View camera stability

Compiled by Q.-Tuan Luong for the Large Format Page

By Don Nelson

I regularly use an Arca Swiss 8x10 with Nikor T1200 (that's about a meter of bellows at infinity!). You **can** make sharp images.(exposures range upwards to many seconds with this system). Perhaps the following suggestions will help those that are having problems even with 360mm lenses:

1) Good Ball head (I prefer an Arca Swiss B-2 due to the mass of the larger camera and the wonderful(IMHO) dual-ball design. YMMV- other ballheads will probably work just as well)

2) Kirk Enterprises sells a neat tripod arm that attaches to a tripod leg and *happens* to have a ball head on the other end with an Arca plate (just happens to fit an extended rail on the Arca :-). This arm extends from the tripod leg to the rail and gives a lot of additional rigidity for just a little more weight in the tripod. This little tripod arm can be built for any tripod, and you can put an Arca plate to tripod thread (or other arrangement) on the other end. This arm was developed for the folks in 35mm/120 using extremely long lenses without a second tripod.

3) Tripod (with ball head) goes under the lens. A monopod (with a little ballhead for ease of use) goes under the rail at the ground glass end... so much easier than schlepping a second tripod.

OK - you now have a stable platform that is easy to carry (OK, not as easy as 4x5 but you get the point).

4)Now you need to take care of the wind on the bellows. For this you will need a large golf umbrella.

For shorter lenses I always use the Kirk Arm for additional support (and the umbrella for the breeze regardless of focal length)

This system is adaptable to any camera-tripod that you may have. I have used a similar setup with a Larger KBCanham as well.

By Barry Sherman

> 1.If the wind is blowing, NO tripod is going to give you a sharp slow
> exposure, because the bellows will be vibrating, thus the camera will be
> vibrating.

> 2. If the wind is not blowing, any tripod strong enough not to fall down
> from the weight of the camera is just fine, so long as you use a very long
> (preferably one of the pneumatic ones with six feet of tube) cable
> release.
I'll gently disagree with this. Wrt photographing in the wind: Yes, I'd have agreed with Alan until I discovered my Handy Dandy Portable Semi- Shelter From The Wind. (Umbrellas). I've been amazed at how much I can shelter the camera from the wind by using an umbrella. Unless the wind is coming from directly in front of the camera, I can almost always hold an umbrella up real close to the camera body and minimize the breeze enough to almost completely eliminate Readyload envelopes from moving. And it doesn't take much breeze to make Readyload envlopes sway. (I've experimented and satisfied myself that some minimal movement of the Readyload envelope will not be transmitted to the film, btw.)

Since I discovered the utility of carrying a small folding umbrella I've been able to photograph under windy conditions which would have, previously, had me seriously doubting whether to bother to set up. However, the umbrella only shelters the camera. If the tripod is insufficiently stiff then the wind will be making lots of vibration in the tripod legs and this will negate the sheltering of the camera itself by the umbrella.

Wrt the second point, I'm just not so sure. I used to use two tripods: mostly a Bogen 3221 and somewhat a much heavier Bogen 3236. Then one day I started to see a correlation between sharpnes when using longer lenses (300mm) and which tripod I was using. Even on breeze-free days. Intellectually it seems to me that on a breeze-free day and provided that great care is taken to allow vibration to damp out and with the cable release then the sturdiness of the tripod shouldn't matter. But that really counts on idea conditions and I don't think that I can count on always providing ideal conditions. So I prefer a heavier tripod (within my ability to carry it, of course.)

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