When it comes down to it, the tripod is a simple and effective piece of technology. Self-stabilizing with its three adjustable legs, it can be adapted to any style of ground. And with the built-in levels as your guide, you can keep your camera level no matter what patch of horizon you spin the camera around to point to. Most of the time.
First light: 6:22 AM
Sunrise: 6:51 AM
Daylight: 12 hrs, 3 min
Never since I started working with a tripod have I had as much trouble keeping my horizons straight as I’ve had these past three mornings. When the bubble on the tripod leg indicated level, the camera (and therefore the horizon) was crooked; and when that area showed straight through the viewfinder, spinning the camera to point at the horizon above Red Wing made the world all cattywampus again.
Some folks, when little details go wrong and create aggravation, they’ll keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the results to change; other people get angry, overreact, cause other problems in the process, and get angrier. Honestly, the best course of action is neither of those; the most effective thing to do is pause long enough to analyze cause and effect. Because you can’t fix a problem, an effect (the camera being off level), by using another effect (adjusting the tripod legs to compensate); you have to isolate and correct the cause.
In this particular case, it turned out that the tripod’s attachment plate – which is also adjustable in order to position the camera in portrait orientation as opposed to landscape – had shifted in spite of being locked down with its adjustment clamp. Not enough to be visibly wrong at a casual glance, but more than enough to make the horizons wonky. And with the cause identified, the true fix was simple; loosen the adjustment clamp, lay the attachment plate flat, and tighten the clamp again, and then the bubble level on the tripod functioned properly again, the horizons falling into line.
And the entire process took less than a minute, once I’d decided to sort out the cause for once and all.
The experience kind of reminded me of a poem:
The Ambulance Down in the Valley
‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
though to walk near its crest was so pleasant.
Yet over its terrible edge there had slipped
a duke and full many a peasant.
The people all said something had to be done.
But the projects did not at all tally.
Some said “Put a fence round the edge of the cliff.”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”
The lament of the crowd was profound and was loud,
As hearts overflowed with their pity.
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day
As it spread through the neighboring city.
A collection was made, to accumulate aid,
and the dwellers in highway and alley
gave dollars and cents – not to furnish a fence,
but an ambulance down in the valley.
“For the cliff is all right if you’re careful,
And if folks ever slip and are dropping,
Well, it isn’t the fall that hurts them so much,
As the shock down below – when they’re stopping.”
So for years (we have heard), as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would the rescuers sally,
To pick up the victims who fell from the cliff,
with the ambulance down in the valley.
Said one, as a plea, “It’s a marvel to me,
that you’d give so much greater attention,
to repairing results than to curing the cause;
You had much better aim at prevention.
For the mischief, of course, should be stopped at its source;
Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally.
It is far better sense, to put up a fence,
than an ambulance down in the valley!”
“He is wrong in his head,” the majority said,
“He would end all our earnest endeavor,
He’s a man who would shirk this responsible work
But we will support it forever.
Aren’t we picking up all, just as fast as they fall,
and dispensing care liberally?
A superfluous fence is of no consequence,
if the ambulance works in the valley.”
Now, the story sounds queer, as we’ve written it here,
but things oft occur that are stranger.
More humane, we assert, than to succor the hurt,
is the plan of removing the danger.
The best possible course is to safeguard the source –
attend to things rationally.
Yes, build up the fence, and let us dispense
with the ambulance down in the valley.