Meredith’s Superb Wren and the Great Tripod Debate

Esther BeatonPhoto Critiques

Thanks to everyone for the great comments on my first blog post. I’m really stumped by who could be behind some of those quirky aliases!

Instead of one of my photos, I’d like to post a winner sent in by Meredith Foley, one of my Day Safari participants. She’s asked a question and I’m sure many of you have similar frustrations.
“I’m still working enjoying nature photography and practicing all the things you taught me! I was hoping you might be able to help me with some advice about equipment. I recently bought a 400 mm lens and a monopod but, despite months of practice I still find that I can’t steady it enough for really good pictures. I am after something light enough for me to strap to my backpack and easy to erect and use outdoors on rugged terrain. I remember that you had a fabulous tripod on the workshop weekend (with flip buttons to put it up and down quickly). When you have a moment could you drop me a line and let me know which type/brand it was.”
I think Meredith, like many of us, is probably judging her own work a bit harshly. Here’s what I had to say:
“Your wren is superb! In all senses of the word. (Its proper name is Superb Fairy-wren; it looks like a non-breeding male.) And I think it is amazingly sharp for a hand-held shot. The composition is perfect, both colour and shapes, and makes up for any possible lack of sharpness. The warm pinky leaves balance with the blue tones of the bird while the triangular placement of the elements keeps your eye active on the page. Additionally, you got the catchlight in the eye which also contributes a sense of sharpness. The exposure and colour balance are also perfect allowing you to see every detail of the feathers which gives the shot the sense of “real-ness” as if you could almost reach out and touch the bird. And I love the shallow depth of field which allows the bird to really pop off the page.”
And in answer to her tripod question:  I use a Benbo Trekker most of the time and a larger Benbo Mark II with my heavier lenses. The Benbo has been the reliable favourite of nature photographers for many years because it handles the two problems Meredith mentioned above.
Has anyone come across a tripod and head that does a fantastic job in the field? Has anybody found any new designs coming on to the market? And what do you think about using a tripod in the first place – just how necessary is one?