The Santa Fe Workshops recently started offering mentorships with a select group of professional photographers. It is a brilliant concept, for photographers who want to work in depth or have a consultation with a particular professional photographer. (Check it out

I recently had a one-hour conversation with Deigh Bates ( about his photography. I thought I was an interesting choice for him as a Mentor since he is primarily a landscape photographer and I am primarily a people photographer. But he was looking for a different perspective outside the nature crowd. And, I certainly have a different perspective. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and it got me thinking about a number of topics.

One of which is … tripods. I rarely use a tripod, except when it is absolutely necessary.

Nature photographers tend to gasp when I say that they use the tripod too much or that depth of field is not that important. Tripods are limiting and people tend to get stuck photographing from whatever height and angle in which they set it up. I find that people do not experiment with creative angles, such laying on the ground and shooting upwards, or getting up higher than their tripod can reach, or experimenting with different tilts of the camera. I find that people just get stuck in “shoulds” when that tripod is set up.

And, one of those “shoulds” is that most everything should be in-focus. This “should” extends far beyond nature photography. It appears to be primarily a concern for western-culture photographers. I am not exactly sure where it comes from since the early photography is quite dreamy; I think it has to do with the advent of instantmatic cameras like the Brownie (I would love to have your thoughts on this). Of course, not all nature photography is f/16 and beyond; plenty of photographers experiment with “selective” focus but primarily with flowers and details and water. And, there are some spectacular nature photographers like William Neill and Eddie Soloway, who push their imagery into new directions. I just would like to see more emerging nature photographers let go of conventional moorings and experiment A LOT. Goggle “bokeh” and start photographing what you imagine, not just what you see.

I will have more to say about my conversation with Deigh in future posts because I think he has an extraordinarily open mind. And, he photographs almost every day in his environs (that beats my commitment to photography!). His dedication and photography are exemplatory! I applaud him.

A final word about tripods: Yes, I rarely use a tripod; however, I know intimately that it is not enough to up the ISO on the camera (a digital photography crutch); sometimes I REALLY need the tripod to avoid camera shake and occasionally for a particular depth-of-field that I cannot get handholding the image… just like I used to shoot with film. 95% hand-held, and 5% tripod.


© nevada wier 2009 Rajasthan, India