Sometimes I can’t resist a bargain.
When I was going through an intense ‘I hate my tripod’ phase I researched which one I might buy. Because I dithered so long and felt that I wasn’t worthy of the best gear, my hubby stepped in and bought me a Really Right Stuff tripod and head combo for Christmas. He knew my work was worth it and that tripod has been a joy from day one. It won’t be replaced. It will (and has been) supplemented though. With this bad boy –
As you can see it’s a Manfrotto – an 055CXPRO3 to be exact. I’ve wanted one for years and when it went on sale for more than 50% off I went for it (again with hubby’s encouragement). Basically it shakes down to this – carbon fiber, 3-section legs with a 90-degree capable center column. It’s the center column trick that wooed me. So what did the shot look like? I think it was this one –
Pretty sweet huh? But yeah, I could have probably positioned the head in its usual place to get something like that. The thing is, I can’t always. The legs themselves were on ice. Well, maybe one was on rock, but sometimes I want to get out over the water more fully and putting the tripod in it might not be feasible. This one shows what I mean –
Legs safely in the most stable position on snow covered boulders, backpack hanging for ballast, camera out over the edge to get the water in the middle of the frame.
And the shots –
I love it. There was NO WAY I was putting the legs down into the cascade. Being able to cantilever the camera over the water helped me create a more dramatic image. Having a hook on the top of the tripod is key to balancing the load with my backpack. I have a small clip attached since the strap is too wide to sit in the hook well. It doesn’t always need it since my rig is very light, but when on tricky ground like above, it’s better to be safe. Moving the center column out this way also allows the camera to get low to the ground and can be angled differently than if the camera were on top of the legs. Can’t wait to get it onto the forest floor! And paired with another piece of kit I bought during the big holiday sales. But that’s for another post.
Here are more scenes where the 90-degree column came into play –
Again I was on the edge of the bank with the tripod on the ice (don’t worry, I tested it first). I have confidence in being able to work the mechanism in the field because I practiced in my living room. No mistake – it’s fiddly. If you’re rough or not paying attention you can screw it up. Some have reported that it can fall apart entirely, but I can’t quite see that happening if you’re careful and understand how the mechanism works. With a little delicacy and precision, it can be activated quickly and with gloves on.
In addition to this cool feature, the Manfrotto is much taller than my RRS. This means it probably won’t be my go-to hiking tripod, but sometimes the extra height is pretty great. With the center column fully raised the camera is above my eye level.
Sure, that’s on a couple of rocks, too, but look at how tall it gets. Here are some shots that I used that height to achieve –
For some shots I used maximum height with maximum cantilever action. Depending on which direction you need the column to extend, the camera will be upside down. Another challenge! Luckily my screen articulates to many angles and so it isn’t impossible though it takes extra time to set up each shot. I’ve played a little with using the Panasonic phone app, but that won’t help physically move the camera. Now that I’ve gotten it to work though, I may use it in future.
Oh and I didn’t get another head. Tripod head that is. I just put my RRS BH-30 right on the new legs. All tripod head threads are the same (3/8 inch), like the threads on the bottoms of cameras that attach to a tripod head directly (1/4 inch). It’s a little small up there, but I love that piece of kit and don’t need to replace it. It can hold up to 15 pounds and let me tell you something – I NEVER want my gear to weigh that much.
I also went downstream farther than I have before. It still wasn’t very far though. I encountered a couple of streams that enter the river. One was crossable, but the other was risky since I didn’t know how deep it was underneath. Probably not very, but the ice wasn’t thick enough for me to try. Maybe later when we get a longer cold snap. I also found that there are some dense alder thickets on both banks that will be challenging to get through. I’ll have to do it before full leaf break or I’ll have to skirt around them. Because of a couple of close calls, I’ve added safety glasses to my kit. I kid you not.
Oh boy did I have a good time on the river. It was 20 degrees F and not too sunny so it was the limit of what I can take while basically standing around doing nothing. After 4 hours of it, my toes were cold despite the chemical warmers in my boots and my hands were too despite heavy gloves. And the sun was setting. Not before there was a hint of blue in the sky though.
So welcome to the family my monster Manfrotto. May we have many good times together.