My Tripods For Wildlife And Landscape Photography

I have to admit, I always believed I was alone when it came to my love of tripods. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I use them for nearly every shot I make. Still, I never thought anyone else really cared all that much about our three-legged photographic friends, especially based on the lack of discussion found on internet forums and such. The fun stuff – bodies, lenses, and such – easily outnumber tripod topics by a factor of at least 50 to 1.

However, at the same time, it’s a rare day that my inbox doesn’t see a question or two about the tripods featured in my videos. It seems everyone wants to know what they are – and that’s where the video below comes in.

This time around, I’ll outline EVERYTHING I use for support – my two tripods, my monopod, both heads, and even accessories. Oh, but that’s not all!

Just knowing what I use without knowing why I use it is about as useful as a car wash on a muddy dirt road. So, in addition to just telling you what I use, we’ll also go over why I choose the legs, heads, and accessories I did and how I use everything in the field. 

Enjoy – and as always, you’re comments are welcome! (I’d also really like to know if you enjoy these “location” type video more than the “office” ones I usually do – or if it’s doesn’t matter one way or another.)

 

 

Gear List

(RRS = Really Right Stuff)

Tripod Legs:

Gitzo 3541XLS – current version 3543XLS

Gitzo 5540LS – current version 5543LS

Monopod:

Gitzo GM3551

Heads:

Gimbal – Wimberley Wh-200

Ballhead – RRS BH-55

Monopod – RRS MH-01 head

Accessories:

RRS PG-CC Cradle Clamp

RRS Universal Leveling Base

Gitzo GS5030VSF Spiked Feet Set

LensCoat LegCoat

PS – By the way, as I mention in the video, I have no recommendations for current tripods since I haven’t looked for any in 15 years! All I can tell you is that the stuff I use WORKS and works well.

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60 Comments on "My Tripods For Wildlife And Landscape Photography"

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Lars
Guest

Hey Steve, Great video. I already had your secrets to stunning wildlife photography ebook and read the chapters about tripods etc. This video is a great addition to the text in the book. BTW, the ebook is awesome!

Molesworth
Guest

Steve,
Have you tried mounting the Wimberley on the BH-55 ball head (RRS makes a dovetail plate that fits the Wimberley perfectly)?
If not do you see any stability issues with such a setup? It solves the leveling issue and having to swap heads.
Thanks for another helpful video.

Jeff
Guest

I do a similar thing: I have a dovetail plate under the Wimberly and a round dovetail plate that fits under the ballhead. To the top of the tripod I attached a lever release clamp, and now switching between the two heads is as simple as opening and closing the clamp

Dr.Farzin
Guest

linhof is good but heavy .

Dr.Farzin
Guest

an eye opener ! Thx.

Clark Johnso
Guest

Steve, one thing you don’t mention is packability and the number of leg sections. Early on, I though I had scored a great e-bay deal on a Gitzo set of legs, but discovered that collapsed they could not fit in a 21″ suitcase. Lesson learned. I use those when I don’t have to travel, and a new set that collapses into a smaller package for travel and hiking.

Dean
Guest
Dean
Guest

I like the idea of using a fluid head for the tripod head This is the route I have gone to. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=13&v=XU_gAV5rLuk

Roni Chastain
Guest

Great video

Tim D
Guest
Ha! Finally, one of your videos that won’t cost me money after I watch it. I already have a ‘L’ bracket and I already have 6 tripods and 2 monopods. (They kind of accumulated over 37 years.) The two I use most are a Manfrotto 6″ mini that works great on table tops or boulders, weighs like 100 grams, and fits in a jacket pocket, and a MeFoto Backpacker that fits nicely in a suitcase and converts from tripod to a monopod. Someday if I get to go with you to Costa Rica, you might be able to convince me… Read more »
George Mattei
Guest

Hi Steve, Great video. I occasionally have my tripod in the ocean as you did shooting birds. I usually use a garage sale tripod that I don’t mind getting into the salt water. I wish I could find a waterproof covering for the legs. I know you should wash them after use. How do you deal with this? Do you know of any leg covers?
Thanks, George

Joe T
Guest
George, Steve covered the required maintenance on tripods when exposed in salt water in details. Carbon fibers used in making carbon composite legs are slightly electrically conductive. In the presence of sea salt that acts as an electrolyte, it slowly corrodes the composite legs and leaving many small white specks. Over time, the legs will not slide smoothly. This happened to a friend who don’t bother to clean his Gitzo tripod. Best to keep the legs loose after shooting, take apart the tripod to clean the leg sections, and clean interior locking mechanism with a tooth brush. Fine grits wear… Read more »
Vern Rogers
Guest
I wish I could care as much about tripods as you do! But at 81 I find that I have more than enough to carry with two cameras and lenses for my photo walks. I understand the benefits of using tripods but in my situation the negatives outweigh to positives. I love photo walks for the joy I get out of photography, and the exercise I get. My motto is “photography should be fun.” At this point in life carrying a tripod is no fun, but just adds to the work involved. So, unfortunately, there are people and situations where… Read more »
Adi+Ringer
Guest

Great video! The golden nuggets for me were the L bracket and the Monopod setup, good point about the quick adjustment.
Thanks, and keep ’em coming!

Jose Banta
Guest

Thanks for the camera support system breakdown. I bought large Gitzo along with the FLM tripod Ballhead and the RRS lbracket I saw them reviewed on photographylife website. I wasn’t sure about the gimbal head so I’ve held off on that but will add one as soon as possible . I like your website very informative I’ll be ordering your Wildlife photography e-book as soon as I can.

