly without having to turn any knobs while giving you a great grip for precise adjustments.

Follow your intuition

Snow Covered Lava Field

On my way back to Wupatki National Monument for some Golden-hour photography, I passed along scenic Sunset Crater National Monument. I was not expecting to take any photographs here, but it is hard to stay focused on the icy roads when driving through a landscape of great beauty. As we were passing through the lava fields, I was struck by the stark contrast of the shades of black peaking through the snow of the lava fields. Tourists were more interested in sliding down the slopes on a pair of tires.

The scene passed by my car in less than a second, but I was so struck that I pulled a 180 degree maneuver on the tiny road, scaring passengers and passersby.

I pulled into the lava beds overlook parking and made my way across the street towards the other lava bed, the one nobody cared about. Not a single track disturbed the snow that had fallen several days ago. I jumped into the snow and headed out for the lava beds.

I hadn't counted on the ruggedness of the lava beds though. Suddenly I sunk into the snow and got wet feet. I knew where I wanted to be. Just a few hundred yards out where the road should be invisible and the sun behind my back when shooting the lava beds, while aligning Sunset Crater to create a superb background.

I pressed on, but the snow became deeper. Suddenly my right leg hit hole in the rugged lava beds. I immediately sunk in waist deep and scuffed my leg on the sharp lava rocks. It was painful and yet I ignored it until I reached my destination. I hurt my hands too, catching my fall several times, but I didn't even notice.

Follow your intuition to find unique compositions. When you head somewhere for a photography session, open your mind to the things you see along the way. If anything catches your attention, ask yourself why. What is it that attracted you to the scene? Why did you look?

When you train to ask these questions and consciously focus to find out what attracts your attention, I guarantee that you will see something unique. Our mind is often preoccupied with a shot we have in mind causing us to skip over excellent photography opportunities.

I took a couple of shots of the lava and headed back for the car, where Dani insisted that I treat the bleeding wounds on my leg and my hands with rubbing alcohol and disinfecting creme making my eyes roll back in my head in pain. I guess living with me for so long, she learned to be prepared. I didn't even wonder where the stuff came from.

Mass travel mass photography

Grand Canyon

Today I stood at the South Rim of Grand Canyon again, peeking into a large hole in the ground together with hordes of tourists and photographers alike. Nevermind the ice on the roads or the featurless sky making for one of the least attractive sunsets I have ever seen. As the sun went down, everyone and their dog went crazy. A flurry of activity developed. People whipped out lenses so big they needed a trailer to be towed behind those guys cars and cameras the photographers could duck behind and survive a nuclear blast.

Amidst them, I stood and wondered if the storm system that rolls in tomorrow will bring good light. I wondered if it is still possible to create a unique photograph from the canyon rim, esp. with boring weather such as this.

On this road trip I mostly avoided the large parks and focused on the smaller nature trails in the four corner states, hoping to avoid the tourist crowds while staking out new angles. In some areas I was completely alone and in some others a few die hard hikers and photographers would accompany me.

Sometimes, I couldn't get where I wanted because of weather conditions. I returned from a trail exhausted after hiking through the snow for a good hour or so. After sinking in almost waist deep I admitted defeat and returned to my car beaten. Nevertheless I think I had a lot of fun and I didn't miss out on anything.

Finding a unique angle from the Grand Canyon overlook is almost impossible with hundreds of photographers pointing their cameras in every possible direction. This makes the Canyon Rim one of my least favorite places for photography.

Arches National Park is different. Combining foreground, middleground and background elements, finding unique points of view with unique focal lengths is much easier here.

With the National Parks overshadowing the often more serene and equally beautiful state parks, tribal parks and backcountry, I am glad they act as giant tourist magnets, sucking in the crowds.


 

Happy Holidays

Horseshoe Bend I finally found some time to take new photographs. I am very busy and even my weekends are packed, but the end of the year always offers some time for photography. The weather hasn't been too kind so far, but the forecast looks good.
I still have photographs I took more than two years ago that I haven't even shown anywhere yet. Next year I will be busy writing new tutorials and extending my galleries. I have bought several tripods and heads during the last year (esp. for Christmas). This means a quick review will be coming soon.
Meanwhile I want to share one of my recent pictures. I took it with my Rebel XSi. This time I have come to appreciate the live view mode. I shot this photograph at Horseshoe Bend near Page, AZ. There is no rail and the vertical drop is nauseating. I just put my tripod (with a new revolver head) forward, turned on the live view and didn't have to look through the viewfinder down. Instead I looked at the camera which was a great relief at this location.
I hope you enjoy coming to my website next year to learn, help others or just look at some photos. Until then I hope you have a great holiday time and a Happy New Year.
Subscribe to my feed to stay updated when I start another posting marathon.

Help: My pictures look flat, out of focus/blurry/not crisp enough, dull, overexposed

Canon Rebel XSi - 450DCanon Rebel XSi - 450DMy Canon Rebel XSi field guide recently mutated into a bit of a support forum for Rebel XSi users and future XSi owners. I love it when my readers are guiding my writing with questions, answers and even corrections or additions to my articles.

One question that seems to plague a few of you is how to give your pictures some pop (one o!). Why do my pictures often look so colorful while your pictures sometimes look a bit flat or out of focus/blurry/not sharp enough/not crisp enough. Do you have a broken camera or are you missing some other magical button.