Throughout the previous chapters we have concentrated on using the camera to create great images. We will continue that trend in this chapter, but there is one additional piece of equipment that is crucial in the world of landscape shooting: the tripod. A tripod is critical for a couple of reasons. The first relates to the time of day that you will be working. For reasons that will be explained later, the best light for most landscape work happens at sunrise and just before sunset. While this is the best time to shoot, it’s also kind of dark. That means you’ll be working with slow shutter speeds. Slow shutter speeds mean camera shake. Camera shake equals bad photos.
The second reason is also related to the amount of light that you’re gathering with your camera. When taking landscape photos, you will usually want to be working with very small apertures, as they give you lots of depth of field (DOF). This also means that, once again, you will be working with slower-than-normal shutter speeds.
Slow shutter = camera shake = bad photos.
Do you see the pattern here? The one tool in your arsenal to truly defeat the camera shake issue and ensure tack-sharp photos is a good tripod (Figure 7.1).
So what should you look for in a tripod? Well, first make sure it’s sturdy. Sure, the G12 is a lightweight camera, but a $10 cheapie tripod is likely to wobble, buckle, or bounce at the slightest provocation (such as wind). Next, check the height of the tripod. Your day will end much better if you haven’t bent over for hours framing shots. Finally, think about getting a tripod that utilizes a quick-release head. This usually employs a plate that screws into the bottom of the camera and then quickly snaps into place on the tripod. This will be especially handy if you are going to move between shooting by hand and using the tripod.
Most tripods have a center column that allows the user to extend the height of the camera above the point where the tripod legs join together. This might seem like a great idea, but the reality is that the further you raise that column, the less stable your tripod becomes. Think of a tall building that sways near the top. To get the most solid base for your camera, always try to use it with the center column at its lowest point so that your camera is right at the apex of the tripod legs.
Image Stabilization and tripods don’t mix
If you are using the image stabilizer (IS) feature, remember to turn it off when you use a tripod. While trying to minimize camera movement, the image stabilizer can actually create movement when the camera is already stable. To turn off the IS feature, press the Menu button, scroll down to the IS Mode item, and set it to Off.
Enable the G12’s Built-in Level
When you want a level horizon but don’t have a tripod, look no further than the G12’s LCD. A built-in digital level can help straighten your shots. To enable it, go to the Tools menu (the middle tab in the menu screen) and scroll down to Electronic Level. Press the Function/Set button, and choose Calibrate. Exit the menus and, when you’re shooting, press the Display button. The level appears at the bottom of the screen. When the “bubble” is in the middle and turns green, you’re level. The feature also works in portrait orientation.