What to do when tripods are not allowed, but the available light is too low?

Impressionism-7Thanks to the holiday break, I was finally able to go to the Observatory deck on the 40th floor of the World Trade Center tower in Tokyo (closest stations: Daimon and Hamamatsucho). With the clear sky that you can usually only found in Tokyo during winter, I was hoping on getting a nice view on the city with a colorful sunset. Unfortunately, part of my cunning plan fell over when I saw the “no tripod” sign at the entrance of the deck. So here was the question: what to do when shooting a cityscape at dusk, without a tripod?

Impressionism-2Sure, you can give a try to handholding: open your aperture, raise your ISO and/or hold your breath, lean against a wall and focus on your handholding technique… and still get very acceptable/sharp results as long as the light is not too low.

But then, what to do once the scene becomes too dark and there is no trick you can use to replace a good old tripod (like using your bag as a stand and putting your camera on it while your bag keep on falling over and over… yeah, we’ve all been there!)?

Impressionism-8Basically, you are on location, and realize you can’t get the shot you had in mind… But that does not mean you cannot get another shot, completely different from what you were thinking in the first place: use the long shutter speed at your advantage and experiment with panning techniques for example. Or, like I did, try your luck with some abstract/impressionism type of shots: set your shutter speed anywhere slower than 1s, and move your camera in every more or less random directions during the exposure. You know you are doing it right when the people next to you start to look at in a suspicious way, wondering how come you seem to be having so much fun!

Impressionism-9Even completely blurred, landmarks of the city will remain easily recognizable, but seen in an unusual and unique way. Here the Tokyo Tower was turned into the red and white rocket Tintin is using to go to the Moon!

Impressionism-11PS1: if you have a small camera like the Fuji X-E1 I was using that day, you can discreetly use a small tripod by hiding it between the window and your body, and get your shot without anybody noticing anything:

Tokyo by NightPS2: as far as the World Trade Center in Tokyo is concerned, there were actually a lot of people using big tripods without getting any kind of complaint from the Tower staff, despite of the “no tripod” sign

PS3: even in places where the usage of tripods is usually forbidden, you might be granted the permission exceptionally, if you ask for it in advance and in a polite way 😉

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