Dale Maas
Guest
Well Steve, really cannot add anything that hasn’t already been addressed. I shoot a lot of Mustangs (horses ;-)). Am usually on my knees with my RRS tripod/ballhead at eye level. Wouldn’t have it any other way. Just when I thought I was pretty well versed in “tripodia” I learn something else from your inputs!!! I like seeing both the outdoor/indoor videos, each have their needs. A presentation should be like a woman’s skirt, “Short enough to be interesting but long enough to cover the subject” ;-). Yes that would be considered sexist nowadays but it was actually a quote… Read more »
Tim D
Guest

We must have had the same English teacher, mine said the same thing.

Dale Maas
Guest

Hi Tim, Well, I am sure you have heard the old saying about “six degrees of separation” ; fun to hear from you. Take Care, Dale

Joe T
Guest

How do you transport your gears on airlines considering the possibility of theft and damages? I check in my tripods but carry all lens and bodies. Some airlines are imposing weight limit on the single carry-on bags. The way around that is I carry several bodies on neck that lightens the carry-on bags. I am concern if I obtain a 500 mm or 600 mm prime lens for oversea trips. Your advice is most welcome.

PaulB
Guest

Just thinking that any discussion about tripods should include a quote from Bill Fortney, a great photographer, photography instructor and workshop leader, and human being who said something like: There are 2 types of tripods, light, easy to carry ones, and good ones.

PaulB
Guest

You seem to have a layer of white material between your camera body and L bracket. Cloth? What and why? If the answer is to dampen vibration, have you any proof that it works and, if so, why doesn’t RRS sell something like that, perhaps rubber or Kevlar to make it bulletproof? :-).

Walter Gutowski
Guest

Thanx much Steve – newbie to your page (from youTube). I noticed one shot of your tripod with a single leg on the downhill side. I did some land surveying many years ago, and I was taught to ALWAYS put the two legs on the downhill side for stability – just a suggestion ….
Keep ’em coming!!

PaulB
Guest

Because the single leg sticks into a tender area.

Bob
Guest

Is the tripod series type based only on weight of the equipment you are using or is sturdiness the main the main reason for going to a higher series tripod? I only use the Nikon 80mm – 400mm lens and possibly may add the teleconverter. I like sturdiness but is a series 4 overkill for what I have?

You say that if you get new tripods you may get the RRS. Any particular reasons why?

Kevin Higgins
Guest
Great article/video. I have practically the same tripod gear that you have and its worked well over the years. One tip that I use is when needing to change heights quickly I either splay the legs outward to lower or bring them in to gain a little height. Works well as a quick temporary measure. I have been doing more video lately with my DLSR and Gitzo now has a gimbal head that is also a fluid head with a detachable handle like a true video head. Price is lower than the Wimberly also. I’m thinking of trying one out… Read more »
Charlie
Guest

Just wanted to mention that I bought the Wimberley head without the cradle by calling them directly to order it. They gave me $150 off, which makes the RRS cradle a much cheaper upgrade.

steve
Guest

Great Video (as all your videos are) One question, in a few scenes, you had the tripod legs in water (the stream). What are your suggestions about putting tripod legs in water, including fresh and salt water? Thanks.

Tom
Guest

RRS has some maintenance & care vids on you tube.

Reid Northrup
Guest

Very good video Steve. Wish I’d seen it before buying my second tripod. I’ve since moved up to Really Right Stuff gear and love it for the reasons you mentioned here. Pays to get quality gear. I live in Western North Carolina. If you love the Smokys I can show you some awesome places that rival and likely exceed the Smokys. I’d love to host you to show you around. Keep up the great work. Enjoy your videos.

James Altman
Guest

Steve: Do you need a RRS leveling base if you have a RRS leveling clamp? Is there any advantage of the leveling base over the leveling clamp? I note that the leveling clamp is lighter than the leveling base.

Fred Heidepriem
Guest

I use almost exactly the same gear but l use the RRS leveling bowl with the lever clamp, and my gimbal and ballhead have the accessory on the bottom to go in the lever clamp . Change heads in two seconds. I sometimes just clamp the gimbal into the ballhead in the same fashion.

Rich Murray
Guest

Steve, When using a leveling base in conjunction with a ball head, do you have a clever way to insure the ball is locked square so it too will be level as well as the base? Personally I felt it was an exercise in futility and have switched to a panning clamp.

Bruce
Guest
I added two tripods in the last couple years. The RRS TVC-34L was added to get the 65″ height I needed to use the 600mm lens to photograph birds high up in the trees (heron and egret tend to next 80 feet up eucalyptus trees in California). Added the Feisol CT-3472 with max height of 58″ and collapses down to 20.5″ which is short enough to carry onto the smallest plane and easily fits crossways in the overhead bin. Now shooting more video and so switched to the new Gitzo Gimbal with its fluid dampening that also works very well… Read more »
Tom Wirtz
Guest

Hi Steve, you’re timing on this video is perfect. I really enjoy your work – I’ve purchased a couple of your ebooks and watch your videos regularly. Every time I see a shot of you with your tripod halfway up to the plate in water, I wonder just exactly how you care for it after you pull it out of the stream/lake/ocean. Any tips on caring for your 15 year-old tripods would be appreciated. Thanks.

Tom Garrison
Guest

Hey Steve I see you use Gitzo tripods, I do to along with Manfrotto and was wondering if you have ever had to replace the teflon collars on the legs? If you have where did you find them?