Comfort Zone

Over the past few months, I’ve begun to realize how much I really love taking photos of people. Taking a photo of someone I know well makes the whole process incredibly easy, as they’re already relaxed. I’ve also realized that street photography (think candid moments of total strangers) terrifies the hell out of me. I’ve been working on it with some of my smaller point and shoots, and occasionally my medium format cameras, but the whole thing is a little nerve wracking.

Shot with the Bronica ETRsi, Sunny 16, self developed and scanned. Fuji PRO400H

Shot with the Bronica ETRsi, Sunny 16, self developed and scanned. Fuji PRO400H

Street photography requires quick actions to capture the moment, and typically the image becomes more powerful when the subject of the photograph is in some way interacting with you.

But, I’m an introvert, so interacting with total strangers is an absolute no-no for me. I’d much rather just sit back and wait for something to unfold in front of me. As I think shows in the photo below, it works sometimes.

Just sat and waited. Canon Sure Shot. Kodak Portra 400.

Just sat and waited. Canon Sure Shot. Kodak Portra 400.

Another personality trait that I so graciously acquired, perfectionism. I hate failure, so if I don’t think I’ll succeed fully at something, I might quit at it halfway through just to avoid that failure. I’ve written about failure before, and also the benefits of recognizing those failures.

Performing in Madison, WI. Canon Sure Shot. Kodak Portra 400.

Performing in Madison, WI. Canon Sure Shot. Kodak Portra 400.

So to stick with the spirit of failing and pushing my personal boundaries, I’m going to give myself a challenge for the next thirty days. Take one portrait, of one stranger, each and every day. Just the thought of it makes me uncomfortable, which is exactly the reason I should, and need to do this. I’ve done weird little personal projects from time to time, but never anything so far out of my comfort zone.

It starts today, so expect to see another blog post pertaining to this one in about a month and a half. Until then, enjoy some more random photos :)

Canon Sure Shot. Kodak Portra 400.

Canon Sure Shot. Kodak Portra 400.

Canon Sure Shot. Kodak Portra 400.

Canon Sure Shot. Kodak Portra 400.

Canon Sure Shot. Kodak Portra 400.

Canon Sure Shot. Kodak Portra 400.

The Case for an Expensive Tripod

Tripods, like cameras, lenses, and everything else in the world, come in a wide array of choices. Variety is the spice of life, but when it comes to anything photography related, things get quite blurred quickly. There are options ranging from the $25 Amazon Basics tripod, to a $1500 Really Right Stuff tripod. As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. With tripods, that statement rings true in every single way.

I paid 80 dollars for my first tripod and head, and they worked the way I needed them to. As my gear collection and skill set expanded, I outgrew my tripod head. It couldn’t handle the weight of my larger lenses, nor could it spin horizontally like I needed when I got into panoramas. I ended up buying a new tripod head to mount onto the legs, spending another $100. That head worked great the last three years with the gear I had, but as my dive into medium format grew deeper and deeper (think holding two bricks worth of a camera), that tripod set up could no longer support my needs or my gear.

Size doesn’t always equate to increased stability, in this case it does.

Size doesn’t always equate to increased stability, in this case it does.

Every time I put my camera on that tripod and locked it up, the legs would bend, the ball head would slowly adjust itself, and my composition I worked so hard to get would end up shifting into whatever the tripod felt most comfortable with. Long exposure shots would get blurred because the tripod would blow and bend with the breeze. I can’t even begin to count the number of shots that got ruined because my gear was too much for the tripod.

Both tripods extended to max height.

Both tripods extended to max height.

With my trip coming up, I knew I needed something sturdier if I wanted my shots to turn out. It was painful, but I ended up shelling out around $800 total for Oben carbon fiber legs and an RRS ball head. The difference between the two set ups was clear the first time I set them up next to each other. I put my camera on the new set, locked it in, and proceeded to push down on the top of it to see what would happen. I couldn’t believe what happened; Not. A. Damn. Thing. It didn’t shift or bow, I was blown away.

Six pounds of metal on top of another five pounds of metal.

Six pounds of metal on top of another five pounds of metal.

Not only was the whole thing sturdier, it was friendlier to use. It’s quicker and easier to set up and take down. It’s weighs a whole lot more than my other tripod and head, but with more weight comes more security. I’m not saying to go spend $800 like I did, because honestly I’m kind of insane, but please spend more than you think you need to, because it will help in the long run as your needs grow.

“Your shots are only as sharp as your tripod allows them to be.” - No idea who said it but it’s a solid quote.