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).
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:
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:
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!