When sharp counts, use a tripod

Tim Sutherland provided the following information:

“Tripods, tripods, tripods.

“Probably my biggest complaint with my students is unsharp negatives and I see it in eighty percent of all the negatives they develop. The subsequent prints are less than sharp because the original negative was not in focus.

“Why is this? Very simple: they did not use a tripod. It is one of the most useful accessories you can have. Oh, they say they used a tripod but it is hard to fool me. I actually warn them of this early in class but they still try. I think I finally know the reason — it’s just plain laziness!

“I have been guilty of it myself though I should know better. So when I try to push my shutter speed just a little past what I know is going to give me a sharp negative, it is because I actually think I’m going to get away with it! But in reality I was simply too lazy to get the tripod out.

“The process in using a tripod can seem a little extensive: I have to mount my camera on it and put the cable release on it, compose, set the aperture for maximum depth of field and select a very slow shutter speed. All of this would guarantee the sharp negative I want, but at times something inhibits the drill. Maybe it was too cold. I remember a night in Paris last January — 8 degrees above zero, under the Eiffel Tower with two girls arguing about taking the time to set the tripods up in order to capture the picture properly. I remember saying that although it may be darned uncomfortable; the chances we would be returning for this beautiful nighttime shot were next to nil. In the end, only one of us got the shot. The other two were fuzzy.

“I have to admit it takes dedication and discipline to get a perfect shot. Look at it this way, you paid tons of money to get where you are, just take a few minutes and suffer a bit to get your shot! Have you ever looked through a telescope and tried to hold it steady enough to really study something? Well, that’s exactly why you need a tripod. Put that telescope on a tripod and you can read a newspaper from half a mile away. The same thing applies with your camera. You can’t record an image on film that is dancing around in the viewfinder.

“There is actually a very simple formula I will share with you. In order to shoot without a tripod, this is what you need to know. What do you know about the lens on your camera? Many newer cameras have a small zoom lens, usually zooming from about 28 millimeters to about 100 millimeters, meaning that you can zoom from a slight wide angle to a slight telephoto. That’s where the trouble starts. While your wide-angle shots will typically turn out sharp, your telephoto shot on the same roll will be fuzzy. Here is the formula: you must set your shutter speed to at least the same as the focal length of the setting on your lens. Sound complicated? Not really. Say you are zoomed out to slight telephoto and your lens telephoto is 100 millimeters. That means you have to use a shutter speed of 100th of a second. If you zoom back to wide angle, say 28 millimeters, then you can use a shutter speed of 1/28th of a second (or as most cameras have on the shutter dial 1/30th of a second).

“When you have your camera set to take the picture automatically, you must take note of the shutter speed it has selected based on the lighting conditions at the time. If you are taking a telephoto shot and the shutter speed is not equal to or faster than your focal length (telephoto setting) then you cannot get a sharp picture and you must reset the shutter speed. Think about this for a second. Say you have a 1,000-millimeter telephoto lens to take distant shots of wildlife. In order to take a sharp picture with this lens without a tripod you would have to set the shutter speed to 1,000th of a second. This is nearly impossible even during bright sunny days. Put this camera and lens on a tripod and you can shoot at virtually any shutter speed you desire for the effect you want.

“Go out and get yourself a good sturdy tripod and start taking really sharp pictures. Buy the most expensive one you can afford, and while at the store, extend the legs, lean on it and wiggle it. If it bends and wiggles all over the place, don’t buy it. Good luck.”

2009 Photo Contest

The 21st annual Pagosa Springs Photo Contest will be held Feb. 13- March 6. Entries will be accepted Feb. 1-10 at Frame and Photo Depot or Higher Grounds Coffee Shop. Both of these businesses are located in the Cornerstones Building on the corner of Village and Talisman drives, one block north of McDonald’s. Area shutterbugs can pick up entry forms and rules at Frame and Photo Depot Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., or Saturday, 10 to 2 p.m., or from Higher Grounds 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

This year’s contest will be a judged by Paul Boyer, with multiple categories and a special youth photographer category, as well. Local photographers are encouraged to submit their work and to stop by Frame and Photo Depot or Higher Grounds for more information, contest rules and entry forms.

The show will open to the public in a gala event filling both business spaces Friday, Feb. 13, from 5 to 8 p.m. All photos will be on display until March 6 at both locations.

