Hands-free tripod toting

While it’s true that I’m not as adamant about tripod use as some of my nature and landscape shooting buddies, I’m not a photojournalistic purist who never uses a tripod either. For me, tripod use is a case of “situational ethics:”  if the situation requires a tripod, I’ll use one. Of course, to use a tripod, you actually need to have one with you, and here’s where the formula usually breaks down into the following dilemma: “which is better; the big, heavy sturdy behemoth tripod that you left back in the hotel, bus, or trunk of the car, or a lightweight one that you’ll actually carry?”

By now, I’m assuming that everyone’s discovered the strength, light weight, and downright beauty of the carbon fiber tripod, so I won’t even go into it (other than listing a few of my favorites at the end of the post).  But if you have to carry that lightweight ‘pod like this gentlemen (in a shot from OpTech, the good folks who bring you those wonderful neoprene camera straps–got ’em on all my SLR bodies– or in the case of this photo, neoprene leg wraps), your hands are figuratively tied up when it comes to shooting (although you would look cool toting that baby into the batter’s box at your next softball game).

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courtesy www.optechusa.com

Fortunately, there is an easier way…

There are a few commercially made tripod carrying straps out there (don’t even think about putting the ‘pod in a case—we’re talkin’ about readiness here), but they almost always involve unstrapping and restrapping to actually shoot.  Here’s a cheaper, better, solution.

Buy yourself some Fastex D rings from a camping and outdoor store. Here’s some from Campmor.  Take some gaffer’s tape and tape one of the D rings on the top and bottom of one of the top leg sections of your tripod like this:

tripodstrap031

Then find an old camera strap and attach to the D rings and voila!, a simple carrying solution that allows you to sling the tripod over your shoulder and shoot handheld until the light drops or you need the ‘pod. Even then, you don’t remove the strap, you simply open up the pod.  For best weight distribution when you’re using this strap, carry the pod with the head pointed down and facing forward, like this:

tripodstrapinuse-copy

If your tripod is a real beater and legs are really loose, you may need to add a strap of Velcro around the legs to hold them together, but the legs of my tripod stay together with no problem.

BTW, here are a couple of my favorite travel tripods, two by Gitzo (which means they’re pricey) and one little gem by Hakuba (it comes with a pan head….you can gift it to one of your video-shooting compadres and replace it with a ballhead).

The classic (pictured here, albeit with a head and quick release system I no longer use) is the Gitzo Mountaineer 1541 6x Carbon Fiber.  Next down in size, and the cheapest in price is the Hakuba HG-504MX 4 section Carbon Fiber Tripod . And the smallest (for those times when weight reduction means everything and you’re not working with really long glass or big camera bodies), the Gitzo 1541T Traveler 6x Carbon Fiber

The Hakuba runs half the price of the other two, and I’d have to classify it as a major find, even if you give away the head it came with and use the included carrying case to carry small lightstands or umbrellas!

This entry was posted in Photo Gear, Travel.

11 Comments

  1. Renee Giffroy March 15, 2009 at 9:28 pm #

    Bob, I can’t tell you how many times I could have used this simple solution. Seems I never have free hands. This will help… and the price is right. Renee

  2. Dave Hutchinson March 18, 2009 at 9:45 am #

    Great article Bob! I remember that you offered this solution to carrying a tripod in one of your seminars. Now, I just need to stop procrastinating and make one of these slings.

  3. Fred Hill March 18, 2009 at 9:24 pm #

    Bob,
    Who is this girl Voila, I remember you talking about her in the 8th grade………lol. The web site is my clubs website. I took all the pictures. As you can see they are pretty amateurish, I need your help.
    Fred

    • bobkrist March 18, 2009 at 10:04 pm #

      Fred: Voila…she’s a character in the dyslexic version of Twelfth Night!

  4. Alan Haynes March 20, 2009 at 3:23 pm #

    Great idea Bob! I built a slightly different version using parts I had around the house. I used zip-ties to attach two caribiners (instead of the D-rings) and just a little grip tape to hold the zip ties in place so they won’t slide around on the tripod leg. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • bobkrist March 20, 2009 at 3:26 pm #

      Sounds like a great idea Alan!

  5. Romaine Bayless March 28, 2009 at 5:17 pm #

    Attended the Nat’l Geographic Traveler seminar at which you presented last year in Minneapolis and purchased your book which contained this and numerous other helpful ideas. Promptly got some gaffer’s tape and D-rings and “fixed up” my tripod. It worked very well and gave me an easy way to carry my tripod as I navigated the subways of Paris to get night views of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. Thanks for the great idea.

  6. Dick Powers January 8, 2010 at 6:18 am #

    Bob, great ideas, one question. The Hakuba tripod comes with a 1/4 thread and I wanted to put a good ball on it and most come with a 3/8 female, tried to find a converter without luck, any suggestions??

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