Tag Archives: Tripod

Kenya Trip 2019 – Gear to Take

Very soon, we are departing for Kenya, for what will be our first visit to Africa since 2015.

Naturally, there is some preparation in terms of photographic equipment.  A photographic safari requires a considerable amount of gear.

Here is a view of the equipment we would like to take with us:

Kenya Trip 2019 – Gear We Want to Take

And here is a view of what we can actually take with us:

Kenya Trip 2019 - Gear We Can Actually Take

Kenya Trip 2019 – Gear We Can Actually Take

In realty, we are taking a decent amount of gear, which will allow us to capture the images we seek.

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Travel and Tripod Tales of Woe

Last week we flew into Tel Aviv via Hong Kong.

The airlines unfortunately left half the HGK-TLV flight’s luggage in Hong Kong, including all our clothes, and my tripod — a Manfrotto MT293A4 and 494RC2 travel tripod combo I had specifically bought for this trip.

The morning after we arrived, we had to go buy a new tripod, and new clothes, as we were flying to Prague the same night, and there was no way on Earth our luggage would be here by the time we needed to leave.

I bought a Vanguard VEO 235AB travel tripod at a camera shop ten minutes from here.  I have never used that brand before, but it is a nice little tripod which, as it turned out, handled the job well.  I will probably leave it here in Tel Aviv so that I do not need to carry a tripod the next time we visit.

So, there we were, in Prague, at our hotel, after yet another annoying flight.  I decided to set up my tripod for the next day’s photography, so I unpacked it.

The ball head has a quick release plate, which I attempted to install, only to discover that a pin protrudes from the base of the mounting plate.  No problem, as according to the manual, the tripod included an Allen key to adjust it.  I took out the Allen key, and then discovered that the screw to adjust the pin actually takes a flat-head screwdriver, not an Allen key!

The Allen key is also used to adjust the tension on the leg hinges, but naturally, the Allen key supplied was too small.

Not only did I have the world’s most useless Allen key, but I also needed a flat-head screwdriver, which I naturally did not have.

Fortunately, despite the pin obstructing the quick release plate from sliding all the way onto the mount, there was enough space for it to be securely held, so I was able to use it after all.

Phew.

Our luggage did eventually turn up in Tel Aviv, but we were well and truly in Prague by then.

So now I have two travel tripods.

Morals of the story:

  1. Airlines do occasionally misplace/lose/delay luggage.
  2. Procure travel insurance (we did, and we will claim, as well as seek compensation from the airline).
  3. Keep multiple tripods in strategic locations (you know, like spies do with passports, cash and pistols).
  4. When buying a new tripod, check that it is all ready to go before you have gone.
  5. Know the locations of camera shops at your destinations.

New Backpack and Tripod

It is not very often that I discuss photography gear, but given that I purchased a few new items of gear today, I figured it was worth relating the story.

Soon enough, we are heading overseas on a trip to Israel, followed by a small sojourn to the Czech Republic for a few days.

As is always the case when travelling abroad, I bring a camera rig.  While this is not specifically a photographic trip, I certainly intend to engage in some twilight cityscaping in Prague, and may even have time for the odd cityscape in Tel Aviv or Caesarea.

My go-to camera bag for most of my photography (other than wildlife, which calls for the big lenses), is my Lowepro Nova 190 AW.  It is a shoulder bag, and I have a fairly standard array of equipment permanently packed in it, which covers most of my shooting needs, and certainly the needs I will have on this upcoming trip.  This bag has travelled internationally twice now.

However, as is also always the case when travelling internationally, I take my laptop, which has its own bag.  This time we are travelling somewhat lighter, and rather than carrying my camera gear in the Nova 190 AW, and my laptop in its own carry bag, I wanted one bag in the form of a backpack which would accommodate both.

A few months ago I discovered the Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II backpack when looking in a camera shop one day.  This bag seemed to fit the bill nicely.

It has a laptop compartment which will accommodate a 15″ laptop (according to the specifications), a lower compartment (with dividers) which will accommodate a large DSLR with a 70-200/2.8 mounted, plus another medium-sized lens or two; and it also has an upper compartment which will accommodate anything else, including non-photography equipment.

Today I decided to buy a Fastpack BP 250 AW II.  Now, my laptop is a 17″ MacBook Pro, but having compared its specifications with the backpack’s specifications, it fits.  I took the MacBook Pro with me to the store, and verified that it actually does fit — it does.

So, that solved a definite problem, and has given me a comfortably-sized, airline cabin-friendly backpack which will allow me to remain hands-free whilst traversing airports, fit my camera gear and laptop in one bag, and have room for other things such as a water bottle, light jacket or other day-trip equipment.  This will be perfect for walking around Prague.  Additionally, it has a tripod compartment on the side, along with a strap for keeping the tripod in place.

This brings me to my next subject: tripods.

I am rather accustomed to larger tripods, particularly as I have a few heavy lenses and both want and need the height, stability and load-bearing capability they provide.

A few years ago I toyed with the idea of buying a smaller tripod for travelling, but did not quite find something I liked, or something which gave me much confidence, as I was wary of smaller, lighter tripods.  Additionally, they were rather expensive for what they were.

After buying the Fastpack BP 250 AW II today, I browsed around the store, and found a Manfrotto combination of a 290-series set of legs (Manfrotto T293A4) and a ball head (Manfrotto 494RC2).

I played with the tripod for maybe ten or fifteen minutes as I mentally debated whether it was suitable.  While it is certainly not as tall as my Manfrotto 055XPROB, or even my 2005-vintage Manfrotto 190D, it is tall enough, and the extension of the centre column will give sufficient extra height if necessary.  The legs have four sections and quick release clips, which is definitely desirable.

The ball head was also quite nice, and as with all my other Manfrotto heads, it accommodates the Manfrotto 200PL quick release plate.

