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Thread: How do you set up your tripod?

  1. #1
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    How do you set up your tripod?

    I guess this is a very basic question, indeed:

    What is your tripod setup routine?

    I often extend the legs to what I think is the correct height, put the camera onto it, fiddle around a bit, wrestle the controls and dark cloth ... and find I have to get lower down, or level the camera according to the terrain, adjusting the tripod legs up or down. The cameras I use aren't heavy in themselves, but it is always a worry something will happen. A rather different feeling compared to smaller formats. Setting up to various standard heights would also be easier if there were markings on the tripod (at least mine doesn't have it).

    When one has no head at all (on the tripod, that is!) I guess one gets into even more "adjusting the legs while trying to hold on the camera".

    Maybe it is because I've always had to struggle with my tripods, head not tight on the tripod, fiddly quick plates, worn out stuff ... tripod blues.
    "Be still and allow the mud to settle."

  2. #2

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    Re: How do you set up your tripod?

    When carrying it in the field, camera on it I have the front leg a few inches longer than the other two. This way I can bend down or stoop and he longer leg hits the ground first. Then back away a bit - pulling on the tripod to open up the other two legs and set it in place. Then, do any extensions.
    This has me standing in the open area between two of the three legs with the front leg pointing towards what I think I want to photograph.

    Get some foam pads - or Pool Noodle type of foam - and pad two of the tripod legs where they will rest on your shoulder as you walk. Also, take a yard or two of gaffer tape and wrap around one leg, not up and down, just like a tape roll. This will come in handy for those times you need a bit in the field. On the tripod it is always with you.

    A small thing, but it saves time and makes it easier in the field. Just like setting the camera settings back to zero after I take an image or move on from one spot. Learned this small stuff from my Uncle - who got the tips from Michael A. Smith, a good photographer who was pretty much fanatical about small things so you did not waste time and effort and could concentrate on your images rather than the process. In learning to use these larger cameras and watching experienced photographers in the field I have seen most get into a routine or pattern that has them making fewer mistakes that intrude on their concentration.

    Somehow it seems most who get very good at anything find a way to get rid of the distractions.
    Last edited by Willie; 1-May-2020 at 09:05.
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  3. #3

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    Re: How do you set up your tripod?

    I recall Fred Picker recommending that one assign time to go to one's car, put packed the gear in the trunk, then go through the routine of setting up the camera and putting it away no less than 50 times in a row, so that each step would be learned. That helped me a lot when I got my first field camera some years ago. He also said, if I recall correctly: When photographing, don't put the camera on the tripod. Look carefully until you find exactly the point where the camera should be -- forward/back, up/down, side-to-side. Then bring the tripod, put your chin on the head, and adjust until your view is exactly where you want your lens to be; then mount the camera.

    He also advised setting the front leg first and pulling the back two out; seems to work well, and the slightly extended front leg sounds like a good idea.
    Philip U.

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  4. #4
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: How do you set up your tripod?

    Good clamps and QR plates, and a good mounting platform are essential with bigger cameras.
    Much of the time I use a half-ball as levelling base on my tripod, this helps a lot with small adjustments.
    And another item that helps is a pocket viewfinder.
    This allows me to frame a shot 90% accurately before I take out the camera or tripod.
    And I don't like carrying the camera on a tripod, too much can go wrong.

  5. #5

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    Re: How do you set up your tripod?

    I pretend I'm the camera and lens...look around and eventually place my head about where I think the camera should be - then extend/place tripod legs but leave top sections plus head slightly unlocked as I place my chin on the tripod mounting plate...fine tune leg/head positions...then lock everything down. After this I mount my camera and lens, focus, adjust whatever need adjusting on camera/lens, then move position if necessary and re-adjust whatever, if necessary.

  6. #6

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    Re: How do you set up your tripod?

    I find my camera position before I start setting up anything.

    Once I have my position (and that includes height), I set up the tripod legs. If I know I'm going to set up low, I set the legs at a lower position, etc., etc. I then place my chin on the camera platform and adjust the center column to exactly the right position. I adjust laterally at this time by just picking up the entire tripod and moving it one way or the other in small increments till I find the place I want. Only then do I unpack the camera and mount it on the tripod.

    If there are very sensitive areas in the scene, e.g., things I want to just barely touch, or lines that I want to meet at a certain point, I check these on the ground glass after set-up and adjust tripod position with little movements; moving the center column up/down, inching the tripod legs to one side or the other carefully.

    I really wish that I had a tripod head that would shift laterally a cm or two either way though.

    Best,

    Doremus

  7. #7

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    Re: How do you set up your tripod?

    Today I got low...Click image for larger version. 

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  8. #8

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    Re: How do you set up your tripod?

    Doremus...I've noticed that you do the thing with your chin, just as I do. Maybe we should have prosthetic tripod sockets implanted...3/8 inch of course!

  9. #9
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    Re: How do you set up your tripod?

    I think about the location and height. Once picked, I extend the tripod legs for that location and flip the tripod over (so legs are down) 1 leg toward the subject, then the other two I can stand between and not trip over. If I need to up or down an inch or two I can bring the legs closer or further apart and press the leg spikes in.

  10. #10
    C. D. Keth's Avatar
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    Re: How do you set up your tripod?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimi View Post
    Setting up to various standard heights would also be easier if there were markings on the tripod (at least mine doesn't have it).
    Sharpie or white-out, depending on which will stand out on the tubes of your tripod. Just mark every two inches. You can ballpark a height with one leg and then set the other two to the same number of marks showing to be pretty level. It's very quick.
    -Chris

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