The Third Essential you should invest in is a good quality tripod. This will greatly assist your composition of landscapes, and should eliminate camera shake, especially if your are using telephoto or longer lenses. There are loads of makes and prices to suit every pocket and it is well worth a visit to a camera shop with the camera gear you will be using to discuss the options available and to shop around for prices.
Tripods normally come in 2 parts, and you can mix and match to suit your needs. The first part of the tripod is the legs component, and each of the 3 legs are made from telescopic tubes, normally 3, but 4 or even 5 stage legs are available. Some of the legs have screw type clamps, while others have a clip type arrangement. The feet of some legs have rubberised feet to prevent damage to wooden floors etcetera, which can be adjusted to reveal metal spikes for rocky terrain.
The other main component of the Tripod is the “head” the device which attaches camera to the Tripod legs. There are different types of Tripod head available, either a “pan and tilt” head, “pistol grip”, or “ball” head head, all shown here with their quick release plates removed. There does not seem to be a standard plate even within the same manufacturer’s range of products.
All have their advantages and disadvantages for various types of photography, and it is best to seek advice from the experts before you buy. The pan and tilt arrangement is the most versatile and popular, especially if your are shooting landscapes for stitching for panoramas.
In all cases you should get a head with a quick release mechanism (or plate), so you don’t have to screw the camera onto the tripod head, and can remove the camera from the tripod quickly (there’s a clue in the name - quick release mechanism). It’s a good idea to get a spare plate (or two) as some heavy lenses have their own screw thread for mounting, avoiding unnecessary stress on the lens mount on the camera body. If possible get a head with a built in spirit level bubble (as in the examples above), essential for landscape and panoramic photography, to ensure correct levels.
Some Tripods have a adjustable centre column which can be useful for low level photography. Also you can move the centre column up or down to the correct height for what you are photographing. For added stability some Tripods centre columns are braced to the legs of the apparatus, useful if you are using a heavy camera body and lens combination.
There is no point in getting a light tripod which shakes in the wind, but on the other hand don’t get one that is so heavy to carry that you won’t bring it with you when you go out photographing.
Reputable makes are Manfrotto, Velbon, Slik, Cullmann... the list goes on. Have a look at the suppliers websites by following the links on the Links page and you will get a better idea of the range of tripods, heads and prices available. Bring your camera and lenses into the camera shops and try the various tripods for size, and watch out for special offers, Black Friday, Easter sales etcetera.
Another option to consider is a Monopod (basically one leg of a Tripod) which is very useful in crowded areas, such as busy streets or at sports events. Get one with an adjustable head to provide the “tilt” part of a pan and tilt head on a tripod.
This picture below shows the top end of a (Manfrotto) monopod, with a ball type head which has no quick release plate, so you have to screw the camera on and off the ball head if you want to use the camera hand held. The tilt head on the right comes with a quick release plate.
Picture to follow....
Other forms of support include bean bags, clamps for car windows, suction cups, walls, trees, ladders, rolled up coats or jumpers - the list is endless. Support of some sort is necessary especially when using slow shutter speeds (as in landscapes). Use of a remote release, either cable or wireless, or the use of the self timer set to it’s shortest interval, is also recommended.
Here are close up pictures of the heads in the group (second) photo above. Picture to follow.