Thursday, July 31, 2008

A trick to getting honest critique from friends and family

I find it really interesting to take two photos and ask friends / family which they like better and why. Photos I throw out because of technical problems or distractions, etc are sometimes overwhelmingly the favorites of my non-photographer viewers. I've learned a lot from those kinds of discussions. It's a great way to find your weak spots as far as composition goes. The secret is to present photos in two's so that your friends / family can more easily give critique -they can say something bad about one by saying what's better about the other ;-). That usually breaks the critique ice and can get a real discussion going that's more likely to lead to better insights.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Induro C014 Review

Indro C014 -Review Coming Soon!
(larger versions of all photos in this article can be seen by clicking on them)

I'm going on a 25 Mile bike ride that starts at midnight next weekend (the "LATE Ride" in Chicago) and, in order to get some photos during the ride, I've been thinking about bringing my camera. The problem is that my tripod is heavy and bulky and 25 miles isn't easy to do without all that weight and bother. But, my husband drug me to Calumet Photo in Oakbrook and I saw and fell in love with the Induro C014 tripod. Eventually I ordered it from Adorama to avoid local shop's tendancies to push service plans on you.

In the store it was sitting right next to the very similar Gitzo which had a price tag of nearly double the Induro's, which was $289. I liked how compact it was when folded down as well as how light it was, so I went home and started looking into it.

It turned out on paper it wasn't that much different than my current tripod, a Bogen Manfrotto 190XB:

Folded Length:
  • 190XB: 20 inches
  • C014: 17.9 inches.
Max Height:
  • 190XB: 46 inches w/o column extended, 57 inches including the column
  • C014: 46 inches w/o column extended, 55 inches including the column
  • 190XB: 4 pounds
  • C014: 2.3 pounds
So, for $289 I wondered if it was worth the expense for a 2 inch shorter folded length and a weight savings of 1.7 pounds.

But when you compare them side by side you can see how different they really are:

Bogen Manfrotto 190XB vs Induro C-014 (Folded)

My hand is stretched when carrying the Manfrotto (folded) by two legs. My hand wraps comfortably around the C014 (I'll post the circumference of both later). And the fact that it's two inches shorter means I can attach it easily to my backpack (which I can't really do with my 190XB):

Induro C014 on my backpack

So, how does it work?
Well, because this is a lightweight, compact, travel tripod, I anticipated that it would not hold my 4 pound Sigma 50-500mm ("Bigma") -the 4th leg on this tripod is quite thin and that's pushing the 8 pound capacity of this tripd. But, after some testing in the backyard yesterday I found that, while it's difficult to get a sharp shot with the tripod fully extended, if you pull in the tiny 4th leg in (leaving only 2 sections instead of all 3 expanded) then it does pretty well. This is a 6 second long exposure taken on the Induro C014:


There was a breeze while this shot was taken, but not a strong wind. A remote was used to trigger the shutter, and no weight was used on the tripod (although there is a hook to attach weight to).

The tripod had no problems fully extended with my 75-300mm lens, a remote, and no weight attached.

The tripod's height without the column raised is a bit short, but it's the same as the full size Manfrotto 190XB. I'm 5 feet 3 inches tall and the height works very well for me. My husband, though, is about 6 feet tall and he has to bend down to look through the camera at that height.

Ease of use:
The twist-type leg locks are quick and easy to use -my hand fits across all three, so I can turn them all a quarter turn and the whole leg is unlocked and ready to be extended. A quick quarter-turn back (each) and they are all locked and I'm onto the next leg. Breakdown is just as easy: loosen each ring a quarter turn, collapse, then I can tighten all three at once. The locks turn very smoothly and their literature says they are resistant to water, sand, dirt, etc.

There's 3 leg positions at preset angles and the mechanism is easy to use. You just pull out that clip that says "Induro" on it, adjust the leg to the angle you want, then put that plastic piece back in place so it catches against the stair-like stopper to hold the position. Column extention is also very easy due to a nice big ring with three tabs around the head that's nice and easy to turn. The column has a channel in it so it won't turn. And the legs are made to not turn as well.

