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Thread: Underwater Tripod?

  1. #1

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    Underwater Tripod?

    Okay, not really underwater, but I am heading to the Everglades and want to shoot in water up to about three feet deep. I know Clyde Butcher does this all the time and I have been to his site but no real details there. I have a Gitzo 1325 but am concerned about the water getting into the carbon fiber legs and then not able to get out. Plus, I am not sure that the Gitzo is solid enough for my new camera. Sand particles also are a concern in the leg twist clamps.

    I don't plan on backpacking too far so i am not so concerned about weight. I will be using a Silvestri Bicam with Maxibellows, sliding back and a Leaf 22. I don't mind over-kill as I plan on getting a real LF in the future. I thought about a wood tripod because the water obviously cannot get trapped. But will the wood have an adverse reaction to salt/brackish water? I would be drawn to a simple system. All constructive ideas are welcome.

    John

  2. #2
    Octogenarian
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    Re: Underwater Tripod?

    Take a look at the Benbo line of tripods. The bottom section is impervious to water.

    Sounds like the Benbo would do the job that you described.

  3. #3

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    Re: Underwater Tripod?

    I've had my Gitzo CF tripods in the water numerous times. I won't say that I don't hesitate to dunk them past a joint, but I don't worry about harming the tripod. Have you disassembled your 1325 before? - it's not too hard. Just plan to spend 15-30 minutes to take apart the legs and dry things out after you've finished shooting. (If you do this at home I would say that it's best to let the dissassembled parts dry overnight before putting them back together.) Most of the water can be removed with a cotton cloth or paper towel, and a few hard slaps of the leg pieces in the hand. If I were you I would rinse off the brackish water with fresh before starting the cleaning and drying process. The most difficult part of reassembly comes when nesting the plastic C-ring into position - I've found it easier if I don't swap parts between legs and if I maintain the orientation of the black plastic C-rings. The newer tripods are actually more troublesome in this regard. Also, the newer tripods can freeze up with some types of silt. Once the silt is completely dry the leg will come apart, but that can take a few days. I've never had this happen with my 1325. Finally, if you disassemble, clean and dry your tripod often enough you might want to replace the lubricant on the treads. I've used Phil Wood bicycle grease in the green tube - works great.

    http://www.naturescapes.net/082004/gd0804.htm

  4. #4
    Gary Beasley's Avatar
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    Re: Underwater Tripod?

    I've read in articles by or about Butcher that he will set the tripod up with weights where he wants to shoot and allow it to settle for 24 hours before mounting his camera up and taking a shot.
    If you haven't done the research you might want to before the trip to be sure of a successful shoot, I'd hate to see your camera get dunked as a tripod leg sank into the muck.

  5. #5

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    Re: Underwater Tripod?

    Whatever you do, don't put a wood tripod into the water.
    I once asked Clyde about his tripod, and he indicated that it was a surveyer's tripod adapted to photographic use. He didn't recall the maker.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  6. #6

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    Re: Underwater Tripod?

    He also uses a Benbo and a Sanford & Davis.
    http://www.clydebutcher.com/technical-info.cfm
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  7. #7

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    Re: Underwater Tripod?

    For wet/relatively deep overwater situations, get some PVC pipe to fit around the bottom section of your tripod and add some height-get the thick stuff for pressure applications, not the thin drain line stuff. It requires some care (due to vibration etc...) but works well if care is taken and you are not dealing with wind or other forces that will cause movement.

  8. #8

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    Re: Underwater Tripod?

    This looks like just the thing. 91 inches tall, fiberglass, and with the surveyor's feet it should be more stable in the muck:

    http://www.surveysupplies.biz/index....roducts_id=275

    Not cheap, but cheaper than a Gitzo and no parts to get water in.

    That said, have you ever spent much time in the muck in swamps? Clyde is terrific and has really cultivated the swamp mystique. Doesn't mean that is the only way to do it.

    If I were doing it, I would shoot that stuff on Tmax 400 with a Technika, handheld. Except for the biggest prints, you would not see any difference. You are not going to be using movements much, if at all. I would slap that back on an MF camera and shoot hand held, there is plenty of light for short exposures. My guess is that you would get much better shots shooting with a handheld MF camera with the Leaf because you would get about 100x as many shots as you would sinking a tripod in the muck. Did I mention leaches and snakes? Gators? Being a Louisiana boy, I take swamps seriously.

  9. #9

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    Re: Underwater Tripod?

    Gem - I will consider the Benbo. It does look good for a wet environment but I am not sure about that strange mast it has.

    Eric - Thanks for the advice about the Gitzo. However, I would prefer not to tear apart the tripod at the end of each day on such a long trip. That is exactly why I am looking for an alternative.

    Gary - Very interesting about the weights and giving time to settle. I will need to further train myself in patience! Good advice. Thanks.

    Bill - I am convinced you are absolutely correct in stating a wood tripod would not do well in water. Looking a most of the designs of wooden tripods, it is obvious that any swelling of the wood would bind the leg movements. A surveyor's tripod might be a good alternative. I have noticed however that most of them only collapse down to about 48 inches. Maybe not so bad.

    Eric - Interesting solution you suggest. Have you tried this? It would work good I presume where there is no water movement. I am not keen however on having so many components to carry and setup. But thank you very much.

    Ed - I agree that the surveyor's tripod may be a good solution. They can actually be acquired for little money. I believe even Home Depot has them.

    I hear you loud and clear about the handheld approach but my style of composition requires movements quite frequently. I tend to shoot very high or very low with a foreground object sometime just inches away from the lens. I could not do it and have near and far sharpness without them. Also I like to shoot during rain storms with lightning so a long exposure of usually 20 seconds or so is required to capture the flash.

    >>Did I mention leaches and snakes? Gators? Being a Louisiana boy, I take swamps seriously.<< I take it serious also since I live in Florida with snakes and gators coming right up to my sea wall. I live on Merritt Island and frequent Tossohatchee, Mosquitoe Lagoon, St. Johns River and other such nasty places. I have trained one eye to compose my pictures while the other eye is looking around for evil creatures.

    Thanks to all for the good advice.

    John

  10. #10

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    Re: Underwater Tripod?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Richards View Post
    This looks like just the thing. 91 inches tall, fiberglass, and with the surveyor's feet it should be more stable in the muck:

    http://www.surveysupplies.biz/index....roducts_id=275

    Not cheap, but cheaper than a Gitzo and no parts to get water in.
    Similar mil-surplus surveyors tripods can be had reasonably cheap:
    http://www.deutscheoptik.com/catalog...9da8aa&x=0&y=0
    They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.
    -Francis Bacon

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