Soon enough I decided to buy it.  The salesperson advised me that it was a discontinued model, and as it appeared to be the last unit and lacked both the quick release plate and packaging, he gave me a nice discount.

So, now I have a suitable, light-weight but sturdy tripod which can be taken on international trips, which reduces the bulk and weight of what I am carrying, and nicely attaches to the side of my newest camera backpack.  For the kinds of photography this trip will present, this rig is more than enough to suit my needs, and it will also be quite suitable for other photographic outings locally and inter-state.

GoPro HERO3 Black Edition Arrived

As I related in a previous post, I ordered a GoPro HERO3 Black Edition camera last week.

I was delighted to receive it on Tuesday morning.  However, I needed some more gear; namely, flash cards and a few mounting accessories.

On Wedneday night I ordered a suction cup mount, bike handlebar/seatpost mount, quarter-inch tripod mount, and two 32GB microSD flash cards.  I would have ordered 64GB cards, but I have heard numerous cases of people experiencing card failures when combining the 64GB cards with the GoPro cameras, so I opted to avoid that problem.

According to the camera, on a 32GB card, it can record two hours and 15 minutes of video footage at 1,080p resolution.  I have not played around with the higher resolutions yet (the camera can record video at 4Kp resolution), but for my uses, I am sure 32GB cards will be fine.

Last night I spent some time playing with the camera.  While the Black Edition has a WiFi remote control (with which I have not yet experimented), it is also possible to control the camera via WiFi with an iPhone/iPad app, and having played with that, it is much more intuitive and convenient than using the camera’s on-board controls.  I will play with the WiFi remote control, though, as that could be more useful in some situations.  At least I have four ways of controlling the camera.

During my experimentation last night, I mounted the camera on one of my drum kits and recorded myself playing.  I did not realise until after the recording that the water-proof housing with which the camera comes, tends to detrimentally affect the camera’s ability to record sound.  How surprising!

I have a few ideas for the use of my new GoPro camera; specifically, I want to mount it:

  • on my firearms to record a pistol’s-eye view during shooting;
  • on my guitars and drums for unique, interesting angles;
  • on the outside of the car, low to the ground, for some curvey driving through the leafy national park;
  • on the yacht the next time we go sailing (I would actually like to mount a few cameras at strategic places on the yacht — including the boom — in order to record multi-angle, simultaneous footage);
  • on my road bike (push-bike, that is);
  • on or near my tripod during a dawn seascape shoot to record myself in action, as well as what I am shooting, from the tripod’s perspective;
  • on the outside of the open-top 4WD on our next African trip (we had a leopardess walking two metres from the vehicle during the first trip, and to have landed footage from her height would have been awesome);
  • on the gondola of the London Eye when we take a ride on that next month;
  • on my tennis racquet for a unique angle of a serve or backhand drive; and
  • on a hang glider or on myself the next time we go hang gliding or skydiving.

Xenedette actually came up with the idea of mounting the camera on my guitar, so full credit to her for that brilliant notion.  I have seen cameras mounted on guitars before, but not GoPro cameras.

I am sure there are endless possibilities.  It is going to be fun seeing what I can do with this fantastic camera, and landing some footage that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to obtain.

I am also very interested in the array of excellent mounting options that can be combined with GoPro cameras (or even DSLRs, compacts, iPhones, etc.).  Such options of appeal to me include camera dollies, quadcopters for unique, aerial footage; and gimbal mounts (ie, Steadicam-style devices).

Fun times ahead.

New Tripod Rig

This afternoon I bought a new tripod rig to replace my aging, mildly limiting and severely weathered tripod rig.

I purchased a:

  1. Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod;
  2. Manfrotto 322RC2; grip ball head and
  3. Manfrotto MBAG80PN 80cm padded tripod bag.

It all came bundled as a kit.

Manfrotto 055XPRO Tripod

I recently researched tripods and decided I wanted the 055XPROB, as it is taller than my old 190D, meaning I do not need to lean forward when looking through the viewfinder.  The extra height also means I do not need to use the centre column, which is an important factor when it comes to stability.

The 055XPROB also has a great feature whereby the centre column can pivot such that it is parallel to the ground.  This is enormously useful when shooting macro images in which the subject needs to be below the tripod.

I was not interested in carbon fibre, as it is lighter and therefore less stable, and given I have a habit of ending up in surging sea water, more stability is a must.  Carbon fibre is also pricey, and a lightweight rig is not a consideration for me, as I head out specifically for photography, and do not need a small, light tripod for incidental carry.

Manfrotto 322RC2 Grip Ball Head

I had originally planned to purchase a Manfrotto 498RC2 ball head to replace my dead 488RC2 ball head.  The kit I purchased included a 322RC2, which has a single grip control to adjust all movement of the head.  Upon inspecting it, I decided it was a better option, as I found the dual controls on my 488RC2 to be cumbersome and less efficient.

The beauty of the 322RC2 is that the grip can be adjusted for left hand use.  I switched it to ‘left-hand-drive’ from the default right-hand drive position, and was good to go.

It is rock-solid, and nothing budges when the ball is locked upon releasing the grip.  The weight capability of the 322RC2 is 5kg, whereas the 498RC2 can support 8kg, but given my heaviest lens is a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM (2.5kg), the extra weight support is not necessary.

Manfrotto MBAG80PN

My kit included a padded tripod bag with a shoulder strap.  This, as I have discovered, is rather handy for lugging a heavy tripod.  I hitherto never had a tripod bag, and always lugged mine by hand.  Now I have a spare hand for either carrying other gear or steadying myself when rock-hopping.

All in all, I am pleased with the new equipment I bought, and having used it tonight for a twilight cityscape shoot, it is working quite nicely and is a joy to use.