Small Tripod for Wildflower Shooting?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by stark raving, Mar 24, 2006.

  1. stark raving

    stark raving Member

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    A request: spring is upon us, and it's time for one of my most favorite things, shooting spring wildflowers. For years I have improvised and made do with less adequate equipment, and have resolved to change that this year!

    Many early spring wildflowers are tiny, and the camera needs to be very close to the ground. I need recommendations for a tripod to use in the range from 12 inches down to just a few inches from the ground. B&H shows many models of tabletop tripod, do any stand out?

    This is for use with a 35mm SLR and macro lens or bellows & lens. Sturdiness and ability to get down low are most important. Quickness of use or light weight are not important.

    If you recommend just legs, please also recommend a head to go along.

    Thanks,
    Jonathan
     
  2. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    12" and under would remind me of my background light stand with a ballhead on top. Unfortunetly you can't lower it tho. My current light small tripod is a Slik Sprint Pro. I like it for 35mm but you would have to cut down the column. Outside of that try the Bogen Manfrotto table top tripod. From what i remember it seemed pretty sturdy had had a pretty wide base which you would need.
     
  3. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    Many tripods have the ability to invert the centerposts so as to hang the camera below the legs. Others like mine, a Manfrotto, have a mount for a head on the opposite end of the post for the same reason. It will also spread and lock the legs at much lower angles almost to and including flat on the ground.
    Theres another variety with the reputation of a contortionist, is it Benbo?, that can put a camera darn near anywhere you want it within reason.
     
  4. Mark H

    Mark H Member

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    I've been using a Bogen (I think now they are Manfrotto) 3021 tripod with a 3047 head (this will easily hold a very heavy MF camera and has built in levels). It will get you as low to the ground as you're likely to need and will extend up to 7+ feet. The legs splay out individually--great for uneven, rocky ground. You can invert the center post. There's another attachment you can buy that let's you hook the camera onto the side of a leg (the tripod leg, not your leg). You can spend even more money for a focusing rail for macro shots. It's an extremely well built system. I can't compare it to other comparably priced tripods, never having used them. But after using inexpensive tripods, it was a sheer delight!
     
  5. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Jonathan, I'm going to TX tomorrow to shoot, among other things, wildflowers that probably won't be there. But I'll be back in a couple of weeks.

    Since we live so near to each other, perhaps we should try to get together after I'm back. I'll show you the gear I use to shoot wildflowers, also my tiny little very tippy Benbo 3 that I don't use much. And then perhaps you'll understand why I shoot flowers and such handheld with flash when shooting 35 mm. 2x3 is another matter.

    Gary's suggestion to hang the camera upside down is bang on when ground level (and I mean ground level, with the top of the camera in the dirt) is what's needed. That's how its done. But boy, can it be uncomfortable!

    When most people say "ground level," they seem to mean "bottom of the tripod platform in the dirt." What with heads and focusing rails and cameras that have some height too, this can put the lens' axis a good distance above ground. By me this is low but not ground level.
     
  6. Anupam Basu

    Anupam Basu Member

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    Try a Gitzo explorer. Benbo and Uniloc make similarly versatile tripods - although the benbo seems a speciality tripod only suited for macro. Otherwise, if the hassle isn't a bother, a Bogen with reversible center column is great.
     
  7. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Here are a few possibilities you might look at, in no particular order. Other choices could be as good or better. All can be found at B&H if you want info on them.

    The Berlebach 50031 Tabletop Tripod legs - without a head goes from 2.6 to 13.8 inches. I'd use one of the Bogen 3D heads (mentioned below) on it. I don't own this model, but it looks very useful and flexible.

    The Bogen 3021 Pro, but use the 3025 or 3437 (quick release) 3D head for the ability to get the camera down lower and to the side of the post, or for flipping the camera upright when mounted on the bottom of the center post. In my experience it's much better and more flexible than the 3047 head for low work and awkward angles. The 3021 Pro center post is removable, reversible, mountable at a 90 degree angle across the top of the legs, and can be shortened. The legs can go flat. This is the most versatile and and utilitarian tripod and head combination I've used, and will get you as close to the ground as anything else I know of besides a thin beanbag on the ground.

    The Ergorest has several positions for mounting heads and is very sturdy. It's a unique setup, and can serve several purposes, but certainly won't replace a full size tripod. With a Bogen 3D head it can be pretty flexible down low, but the crossbar between two of the "legs" might be a liability on uneven ground, and the leg spread may not be wide enough for a 3D head too far off to the side. I'll know more in a few weeks when I get some practical experience with the one I recently acquired.

    A Bogen 3D head on a Bogen Superclamp or a Superclamp/Magic Arm combo gripping the low end of a tripod leg is also a good option.

    Lee

    I added a photo of the Bogen 3437 3D head in use, on the bottom of a reversed center post near ground level. Any of the Bogen 3D heads can do this position.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 13, 2008
  8. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'd think Benbo. It's not exclusively for macro, but is certainly very versatile for that purpose.
     
  9. papisa

    papisa Member

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    very low tripod mounting.

    This was a very early morning thought i had and i put it on paper to see how it would look, hardware store, bolt where tripod screw mounts, some of those galvanized flat stock as many as you need to make it secure, next 2 pieces of the angles, bolt them to the end hole of the flat stock pointing down, next two more pieces of flat stock as long as you think you might need and sharpen a nice point on each one them, you can mount them to each of the angle brackets and bolt them together, drill more holes in the flat stock or you could make a long slot also, this way you could almost have any angle you want to shoot at, up or down.
    Since the ground is hard yet hammer the pointed ones into the ground first then mount the rest of it together.
    Going to try mine out this weekend, like i said it was an early morning thought, took only like two minutes to put it together, or maybe any engineers out there could explain it better than i did.

