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Tripods: What's Supporting Your Camera?

During my career as a photojournalist, I hardly ever used a tripod. I can think

of only two reasons why I would use one: fireworks and lightning. But now that I’m self-employed, I have started to diversify the subjects I photograph and find myself embracing the use of a tripod and consider it an essential tool in my arsenal.

I’ve used multiple brands and types of tripods and have done a bunch of research to find the one that works for me. I used to use aluminum tripods, which were fine, but early in my career, aluminum was the only option. They tended to be heavy and got really cold in the winter. I remember snapping the lever off one of the legs in very cold conditions, but for the frequency that I used a tripod, it was just fine.


Now that I’m using a tripod more often, I admit I’m kind of addicted to having the perfect one. There are many options in the industry -- aluminum is still one -- but I have moved on to carbon fiber. I find this material gives me the rigidness needed to keep my camera steady and vibration-free, and the bonus is that it is much lighter. While carbon fiber is more expensive than aluminum, I’ve found it’s also made of lesser components and well worth the upgrade.


Prior to leading several workshops in Iceland this past February, I upgraded my tripod from an older Gitzo carbon fiber tripod to a ProMediaGear carbon fiber tripod. I do want to note that I have a great relationship with ProMediaGear, and I’m now an affiliate and an ambassador for the brand. After much deliberation, I chose their 34 Series, which is slightly smaller in diameter than the 42 Series and allows me to drop weight for travel. I also went with the BH1 ball head, which is their most substantial ball head. Previously, I used the Canon EOS1Dx MKIII, which is the most substantial camera that Canon offers.


Now that I have switched out my cameras to the Canon mirrorless EOS R3, I don’t need the extra weight of a massive ball head. As I start to prepare for my upcoming workshops this fall in Iceland and Bali, I’ve decided to try to drop even more weight by downsizing my tripod a little bit more. I had a great conversation with my friends at ProMediaGear, and I decided to buy a smaller apex for my current tripod legs and a smaller ball head. I am keeping the same legs, as I like the stability and height of the current configuration. My tripod legs will go as high as 71 inches in four sections as opposed to 51 inches on their smallest in three sections. I want the tripod to be able to be higher than me, especially if I have snow to sink into.

The apex is the top of the tripod where the three legs are attached. I currently have the largest T34A01 apex, but there is also a more compact TRS01 Compact Apex. I also went with the smaller BH50 ball head in place of my current BH1 ball head. The load capacity stays the same, but I have captured nearly a full pound of weight back with this combination. The smaller apex also allows for the legs of the tripod in the closed position to be more compact.My goal is to drop weight and size in hopes that I can carry my tripod in my luggage as opposed to checking a n extra bag. As you might already know, when traveling internationally, the weight and size restrictions are very strict, so every little bit of saved weight counts.

I’ve been asked about using travel tripods, and I think there are some really nice travel options out there. If you need to carry your tripod around with you all day, and not work out of a vehicle, I might recommend a nice travel tripod, but there is just no substitute for the sturdiness of a full-size option.

When making your own decisions, consider why you are carrying your tripod. If you’re carrying one “just in case,” than smaller is better because it’s always better to have one then nothing at all. For our upcoming trips to Iceland and Bali, we’ll be shooting a lot of landscapes where there’s also a lot of water. We’ll be focused on trying to show motion in the steams and waterfalls, and in all kinds of weather conditions. We’ll also be working out of vehicles, so we won’t have to carry it on our person all day. For those reasons, I’m taking a heavy-duty tripod. Switching out the apex was an easy solution and an easier project that took maybe 15 minutes. It also was a great opportunity to do a little maintenance on my tripod, since I’ve recently used it in salt water and dirty conditions. Just like having your oil changed in your car, all camera gear should be maintained properly and regularly. I wiped it all down and put a little bit of recommended grease, so it all moves smoothly.


I would love to hear your thoughts, questions, experiences and what you like to use to support your camera. jeff@swingmanphoto.com







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