How to Set up a Tripod Efficiently?
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cohenfive
Registered: Sep 13, 2004
Total Posts: 2783
Country: United States

i am starting to go to the outdoors frequently to shoot wildlife, often in natural terrain that may have uneven ground, rocks, etc...it always takes me quite a few minutes to get the tripod set up to the height i want and level before i put on my gimbal or head. i'm curious if there are any 'tips of the trade' for someone who hasn't used the tripod all that often to make the setup process more efficient. i find myself doing a lot of trial and error before getting everything right. thanks.



GeorgeM
Registered: Oct 05, 2002
Total Posts: 2476
Country: Canada

cohenfive wrote:
...it always takes me quite a few minutes ....


Quite a few seconds I can understand. Minutes?

I generally drop one leg to the height I want with the tripod facing the way I want it. This means having the ball head controls where I want them when I'm shooting. Spread the other two legs out to the approximate angles they will need. Open up locks and let them slide out till they contact the ground, rock, tree or whatever. Lock them. Minor adjustments to leg angle and length if needed and mount the camera.

When I tear down I take the camera off then flip the tripod upside down with one hand. Fold the legs to the closed position, unlock them section by section and let gravity drop them into their closed state. Lock them up and move on.

Sometimes the most efficient setup routine or procedure is the opposite of the tear down. Have a think about what you do while tearing down and use that routine to determine how to set up.

A simple example. My cereal box is always in the right position in the cupboard to pull it out and pour the cereal into a bowl because when I put it away I simply close it up and put it in the cupboard. When I pull it out it's in the right position. I don't have to turn it around.

George



Roland W
Registered: Apr 23, 2004
Total Posts: 1890
Country: United States

I usually work with full pull out of most of the sections on a leg, and then pull out the top section to a known amount that I "eyeball" to the normal amount I work with on level ground. For level ground I match the other two legs for pull out while they are close to each other. For sloped ground, I would pull out the sections of the second and third leg a little or a lot more, and then put them on the down hill side. Most of the time I hit the height I want, and am level enough for stability. Then, if I want to level the tripod to allow a level pan base movement, I proceed to do that by adjusting only the top section leg clamps, one leg at a time. And it helps to have a good level on the system, like the add on ones that Really Right Stuff sells to match their BH-55 and BH-40 ball heads.



vsg28
Registered: May 07, 2012
Total Posts: 1227
Country: United States

If you are using the tripod at a fixed height/angle each time, consider marking your legs so that you know where exactly to stop on each leg. This is best for flat ground obviously.



Chiefdog72
Registered: Oct 20, 2005
Total Posts: 215
Country: United States

I use a RRS panning clamp with dovetail mounted on my ball head. That way I can use the ball head for leveling and the panning clamp allows for rotation. Kind of expensive, but makes setting up a snap.



cohenfive
Registered: Sep 13, 2004
Total Posts: 2783
Country: United States

thanks for the suggestions gang. my tripod has a level (benro c-358) which is ok, but my camera has a good one (d4) so i can get it level. i probably just need to use the thing more to get faster. i have been putting the gimbal on the tripod after i have the legs sort of set up, but i might need to attach it first in order to get the height correct more quickly. i can always use the center post to 'fine tune' the height as well..practice makes perfect i guess.



Roland W
Registered: Apr 23, 2004
Total Posts: 1890
Country: United States

If you are using a ball head, a camera level does not help at all to get the pan base of the ball head level for a panorama. For that you need a level that is below the ball, which is why either a tripod level or an add on level like the ones RRS sells.



millsart
Registered: Apr 29, 2009
Total Posts: 4228
Country: N/A

I'd say if time is of the essence, just get a mono-pod or handhold the shot even. Tripod and gimble head are a joy to use of course, but if time is important, then its no time to be using a tripod.

If you don't have the time to set up a tripod, no matter how long it takes you, then you shouldn't use a tripod for that shot.

Rushing faster than whatever your natural pace is only leads to accidents by forgetting to tighten a leg lock, or a dovetail clamp etc.

If your putting thousands of dollars onto a tripod, take the time to do it right and don't rush

If its fleeting wildlife, then a monopod will give you good support and is much faster and much more error free



cohenfive
Registered: Sep 13, 2004
Total Posts: 2783
Country: United States

i hear you on the handholding, i do that when i have to..and i have a monopod that i use on occaison..but when i can set up the gimbal/tripod combo is wonderful. i just want to get more efficient in setup.



TheWengler
Registered: Jul 15, 2009
Total Posts: 363
Country: United States

If on a hill I usually start by opening up all the legs fully (assuming I want the tripod as high as possible). Then set up two legs lower on the hill, but so they're at the same height. Finally I loosen one joint on the final leg and shorten it until the tripod platform is levelish. I have a leveling base if it needs to be exact. If on a more awkward platform I'll just try to find little nooks for each foot to sit in. I often do this because near water there is a lot of slick rock and not enough friction to keep the tripod from sliding around. My viewpoint is from that of a landscape photographer, so it may or may not apply to you.



Glenn NK
Registered: Oct 03, 2010
Total Posts: 455
Country: Canada

When I'm in the field, I usually leave the legs extended and out. On the next setup, all that's required is adjusting maybe one leg (two at the most unless the next subject is a flower on the ground).

Glenn