I’ve got the Hippy Hippy Shake – Cure Tripod Woes

I’ve got the Hippy Hippy Shake 

No one remembers that song huh? It was by this little group called the Beatles. OK, enough music nostalgia. 

Reader Duane W had a question on camera shake while ON A TRIPOD. 

Duane wrote: I was shooting at the beach back in May and tried to pull off a shot.  What I did not expect or plan for was the amount of wind in the evening.  A storm was working up and the wind was gusting off the water about 20-30 mile an hour. 

I love shooting water and getting that nice shutter speed about 1/4 – 1/6th of a second.  That made the water perfect, but because the wind was strong made the rocks not sharp due to my camera and tripod shaking.

So thinking about it, there were a couple things I could have tried. 

1. Creating wind block — I could have used my body, but not sure that would have created enough block. 

2. I could have brought something to create a block, but that means I would be carrying something extra and may not always be an option 

3.  I could taken one shot for the water, then increased my ISO to get a higher shutter speed, then in post do a image blend 

4.  Stuck my tripod deeper into the sand might make it a little more stable, but with the wind gust I would still have some camera shake. 

So are there other options that I’m not thinking of?   With you shooting a lot around the beaches what have you tried. 

It’s a great question and certainly a problem. But first I am going to let you in on a little known secret. Tripods HATE intermediate shutter speeds. Those from about 1/8 of a second to about 1 second

Its vibrations that LAST for that duration that will be most visible. That’s why things that have duration like that of:

  • Pushing the shutter button instead of using a remote. (use a remote)
  • Mirror shake from the vibration of it flipping up out of the way (use mirror lock up if you have shutter speeds of these durations)
  • Or simply vibration you or the environment may have caused 

So what are some of the cures? Well beside the above 

  •  Add mass to the tripod. A lot of tripod have a hook underneath, hang something heavy like your camera bag to the hook, just don’t let it swing. 
  • Lower any mast extension you may have on the tripod, have the head sit right on the base legs of the tripod. 
  • Lower the legs of the tripod if possible 

So you did all those things, the only other cure is shutter speed. Use a faster shutter speed OR…here’s a little trick. Use a SLOWER shutter speed, in fact a very slow one. 5 Seconds or more. 

If the vibration is NOT constant and does not exist for the entire duration of the shutter, there is a good possibility the movement will not be recorded because it doesn’t exist for a long enough time to expose. 

Here is an example. (I had to shoot indoors because it was the only way to get a long shutter speed) 

The first 2 shots are at those bad shutter speeds and I introduced a vibration into the camera (I slapped it upside the head)


Now this one was 15 seconds long and I literally slapped it 8 times



So of course it will depend on the frequency of the shaking so it may not be a cure all but it may be an alternative and may as in this case give you some motion to the water, maybe too much. But it may work out in some cases if none of the other cures work. 

Another thing you have to be aware of sometimes is the movement of your subjects themselves such as shooting wildflowers or trees on a windy sunny day. You may think. F/16 1/100 is a perfect exposure but you may get movement in those flowers you don’t want. So THAT may be a case where even in bright sun it is necessary to up your ISO to get a shutter speed that will stop motion. 

And one last word Duane. If you didn’t have the shake in the one exposure and it merely is misalignment between the two exposures because of shake between exposures. Try Photomatix’s Manual Ghost removal on a large scale section of the image such as the rocks in this case. It can be helpful 

Hope that helps,