December 21, 2009 by Rob Hurlbut
Steps Of The San Diego Convention Center
I was at the San Diego Bay Parade Of Lights on Sunday, and since the parade started over an hour late, I had time to get some shots of non-boat things. As it turns out, they would be the gems of the evening. I didn’t get a single decent shot of any of the boats.
Shaky Monopod & Too Short Of A Shutter
I have a Benro MA-91 aluminum monopod with fold out stabilizer legs that just don’t cut it for long exposure shots. The monopod stands up on it’s own, but it is never rock solid like a tripod, whether you are holding it or not. It was no help at all for taking shots of moving boats at night, all lit up as if Clark W. Griswald was at the helm of each one. For good shots of these boats I needed a lot of shutter time AND a firmly planted camera. The Benro just doesn’t provide it. High ISO on my camera is so noisy that it hurts me and makes me sad, so it was not considered as an option. Even with me bracing the monopod, 1/10 shutter was all I could count on to be clear with this tripoded monopod. I then placed my bag on the ground and my camera on the bag and took another shot. Since it was rock steady, I was able to use more shutter time and get a better photo. So… The pic above was 1/10, hovering over 5 feet above the ground on top of a Benro monopod posing as a tripod. The shot below was taken with the camera on firm ground with 1 second of shutter time. That’s what I got instead of boats on the night I went to a parade of Christmas-lit boats: Buildings and steps.
San Diego Skyline With One Second Exposure
There are a few lessons here, the first being that fold out legs on a monopod are no substitute for a tripod when doing night photography. Another lesson would be a willingness to find something else to shoot if your original subject, your equipment or even your own mad, photographic skills fail you. The boats were out of my reach so I turned around and shot the Christmas city skyline instead.