Photography with Three Legs

Detail of Death 1When I first purchased my tripod, almost twenty years ago, I had no idea what I was buying, in that I had done no research, but Vanbars, a photographic shop in Carlton had some on special, they looked good, so I bought one.  I was lucky.  Really lucky.  I have never regretted that purchase and even now, I still think it is a good tripod.  It has always done what I wanted and has been a fantastic tripod.

I’m not going to lie, I do want to replace it now, but not for the reasons you would think.  To extend the legs it has things that screw in and out, and as I get older my hands can’t cope with the tightening anymore.  I have trouble with tendinitis in my From the Bottomhands, so I put the tripod up and one leg will start sinking because I didn’t tighten it up enough.  Annoying, but that is really the only reason why I want to replace it.

I have a Manfrotto tripod with a 190 base and 141RC head.  The head can be a bit annoying, but I have got used to it.  It is a great tripod for many people, but now that I am looking for a new one, there are some questions that I find myself asking, and I think you could benefit from those questions.

What sort of photography will you do that will mean you need a tripod?

I take photos of landscapes and architecture, in all different light.  I want to be able to use the lowest ISO possible, and the best way to achieve that is to use a tripod.  I don’t want camera shake, so again, best to use a tripod. I also do a lot of still life photograph and I need a sturdy tripod for that.

A friend had her beautiful camera on an unstable tripod, a gust of wind blew it over and her camera ended up in a mud puddle.  Luckily it still worked but it scared her a lot.  You don’t want your tripod doing that.  You want it sturdy enough that the wind won’t matter, or you can hang a weight on it to give it more weight.

Will I be carrying the tripod around much?

Yes, I will be.  I need a tripod that is heavy enough that the wind won’t blow it over, but also light enough that I am happy carrying for hours on end at times.

Rocks Laid DownHow tall do you want the tripod to go?

At least as tall as me.  I have a friend who is tall, and she has bought a tripod that when it is fully extended it is much shorter than she is.  She finds it hard to use because it make it so it is hard to look through the camera.  So the tripod should be at least your height.  I have heard of people saying that you should get them as high as possible, I wouldn’t do that, I don’t want to carry a step ladder with me, so chances are I will rarely put it up higher than my eye level.  The one I have now, when the legs are fully extended is pretty much that height, though it does have a section the middle that can be extended up as well.

Zooming InI should point out, I am short, 5 foot 2, so I don’t need a tall tripod.

Do I want aluminium or carbon fibre?

I have seen the carbon fibre ones, and I have to say, I know I want one of them.  They are strong and lighter than the alloy ones.  Though, I am wondering if it is the head that you place on them that makes the different.

How much do you want to pay for it?

That is going to be the thing that will determine what you get.  There is no point Flinders at Twilight 4wanting some amazing tripod, that your budget can’t handle.  I have no budget right now, but I am looking at a Manfrotto tripod, but I do have to consider what else is out there.  I have seen other brands here, but they don’t match up.

So to conclude, think very carefully about what you would like to use the tripod for, how much weight you want to carry, how tall you are and what your budget is.

PLEASE NOTE: All the photos in this post were taken using my tripod.

On another note, the River Muse article will not be up until Friday apparently, so I will put another link to it when it is up.


  1. Beautiful images and I certainly agree with your suggestions about what to look for in a tripod. Nice post. Robyn

  2. You so generously share information and expertise, and the images you share are excellent – this selection classic amongst what we’ve seen from you.You’ve so dedicatedly built up the blog and your profile… remember all those sudden success stories took a lot of overnights :)

    • Thank you EllaDee, I do put a lot of effort into it, It isn’t always easy, and it is really nice when people like you notice what I do. I will do for as long as I can. :)

  3. clairepieronphotography says

    Another great post!! Very informative! I have been trying to use my tripod more often though it always feels so foreign to me. :-)

  4. LizzieJoy says

    Beautiful photos, Leanne. And very helpful information on choosing a tripod. Bless you.

