Monday, June 28, 2010

How to travel with a tripod and carry it daily.

Gitzo Traveler Series 2 with Really Right Stuff ball headTraveling with a tripod is easy, except perhaps when traveling by air where you're limited on the amount of luggage you can take.

If you're traveling by car, train or ship, get a good tripod bag, preferably padded, in case the tripod/bag gets dropped or accidentally roughly handled. You can carry the tripod on the back of your backpack, however, while that's a great way to take your tripod while hiking, I personally don't believe it's ideal when traveling by car or ship. I strongly suggest a tight fitting bag too.

Another reason to use a separate bag is while you're away from your stateroom, or hotel room, during those times you don't plan to use the tripod, you can store it out of sight in the bag. When traveling with the tripod bag, it can be used to carry your tripod for your shooting.

When traveling by air, you have to take into account your luggage limitations. For the most part, you can count on a bag of checked-luggage, a carry-on bag and a personal bag. According to the airline, location, etc. you may be restricted in the number and weight of both your checked-in luggage and your carry-ons.

If you carry your tripod on to the plane, separately, it will be counted as a carry-on. If your tripod sticks out from a backpack or other bag, you will generally be asked to remove it and carry it separately as the carry-on won't meet size specifications with it attached.

Gitzo Traveler Series 2 foldedI use a Gitzo Traveler tripod when I fly by air, because it folds up into a very small package, yet still meets my basic tripod shooting requirements. The tripod folds small enough to fit into my carry-on. Considering its value, that's where it goes when I fly, unless, I'm only permitted a personal item. Then I'm forced to put the tripod into my checked-in luggage. In either case, I pack it without a tripod case to save on space, and use an alternate method of carrying it at my destination.

At your destination you have a number of options to successfully carry your tripod for use in your shooting photographs.
A word of caution please. I know a number of photographers who carry their camera attached to their tripod as they move from place to place, over their shoulder. I don't. Especially while traveling, I carry a minimum amount of equipment, and I can't afford to knock any of it out of action.

Your camera, attached to your tripod, slung over your should is vulnerable, too vulnerable as far as I'm concerned. When it's behind you, it's out of your sight and it could get knocked into by others, or by you swinging around. It could become unattached from the tripod. There are just too many dangers to carry it that way for me.
 The major ways to carry your tripod for and while shooting include:
  • Hand carry —  You can use this method for a while, but it keeps one of your hands occupied, which means you have to put the tripod on the ground or somewhere else to free your hand to take a photo without the tripod.

  • Shoulder carry —  I use this method periodically, even though it has the same inherent problem as the “hand carry.” I use this method if I've opened up the tripod's legs, and I'm just moving to the next nearby shooting location. It saves time because I don't have to close the legs between shots.
    Tip: If you intend to carry your tripod over your shoulder for any length of time use padded tripod leg protectors to cushion the legs resting on your shoulders.

  • Tripod bag —  You can use a tripod bag with shoulder strap successfully. It doesn't have the problem of hand or shoulder carrying your tripod, but personally I consider this method too slow to use. You waste too much time removing the tripod from the bag and replacing it later on.

  • Backpack tiedown —  If you're on a long hike with a backpack, this is a decent method to carry your tripod. The problem with this method, however, is that you generally have to take your backpack off to get to your tripod.

  • Tripod holster —  This is one of my two favorite ways to carry my tripod while out shoot photographs. The holster goes on your belt and you insert your tripod (legs closed) in the holster. It can be put into action quickly by removing it almost like a sword.

  • Tripod strap —  This is my favorite way to carry my tripod. I can quickly get the tripod into action, and can even keep my Wimberley Sidekick attached to the tripod's head for birding. I can shoot without using the tripod, using both hands on my DSLR with the tripod strapped over my shoulder.
While I prefer the Tripod strap, choose the method which works best for you.


Norman said...

Thanks Ned. I had no idea about the variety of ways to carry a tripod while shooting. I've been using a strap, but the holster looks ideal to me.

I also didn't realize that the airlines will count my tripod as a carry-on item if I take it on the plane separately. I'll be putting it in my roller carry-on next month when I travel to China.

Victor said...

I'm with Norman. I never knew about the holster for tripods. I went on B&H's website a few minutes ago and ordered one. This will free my shoulder when I'm out all day with a tripod.

Great idea. Thanks Ned. As always your articles really are helpful. This is one of the best photography, and travel photography sites on the Internet.

Sharee said...

Ned, I just ordered a holster. What a great idea. I didn't know there was such a thing for tripods. Thanks.

Larry Coates said...

Yes, you have a very powerful tripod. I shoot on Sonya Alpha and usually shoot on the ground. The only shooting in extreme conditions was on the North Pole . It was on a cruise. The wind was very disturbing and I decided to shoot without a tripod holding the camera in my hands. But the videos and photos are pretty good. In addition, due to the cold, the electricity stabilized didn't work. In general, I don't think I'll risk this again)

Thomas Venney said...


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