There's a compass and circular level at the top of the legs. Both are small, but they both seem to work. The tripod also comes with a VERY nice bag and toolkit, and also has a 5 year warranty (although you have to register it to get all 5 years!).

Before purchasing this tripod I looked for reviews and didn't find very many. A couple of people, though, reported problems with other Induro tripods having cheap glue being used to hold the top portion of the tripod together. Both said that they were carrying the tripod over their shoulder with large (heavy) lenses attached when it came apart. When carrying my Manfrotto like that I ALWAYS have a hold on either the lens or the camera and lens straps just in case it falls. I've always considered carrying the tripod like that a risky manouver anyway, but I thought I'd mention that.

Final Thoughts:
I'm actually surprised at how sturdy this tripod is and I'm going to attempt to switch to this as my full-time tripod. I'm using the Manfrotto 484RC2 head on it, which fits well and together it makes a nice little package that's very compact, yet easy to use and quite functional including the ability to hold up my bigma, which is a big plus that I wasn't anticipating!

There are some who will read the warning as well as the fact that the mechanism for adjusting the angle of the tripod is plastic and will be thinking that they'll get the similar Gitzo. -That may be best if you really test the limits of your equipment. You don't have to guess with Gitzo -you'll know it's made well. Not all of us have that kind of money lying around, though. For the rest of us, know that Gitzo's adjustment is similar -there's a plastic piece you pull out, but the parts that catch to support the tripod are metal in Gitzo's case.

So, yes, it's true that the Induro is not made quite to the same standards as the Gitzo. But the differences are really in the things that would matter more to a pro using the tripod daily with heavy lenses, and this tripod in particular (being compact for travel and limited to supporting 8 pounds), I doubt any of this really matters. Also -it's almost half the price! You could probably break it and buy another one later for the cost of starting out with the Gitzo. And if you keep in mind the limitations and don't abuse your equipment, I doubt you'd ever see a problem with it.

With all the talk about build quality, don't be fooled. Everything on the Induro says quality as far as I'm concerned. From the fluid-like motion of the leg locks to the finish on the carbon fiber. -I was able to use the Induro and the Gitzo side-by-side in the store and I saw very little difference. Everything on the Induro is easy to use and nothing (to me) screams cheap. (Well, maybe the angle adjustment on the legs, but they are easy to use and I don't change leg angles all that much.) -I really do think most people would be quite happy with this tripod!

Comparison photos, the Induro C014 next to the Manfrotto 190XB:

Unexpanded (the ruler thing is 2 feet tall):
Bogen Manfrotto 190XB vs Induro C-014 (Unexpanded)

Bogen Manfrotto 190XB vs Induro C-014 (Expanded)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Common photography advice about not centering your subject, not putting the horizon in the center, not taking photos of flowers from straight on, not shooting from eye-level, and so on are all about one thing: breaking habits.

It's everyone's natural tendency to take photos with the subject centered, from eye-level, etc so we've already seen those photos time and time again. They are the same as everyone else's and, therefore, boring. But that's also why photos are more striking when taken according to the rule of thirds or when taken from a different perspective.

So anything you can do to capture the world a bit differently will help catch the eye of your viewer. (Even if it does mean that people look at you funny when you're crawling around on your hands and knees taking pictures!)

Isolate it:
Just a weed

Crop it:
Elephant Closeup

Use a different perspective:
Park Vista Hotel Abstract

Don't center your subject:

Take photos at different times of day (or night!):
"History Revealed" (Lincoln Park at night)

Get low:
Wood Duck

Use effects:
LSD at night 2

Or just find unusual subjects!:

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ansel Adams Gallery Blog

The blog itself seems very Yosemite-centric, but the 2 (Non-Adams) photos in this post are fantastic and I figured I'd share: