Small Tripod for Wildflower Shooting?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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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.
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.
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 Lee L; 05-13-2008 at 12:40 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I'd think Benbo. It's not exclusively for macro, but is certainly very versatile for that purpose.
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.
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.