For more information, call Frame and Photo Depot at 731-4511.

Beading with Lizz Baldwin

Explore creative color combinations with a simple design using semiprecious gemstone chips and Czechoslovakian seed beads. Working with local jewelry artist Lizz Baldwin, you will complete lovely pieces of jewelry.

The first beading class of 2009 will take place Saturday, Feb. 7, from 1-4 p.m. in the community center Arts and Crafts Room. You may bring your own supplies, or purchase them at a discounted rate from Lizz. The cost is $35, plus supplies.

Gallery Hours

The PSAC Gallery in Town Park is on its winter schedule. The gallery is open on Thursdays, noon-4 p.m. The gallery is not staffed on a regular basis, but voice mail and e-mail messages will be checked regularly. You may e-mail us at psac@centurytel.net, or leave a message at 264-5020. You may also visit our Web site at www.pagosa-arts.com.

Photography Club

The Photography Club meets the second Wednesday of each month during the club year (September through May) from 6-8 p.m. Interested photography enthusiasts are welcome to attend the first meeting at no charge. Any and all are invited to join for annual dues of $20 for individuals and $30 for family membership. For more information, contact Barbara Conkey at lconkey@rockymtncable.com, or call 731-6877.

2009 Calendars

The 2009 Pagosa Country Calendars are available for sale in the Town Park Gallery. The calendars sell for $8.95 plus tax for non-members, and $7.95 plus tax for PSAC members. There are also quantity discounts: 10-24 for $6.95 each and 25 plus for $5.95 each. Call 264-5020 to place your order.

Plein Air Painters

Plein Air Painters meet the third Thursday of the month at 10 a.m. at a predetermined location. Painters who work in any media are welcome. It’s a wonderful opportunity to share tips, ideas and resources. If the weather is bad, we meet at 10 a.m. at the community center in the Arts and Crafts Room. Please keep in mind that turpentine based painting materials cannot be used in the center. Please contact Jean Shah for more information at 264-0188 or, e-mail: jean_gautam@hotmail.com.


The Pagosa Springs Arts Council started the workshops in 2002 and they have grown substantially since that time. Workshops provide those who want to teach a venue to do so and, at the same time, give our residents a place to learn something new ,whether it is watercolor, acrylic, oil, drawing or photography. The space also provides a home for the Photo Club, Watercolor Club and a meeting location for various clubs.

If you are interested in teaching a workshop or class, call the Town Park Gallery at 264-5020 for a workshop application form, or download the form from our Web site, www.pagosa-arts.com. If you are a resident and have ideas and suggestions for a class or workshop we haven’t offered, please let us hear from you. The Arts Council’s mailing address is: P.O. Box 533, Pagosa Springs, CO, 81147, or e-mail psac@centurytel.net.

Workshop calendar

All workshop classes are held in the Arts and Crafts Room of the community center. Call PSAC at 264-5020 to register for any of the classes. Class descriptions follow the calendar.

Feb. 7 — Beading with Lizz Baldwin.

Feb. 19 or 21 — Marketing for Artisans with Wen Saunders.

Feb. 21 — Saturday drawing class with Randall Davis.

April 20 — Intense Composition Essence with Lorraine Trenholm.

May 6-8 — Beginners I Watercolor with Denny and Ginnie.

Members and volunteers

Started in 1988, the Pagosa Springs Arts Council, a non-profit organization, was conceived and developed to, in part, promote the awareness of the vast array of local artistic talent, provide educational and cultural activities in the community, sponsor exhibits and workshops by local and regional artists, and encourage and support continued appreciation and preservation of the aesthetic beauty of Pagosa Springs. If becoming involved with such a dynamic organization excites you, we hope that you will consider becoming a member or volunteer. If you have questions, or would like more information regarding membership, call the PSAC office at 264-5020.

Membership rates are: youth-$10; individual senior-$20; individual regular -$25; family senior-$25; family regular-$35; business-$75; patron-$250; benefactor-$500, director-$1,000 and guarantor -$2,500 and up.

2009 PSAC Sponsored Events Include: Gallery exhibits at Town Park, May-November; art workshops and classes; annual PSAC membership meeting; annual juried art exhibit; annual photo contest; home and garden tour; Plein Air Painters Club; Photography Club; Summer Youth Art Camp.

If you would like to become a member or renew your membership, call 264-5020, or e-mail psac@centurytel.net.