Tripod Tips
Tripod Tips
- Skills and guides - Photography -
Publication: Thursday 10 August 2006
Description :
This article has four tripod use tips including a quick and easy braiding project to produce a cord "tail" that is used to stabilize a light weight camera tripod.
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Tripod Tips
The main purpose of this article is to illustrate a simple method of stabilizing a lightweight tripod primarily when used
for unattended or self-portrait purposes, but also to pass on a couple of common tripod tips.
My first tripod tip is to use one . I see many people handholding cameras for photos that would no doubt benefit
greatly if they used a tripod. I use a tripod nearly 95% of the time. I also use a quality tripod not a super cheap light
tripod that will not properly or safely support my camera system. Also buy a tripod that is tall enough for you to use it
without extending the center column. I prefer a tripod without a center column that will go very low to the ground.
Support for your camera and lens does not have to be a tripod, a beanbag, or even pressing your camera against a
tree or holding it to your walking staff etc can all increase your picture success. Using a good quality traditional tripod
however is a technique that I consider essential to good photography.
Probably the best photo tip I ever read and employed was to purchase, carry and use a proper tripod for as many
shots as possible. Using a tripod likely improved my photography more than any other piece of equipment. A quality
lens really is only as good as your ability to hold it still.
My second tripod tip is a rather common one, but worth passing on. I cover my tripod upper leg sections with foam
pipe wrap(see photo below). These wraps both insulate the legs, which makes it easier on the hands in cold
weather, but also pad the legs for over-the-shoulder carry. This leads to a corollary for this tip....have your tripod
extended to the proper height and carry the camera mounted on it ready for a shot. All you have to do is lower the
tripod and compose your picture rather than extending the legs, mounting the camera etc to get a shot.
Lake Fork Trail Montana Day Photo Walk 2003
The third tip is to buy and use a tripod head quick release system. The best systems are ones specifically custom
made to fit your lenses and camera body, not a generic system. The best ones, in my opinion, are made by Really
Right Stuff or Kirk Enterprises. These mounts coupled with an excellent ball head make for a quick and reliable (but
unfortunately not cheap) system.
And the fourth tip is the primary subject of this article....
I just recently posted my Colin Fletcher compendium and one of the quotes I choose to include was Colin's discovery
of the pleasures of Non-Photography due to damage his camera suffered when trying for a self-portrait....
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Tripod Tips
In order to photograph a scene that for interest and balance demanded a figure in the foreground, I had mounted my
camera on its lightweight collapsible tripod for a delayed-action self-portrait shot. But as I moved into position a gust
of wind sent camera and tripod crashing over. And afterward the shutter refused to function. The Man Who Walked
Through Time , Colin Fletcher, 1968 p 120
For many years I have used a simple method to insure that I never had to discover the pleasures of non-photography
in quite this dramatic manner.
Nearly all my photographs are taken using a tripod, and since the introduction of carbon fiber tripods I have been
using them to save weight. The nicest thing about these tripods is also their worst thing. Their light weight can make
them top heavy and prone to catching a puff of wind and toppling, so I have a quick and easy solution to both
increase tripod stability and add significant mass to the whole system.
The two tripods that I most commonly use in the field are both made by Gitzo. My lightest one, the 1228 Mountaineer
(1.5kg), has a center column with a small metal hook at the end.
Gitzo 1228 "Hook"
My most used one, the 1348 (2.2kg) does not have a center column at all.
When using the smaller Mountaineer 1228 with the column hook I frequently hook my camera bag, or its strap on the
hook to add both weight and stability to this light tripod. If I can arrange it, I have the camera bag mostly resting on
the ground so it does not swing in the breeze, but enough of the camera bags mass is adding a downward pull to the
tripod. I carry a sort piece of nylon cord that I can quickly loop around the camera bag and over the hook. This
added mass really locks the tripod to the ground making it nearly impossible for a breeze to knock it over. The added
mass also dampens vibrations within the system making for even better pictures.
