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Trashing a tripod…

October 16, 2013, 1:38 PM

It’s funny how things work out sometimes.  Some of you may know that I’m in the process of doing a photo set of the Washington Monument while it’s in scaffolding.  I shot all of the daytime material on September 5, where I walked 6.35 miles around the Washington Monument, and took 900 photos in the process (no wonder I was exhausted after that).  One of the photos became the photo feature on September 8.

The plan was to also do a nighttime component for this set, and I got together with my friends Suzie and Rocio to do half of the night photos (since the full round proved to be too much) on September 28.  Since I had gotten jittery photos when I did a similar photo shoot in March (the nighttime photos of the DC War Memorial and Jefferson Memorial are from that shoot), I did some equipment testing out on my balcony prior to this shoot to determine the cause of the jittering and get some quality photos.  Since the camera wasn’t going to change, the test was on the tripods.  I tested Big Mavica’s original tripod, which is a Kodak tripod that I got in December 2002, and my regular tripod, which is a Sunpak tripod that I got in December 2003 (which I used in the March shoot).  Turns out that the Sunpak tripod jittered and the Kodak one didn’t.  So it seemed a no-brainer: take the Kodak tripod out on the shoot.

Getting out on the Mall, with Suzie and Rocio along for the adventure, things quickly went south.  I can deal with most equipment issues fairly well.  But this time, an important piece decided to go: the head of the tripod.  Early on, things held together, but while I was working in front of the Jefferson Memorial, the head popped off, and it wouldn’t go back in and stay there.  Thus the best I could do was perch it in there and make do, but the problems got worse and worse as the night went on.

If it gives you a clue about how the situation deteriorated, this is what one of my photos from early on looked like, unedited:

Early on in the shoot.  Note how the photo is fairly straight, and the Washington Monument is (almost) centered in the frame.

Then compare that to this photo taken from the Lincoln Memorial, near the end of the evening:

Taken from the Lincoln Memorial towards the end of the evening.  The shot is tilted, and the Monument is not centered in the frame.

That was about as good as I could get it.  I just couldn’t get the head to go back in.  And this was while holding the tripod head still with my hands, too.  And these photos also aren’t even particularly remarkable, in part because I had to compensate for faulty equipment by shortening the exposure times and such.  All in all, I had a fun time with my friends, but I ended up with a camera full of stinkers.  So in other words, the evening was totally worth it (except for that part where I couldn’t remember how to get back to the car), but as far as advancing the progress of the photo set goes, I got nowhere, since the material was entirely unusable, save for maybe a few photos of the MLK Memorial.

And then to add insult to injury, a few days later, the government shutdown put the kibosh on any further production work for this photo set, since the closure of the memorials cut off the access that I needed to get the shots that I wanted, as well as all restroom access (a must-have!).

The best material of the night actually came from Suzie, as she turned my problems into success.  She got photos of me as I gave the tripod the heave-ho into a convenient trash can at the World War II Memorial:

Putting the camera away at the World War II Memorial
Putting the camera away at the World War II Memorial.

Holding the tripod head with the broken end forward.
Holding the tripod head with the broken end forward.

About to drop the tripod head into the trash.
About to drop the tripod head into the trash.

And that was the end of that.  We got a video of my throwing the tripod body away as well, but it was too dark, so you couldn’t see anything.  For what little money I paid for this tripod, I think I got my money’s worth out of it, and it was a good first tripod.  Still, I’m annoyed that my shoot was ruined.  Once the government reopens (hopefully soon), I’m planning to try again with the Sunpak tripod and see if I can get beautiful photos.  If not, then I’m going to have to rethink how I want to do this set.

And if anyone knows of a really solid, but inexpensive tripod that I can get my hands on, leave a comment, since I can’t have jitters or broken heads.

Categories: Friends, Photography