As I was setting up my tripod for this shot this summer as I collapsed, de-telescoped, closed or whatever you call it, one of the legs the rubber foot shot off sending me scrambling to find it. Luckily I did! The glue had finally given up on the Gitzo 1325 legs of my tripod. Not bad after taking a beating for 8 years. I got a two part adhesive and glued it back in place and my tripod problems were over. Or at least I thought my tripod problems were over.
When I was using the tripod this week one i found that one of the legs was impossible to fully extend. Years of neglect had finally come home to roost. Photographing in and around the ocean means that your gear takes a pounding. Ideally you would rinse the salt water off your gear with fresh water. There are obvious problems doing that with cameras and lenses but you can and should do some clean up of your gear with a soft damp cloth after you’ve been out. I do this as needed after every shoot but I’ve never properly cleaned my tripod. This has largely been out of fear of getting the tripod to pieces and not being able to get it back together again.
I actually found that taking the tripod to pieces was much easier than I’d expected. On the old Gitzo that I have it’s simply a matter of unscrewing the leg lock the whole way and then pulling on the leg. The one that was stuck needed me to stand on the head of the tripod and then yank hard on the leg. Eventually it yielded to force! While the tripod was in pieces I took the opportunity to clean up the threads both on the leg and on the screw lock. The leg locks had been making awful grinding noises for years, presumably from sand and salt getting in there. This was easy enough to do with a rag for the legs and a toothbrush to get into the locks. As an aside I had always been taught to extend the tripod fattest section first, which of course meant that the lower section lock ended up under water the first time I used the tripod at the beach. While this advice is generally sound I typically have the lower section extended the width of my hand – about 4 inches – and then when working at the beach this is the first section that gets extended.
At the top of the tripod legs I found 3 bushings – two plastic and one that could easily be carbon fiber. Trying to get the legs back together was a little tricky and after a little bit of trial and error I realized that it was the plastic bushings causing the problems. I took these off the tripod and wound them into a tighter circle and then when they went back on the tripod the plastic stayed in this tighter configuration long enough to allow me to reassemble the whole thing relatively easily,
It was quite an educational process and easy enough that I could have been doing regularly all along!
If you’ve been following along here, in the last few weeks we’ve been digging in to identify our purpose, the big why that is the underlying reason for the choices that we make in life. A touchstone that helps guide us through difficult decisions.
Before I leave this topic for a little while I could help but ask a final question. Why do you photograph? Perhaps related is how does your photography support your big why?
Now I’m not thinking about what kind of photography, sports, documentary, editorial, fine art etc., or what you photograph but why do you do the thing that you’ve chosen to do.
There are lots of reasons that people photograph, to capture the essence of a person or a pet, to make other people feel emotion, to preserve significant moments, to create something, as a meditative practice. The list goes on.
Making the connection between your photography and your big why can help identify new photography projects, bring existing photographic projects into focus, give a sense of direction to your work and also a reason to keep going when you’re wondering is it worth it. Additionally, as we’ve discussed previously understand why helps guide your decision making and help make sense of the myriad of options you have for spend your most precious resource of all – time.
I can’t remember where I first read about Carleton Watkins, perhaps it was this article in the Smithsonian magazine. For someone like me, who thought that photography started with Ansel Adams, it was something of a revelation to read about and see Watkin’s photographs of the American west and particularly of Yosemite Valley. While many of his photographs are stereograms the views of Yosemite are quite familiar. It was his series of photographs of Yosemite Valley in the 1860s that helped influence Congress’s decision to make the valley a National Park in 1864.
There’s an exhibition of Watkin’s photographs at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University until August 17. To find out more about the exhibition see here. Unfortunately I’m in the wrong part of the country to be able to get to the exhibition but I did get the related book and have been enjoying looking at the photographs.
Recognizing many of the views made famous through the work of Ansel Adams in the Yosemite Valley made me think about what Ansel Adams brought to the table. Perhaps not his vision but his superior control of the medium and printing abilities?
Check out the video below for more details on the exhibition at the Cantor Arts Center.
What actually went through my mind as I was reviewing photos from this evening shoot at Rialto Beach was ‘I should have kept shooting’. In my defense the circumstances were challenging. The tide was doing odd things. It would recede and seem like it was going out, but then the next wave would come 2 or 3 feet higher up the beach than it had for the last five minutes. I was getting caught out by this every time and I was getting wet. So what I had was a set of images where the log rolled and was blurred, the tripod moved as it sank in the sand and on and on. It wasn’t until I got to the last image in the set that I had the one at the top of the page. In hind sight I should have stuck with it at least a little while longer. I could have taken my shoes off and rolled up my pants, or just embraced getting wet and dealt with it. Whatever I did I should have kept going.
A lesson for next time – commit to getting the image and stay with it.
I’m continuing on with my theme of photographers that shoot long black and white exposures today with Joel. Joel has an interesting website that has features tutorials for those people interested in pursuing the long exposure images that he’s known for.
I first became aware of Joel’s work through the Nik Software ad for Silver Efex Pro. In fact the video below is a Nik Software promotional video in which Joel discusses his intent and the process for realizing it.