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Tripod Tips
Gitzo tripods Using hook on 1228 for stability
My large tripod does not have this convenient hook, so for years I had tied a piece of cord to one of the tripod legs at
the head and used this to tie to the camera bag. This resulted in a slightly off-center mass being added to the tripod
but overall it was fine if I placed the bag carefully.
After re-reading Colin's disaster, I thought of a slightly more elegant solution for this large tripod. I would braid a
center string that came off all three legs of the tripod head and then use a Prussik knot to secure my camera bag to
this tail. This would provide a centered mass to the tripod head and be fully adjustable for any reasonable height of
the tripod.
So first I cut three pieces of paracord, each about 4 feet long, and laid these evenly over the tripod leg head piece.
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Tripod Tips
Strings at start Drape strings around tripod leg joints where they will not interfer
I secured these with a simple square knot around each of the leg joints where they will not interfere with the tripod
First square knot Inside of tripod leg set
I then took one string from each knot and square knotted it to one string of the neighbor knot.
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Tripod Tips
Second square knot Neighbor strings joined
These I left loose enough to again not have any interference with the tripod leg function especially when the legs
are laid out nearly flat.
Second set of square knots All neighbor strings joined, 6 strings setup for braid
I brought all six strings together and braided a six-plait, four seam pattern....that is take the outer string from the
right....behind all the strings and then under one string and then over two. Then the outer string on the left is brought
behind all the strings and under one and over two. Repeat until the whole thing forms a braid. Tug the strings after
each pass to tighten and then terminate with a crown and wall knot.
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Tripod Tips
Start braid 6-plait, 4 seam, under one over two sequence
See my knife lanyard tutorial for a bit more braiding instruction.
Braiding Tug up all strings each pass
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Tripod Tips
Tail completed Crown and Wall termination
Once you have this braided leash on the tripod all you need is a Prussik a red piece of nylon cord about
4' long was tied into a loop with a double fisherman's knot. Tie a Prussik knot around the tripod tail.
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Tripod Tips
Prussik knot on tail See Resources below to learn how to tie a Prussik
Then secure the loop to the camera bag with a small carabineer.
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Tripod Tips
Gitzo tripods Using "tail" on 1348 for stability
Slide the Prussik knot up the tail to hoist the camera bag nearly off the ground and Bob's your uncle.
Resources and Specifications
Gitzo Carbon Fiber Tripods superb quality tripods...not cheap but the last tripod you will ever have to buy.
Gitzo Specifications for my tripods
Gitzo G1228 carbon fiber tripod. Rapid column, 4 leg sections, 154cm max with column, 132cm without column,
32cm low position, 54 cm collapsed (without ball head), 1.5kg without ballhead, and able to support 8kg.
Gitzo G1348 carbon fiber tripod. NO center column, 4 leg sections, 167cm max, 11cm low position, 61 cm collapsed
(without ball head), 2.2kg without ballhead, and able to support 12kg.
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Tripod Tips
Really Right Stuff Quick release tripod mounts and plenty of information. All my quick release and flash mount
arms are from RRS. They offer a comprehensive range of mounts for all sorts of camera bodies and lenses. They
also have focusing sliders, flash arms and many new tripod heads. The tips and tricks information on their site is
worth a look even if you are not going to buy.
Kirk Enterprises Quick release tripod mounts and many more items of interest to a photographer. I currently do not
have any of Kirk's equipment, but it has had good recommendations from pro photographers.
Arca Swiss B1 ballheads are my tripod heads of choice. There are many more available now, but I have 2 of these
that I have used for over a decade with excellent results. RRS and Kirk now offer other heads but I bought mine from
RRS many years ago and would not want to be without them.
Arca Swiss Ballhead with quick release clamp
Pruissik Knot Instructions an easy on-line tutorial for this useful knot.
Post-scriptum :
Version 1.0 08/08/2006 Inception
Version 1.5 08/08/2006 Images and Fini
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