    Mike.
     
  10. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    I use a Benbo Trekker tripod on which the head can be attached to the bottom of the centre pole. The camera can therefore be supported at ground level, or below it if your subjects in a hole. The only downside is that your camera will be upside down which makes operation awkward. It has the bonus of having waterproof struts so can be used in several feet of water as well, but this is not recommended if your camera is in the position described above.
     
  11. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    My humble opinion is that for any kind of out door shooting, small is not the way to go. I would lean towards a full size, sturdy tri-pod with legs that adjust individually (and go out to 180 deg realtive to each other), has a centre post that inverts and attaches horizontally (your choice). I have used a friend's 3021 in some rocky conditions (river bank), low to the ground, and found that the limiting factor was... my big head. Which leads me to the next suggestion - a 90 deg finder (available for most SLRs) - I think you would find that an absolute joy for such work.

    Peter.
     
  12. unohuu

    unohuu Member

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    i have struggled with the tripod dilemma too. this year i am planning to use a small tabletop tripod and this new beanbag that i found. i supports the cameras with a mounted lens and for lens with a tripod mount such as my 300mm, i simply move it forward. this year i plan to get dirty and use knee pads and a tarp when i get close to the ground. http://www.thepod.ca/content/pod.html
     
  13. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    I added an image of a Bogen 3D head to a previous post to show how it works near ground level on a reversed center post. Any of the three Bogen 3D heads can do this move and be mounted on nearly any tripod column.

    Lee

    (Thanks to my younger son for the loan of a digicam.)
     
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  15. Elox

    Elox Member

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    My wife has used a Velbon Mini-F for years, with a 35mm/Macro lens combo, and been very happy with it. Covers a range from 8 to 20". I have used it myself with a Mamiya M645, but the head is a bit light for it. But since my wife like the head with the 35mm, I've never changed it.
     
  16. edz

    edz Member

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    If its a lighter weight camera then my favorite is the Bolex (Paillard) macro support affectionately called by it fans the "praying mantis". Its quite equisitely made, portable, extremely versatile (can be also used a a chest pod) and was exactly designed (albeit for a Super-8 camera that had macro abilities) for doing these kinds of shots. Its quite steady and I've used mine even with some of my TLRs.
    If you find one on the (used) market--- they are not overly common--- it should be relatively inexpensive.
     
  17. Bruce Appel

    Bruce Appel Member

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    For christmas my wife bought me a Velbon ultra max i sf for exactly the situations you describe. When I first opened it I thought that she meant well, but bought junk. This little thing is great. Much, much, sturdier than it looks, gets down all the way to ground level. I had been in yellowstone last spring, and there were tons of teeny tiny blooming things that I was trying to shoot with a macro lens on 35mm slr. My big tripods won't go down far enough, and I guess she got sick of seeing plumbers butt watching me contort. This little bugger fills the bill perfectly.
     
  18. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Yet again my Stabil is perfect. It flattens out completely, and has held a 8kg Linhof as low as 20cm off the ground. Perfectly stable.
     
  19. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Like I said, I found the size of my "heeed" to be the limiting factor - look into a right angle finder I say! :D
     
  20. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Ole, that's a nice reply that opens the question of what we mean by "ground level." IMO, ground level means just that, not 20 cm above it. But both of our interpretations are irrelevant here.

    Jonathan, WHAT do you mean by "ground level"?
     
  21. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Short of putting the ball head directly on the ground, or dispensing with the tripod and head altogether, I can't really imagine a way to get a LF camera much closer to ground level...
     
  22. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    One could resort to digging :D
    My Mannfrotto 055 will also flat out completely, but I havn't tried it with a 8kg
    Linhof yet. Ole can I have yours :D
    Using a long Makrotele as the 200 mm f/4.0 Mikronikkor or the Sigma 180mm f/3.5 Makro helps alot on the angle issue unless you really want to below your subjects. Then you have to resort to the digging.
    Regards Søren
     
  23. GeneW

    GeneW Member

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    I've found a Leica tabletop tripod (I use a Manfrotto ball head on it) useful for shooting ground-hugging wildflowers.

    Gene
     
  24. schrochem

    schrochem Member

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    Another nod for the velbon ultra maxi. I actually have the luxi maxi and it's a great design.
     
  25. stark raving

    stark raving Member

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    Thanks to all for the many valuable replies! (My apologies for posting this, then taking so long to get back to it.... just got very busy with non-photography stuff, is all.)

    For this work I mostly use two 35mm systems: 1) vintage Spotmatic gear and 2) Exakta gear that's even more vintage (vintag-er??). The Exakta has a lovely magnifying finder called a Magnear that provides very high eye relief but works in waist-level position. Any inverted post arrangement has to keep the camera upright to use this finder -- on the first page someone did post a pic of an inverted post set-up with the camera upright.

    Thanks again for the replies. You guys and gals are amazing, and have given me a lot of options to think about!

    Jonathan
     
  26. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    You could always build a ground level camera platform.
    Use a 1/2" piece of ply cut into a triangle appx 6-8" on a side.
    Install a T nut about 1" in from each corner. One carriage bolt installed from the bottom in each corner.
    Small ballhead installed in the center & you have a low-level camera camera camera platform with leveling feet.