If you've been following me on my website, my Instagram or Facebook pages, you know I shoot a ton of landscapes and animals, and if you've read my blogs, you know that sometimes my hikes take me into some pretty interesting places. Sometimes those places mean climbing, going over and under obstacles or really just putting myself out there to get the shot.
To get a good shot, you need to have a very steady hand or a good solid tripod, especially in low light. So much of my work is first thing in the morning at first light, or late in the evening.
The thing about these little trips is, I really detest carrying any more than I need to. If I'm lucky, I have Shaunna with me and she shoulders plenty of gear, but it gets old. If you're on a 9k hike up and down hills, in snow and ice or a hot humid day, carrying gear is just annoying, especially a clunky tripod that takes time to set up each time, then take down, then set up again in a new place and then take down all over again. All of this takes away from the experience of being in a beautiful place and turns photography into work, and that's just not right.
When I look back at my trips a year or 5 years later, I don't want to have to rely on photos, I want it in my head too - so I'm always on the lookout for a better way to do things.
Thankfully there's a new tool called Steadify that makes life so much easier - not to mention lighter. Visit the link for more info but here's my experience - This tool is a belt with a rotating collapsible rod which extends upward in order to support the weight of your lens. What this means is you now have a firm anchor point for your lens to rest on!
I tried it yesterday and today with my two heaviest lenses with teleconverters attached so I could see first hand if they could take the load reliably, and see just how steady they would hold things. Here's a breakdown and a couple of shots. I would point out that because I'm using teleconverters, the images aren't razor sharp. It's a sacrifice you make for extra reach, but for testing Steadify, it's a great help.
- Canon 5D Mark III + Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS II with 2x teleconverter
- The lighter of the two lenses in my comparison and most manageable, it worked absolutely amazingly. The typical rule of thumb is that you should tend to shoot at 1/focal length as your shutter speed as your lowest speed. So if you have a 200mm focal length, the slowest you should shoot is 1/200. Granted, image stabilizing means you can shoot even slower, but with the steadify on, I was able to shoot 400mm at 1/60 very reliably. In fact, it wasn't even a concern to me that I was using such a slow shutter speed. The value of that is incalculable.
- Because of this slow speed, I was able to put my ISO at it's lowest setting, and use a higher aperture so I could really take advantage of the lenses sharpness sweet spot. Too many photographers will shoot at 2.8 because it's a badge of honour. It shows off how fast their glass is. That's wonderful and yes there's a nice background blur, but sometimes you really do want a much larger depth of field. Steadify gave me at least another couple of stops of options, whether I wanted DOF or shutter speed.
- Canon 5D Mark III + Sigma 150-500mm lens with 2x teleconverter
- This one was to be the real test - not only is
Definitely a more challenging lens to use - With a 2x teleconverter attached, autofocus is disabled. Try shooting wildlife with manual focus only - it's not fun, trust me.
With the 150-500mm lens being so much longer, adding another few inches with the teleconverter plus the additional weight, the entire rig is incredibly front-heavy. Setting up to shoot from a standing position is very difficult, but to focus manually is virtually not possible on a moving target.
Thankfully, Steadify was there - it took the weight of the lens for me and truly left my hand available to make fine focus adjustments and adjust my zoom where necessarily. While this shot below isn't particularly exciting, it would have been impossible without that extra hand.
If I can say one thing about photography, it's all about how many fstops you have to work with. Sometimes you have to give some up because you need more depth, other times its because you need more shutter speed. Both of these limit your creative options and you're forced to use ISO to compensate, and that's just not going to make for nice photos.
If you think about how much you pay to have Image Stabilizing on a lens, the value that Steadify brings more than pays for it.
So to sum it up - unless I'm shooting a multi exposure landscape requiring several second exposures, Steadify will save me packing a tripod, the time to set up, take down, set up again, take down. If I'm travelling, that's bulk and weight I no longer have to be concerned about, and if I'm doing something rather extreme, I don't have to pause to get a few good calming deep breaths in before taking a picture.
If you're into photography, I strongly suggest checking this out - if you're near me, come out with me and give it a try! :)