Tripod troubles

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Having related an account of last Monday’s “bonus session” one would’ve thought I’d have been quite satisfied with the day, wouldn’t one? Yes, one would.

But oh no, not me. That’s just far too easy and straightforward.

For although the day ended reasonably well, that’s not how it started at all. And the disappointment of earlier in the day seemed to cast its shadow over the rest of the day’s events.

“Disappointment? What disappointment?” I hear you ask. (I don’t actually, but it helps the tale along.)

The thing is y’see, my first task of the day was to buy something I really couldn’t afford. And then I was stopped from doing so cos the bloody shop was out of stock! Now you may think that would count as a blessing in disguise. But for a perverse little sod like me it isn’t.
There’s nothing more frustrating or disappointing than being stopped from spending money you can’t spare in the first place, but have persuaded yourself you’re going to… on the basis that its a “worthwhile investment”. Or some other equally nonsensical rationalisation.

Its all about tripods really. And here we get to the meat of the matter. Well, eventually.

As regular visitors to this blog will know, I’ve got this super-duper Slik tripod. And it really is super-duper, no kidding. Its sturdy; its stable; its well-made; and its easy to use. In fact, I’ve now used it a fair bit. Mainly at home though, or on the odd occasion when I’m doing location stuff yet not moving around too much. Like, for example, the recent public debate in Bedford’s Harpur Suite that I covered.

But the thing is, its also quite large and quite heavy. Despite all its wonderful features and the fact that I’m still in love with it, it really is a bit too cumbersome to regard as a “walkabout tripod”.

No problem there though (or not until recently anyway).

For I have a little collection of other tripods I can use.

To start with, I’ve got three or four “mini” or “tabletop” tripods I can use. Snag is though, they’re really only good enough for compact digitals.
Ok, well, I’ve got the gorillapod. But its not really a tripod as such… and its not big enough. Moreover, as I recently discovered, neither is it sturdy enough to take the weight of the Samsung GX10 with the Sigma 17-70mm lens attached. Basically, the camera droops! (Reminds me of something else actually… but no, that’s another matter entirely.)
Then there’s a further gadget I have… that isn’t really a tripod either… the Manfrotto monopod. Perhaps the less said about that the better. Although it is very well made.

Ok, still no problem. Cos I’ve got a cheapish sensibly-sized lightweight tripod that attaches neatly to the backpack and is fairly stable. Almost ideal in fact as a “walkabout” for the odd shot here and there.

Or I did have, until mate and I went along to the river one evening to do a few night shots.

In fact, it was the same day that I’d arranged to be at the previously mentioned public debate in the evening, so I also had the Slik with me.
Well, with an hour or so to kill before our respective “other engagements” we decided to take some shots down by the river. As mate hadn’t brought his own tripod with him I lent him my “walkabout” (cos I’m kind-hearted like that) and used the Slik myself. Great, and it was quite a satisfying little session.

Thing is though, I was also going to use both tripods at the Harpur Suite, and when I went to set up the “walkabout” I discovered it was… um… broken. I managed to do a temporary repair and as it wasn’t being moved around too much I got away with it, but the fact remains that its still not as it should be and consequently not as stable.

Now I’m not saying mate broke it… but that’s not going to stop me hurling a load of abuse at the bastard anyway.

Tripod-wise though things are now beginning to look a bit grim. Yet all is not quite lost, for I still have a couple of real cheapie ones. Identical, bought at different times as impulse purchases at the supermarket I frequent. And no, don’t ask why I bought, “on impulse”, two identical tripods.

I’ve pressed them into service a couple of times in the past and they seemed ok…ish. Admittedly it wasn’t for anything particularly critical. However, I hadn’t used them with the Canon and long lens, or the Samsung and 17-70 lens. There also seems to be some sort of an issue with trying to level the camera up on them. Not to put too fine a point on it, it seems almost impossible.  Necessitating straightening the pics in post-processing. Hmm.

