70-200mm in the wind

I struggle with getting sharp photos on my Canon 70-200mm f4 L lens on the long end when there is any kind of wind. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and it’s always windy. I’ve got a good carbon fiber tripod and ball head. Would an image stabilizing lens help or do I need to live with higher ISO / faster shutter speeds?

@Richard_Wong: Try hanging your camera pack, or something heavy from the center post on your tripod to hold the tripod down. If it’s really windy, the wind may be setting a up a vibration in the tripod legs which would transfer to the camera.

Not sure an IS lens would really help. As I understand it, using IS when the camera is mounted on a tripod is generally not recommended since the IS motor can set up a vibration.

1 Like

We struggle now and then with similar conditions here in AK, so I have a few insights and suggestions. Admittedly I’m hampered by Nikon, but they should apply. :grin: I’m also shooting 80-200 f/2.8 lenses, which are larger and heavier.

IS doesn’t work that well on tripods, and in fact Nikon recommends you turn it off for tripod shots. In fact, I doubt you’re fighting lens issues so much as tripod issues. Much as I love our array of carbon fiber models, the light ones in particular are seldom a good choice for windy days. Without a mod, that is…

I keep a couple of small draw-string stuff sacks from REI in each camera bag specifically for windy days. I also carry a tent stake and a piece of parachute cord.

With moderate wind I hang a stuff sack from the bottom of the center column and load it with weight- anything from lenses to rocks, depending on the weight needed.

Big lenses and lots of wind are an especially bad combo, not only for vibration but for tripod crashes. My solution there is to attach the parachute cord to the bottom of the center column, then drive the tent stake into the ground directly beneath it. Attach the two and draw the cord tight to really lock the tripod to the ground. If the ground is too rocky or I’m on the move I dispense with the tent stake and put a loop in the end of the cord that won’t quite touch the ground. I step into the loop and press down to accomplish the same stability.

Watch through the viewfinder and you’ll see an amazing improvement in stability with the addition of lens, rock, tent stake or foot.


Thanks @Preston_Birdwell @Hank_Pennington - I do hang my camera backpack sometimes but there is only a marginal improvement. I don’t have these issues with my 24-70mm lens in all but the worst conditions. Maybe I should look into renting a different tripod and Head combination to rule out the possibility.

@Hank_Pennington: That’s a great idea! I have a 70-200 f4 Nikkor and a carbon fiber tripod. I’ve had soft images on windy days at 200mm. I’ll be sure to try that.

@Richard_Wong: In addition to anchoring, lock up the mirror.

1 Like

If you’re still getting vibration with the extra weight on the tripod, I’d be highly suspicious of your tripod head. Thin “stalks” or stems on ball heads are notorious for flex with overweight loads, with variations between brands. I don’t recall the particular model, but I have an ancient Bogen model that’s notoriously bad for vibration with even the Nikon 80-200 f/2.8. In contrast I have the smallest ballhead made by RRS in my travel kit, a tiny little thing. And I get no vibration while using even the 5# Nikon 200-500 on a little set of Gitzo CF travel legs.

1 Like

Good idea but I have it mounted on a Sony mirrorless. Also had same issue on 5DMKII

Good to know Hank. I have an Acratech GP Ball Head. I’ll try looking at that. Thanks!

Unfair to today’s Acratech’s but long ago a talented photo friend had an Acratech he cursed roundly and dumped. No recollection of the model or why he hated it so much.

Full disclosure, both my wife and I have RRS BH-30’s for travel and we’re both happy with them for supporting heavy loads. It’s rated to 15#, which is hard to imagine for a head so small. But wow, does it ever do so with buttery smooth functions. She opted for the conventional screw lock, while I prefer the lever lock, and we’re both happy.

1 Like

I guess RRS is priced that high for a reason. I’ve never owned one but worth a look at this point. The Acratech has good ratings and a 25lb load capacity (my rig is nowhere near 25 lbs) but I’m more inclined to think that is the weak link more than the legs.

Boy, that sure sounds like it should be doing the job. I’d hate to see you spend money unnecessarily though. Any chance another NPN member or fellow photog lives nearby and could let you try another head first, just to test the hypothesis? We have an informal group of pros and serious ametures in our area, and we’re always swapping gear back and forth for testing. The ametures have been especially welcome, because some of their purchases have proven wiser than we pros believe we are.

1 Like

That’s a good idea Hank. The two local photographers that I keep in touch with the most are Gary Crabbe & Jim Goldstein. Maybe I’ll see if Gary wants to go out to Point Reyes and really put this theory to the test since it’s the windiest place in California. :grinning:

I’m assuming that you don’t want to overcome the movement of the lens with a faster shutter speed? If you need to extend your shutter speed then you must establish a firm base for the camera. A good tripod/ballhead combo is a must. It should be one of solid quality, but many folks cut corners there. Use the lens mount. Don’t extend your staff if your tripod has one. If one your tripod turn vibration reduction off. If hand held quicken your shutter and use your lens vibration reduction. All pretty basic stuff.

I had a student in one of my classes who had the shakes in her hands. She complained about blurring in her photos because of that. I simply explained that she needed to have a quicker shutter speed. Once she started to pay attention to that her photos were much clearer.

I had assumed that an Induro CF tripod and Acratech GP Ball Head with Kirk L bracket would be a cut above cutting corners but if it isn’t they need to charge less then. :wink: and no center column extension. This is done with a 10 second timer. Faster shutter speed has been the only solution I’ve found but that means bumping above 100ISO which is fine to a certain degree, just hoped I could make it work at a low ISO.

1 Like

I don’t worry until I start to push 1600 iso but I’m shooting with a D810.

I feel that pushing my ISO will, most of the time, prevent other problems and frustrations especially those caused by extended shutter speeds. Certainly motion blur would be more of a problem than some ISO noise or the frustration of trying to come up with an alternative to simply bumping it up a few stops.

My tripod is one area where I spared no expense. I’m not endorsing them, but I bought a TVC-33 and a BH-55 from RRS as my primary landscape tripod. My extended backpacking trip tripod is a much smaller Induro CT214 with an old Manfrotto 498RC2 ball head. Just for clarity.

1 Like

That’s true. I’m using a Sony A7R and bumping up a bit wouldn’t be the end of the world. I’ll have to look up TVC-33- not sure what that is. I believe my tripod is the CT-214.

1 Like

A trick I learned it to carry a bungee cord. Put one hook to your tripod plate (however you can attach it), extend the bungee and step on the other end on the ground. It will be extremely solid and does not sway in the wind like a bag of rocks, etc. It is lightweight and small to carry, too.


There’s some great advice here, but I think one point is being missed that this is a fairly lightweight lens and it could be shaking in the wind despite how solid the tripod setup is. I’ve experienced this on a number of lighter lenses and the only good solution I have is to use your body to stand in front of the lens to act as a windblock along with using a cable release. All else fails, your only option is to raise your ISO to get a faster shutter speed.


That’ a good point, and especially true when the combo is mounted to the tripod via the body, rather than with a tripod collar on the lens- even with a heavy version such as Nikon’s 80-200 f/2.8. I’ve tried using an 80-200 f/2.8 mounted to a tripod via the body, and it was surprisingly shaky even without wind.


That is a very clever idea Harley. I’ll have to look at that even if I can’t visualize it at the moment.