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Author Topic: Reproducing composition on a tripod  (Read 4104 times)

trevarthan

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Reproducing composition on a tripod
« on: July 31, 2014, 10:49:26 am »

I'm not sure if I'm just a little nuts, or if this is a common problem. I reshoot my scenes a lot, because I'm trying to realize (or beat) a vision I have in my head. Sometimes the light doesn't cooperate. Sometimes I screw something up. This scene right now is really starting to be a problem for me:

Downtown Chattanooga from Market Street Bridge by Trevarthan, on Flickr

I don't mind the drive, or the scenery. My biggest annoyance is getting the composition right on the tripod. It takes forever. I have a reasonably sturdy Manfrotto 055XProb with a ball head. It's easy to adjust, but I guess I'm a little annoyed it doesn't have markings so I can reproduce height, tilt, pan, etc easily. I spend up to 20 minutes on it each shoot. Glance at my reference photo on my phone. Tweak. Repeat. Real pain.

Anyone else experience this? Any good ideas or solutions to make it easier?
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kirktuck

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2014, 11:11:00 am »

Buy a China Marker pencil (wax pencil) and make the marks on your tripod leg extensions and center column extension. That should get you into the ballpark more quickly. Also, bring a Sharpie and make a small mark for each tripod foot on the the ground. If you put the legs in the same place every time you could even mark the rotational scale of the tripod and all you'd have left would be the angles for tilt. Seem pretty straightforward.
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Bart_van_der_Wolf

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2014, 11:33:09 am »

I have a reasonably sturdy Manfrotto 055XProb with a ball head.

A ball head doesn't allow accurate reproduction of an earlier setup. The best you can do is make a note of some image feature, with respect to e.g. a central focus indicator, or use a grid (either in Live View if you camera allows, or on the physical focus screen if you can replace it) and note an intersection position.

Cheers,
Bart
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NancyP

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2014, 11:40:54 am »

I like the composition here. Keep at it until you get the light you want.
Load a reference photo on your phone.
Measure tripod height with a tape measure for easier reproduction.
Here's the kicker: Consider using a geared head, Manfrotto 410 with Hejnarphoto 405/410 Arca-style clamp replacement (buy kit from Hejnar and install yourself, not hard) is the cheapest and works very nicely for architecture and other precision work. That's what I have with my aluminum Manfrotto 055 legs. Heavy, but with architecture and urban scenes, I am not having to drag it far. Much less fuss than using a ball head.
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trevarthan

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2014, 11:58:58 am »

I like the composition here. Keep at it until you get the light you want.
Load a reference photo on your phone.
Measure tripod height with a tape measure for easier reproduction.
Here's the kicker: Consider using a geared head, Manfrotto 410 with Hejnarphoto 405/410 Arca-style clamp replacement (buy kit from Hejnar and install yourself, not hard) is the cheapest and works very nicely for architecture and other precision work. That's what I have with my aluminum Manfrotto 055 legs. Heavy, but with architecture and urban scenes, I am not having to drag it far. Much less fuss than using a ball head.

I think I'll give that a try. Even if I don't use it very often, having the option to record my height, pan, tilt, and yaw for later reproduction will be helpful, I think.

I'm currently using the 496rc2: http://www.amazon.com/Manfrotto-496RC2-Release-Replaces-486RC2/dp/B002N5NRSC
The 410 is more expensive, but it sounds worthwhile: http://www.amazon.com/Manfrotto-410-Junior-Geared-Head/dp/B000JLI4Q2

What's the purpose of the Hejnarphoto 405/410 Arca-style clamp? I googled it, but I don't understand why I need it.

Quote from: kirktuck
Buy a China Marker pencil (wax pencil) and make the marks on your tripod leg extensions and center column extension. That should get you into the ballpark more quickly. Also, bring a Sharpie and make a small mark for each tripod foot on the the ground.

This is also a good suggestion. I was trying to figure out how to mark the tripod legs, but I figured tape would bind. I also thought about bringing chalk to mark the ground, but rain would wash it away. I'll try this.
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trevarthan

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2014, 02:24:53 pm »

Why try?

I've yet to produce a composition that couldn't be bettered and would relish any opportunity to improve on the original.

That thought has occurred to me a few times. I keep trying because I know I can do better. Plenty of time to explore the unknown after I've exhausted the known.
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trevarthan

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2014, 02:44:34 pm »

In order to do better you need to change, not replicate.

Are you trolling, or are you being serious?
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2014, 02:52:03 pm »

Why try?

I've yet to produce a composition that couldn't be bettered and would relish any opportunity to improve on the original.

+1

Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2014, 02:53:47 pm »

In order to do better you need to change, not replicate.

+1

As they say... definition of insanity (or at least futility) - doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results

trevarthan

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2014, 03:06:21 pm »

+1

As they say... definition of insanity (or at least futility) - doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results

So... waiting for better light is insanity. Thanks. I'll keep that in mind.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2014, 03:19:02 pm »

So... waiting for better light is insanity. Thanks. I'll keep that in mind.

No, man, waiting for light is fine. But does it have to be with the exact (and I mean anally-retentive exact) composition!?

Telecaster

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2014, 03:58:14 pm »

I enjoy photographing the same subjects multiple timesówith some I have photos going back 30+ yearsóbut I rarely try to precisely repeat a composition. IMO that's not unlike the photographic equivalent of the music recording affliction known as "trying to beat the demo." When I find myself tempted by that approach I drop the subject (or the piece of music) and move on to something else. Later on I might return to it...

