Sometimes There’s “No Time” for a Tripod
I’ve been toying with the idea of shooting architecture handheld, aka ridin’ drrty. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom as everyone knows that you need a tripod for architecture and landscape work, lest you end up with the dreaded camera shake. While I usually do lock-down my camera on my tripod sometimes I just can’t. It’s not out of laziness but more out of necessity.
I challenged myself last month to go shooting in Omotesando, a neighbourhood with crazy amounts of great architecture, without my tripod. I also wanted to see how a more limber setup would affect the opportunities I might encounter. I gotta say I’m very pleased with the results. Here are some reasons why it’s good to ditch the tripod occasionally and do some ridin’ drrty.
Treat the outing as a location scouting opportunity. The mobility you get from not being tied-down to a huge tripod is great for location scouting. For client work I like to scout the location of the shoot beforehand if I can and it’s rarely with a tripod. Like the image above, you can quickly spot interesting angles and compositions, snap a few images then be gone in seconds. It’s great.
I saw the shoe store with that amazing front display window while walking past. Stop. Click. Go. And now I also have a reference photo to look at for when I got back with my tripod. Is it a masterpiece? No but it’s not bad and I have a new location to add to a location list file. I suggest you all keep a file or notebook for photo shoot ideas etc. Check the link below to watch a video I made for more info on location scouting.
Work On The Details
Since I knew it wouldn’t be able to bring my tripod and do any wide-angle shooting per se, I decided to focus in on interesting architectural details. This was a great chance to work on camera technique as well, guess you can consider that a detail, and just about anything with your shooting that needs working on in general. It was a great chance to also make some fine arts type pieces as isolating architectural design can make for some beautiful abstract photography.
I guess if you’re reading this and you are a photographer some might be asking about the noise issue. Since I wasn’t using a tripod I needed to bump the ISO sometimes to grab shots that were a little too dark for faster shutter speeds. No worries though, because Lightroom 5 noise-reduction DESTROYS high ISO noise. And to be honest I really wasn’t going for anything worthy of a portfolio piece, I was just shooting around for fun, and the images turned out just fine. I chose to focus on the details and I’m glad I did.
Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Break some of the rules. Doing things you’re not used to forces you to adapt and can really push creativity. At least it does for me. This last shot is of some of the supporting girders on the side of the UN University Tokyo campus. (On a quick side note I had no idea the UN had a university.) again I was just playing around and I was really taken by the design of the whole structure in general. And I’m breaking all the rules here as well I’m shooting into the sun, super high ISO to make sure the foreground is sufficiently bright, and to top it all off it’s handheld. Blasphemy! :-) By all accounts this shot should look terrible but it doesn’t, it actually looks pretty cool to me.
No Tripod Can Be A Good Tripod
Don’t take that the wrong way and think about always doing architectural photography without a tripod – at least not with current camera technology. When it’s mission critical work either for a client or other important images then yes, I’m always locked-down. This is just a way to get out of a habit and explore other methods of doing things. And realistically the noise thing is a non-issue because todays software can de-noise a file in a heartbeat with no problem so don’t worry about that.
For a more free photography experience I’ll be leaving the tripod at home more often now. It’s equally productive as I come back with images I can work on AND to use as location scouting material. I’m going to go back to some of the same Omotesando locations later this month with tripod in tow to make some portfolio worthy pieces, but I wouldn’t have known about those spots if I hadn’t done some ridin’ drrty in the first place.
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