Using A Tripod With Action Photography

Using a tripod with action? Huh?

If you have been reading my book or the blog, you know it’s a trick header, but I got you thinking didn’t I? Because we absolutely know that one of the things that doesn’t work with animal action, is a tripod. There just isn’t any way to move the gear fast enough to reposition it as you shoot. Well ok, if you are a crack photographer with National Geographic, shooting polar bears in the tundra with a huge lens at a long distance, then you are using a tripod. But that’s because you are stationary.


But if you just want to have fun and not spend your life in huge layers of clothing (hey, I’m a Florida girl), then forget about the tripod and go to your local zoo to photograph the bears.

So what to do to get good action when it’s fast? Here are a few ideas to try.

Wait…back up. You have to have an SLR to capture fast action. So if you are using an SLR, you’re good to go.

First hint. Use a stationary object to pre-focus on when you are photographing action. Anything will work. So if you are photographing horses or llamas at a show, position yourself so you can focus on say, the bar of one of the jumps. Pre-focus on that and fire away when the animal jumps over the bar. Sweet, uh?


medina horse jump

Here’s another hint that pros use all the time. Figure out where the action will be, pre-focus on that spot using your autofocus, then switch to manual focus and leave the focus alone (it’s set). When the action happens you won’t have to wait for the autofocus to get or miss the focus—you can just fire away on manual focus because you know the focus is good to go.

So why do you want to switch to manual focus? Because as fast as it is, there is always a tiny delay while the autofocus zeros in on the subject… a tiny delay you don’t have with manual focus.

If there isn’t anything you can use to pre-focus on, your job gets a lot harder. However, most of the newer SLR’s, have a continuous shooting (burst) mode. Count yourself lucky if you have this feature. You can still make dynamite photos without it, but if you plan to upgrade anytime soon, be sure to include this feature in your list of “must haves” for action.

So when you use this feature, you set your camera on burst mode, hold down the shutter release and take a burst of photos instead of just a few. This will increase your odds of getting a few images that are tack sharp.

One fun way to practice burst mode, is to position yourself in a field on the other side of a gate and when the gate is opened, fire away on burst mode. See what you get…hopefully a few of them will be good images.

Burst mode is also useful where you are photographing an animal or bird running pell mell in front of you.

Photo #109

Well I hope I’ve given you some fun things to try with your own animal photography.

Good shooting!

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