So, we come to the session the other day at Albion Archaeology. Indoor shots? Lighting an unknown? Clearly a tripod’s a must. Couldn’t take the Slik cos I’d already been informed that space there was restricted (that’s another thing with the Slik… its big). Couldn’t take my normal “walkabout” cos its broken (cheers mate!). Take one of the real cheapie ones then.
The plan was to do normal and wide-angle shots with the GX10 hand-held, and zooming in to stuff on walls, roof features etc with the Canon and long lens, tripod-mounted. Seemed a reasonable sort of plan.
Thing was though, doing shots of the ceiling and high up the walls meant the camera was mounted at a fairly acute angle. Which is when I discovered that the locking mechanisms on this cheapie tripod simply weren’t robust enough to support the camera in position. In other words, it “crept” or “slipped”. Only very slowly, true, but sufficient to screw up the detail definition of the resulting pics. Bugger!

So, these real cheapie tripods are probably ok for compact digitals, but for a dSLR with any sensible lens on at all… forget it!

Now this actually creates something of a problem for it means that, despite all the odds and ends of kit I seem to have acquired, I don’t actually have a usable “walkabout” tripod.

Oh dear.

Obviously this is a situation that can’t be allowed to continue.

Coincidentally, within the past few weeks or so two entirely separate acquaintances have acquired for themselves Manfrotto tripods. Of one I’ve only seen pics, but with the other I managed to do a hands-on inspection. Tasty bit of kit. I like Manfrotto anyway. The quality of their stuff seems really good, well-made sort of thing, despite that monopod of theirs I have being totally impractical.

So I decide that what I really need is a lightweight, appropriately sized when collapsed, Manfrotto tripod. Only snag is, spare dosh is a bit short at the mo’. Practically non-existent in fact. And Manfrotto isn’t one of the cheapest brands.

Hmm. Clearly a bit of crafty scheming is called for. So, with a bit of ducking and diving and wheeling and dealing I end up with precisely what I wanted.

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Um… not exactly. For having had this absolutely superb Manfrotto 190XB tripod complete with 390RC2 head enter my possession I discover its almost a foot too long and rather too bulky to comfortably attach to my backpack!

Damn and blast it! So I’m still without a bloody “walkabout” tripod.

Synchronous with this mate (he who claims he didn’t break my tripod the toerag) acquires a tripod for himself. No doubt just to spite me. A neat little “walkabout” one. Reasonably cheap. First chance I get to check it out I realise its exactly the sort of thing I need. Just wish he’d stop gloating.
We then spot a virtually identical tripod in our local Jessops… “virtually” identical in that it seems to be one of their “own brand” ones… and a quid cheaper than what mate paid! Heh heh. That’ll teach him!
(The icing on the cake of this particular little twist though is that he’d bought it at a store I’d recommended he should check out. Poetic justice I call it.)

Still more than I can afford of course. But I spend the ensuing week in another bout of scheming and conniving, juggling pennies around and persuading myself that this has gotta be an essential purchase.
At which point, just under a week later (i.e., Monday last) I wander into Jessops, scrapings of dosh clutched miserly in hand, only to discover they’ve sold out! And I was really looking foward to spending money that, strictly speaking, I couldn’t actually spare. So all those mental tricks and contortions I played on myself were for nothing.

I should have been pleased or, at the very least, relieved. But I wasn’t.

Hence the frustration. Hence the disappointment. Hence why Monday wasn’t a good day at all, despite the bonus session.

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More pics of the new tripod (or rather, bits of it) here! And, I have to say, I am rather pleased with them. Despite dismally failing to get a couple of the angles I tried shooting to work.

About fotdmike

Occasional photographer; occasional writer/blogger; occasional activist; occasional computer-geek. Bit of a fool really.
This entry was posted in Kit, Photography Chat and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Tripod troubles

  1. forkboy says:

    Following in my footsteps, eh? No surprise seeing how I am a trailblazer. Always on the bleeding edge. Early adapter and all that.

    Sorry you had to spend the dosh you didn’t have (but managed to find anyway), but I’m certain you will make the investment worthwhile.

    I’m curious though….what did you pickup for a walkabout?

  2. fotdmike says:

    That’s the whole point… I didn’t. They’d sold out. Bastards!

    Clearly I’d rambled on so long you got too bored to read right to the end. Huh! Dunno why I bother.

  3. forkboy says:

    Just seeing if you’re really paying attention to my comments!

  4. forkboy says:

    What? Did you say something?

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