The simplest thing most folks could do to improve their photography (travel or otherwise) is use a tripod. Motion blur is a huge problem for most people, and a tripod holds the camera still, so that you don’t get blurred images from your hands shaking. In addition to the stability offered by a tripod, the other reason that photos tend to improve with their use is that you’re forced to slow down. With the camera mounted, you’ll take more time to properly compose your images.
Cheap compact cameras have small lenses that can’t gather much light. This means that the shutter has to stay open longer to grab the image. The longer the shutter is open, the more opportunity there is for your shaking hands to blur the image. You can get by pretty easily in broad daylight, but when the sun starts to set, you’re in trouble. Tripod to the rescue!
For many years I carried an Ultrapod. It’s small, lightweight, and highly versatile. It will sit on a relatively flat surface, or can even be strapped to a pole, fence post, etc.
99% of the time I used it just like you see here, and I did occasionally strap it to something. For me, the only deficiency at all was the fact that I couldn’t turn the camera vertical. When I would try, the weight of the camera would tip the tripod over. I could get by in those cases by using my hand to hold down the leg opposite the camera, keeping it from tipping, but this is less than ideal. Here’s a link to the Ultrapod at B&H Photo.
Then one day I was on a road trip with some friends (hey Ed & Stu!!!), and saw Stu using this great tripod by Giottos! The Ball Pod is cool for several reasons.
- It folds almost flat, with just the screw head poking up. This means it’s small enough to fit into the front pocket on the Lowepro case I carry my G9 in.
- It’s short. It’s only 4.5″ when folded.
- The legs extend!!!!! The 5-section telescoping legs go from about 3″ to almost 7″.
- The longer legs mean I can rotate the camera into portrait orientation without tipping.
- The individually adjustable leg lenghs mean it handles uneven surfaces better.
Here’s a link to the Giottos tripod at B&H Photo.
Regardless of which tripod you choose, you should also consider using a timer. Most cameras have a self timer built into them, with options of something like 2 seconds and 10 seconds. The 2 second delay works well to let the camera stop moving after you press the shutter release, and the 10 second delay gives you enough time to run get into the photo yourself.