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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Robert A Philip
Robert A Philip
2 years ago

Great video again Steve. I am ordering the RRS quick release for my Wimberley 200. I am considering the RRS leveling base because I do panoramics on occasion. My only issue is that you could level the leveling base, but the RRS 55 ball head would still not be level. I am not quite sure how beneficial that would be when used together.

Shawn
Shawn
3 years ago

Thanks for the videos, at 54 I am a little on the old side to be a newbie wildlife photographer but I am working on it. I do have the advantage of having hunted and fished for many years so I know where to find animals, how to get close and stay quiet.

Wish I had the skills needed to enjoy the Costa Rico trip, maybe in a few years. Do you do any trips in the USA. Yellowstone or Glacier National park?

Lars
Lars
4 years ago

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
4 years ago

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
Jeff
4 years ago
Reply to  Molesworth

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
Dr.Farzin
4 years ago

linhof is good but heavy .

Dr.Farzin
Dr.Farzin
4 years ago

an eye opener ! Thx.

Clark Johnso
Clark Johnso
4 years ago

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
Dean
4 years ago
Dean
Dean
4 years ago

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
4 years ago

Great video

Tim D
Tim D
4 years ago

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
4 years ago

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

Johnny Miller
4 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perry

I think the Sirui W-Series should be dust and waterproof. Haven’t use it own my own, so I don’t really know if it’s for real or just a clever marketing by Sirui

Roger
Roger
4 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perry
Joe T
Joe T
4 years ago
Reply to  George Mattei

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
4 years ago

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
4 years ago

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
4 years ago

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
4 years ago

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
Tim D
4 years ago
Reply to  Dale Maas

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

Dale Maas
4 years ago
Reply to  Tim D

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
Joe T
4 years ago

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.

Joe T
Joe T
4 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perry

Good point on driving.

Jack
Jack
4 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perry

Thank you for your video, post, and comments! Question – if you are putting your tripods in your checked luggage, are you using hard shell luggage or something more protective? Any rough idea how big of a checked bag is required (looks like the XLS is 28” long). I am considering buying the XLS but have always traveled with everything carry on, so I’d need to start checking a bag (and probably buying a new piece of luggage…).

PaulB
PaulB
4 years ago

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
PaulB
4 years ago

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
4 years ago

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
PaulB
4 years ago

Because the single leg sticks into a tender area.

Bob
Bob
4 years ago

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?

Bob
Bob
4 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perry

Steve:
Regarding the Gitzo comments from Bruce that you referred to check out B&H user comments on RRS tripods. Similar issues on some of their products so both seem to have quality problems. Unbelievable when you are spending a thousand dollars for a simple piece of gear and you end up with problems.

Bob
Bob
4 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perry

In your video you seem to prefer the higher series tripods for sturdiness. I totally agree and don’t mind carrying around the extra weight as that is a small price to pay rather than missing many good shots. So I will go to the higher size even though my setup doesn’t need it. Last question, I like the fact of using a higher tripod so one leg can be used for making up for down hill setups as you show in the video. Is having a higher tripod a necessity or just something nice in a few conditions? I’m considering… Read more »

Kevin Higgins
4 years ago

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
Charlie
4 years ago

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
steve
4 years ago

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
Tom
4 years ago
Reply to  steve

RRS has some maintenance & care vids on you tube.

Reid Northrup
4 years ago

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
James Altman
4 years ago

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
Fred Heidepriem
4 years ago

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
Rich Murray
4 years ago

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.

Rich Murray
Rich Murray
4 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perry

Thanks Steve (for helping me screw my head on right, don’t know what I was thinking) 🙂

Bruce
Bruce
4 years ago

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 »

Bruce
Bruce
4 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perry

I bought a Gitzo GT3542L and the piece that locks the leg angle was broken off in the box. It had been made out of pot metal. My 6 year old Gitzo 2531LVL legs are much better made than the new ones appear to be. Current customer service from Gitzo is another concern. My $600 Feisol provides 100% of the build quality of my $1100 RRS tripod and the Feisol takes a quick level base or a column can be added later if desired. Current customer service from Gitzo is another concern. A favorite beach support is a HDPE kitchen… Read more »

Tom Wirtz
Tom Wirtz
4 years ago

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
Tom Garrison
4 years ago

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?

Tom Garrison
Tom Garrison
4 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perry

Thanks Steve. I have used that site in the past, they are “pricey” it cost me $20 for the screw that attaches the L bracket to the camera body. I’ll research the part number for the inserts then email them to see IF I can buy just 1 set of inserts for 1 leg.