-Dave-
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NancyP

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2014, 04:15:24 pm »

Why the Hejnar adapter? I prefer the Arca-style plate and clamp system to the Manfrotto system. That's all.  At the time that I purchased my first tripod and used head (the Manfrotto geared head), I started using the Manfrotto plates and they were loose. Furthermore, photographing in portrait orientation was a PITA. I saw another photographer's Arca-style camera L bracket and decided that an L bracket was the way to go, center of gravity of camera stays over head instead of off to the side of the head. Manfrotto didn't have a good L bracket for their plate (they have one now). Through fora, I found out about the Hejnar conversion kit for this 410 head. I installed it and bought an Arca-style L bracket which stays on the camera full time.

I love tripods.

There's nothing wrong with taking a "sketch" photo where the composition is what you want but the light doesn't happen to be right. It is a good reminder to try again when the light is better. I have a bunch of shots in the "try again" file, most taken on a first visit to a location. I drive 2 hours and hike an hour to get there, skies looking promisingly stormy all the while, and then the clouds change to flat overcast...meh.
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trevarthan

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2014, 04:19:10 pm »

No, man, waiting for light is fine. But does it have to be with the exact (and I mean anally-retentive exact) composition!?

If you look at the photos in the comments on the page I linked to, you'll see they're not the same composition. That's actually the problem. I had light I liked at one point, and I used a composition that wasn't as good and it ended up ruining the photo.

So no, I don't think it has to be exact every time. However, I would like to take this particular photo using the same composition at least once more, with the right light.

I was talking to my partner about this a few minutes ago. We'd both like to see this same scene in a few different atmospheric conditions too (fog, snow, etc). I think that would be pretty awesome.

And no, being anal retentive doesn't bother me. I'm a software engineer for a living. I'm actually rewarded for it in my trade.
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trevarthan

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2014, 04:22:45 pm »

Why the Hejnar adapter? I prefer the Arca-style plate and clamp system to the Manfrotto system. That's all.  At the time that I purchased my first tripod and used head (the Manfrotto geared head), I started using the Manfrotto plates and they were loose. Furthermore, photographing in portrait orientation was a PITA. I saw another photographer's Arca-style camera L bracket and decided that an L bracket was the way to go, center of gravity of camera stays over head instead of off to the side of the head. Manfrotto didn't have a good L bracket for their plate (they have one now).

Also great info. Thank you. I've always wondered what those L brackets were for. My ball head takes portrait photos pretty easily. I hadn't considered that with a gear head. I'll pick up an L bracket too.
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NancyP

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #15 on: July 31, 2014, 04:44:33 pm »

Keeping the camera center of gravity over the head is more important with larger cameras (DSLRs). With small mirrorless cameras, this doesn't matter as much. The other advantage of an L bracket is that if you generally like the subject from that tripod position, you can switch back and forth from landscape to portrait position in seconds and still maintain level horizon, etc. A third possible advantage or disadvantage is that the camera grip gets bulkier (and camera weighs a few more ounces). I shoot a variety of subjects but find it easier to keep the L bracket on all the time. I suppose that if I knew on a certain occasion that I would not use a tripod or that I would use only telephotos with tripod rings, I could take the L bracket off for that occasion, but in practice it is just easier to keep the L bracket on.
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stever

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #16 on: July 31, 2014, 08:01:27 pm »

I also use a RRS rail with clamp which allows setting the nodal point for stitching, but is also very useful getting the center of gravity of the camera-lens combination over the center of the head - it's amazing how much this improves the use of any head, particularly ball heads (although I'm completely in agreement that ball heads are not a good tool for architectural - or a lot of other subjects).

I'd also suggest just putting a tape measure in the bag to record the height of the camera rather messing with marking stuff.  also a bubble level on the camera - not completely accurate, but a good starting point.
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luxborealis

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #17 on: July 31, 2014, 08:09:49 pm »

No one has mentioned this yet, so I'll throw this suggestion into the mix... Do all your composing off-tripod. Without the legs, you can move freely, precisely and incrementally up-down, back-and-forth and side-to-side, tilting up and down. Once the camera is precisely where you want it, make note of what's in each of the four corners and set the tripod up "underneath" the camera.

I use this technique ALL the time. I've even been known to hold the camera in place with one hand while dragging the already set-up tripod over with my foot to finish setting it up with my other hand. There is nothing worse than farting around for 10 or 20 minutes trying to get the precise composition with the camera on the pod when it can be done in a moment off the pod.

In your case you could quickly and easily match the reference photo for achieving a desired composition OR freely find a new, more compelling composition.
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trevarthan

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #18 on: July 31, 2014, 08:18:33 pm »

No one has mentioned this yet, so I'll throw this suggestion into the mix... Do all your composing off-tripod. Without the legs, you can move freely, precisely and incrementally up-down, back-and-forth and side-to-side, tilting up and down. Once the camera is precisely where you want it, make note of what's in each of the four corners and set the tripod up "underneath" the camera.

I use this technique ALL the time. I've even been known to hold the camera in place with one hand while dragging the already set-up tripod over with my foot to finish setting it up with my other hand. There is nothing worse than farting around for 10 or 20 minutes trying to get the precise composition with the camera on the pod when it can be done in a moment off the pod.

In your case you could quickly and easily match the reference photo for achieving a desired composition OR freely find a new, more compelling composition.

Yeah, I do this too. I still think the gear head will be a vast improvement though.
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Bart_van_der_Wolf

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Re: Reproducing composition on a tripod
« Reply #19 on: August 01, 2014, 07:07:11 am »

I often re-shoot but take the opportunity to improve on the original in any way I can.

Hi Keith,

Besides changing light, why not make a perfect composition to start with?
IOW How many iterations does it take to approach perfection?

Cheers,
Bart
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