  5. Great photos! And I completely agree that a tripod is an essential tool for taking great macro and landscape photos. Recently, I acquired a Gorillapod. As it is not a professional tripod, it is relatively affordable as well. The Gorillapod really quite a whimsical looking piece of equipment. That said, it’s pretty nifty for macro/sports shots as you can pretty much work it to any angle you fancy, and attach it to an element in the landscape. You need not work with any clamps and screws as well (except for the attachment to your camera). Hope it helps with your tendinitis! (^_^)

    • I have never heard of a Gorillapod, I will have to check them out and take a look. Thank you for that grauhimmel

  6. If you need to position on the roughest terrain have a look at Benbo – a pain to set up but can be stable in the most unlikely places; not something you’d want to carry around all day though. And a tiny one is always in my pocket – mine’s an old German made Yashica. It’ll even handle my Contax AX (so, eg, the big full-rame Canons) if you find a good flat surface to put it on. As for money, look at used – there’s not much can be done to ruin a good one.

    • I haven’t heard of Benbo either, I have found the Manfrotto easy to set up, besides the screw things to extend the legs. I am lucky, it isn’t urgent, I can keep using the one I have, so I can take the time to find the one I want and save for it. Thanks grumpytykepix

  7. Some very good pointers there. When I bought my manfrotto, it really was stretching my budget so I bought a cheaper ball head to go with it. I have since changed that to a geared head and I haven’t looked back. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. The ability to so precisely frame your subject, for landscape and still life work, it’s invaluable.

    • Filterless says

      Good suggestion, as too many ‘photographers’ these days peel off thousands of frames then crop/manipulate their image beyond recognition in Photoshop :-(

      • That is true, I have heard that lots just think they can do that. I always try and do all my composition in the viewfinder. Thanks Filterless

    • Would love to know which Manfrotto you got and what head you got for it Chillbrook, it sounds like it would be a great recommendation.

      • Hi Leanne,
        I have the Manfrotto 190 XPROB and a Manfrotto Junior Geared Head 410. Nothing junior about the head mind you. This isn’t the lightest of tripods and the head is quite weighty but it’s good and sturdy. I was surprised, when I did a bit of research, that the carbon fibre tripods weren’t any lighter and a lot more money. My camera was a huge investment and I feel it’s a safe as houses sitting on top of this tripod. It isn’t going to blow over with the lightest puff of wind and I have a tripod bag for carrying it so I just sling it over my shoulder. I very rarely shoot handheld anymore. The tripod has just become part of taking a picture.
        Hope that helps :-)

  8. I want to experiment with my camera taking night photos so they don’t come out all blurry. Maybe I need a tripod to keep the camera still. I hadn’t thought of that before.

  9. Another great post and absolutely beautiful photos. Can’t wait to hear what kind of tripod you end up with. Lot’s to think about in a tripod. Thanks again for share.


    • Thank you winterflowers2, it will be a while before I get one, I have to save up some money first. I will definitely let people know though.

  10. Great subject for a post, Leanne. I don’t use mine often enough, because so many of my shots are ‘on the fly’…
    Whoops! did I say, “mine?” I meant “Hubby’s, that I occasionally borrow!” :)

    • I don’t really use mine enough, so I am guilty of that too, it is easy to just hold it if I can.
      Haha, I hope he isn’t reading this, or do you think he knows it isn’t his anymore? ;)

  11. I’m a big fan of Manfrotto tripods and heads myself. You wrote a great post about things to consider! I work part-time in a camera store and will use your criteria when selling tripods to customers! Thanks Leanne.
    Thanks for your interest in my blog as well. I always enjoy getting “likes” from the other side of the world! Your blog is great too!

    • What a great thing to say Kolman, they seemed logical to me, so I hope it will help others.
      You’re welcome.

  12. Great story. Reminds me of the Slik tripod I’ve had in use for decades. Just like an old friend, I can always depend on it.

    • It is great when you find a really good one. I still love mine, if it wasn’t for my hands I wouldn’t be looking for another one. Thank you Peter.

  13. Yes, taking photos with long shutter time .. without tripod it’s mostly getting very shaky.
    I have a mini one somewhere – but then I need something to put that on outside too – If I’m lucky will there be a fens or something that I can rest the camera on. That top photo is stunning …

    • It can be hard taking photos without a tripod when you are using long shutter speeds, I suppose we all have to do what we can. Thanks viveka.

  14. Get a carbon fiber one if you’re planning to carry it practically everywhere. Besides being light, they’re durable.

    Your photos for this post are simply beautiful. I especially like the waterfall and the skyline.

    • Thanks David, that is what I was thinking, the one I was looking at a while ago looked really sturdy as well.
      And thanks about the photos as well.

  15. gtonthenet says

    I’ve found a tripod to be an absolutely essential piece of kit for landscapes, HDR, night photos, and timelapse. I would argue though, that you do not necessarily have to have the lightest tripod – the heavier ones can benefit from being more stable (as well as being cheaper).

    • Thanks gtonthenet, it is true, it is important, though, I don’t think I meant get the lightest one, I think you need something in between, light enough that you want to carry it, and heavy enough to do the job.

  16. You are a great teacher Leanne.
    I use tripods but I don’t like them which is probably why I have left one on a remote location and having leaned them against the vehicle forgotten them and driven over 2 more. My wife’s patience is running a bit thin.

    • Thank you so much Ki Vault.
      I am the same, except I haven’t lost mine. I still have it, but if I don’t have to use it, then I don’t.

  17. Great floral image, Leanne…and it could only be done using a tripod (or, ‘sticks’, as we called them when I was shooting video)! The head is most important, then the method of extending the legs. I only have a small, aluminum thing, because I rarely shoot with sticks (I tend to lean up against other buildings!) except for the small amount of tabletop I do. And I completely understand re: the ‘hands and fingers’…it’s so very painful to tighten knobs when one has tendinitis (which I do, in my right hand), which makes the type of knob almost as important as the head.

    I haven’t looked at tripods for years…sorry I can’t give you any recs…the best I can say is “Caveat emptor.”…Buyer beware!

    • Thanks 1000, it is important I think. I find it is for some of my stuff and you are right, none of the photos in this blog could be done without it. I haven’t heard of them being called sticks before. Yes, it is terrible the hand things, as I get older, it gets harders.
      That’s okay, I sort of know what I want.

  18. the Gunslinger Poet says

    I am planning to purchase my first tripod soon, great article, thanks!

  19. Andrew says

    I’m not sure if you’ve noticed in your tripod browsing, but most Manfrottos now have the lever type fasteners, rather than the screw type. I suspect it would be a lot easier on the hands.

    One other consideration when buying a tripod is whether you intend to use it while hiking, and whether you want to take it travelling overseas.

    Personally, I’ve found that it’s a constant balancing act between portability, height, weight and price. You can always get 2 out of 4, rarely get 3 out of 4, and quite possibly never get 4 out of 4! :)

    • Yeah, I had noticed that Andrew, part of the reason I wanted to get one. Mine is almost 20 years old, so I know that things have changed since then. YOu are right, the levers would be so much better on my hands.

      I don’t really go hiking per se, but I do carry it for a long time in the city and that sort of thing. I don’t know about going overseas, one day I hope.

      Height should be easy, since I am short, weight, as long as it isn’t heavier than what I have now, portability like the one I have, and price, well, I am prepared to pay what I have to, but since I”m not in a hurry I am prepared to wait. How does that sound? :)
      Thanks Andrew.

  20. Hi Leanne, It was nice of you to stop by my blog and “like” a post. Seeing your work I’m a little awed — maybe a lot. Your work is fabulous! As to tripods – I don’t use mine too often. I like to take photos as I go – on the fly – and lately am in love with iPhone photography. I even use the HDR function of the iPhone. Lazy — or cheating? Whatever — I like spontaneity. But to achieve image quality in your league I think all the tools including tripod needs to be brought in and used. Thing is will that keep me from getting shots at all? Don’t know but you’ve inspired me to use my tripod again in the near future.

    • You’re welcome Frank. I think what you say about photos is true, I find for some stuff, I have to use the tripod, I just can’t get what I want without one. I hope you do use it, though, I am terrible for being too lazy and not using it. Sometimes, well, you don’t have a choice, haha, thanks.

      • Not using the tripod was a lazy choice at first or so I thought but then I realized that some of my best work — street photography can’t be done sensibly with a tripod. I took a shot in a subway and entered it in a photo club contest — I was asked if I used a tripod?! No is the only reasonable answer. I like to take photos when I’m doing whatever else I’m doing. But I agree that sometimes to get the best result a tripod is required. But I’m not sure the shots requiring one are the best photo ops for my style .– My favorite photographer is Henri Cartier Bresson (don’t think he owned a tripod but I also admire Joel Myerowitz who uses one a lot and to great effect …

        I think the opposite of tripod photography might be use of a cell phone. Check out this one — taken and processed in my iPhone 4:


  21. i don’t have a tripod yet, but i am planning on buying one. Your FAQ is very helpful. As always, thanks for supporting my blog. :-)

  22. My two cents… I recently purchased a Manfrotto ball head mount and Manfrotto professional tripod. I paid $400 US for both, but it was well worth the money!

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